25 Under-the-Radar College Basketball Players Who Will Become Superstars
At the end of every college basketball season, there is always a solid group of players who came out of nowhere and surprised us with magnificent seasons.
While it is basically given that stars such as Cody Zeller, Doug McDermott and Pierre Jackson will all continue their dominant production from a season ago, not every talent-laden player is being given the same publicity.
Whether it be because they play for a mid-major school, or they just hadn't reached their potential last season, plenty of high-level players are seemingly flying under the radar.
While James McAdoo, LeBryan Nash and Deshaun Thomas are all obvious breakout choices, those aren't the type of players I selected for this list. This list consists of players who, while you may have heard of them, just haven't really hit the spotlight yet.
Here are the 25 future superstars who are currently flying under the radar.
C.J. Aiken, Saint Joseph's
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 10.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.6 BPG
C.J. Aiken is one of those players that has always been praised for his crazy athleticism and massive potential, but hasn't been able to display it yet. This is the year that changes.
Aiken, a 6'9'' combo forward, has incredible length with a 7'2'' wingspan. That length makes up for his underwhelming 200-pound frame in the low post.
While Aiken won't even end up as the leading scorer on Saint Joseph's next year with Carl Jones still in school, his versatility as a shot blocker and a defensive stopper will result in high-level production as a junior.
O.D. Anosike, Siena
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 15.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG
It's hard to believe that the nation's leading rebounder from last season is returning to school, and is still vastly unheard of. Meet Siena power forward O.D. Anosike.
Understandably so, MAAC players often go unnoticed. Even Iona's phenom point guard Scott Machado flew under the radar for most of last season. Nonetheless, Anosike is a name you need to know now.
The 6'8'', 232-pound senior is a bulldozer in the paint and fights harder than the next guy for every single rebound. Anosike and Colorado's Andre Roberson will battle fiercely for the NCAA rebounding crown, but don't be surprised if the undersized tank from Siena keeps his seat on the throne.
Keion Bell, Missouri
Notable 2010-11 Stats (DNP last season): 18.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG
While it's easy to slip through the cracks playing at Pepperdine, Keion Bell won't have to remain so far from the national spotlight any longer. The former Waves standout is headed to Missouri and joins a slew of transfers ready to make Tigers fans forget about the 2012 NCAA Tournament disaster.
Bell, a 6'3'' shooting guard, joins Earnest Ross, Jabari Brown and former national champion Alex Oriakhi as newcomers into Mizzou. Bell could have the biggest impact this season.
Bell is a natural scorer and a different kind of player than returning Tiger guards Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon. He plays above the rim and attacks the basket with force, unlike his more elusive, finesse-style counterparts.
While another 19-point-per-game season is a bit unreasonable, Bell could lead Missouri in scoring and bring them to SEC prominence in their first season in the conference.
Jason Brickman, LIU-Brooklyn
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 7.3 APG
Standing at only 5'10'', Jason Brickman was never able to be extremely effective as a scorer. That's why he found a new niche: distributor.
With Kendall Marshall and Scott Machado both graduated, Brickman could see his name atop the NCAA assist leaders by the end of his junior season. He possesses incredible court vision, and has a serious weapon to dish the ball to with star forward Julian Boyd in the low paint.
Aside from passing the ball, Brickman is a dangerous three-point threat and also nailed 82 percent of his free throws last season. His potential production this season reminds me of what Jason Richards did in his senior season at Davidson, averaging eight dimes per contest as a sidekick to Stephen Curry.
Look for Brickman to be a leader on a Blackbirds team that should repeat as NEC champions, and receive higher than a 16-seed this time around in the NCAA Tournament.
Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 14.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG
The last Horizon League player with Ryan Broekhoff's physical talents and supreme intangibles was named Gordon Hayward. His Butler squad did just fine in his final season in college, reaching the NCAA championship, and now Hayward is in the NBA.
Valparaiso has the promise to go on such a run this season with Broekhoff, a 6'7'' guard-forward, leading the way.
The Australian national team member and 2012 Horizon League Player of the Year can score from anywhere on the floor, whether its beyond the arc or putbacks off of rebounds. Broekhoff just knows how to put the ball in the hoop.
Broekhoff's combination of scoring outbursts and rebounding prowess can turn him from a mid-major star into a national superstar.
DJ Byrd, Purdue
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 8.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 43.0 3P%
With Purdue's senior departures of Robbie Hummel, Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson, someone is going to have to step up for the Boilermakers and score some points. While some may point that finger at Terone Johnson, I believe senior guard DJ Byrd contains all of the attributes to evolve into a star.
