Sam Thompson and Other Under-the-Radar NCAA Basketball Reserves to Watch
While the Big Ten was certainly the deepest league in the entire country this past season, plenty of the top performers in the league aren't back from last year. The Big Ten will remain a strong conference, but how strong it will be in the national picture is yet to be seen. There was a terrific freshman class last year and many teams are bringing in strong recruiting classes with guys that will play right away.
But there are still those players that came off the bench last season that will surely have an increased role on their team a year from now. Now I don’t expect anyone on my list to be the next Thomas Robinson, but when given the chance all of the five players below will turn out to have nice careers and hopefully start seeing the floor more in 2012-2013.
Josh Oglesby, Iowa
Another senior and four-year starter graduated at last season’s end in Matt Gatens. Oglesby could get his chance at the starting shooting guard position this year for a resurgent Hawkeye program led by Fran McCaffery. If not, expect to see him play often off the bench. Oglesby played 18.7 minutes per contest, while averaging 6.4 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists last season.
Oglesby’s biggest asset is his ability to knock down three-pointers. He converted at least one three-pointer in 17 games last season and converted 37.2 percent of his attempts. Oglesby scored 24 points in a 103-89 loss at Indiana on Jan. 29 despite only playing 20 minutes. In that contest, he was 6-for-8 from downtown. Iowa returns five of their top seven players next season, including Oglesby who has yet to start a game during his collegiate career.
Elliott Eliason, Minnesota
The redshirt sophomore from Chadron, Nebraska had an up and down freshman campaign. The highest point of Eliason’s season occurred during a three game stretch from Nov. 30-Dec. 6. Not only did the Gophers win all three games, including contests against Virginia Tech and USC, but Eliason was the starting center in all three games. Eliason grabbed 16 rebounds in 60 minutes during the first of those two starts, but lost his starting job when Ralph Sampson III returned from injury.
Fortunately for Eliason, Sampson III graduated and fellow center Maurice Walker has had an injured plagued two seasons in Minneapolis. This could all change if Trevor Mbakwe returns next season and Tubby Smith decides to play him at center, allowing Rodney Williams to play his natural power forward position. Regardless, Eliason has shown flashes of good things when he is given the opportunity despite only playing 15.1 minutes on average.
Dylan Talley, Nebraska
After sitting out the 2010-2011 season due to transfer regulations after playing only one season at Binghamton, Talley has been a steady scorer during his first season in Lincoln and stood out as Nebraska’s third leading scorer at 8.9 points. He only started one game and missed five to injury at the start of conference play.
Although Talley’s name is not announced during the starting lineups, he played 23.8 minutes and is always on the court at the end of the game because of his ability to score the basketball. For someone coming off the bench and producing so well and with only one returning starter next season, Talley will certainly be called upon to produce in 2012-13.
Sam Thompson, Ohio State
Although 2.1 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 0.7 assists don’t sound like very impressive numbers, there is more to take into account when looking at a player’s statistics. Thompson, a freshman from Chicago, only played 10.6 minutes on one of the nation’s top teams. Like many other Chicago Public League players, Thompson was heavily recruited out of high school and was teammates with many current Division-I players during his time at Whitney Young.
Thompson’s minutes rose late in the season, after several games of only one minute of playing time during non-conference play. At 6-foot-7 and 190 pounds, Thompson could certainly add some muscle although he is a natural small forward. He shot over 49 percent on the season and could very well replace William Buford in next season’s starting five for the Buckeyes, if not play behind Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross at the wing positions.
Ben Brust, Wisconsin
As the team’s fourth leading scorer who plays 21.3 minutes per game including big minutes as the clock is winding down, it would seem like Brust is a starter. The Badgers only lose one starter at year’s end, that being point guard Jordan Taylor. Bo Ryan could decide to move Josh Gasser over to the point and insert Brust into the shooting guard role, if not for starting point guard George Marshall.
If so, Brust will certainly come off the bench again as a junior and produce just as well as he has this year. He has scored in double figures eight times last season, including a 25-point performance on 7-for-7 three-point shooting in a 62-51 win over UNLV. Brust hit on 38.9 percent of his long distance shots and 83.3 percent of his free throws. Most of his scoring comes from behind the arc.