Kyle Wiltjer is borderline elderly on this year's Kentucky squad
We are officially just over two months away from the start of the college basketball season, and there remains a good deal of work still to be done by players across the country.
For some, the 2012-13 season will necessitate the transition from role player to leader. Others will need to balance the already overwhelming first semester of college with intensive time spent preparing for tipoff.
Here’s a look at 10 players who have a busy preseason of training and preparation ahead of them.
Seth Curry needs to become a more dynamic scorer
I wrote this article about the Duke senior just over a month ago. To sum it up, Seth Curry’s role can no longer be as the team’s three-point shooter and occasional playmaker.
Incoming freshmen, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson, along with last year’s redshirts, Marshall Plumlee and Alex Murphy, should give Duke more top-to-bottom talent than they had in 2011-12. It also can’t hurt to lose Austin Rivers, who may have brought Duke more headaches than wins.
Curry was last year’s top scorer among Duke returners and, as such, will need to be the team’s most reliable player in the upcoming campaign.
Myck Kabongo will need to work on his shooting
Highly-touted Canadian point guard, Myck Kabongo had a very average freshman season when you consider the expectations for theTop-15 high school player. While he did average over five assists per game, his scoring and efficiency left much to be desired.
Kabongo averaged 9.6 PPG and shot just 39 percent from the floor and 31.6 from three. He also committed three turnovers a game, although his 1.3 SPG paint the picture of your typical overzealous, hugely gifted teenager.
Texas lost their scoring leader from a season ago, J’Covan Brown, and will need a group effort to accumulate his 20.1 PPG. Improvements in the above areas would make Kabongo one of the leaders in this endeavor.
Kyle Wiltjer will need to carry on the legacy of 2012
As usual, Kentucky will rely on freshmen to carry them to the Final Four. Also as usual, Kentucky will need veterans to make meaningful contributions.
For most schools, the word “veteran” suggests a senior—or at least a junior. At a Calipari institution, anyone who has avoided the freshman 15 is eligible.
Kyle Wiltjer is not going to average 15 points a game or log 30 minutes (unless he does a lot of work before the season starts), but UK will need him to hit threes and snag rebounds.
Wiltjer played only 11 minutes per game last year, but averaged 4.1 shots. That shot-to-minute ratio is actually the highest of any player on Kentucky’s 2011-12 roster who averaged over five minutes a game, suggesting Wiltjer has significant value.
James Michael McAdoo will finally get big opportunities in 2013
ESPN scouts ranked James Michael McAdoo as the number six recruit in the 2011 class.
In his first year with North Carolina, McAdoo scored 6.1 PPG over an average of 15.6 minutes. John Henson, Tyler Zeller, and Harrison Barnes dominated the playing time at the forward positions but, with all three now in the NBA, McAdoo will need to become North Carolina’s new dominant player on both sides of the ball.
McAdoo looked good over the last seven games last year (10.6 PPG, 4.8 REB) and will hopefully continue this growth during the next few months.
Adonis Thomas has great potential
Adonis Thomas is another top-10 recruit from the Class of 2011.
Memphis won Conference USA last season, but much of this was attributed to Conference Player of the Year Will Barton. Barton and his 18 PPG are now in the NBA. Thomas must relieve this loss at the guard/small forward position.
Thomas has the benefit of playing with one of the nations better point guards, Joe Jackson, and needs to improve his mid-range and outside shooting while further solidifying their chemistry.
The following summary is brought to you by…well…try to guess (Hint: It’s really easy).
The Big Ten is back, baby! And that means hard, physical play down low. Oh, you gotta love what you’re seeing in Indiana, led by Mister Zeller—my pick for Conference Player of the Year.
And we got some dandies too, and none bigger than Wisconsin’s Sam (pause) Dekker, out of Sheboygan Lutheran High School. He can drive, he can spot up, and let me tell you, he will hit that three if ya giveitohm.
But, but, he’s gotta get stronger to play Big Ten basketball, cause down in Ann Arbor, there’s this guy—maybe you’ve heard of him—named Jordan Morgan who’s just waiting to get his hands on someone he can toss around those boards!
Bottom line, though, even if he isn’t on Duke and doesn’t play in the ACC, you still gotta love Sam Dekker. (Laughing) The sky’s the limit, baby!
CJ Leslie might be an All-American
NC State could not have asked for much more from their forward last year. C.J. Leslie averaged 14.7 PPG to go along with 7.3 REB. Also thrilling Wolfpack fans and alums was his decision to return for a third season.
It’s hard to see how much better Leslie can be for NC State; ESPN’s Robbi Pickeral already calls his game the, “most versatile and honed mid-post game in the country.”
Leslie does not make the list because he needs drastic individual improvement, although adequate measures must be taken to avoid the stayed-in-school-an-extra-year slump (Admittedly, this just doesn’t have the ring of “sophomore slump”).
Rather, Leslie’s preseason must be used to establish a belief that this is the year NC State does the ACC impossible: dethrones Duke and UNC.
Nick Johnson can be a better shooter
Nick Johnson, who plays a combo guard position, was described in his ESPN recruiting report as, “a solid shooter—especially in a catch and shoot situation—with 3-point range.”
Johnson was did not overly impress in that department during his freshman season. He shot 37 percent and only 33 from behind the arc.
If for no other reason than to remain the starter, Johnson will need to improve before the season opener. Arizona brings in Top-100 recruit, Gabe York and Mark Lyons, who transferred from Xavier. Both play the guard position.
Shabazz Muhammad looks to bring UCLA back to the top of college basketball
UCLA’s acquisitions of Muhammad and Anderson, who are both ranked in the Top Five for ESPN’s Class of 2012, make them immediate favorites to win the enigma that is the Pac-12.
That is, of course, unless the pair of small forwards fail to represent their potential. When you add on the No. 26 overall recruit, Tony Parker (no, not that one), there is the opportunity for UCLA to become one of the great disappointments of the upcoming year if their freshmen under-produce.
Scouts noted Muhammad’s tendency to favor his left hand. Anderson needs to hit the gym. Really, though, these are minor flaws in two otherwise first-rate games. There is no reason to question the dedication of either player and, with a busy September and October, UCLA should avoid a 2013 letdown.