Byrd, a 6'5'' sharpshooter, nailed two three-pointers per game last season in the shadows of the aforementioned guards Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson. Byrd has always had the talent to become a proficient scorer, and now has the opportunity.
While his lack of quickness may deter his ability to blaze by defenders off the dribble, his physical nature allows him to play inside the paint as well as shoot from outside. Byrd is far from one-dimensional, like some three-point shooters.
With increased minutes and more plays with the ball in his hands, Byrd can improve from being a role player into becoming a household name.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 13.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG
If there was one player who I never had any doubts about their inclusion on this list, it was Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. This young talent is about to explode in 2012-13.
Caldwell Pope, a 6'4'' shooting guard, was selected to play in the 2011 McDonald's All-American Game. Now, after one subpar season under Mark Fox at Georgia, Caldwell-Pope is ready to make the jump from good to great.
The high-powered scorer from Greenville, Ga. may only be at school for one more season, as nbadraft.net has Caldwell-Pope landing in the top ten of the 2013 NBA Draft. His high draft stock can be attributed to his crazy athleticism and sweet jumpshot.
Look for Caldwell-Pope to change Georgia from an afterthought into a bubble team as individually he competes for the SEC Player of the Year award.
Eli Carter, Rutgers
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 13.8 PPG, 2.1 APG
Contrary to Caldwell-Pope, Rutgers' human highlight reel Eli Carter didn't have the tremendous accolades during his time in high school. That was Rutgers' point guard Myles Mack. Carter built his own reputation as a freshman last season, and is looking to build on that stellar output as a sophomore.
Carter entered Rutgers as part of a trio of freshman guards with Mack and Jerome Seagers. While all three shared equal minutes, Carter emerged as the focal point of the offense.
Carter does a tremendous job of absorbing contact and is fearless when driving to the hoop. With an improving jump shot, and Kansas State transfer and former McDonald's All-American Wally Jude providing help, all signs point toward Carter having a breakout sophomore campaign.
Will Cherry, Montana
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 15.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.6 SPG
Plays in the Big Sky? Scoring point guard? NBA-level talent? Yep, Will Cherry is primed to have a Damian Lillard-type senior season.
Cherry and his Montana Grizzlies knocked off Lillard last season to advance to the NCAA Tournament via automatic berth. With Lillard gone to the NBA, it's Cherry's time to dominate the Big Sky and is the favorite for the conference Player of the Year.
Cherry, who measures at 6'1'', 177 pounds, is lightning quick and elusive around defenders. His ability to score and rack up assists will transform him from good player to superstar this season.
Sam Dower, Gonzaga
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 8.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG (only 18 MPG)
I have no doubts that Sam Dower would already be a superstar if he hadn't been buried behind Robert Sacre on the depth chart for the past two seasons. With Sacre in the NBA, Dower will finally receive the playing time he needs to succeed.
Dower is a muscular, 6'9'' center that also has nice touch and finesse in the low post. Dower's arsenal includes a consistent mid-range jumper and a sweet lefty hook.
Outside of maybe BYU's Brandon Davies, Dower has no match in the WCC and can dominate the league with increased minutes.
Nick Faust, Maryland
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 8.9 PPG, 4 RPG
Nick Faust's freshman season at Maryland was underwhelming, to say the least. His field goal percentage was iffy and his shot selection was even worse, which is making everyone forget about his crazy talent and athletic gifts.
Faust is a 6'6'' guard who always plays above the rim. He can absorb contact and finish the play under any circumstances.
If there's one person who will benefit from Terrell Stoglin's absence, it's Faust. Limited time with ball in his hands really deterred Faust's progress to become a complete offensive player. He should be the focal point of the Terps' offense, and take a huge step in becoming a star in 2012-13.
Jio Fontan, USC
Notable 2010-11 Stats (DNP last season): 10.5 PPG, 3.9 APG
It's easy to be forgotten when you sat out the previous season due to a torn ligament in your knee, but Jio Fontan is back for USC and ready to bring a winning culture back to the Trojans.
USC finished 6-26 last season without Fontan. With Fontan, USC had made the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11 finishing with a record well above .500.
With point guard Maurice Jones ruled academically ineligible, this is Fontan's team to lead. He is capable of being an elite scorer and will once again be a widely recognized name by season's end.
