Pac-12 Basketball: Top 13 Newcomers for 2012-13

Thad NovakCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2012

Pac-12 Basketball: Top 13 Newcomers for 2012-13

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    A sensational recruiting performance by several schools has made the Pac-12 a focus for offseason attention in the college basketball world. With eight of ESPNU’s top 50 recruits joining the conference, there will be new talent in abundance for a league coming off its worst season in recent memory.

    One big-time talent who’s not getting the attention he should is Colorado’s Josh Scott. A 6’10” center with an impressive offensive game, Scott has had the bad luck to be competing for the spotlight with a pool of incoming big men even more dangerous than he is.

    Read on for more on the Buffaloes’ star recruit and a dozen more of the best freshmen and transfers arriving in the Pac-12 next season.

13. Gabe York, Arizona

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    He’s none too big for a shooting guard at 6’1”, but Gabe York is a serious scoring threat. The Arizona freshman is a deadeye three-point shooter who can finish at the rim, too.

    York’s ballhandling has improved, but he’s still a fairly one-dimensional player at this stage.

    That being the case, he may spend most or all of his freshman year on the bench behind incumbent Nick Johnson, though he’ll get his points whether he’s a starter or reserve.

12. Larry Drew II, UCLA

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    Even for a pure point guard, Larry Drew II is an awful scorer. Drew’s 4.4 points per game and .207 three-point shooting, though, become a lot more palatable thanks to his top-notch passing ability.

    In his sophomore (and best) season at North Carolina, Drew dished out 5.9 assists per game.

    With UCLA adding loads of scoring punch this offseason, Drew’s ability to spread the wealth will be crucial…whether or not he can beat out freshman Kyle Anderson for the starting job.

11. Brandon Ashley, Arizona

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    Though ESPNU ranks him as the nation’s third-best power forward prospect, Brandon Ashley is only second best on his own roster.

    With Grant Jerrett ahead of him and senior Solomon Hill likely to slide over to SF, that leaves Ashley as one of the most extraordinary reserves in the conference.

    The 6’8” Ashley is an athletic 4-man who can hit the mid-range jumper or use his long arms to score in the post.

    That same wingspan also makes him a dangerous shot-blocker, meaning that if any of Arizona’s frontcourt starters get in foul trouble on a given night, the Wildcats won’t be in for much of a downgrade.

10. Dominic Artis, Oregon

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    Former Oregon point guard Malcolm Armstead is set to become Wichita State’s best player, but his replacement should be one of the Ducks’ biggest stars in 2012-13.

    Prize freshman Dominic Artis is a former UCLA commit who will bring exceptional ballhandling ability to Eugene.

    Artis is primarily a distributor, but as long as he’s inside the three-point arc he’ll do his share of scoring as well.

    The Pac-12 should be a good fit for Artis, as his 5’11”, 165-lb frame won’t be subjected to the same level of punishment as it would in the Big Ten or Big East.

9. Jordan Adams, UCLA

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    Even with all the talent arriving on the UCLA roster, there isn’t a better pure shooter than Jordan Adams. The 6’5” swingman is a top-tier three-point threat, but he's not afraid to take it to the hole, either.

    Since Shabazz Muhammad will eat up most of the minutes at SF, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Adams play a fair amount of shooting guard. In that case, he’ll be one of the Pac-12’s biggest at the position, not to mention one of its better passers.

8. Eric Wise, USC

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    Making the jump from one of the nation’s smallest leagues to a power conference is never a trivial matter, but there’s no faulting Eric Wise’s performance at the Big West level.

    His 16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds a night as a UC-Irvine junior dwarf anything USC’s woeful frontcourt managed a year ago.

    Wise is on the small side for a power forward at 6’6”, but his 240-lb bulk will give him more power than many Pac-12 big men.

    Turning the 6-26 Trojans into winners is beyond Wise’s abilities, but he’ll certainly improve on what was a dreadful team in 2011-12.

7. Tony Parker, UCLA

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    UCLA has no shortage of big bodies down low, but Tony Parker brings a lot more to the table than his 6’9”, 270-lb frame. The hulking Parker is also a remarkably refined low-post scorer who even has some range on his jump shot.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, Parker’s mass makes it tough for him to keep up with more agile power forwards in transition, and conditioning will be an especially serious issue for him in the fast-paced Pac-12.

    Still, he gives the Bruins the genuine interior scoring threat they haven’t had in several years, and that alone will earn him plenty of playing time.

6. Josh Scott, Colorado

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    As skilled as 6’7” Andre Roberson is on the glass, lack of size was Colorado’s most glaring deficiency a year ago. Now, the defending conference tournament champs add a terrific big man in freshman center Josh Scott.

    The 6’10” Scott is a fearsome scorer in the low post, but he also has impressive ballhandling and passing skills for a center. He’ll be devastating as an outlet passer for the guard-heavy Buffaloes lineup next season.

5. Kyle Anderson, UCLA

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    Though he was primarily a small forward at the high school level, Kyle Anderson is headed for a different spot in the UCLA lineup.

    The 6’8” Anderson is such a devastating passer that Ben Howland will be counting on him as a primary option at point guard.

    Anderson’s length gives him exceptional court vision, and he’ll also be able to force opponents to respect his mid-range jumper.

    The big questions are whether the Pac-12’s ballhawking point guards will apply more pressure than the freshman can handle, and whether he can keep quicker opponents contained on the other end.

4. Grant Jerrett, Arizona

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    As dangerous an all-around threat as any power forward in the 2012 freshman class, 6’10” Grant Jerrett will be a major factor in turning last year’s undersized Wildcats into a team that wins from the inside out.

    His quickness and instincts will make him especially dangerous on defense, where he’ll be a fearsome weak-side shot-blocker.

    Offensively, he’s got a strong face-up game but won’t shy away from contact in the post. On top of all that, Jerrett has outstanding court sense for a freshman, and his passing will be another asset for the Arizona frontcourt.

3. Mark Lyons, Arizona

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    The only question about how good Mark Lyons will be in an Arizona uniform is his ability to handle the transition from shooting guard to point guard. Otherwise, the former Xavier standout is set to be one of the Pac-12’s top offensive weapons.

    The 6’1” Lyons poured in 15.1 points a game and shot .392 from deep in 2011-12, and he’s even a solid defender (1.3 steals per contest).

    Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown much as a floor general as of yet (2.8 assists against 2.2 turnovers a night for the Musketeers), but if he can adapt his game, Arizona will be a serious threat to win the conference title.

2. Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona

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    The gem of Sean Miller’s astonishing recruiting class, Kaleb Tarczewski became the best center in the Pac-12 as soon as he stepped on campus. A true seven-footer with muscle (240 lbs), Tarczewski is an unstoppable force as a post scorer.

    Tarczewski’s aggressiveness and emotional style give him a chance to be a leader among the high-powered Wildcats freshmen. Look for him to be one of the most dominant big men in the country in 2012-13.

1. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

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    Before Nerlens Noel joined the recruiting class of 2012, Shabazz Muhammad was the consensus top freshman in the nation. A 6’6” SF with jaw-dropping athletic ability, Muhammad is an immediate contender for the Pac-12 scoring crown.

    Muhammad is also a terrific weapon on defense, though few are likely to notice amid the highlight-reel dunks.

    His all-around game, combined with UCLA’s huge influx of talent, gives the Bruins a legitimate chance to go from missing the postseason to making the Final Four in the space of a single year.