Sam Grooms, Oklahoma
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 6.7 PPG, 6.0 APG
Junior college transfers don't always have much success during their transition to a Division I program. Sam Grooms doesn't fall in that category.
Grooms, who transferred from Chipola Junior College before last season, will enter his second season at Oklahoma as a senior. With one year under his belt, Grooms is poised to join Pierre Jackson and Phil Pressey as the top court generals in the Big 12.
Grooms, a 6'1'' true point guard, won't make a name for himself by scoring. His magnificent passing ability is what sets him apart from other guards.
While Sam Grooms may be an unfamiliar name to you right now, it won't be by March. This second-year senior is about to burst into stardom.
Jordan Henriquez, Kansas State
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 7.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG
Jordan Henriquez is slighlty less under the radar than most of the players on this list, but still hasn't reached the level of stardom that his teammate Rodney McGruder has. That will change during the 2012-13 season.
Henriquez, who stands at a frightening 6'11'', 250 pounds, never has been an elite scorer. His unique talents are offensive rebounding and shot blocking. No one controls the paint like Henriquez.
I see this situation similar to Marquette's last season. Darius Johnson-Odom was the big name heading into the season, but Jae Crowder took home Big East Player of the Year honors.
Henriquez could overshadow McGruder in a similar fashion, and maybe even challenge the likes of Jeff Withey or Pierre Jackson for the Big 12 Player of the Year.
Anthony Hickey, LSU
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 8.9 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.1 SPG
Anthony Hickey might be the fastest player in college basketball. He advances the ball down the court like no one I have ever seen and sets a great tempo for the offense. Somehow, most people still don't know who he is.
Hickey is definitely undersized at 5'11'', but his quickness makes up for his lack of size. He can blow by defenders in one quick dribble move and has a nice pull-up jumper.
With SEC teams like Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt not as dominant as they were last season, Hickey has the opportunity to take control of the SEC and become the conference's top point guard.
Richard Howell, NC State
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 10.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG
I'm not discrediting CJ Leslie's or Lorenzo Brown's current status as collegiate superstars. I'm simply stating that there is sufficient room for a third star in Raleigh, and his name is Richard Howell.
Howell, a 6'8'' senior power forward, finished the 2011-12 season as the second leading rebounder in the ACC. Tyler Zeller, who finished first in that category, is now in the NBA, placing Howell in prime position to claim the ACC rebounding crown.
DeShawn Painter, who played center for NC State last season, transferred to Old Dominion. CJ Leslie needs to prove he can play the three position if he wants to be drafted high in the 2013 NBA Draft.
This sets up Howell perfectly to dominate the low post in every game the Wolfpack play, and will lead him to superstar status.
Cory Jefferson, Baylor
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 3.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG (in only 10.5 MPG)
No matter how talented he was, no underclassman was going to receive solid minutes playing behind Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller last season. Luckily for Cory Jefferson, all three of those studs were drafted into the NBA, which makes Jefferson an easy selection for this list.
Jefferson, who stands at 6'9'', 210 pounds, is a dominant shot blocker and ferocious rebounder.
His stats appear underwhelming because he only played 10 minutes per contest last season. Those minutes could potentially be tripled this season. With increased minutes, more experience and less future NBA players taking up time with the ball in their hands, Jefferson looks to be a surefire double-double threat.
While I only wanted to include one player per team on this list, Baylor's high-flying guard Deuce Bello definitely would also qualify as an under the radar player who will evolve into a superstar.
Lamont Jones, Iona
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 15.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG
Remember that nifty point guard Momo Jones who played at Arizona in 2011 when they knocked off Duke in the Sweet 16? That's Lamont Jones, and he's about light the MAAC on fire at Iona this season.
While it would seem like the loss of top-tier distributor Scott Machado would lower Jones' production as a senior, I don't believe his absence will have a giant effect. If anything, it will be a detriment to incoming freshman Norvel Pelle, but Jones can create his own shot with ease.
The MAAC has top-level talent this year. After all, Jones joins fellow MAAC player O.D. Anosike on this list. Don't sleep on the Mid Atlantic, and don't sleep on Lamont Jones. Pairing this deadly scorer with a high powered offense is a scary combination.
Shane Larkin, Miami
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 7.5 PPG, 2.5 APG
While his father, former baseball All-Star Barry Larkin, is enshrined in Cooperstown, Shane is trying to make a name for himself playing hoops at the U. By season's end, you're going to think he's doing a fairly good job of completing that task.
Larkin is a diminutive court general with poise beyond his years. He'll be a freshman this season, with unique talent at his disposal that will set him apart from other ACC point guards.
Having a big, proven scorer in Durand Scott, a massive target down low in 285-pound center Reggie Johnson, and an outside-shooting seven-footer in Kenny Kadji will create open lanes for Larkin to maneuver through and find his talented teammates.
Lorenzo Brown and Marcus Paige are the big-name point guards in the ACC. But, Shane Larkin, who you may not know right now, is the one you will know come tournament time.
Zeke Marshall, Akron
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 10.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.8 BPG
When you think of the nation's top rim protectors, most people would reel off names such as Jeff Withey, Gorgui Dieng, Nerlens Noel or Amir Williams. Akron's Zeke Marshall may be one step up above them all.
Marshall is a true back-to-the-basket center, who is very active from block to block. He rebounds well but swats shots like no one else in the country.
Marshall is a one-of-a-kind physical specimen. He stands at 7'0'' and 235 pounds of pure muscle. He has the kind of body that would not only allow him to succeed against high-majors, but also in the NBA.
For now, Marshall will be one of the most productive mid-major players in the country, and maybe sneak the Zips into postseason play.
Jaquon Parker, Cincinnati
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 9.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG
Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright receive all of the love going towards the Cincinnati backcourt, but another Bearcat guard who is flying under the radar needs to be in that category, if not above. His name is Jaquon Parker.
Parker plays bigger than he measures out to be at 6'3'', 210 pounds. Most guards his height don't pull down 5.6 rebounds per game, especially when they only receive the fourth most minutes among guards on the roster.
With Cincinnati's two top scorers leaving following graduation, the opportunity is present for Parker to step up and become this team's leader. The Big East is wide open this year, which will open the door for Parker to evolve into a stud.
Chasson Randle, Stanford
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 13.8 PPG, 2.1 APG
If one player exceeded all expectations that were placed upon him last season, it was Chasson Randle.
Randle, a 6'1'' freshman in 2011-12, was only the 60th best player in his class. Instead of showing up at Stanford and waiting for his turn to shine like most lower-tier 4-star recruits, Randle played 30 minutes per game and averaged 13.8 points en route to an NIT Championship.
Despite impressing in his lone season at Stanford, Randle's output should only improve. As the PAC-12 has increased in difficulty, Randle is the type of player who will step his game up to compete with the high-level opponents on his schedule.
Randle has the ability to bring Stanford back to the NCAA Tournament and make a name for himself as a superstar in college basketball.
E.J. Singler, Oregon
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 13.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG
Bloodlines help in college basketball. Here is an example. When your brother is former NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Kyle Singler, that's just an added bonus.
E.J. Singler, a 6'6'' senior forward for the Oregon Ducks, is in prime position to become Oregon's premier player this season. All three other players who averaged at least nine points per game last season have graduated, which includes 2012 first-team All-Pac-12 member Devoe Joseph.
Singler can score at will. He's got good size and can shoot the three ball lethally like his older brother.
While Singler has always been a role player, the time for him to step up and become a star has arrived. There is no doubt that Singler has the talent to surprise to the Pac-12 and battle for conference Player of the Year honors.
Okaro White, Florida State
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 7.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG
Okaro White hasn't quite lived up to the hype that came along with being a fringe 5-star recruit. With an opening in the Florida State depth chart, that is all about to change.
White's lanky, 6'8'' frame is his most beneficial attribute playing in the low post, but he's more versatile than a standard power forward. White has supreme athleticism that allows him to not only play above the rim, but stretch the floor out past the paint.
During his junior campaign, look for White to really take advantage of the length mismatches he faces. If he puts his NBA-caliber body to good use, his production should skyrocket.
Chaz Williams, Massachussets
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 16.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 6.4 APG
Last, but not least, my favorite point guard in the country.
Chaz Williams is tiny at a generous 5'9'', but there may not be a bigger workhorse in college basketball. How he is unknown by the average fan is beyond me, but that won't be the case much longer with UMass on the rise.
Williams totaled 35 minutes per game last season, and led the Minutemen in points and assists per game by wide margins. He was the engine behind a UMass team that finished in the top 25 in the nation in team points, rebounds and assists per game, and led them to the NIT Final Four.
It would be hard to find a player who is more important to their team than Chaz Williams. With Butler and VCU joining and legitimizing the A-10, Williams is destined to be the next mid-major superstar.