After one of the most dismal years in the history of the conference, the Pac-12 was in dire need of fresh faces. With two of the top three recruiting classes in the nation coming from traditional powers UCLA and Arizona, along with several top transfers, the Pac-12 is looking to rebound. This article will take an in-depth look at the 11 newcomers who will have the greatest impact on their respective teams.
Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad
Evan Gordon, the younger brother of New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon, transferred from Liberty and is eligible to play this year. While at Liberty, he showed he could score, averaging 14.4 points a game during his sophomore year. Gordon steps into a program that lacks talent, and his presence will immediately be felt.
Surprisingly, by having Jahii Carson as Gordon's running mate, ASU actually has one of the best backcourts in the conference.
Gordon makes the list ahead of guys like Tony Parker, Gabe York, Rosco Allen, Dominic Artis, Xavier Johnson, Jordan Loveridge and Larry Drew because he has already showed his ability on a D-I level, and ASU’s program is so down that talent anywhere will make a serious difference.
Some ranked Waverly Austin as the third best JUCO player after last season, where he averaged nearly 15 PPG and 10 RPG. At an athletic 6’11’’, 275 pounds, he will make a big splash for the Ducks.
Austin would be higher on the list, but Oregon has a solid starting center in Tony Woods. Yet Austin is good enough not only to take over the starting position by year’s end but also to be one of the best big men in the conference. Figuring out how to play the two big men is a "problem" most coaches would love to have.
Josh Scott is one of the most heralded recruits Colorado has ever signed. Having had a stellar performance in Europe this summer, he has earned his lofty status. In five games played against European pro teams, the 6’10’’ Scott led the team in scoring with more than 17 PPG, and he added 7 rebounds.
With Scott (the 38th-rated player in the class of 2012) and the returning Pac-12 POY contender Andre Roberson, Colorado’s frontcourt is staunch. The addition of Scott makes Colorado a dark horse in the Pac-12 race.
Brandon Ashley was ESPN's 16th-rated player in the country in the class of 2012. He was a McDonald’s All-American and played at national powerhouse Findlay College Prep. He is a long and athletic power/small forward who can play inside and out.
Ashley is agile and aggressive. At 6’8’’, he is extremely quick and fluid, he can play above the rim (see his highlight video) and he has a good perimeter shot. He can also play with his back to the basket but needs to add some bulk to be more effective. Ashley is a five-star talent who adds even more size to the Arizona frontcourt.
Grant Jerrett helps to bolster the Arizona frontcourt lineup. As the two-time California Player of the Year and ESPN’s 9th-rated player in the country, he was the first commitment from Arizona’s monster 2012 class. At 6’10’’ he is another giant body to help fill the middle.
But Jerrett is a much different big man than the Wildcat’s other giant, Kaleb Tarczewski. Jerrett can handle the ball outside, can knock down his jump shot out to three-point range, and has a very soft touch. He is the finesse to go along with Tarczewski’s power. He can still board and change shots with his height and agility, but will need to pack on some pounds to compete as a true power forward and bruiser down low.
With his savvy and knack for winning, his game translates well to the college level. He is an immediate-impact player and is a great compliment to Arizona’s current lineup.
Jahii Carson is easily one of the most exciting players coming into the conference. He sat out all last year because the NCAA ruled him academically ineligible. He is now ready to get started at ASU.
ESPN rated him the 60th best recruit coming out of high school in 2011. Carson is a great scorer and a good shooter, and with his aggressive style, he gets to the basket. He is lightening-quick and an able passer.
Alongside his new backcourt mate Evan Gordon, Carson might help ASU pull out a surprise or two this year. He is high on this list (just below ESPN's national Nos. 2, 4 and 5, above No. 9) because aside from him, ASU has very little talent. The minute he takes the court, the Sun Devils are substantially better.
If you look at nothing else in this article, do yourself a favor and watch his highlight tape (but remember the dude is 5’10’’).
J.T. Terrell is considered one of the top JUCO transfers this year. Terrell started 18 games as a freshman while playing at Wake Forest. In one game he scored 32 points, the most of any ACC freshman that year. Before the 2011-2012 season, he was released from the team for a DWI. He then went to Peninsula College; last year, he averaged 29 points.
Terrell showed he could play during his freshman campaign in the ACC, and now he comes to the worst team in the Pac-12. The Trojans finished last in the Pac-12. They went 1-17 with a 6-26 overall record. That was the school’s worst winning percentage since 1918.
Kevin O'Neill pulled off a major coup pulling in Terrell and may have changed the outlook for the USC team this coming year. Terrell will be the go-to guy for this team, and if he can stay out of trouble, will have a chance to become a star.
ESPN ranked Kyle Anderson as the 5th best player coming out of high school, but he very well may be the best. Anderson has all the tools needed to star at any level.
At 6’8’’, Anderson can do everything on the basketball court. He plays the point or the 2-guard, or either of the forward spots. He can handle the ball, shoot, and play in the post. Yet his greatest skill might be his passing ability. The comparisons to Magic Johnson abound.
His high school coach, Bobby Hurley Sr., knows something about coaching point guards. Hurley takes it a step farther: he compares Anderson not only to Magic, but also to Larry Bird as well (via AOL Sporting News). Winning, more than anything else, may be what ties these players together: Anderson went 119-6 as a starter and 65-0 in his junior and senior seasons. Anderson’s talent is at an elite level and will make an immediate impact at whatever position he plays.
* Anderson’s eligibility is still under investigation by the NCAA.
Arizona’s starting center last year (Jesse Perry) was 6’7’’. The team was consistently overmatched and had difficulty competing against teams of size. If anyone questions this, watch the game against Florida.
Now, the Wildcats have real size. Their three top recruits come in at 7’0’’, 6’10’’ and 6’8’’.
The biggest is Kaleb Tarczewski, who was rated the fourth best recruit by ESPN. At 7’0’’ and 245 pounds, Tarczewski is more than a big body. He has a solid post game and finishes strong. He boards well (he was the only player at the Jordan Classic with a double-double— 14 PTS and 10 RBS) and plays good defense. And his presence impacts more than the center position.
Solomon Hill, a potential Pac-12 player of the year, played most of last year at the power-forward position. He can now slide to his natural small-forward slot where he can be more effective. Tarczewski has an immense upside and will shore up one of the Wildcats' biggest weaknesses.
Mark Lyons comes in high on this list not only because he is a great talent, but also because he fills the biggest gap for the Wildcats. The point-guard situation last year was an embarrassment at what some call “Point Guard U.”
Josiah Turner came is as the most heralded point guard on the west coast. He did nothing but disappoint. He was suspended multiple times and never found his place on the court. He couldn’t shoot or pass, and he was totally unfit to lead. It was the biggest reason for the subpar season at Arizona.
Step up to the plate, Mark Lyons. Recruited by Sean Miller in his Xavier days, Lyons spent three years on the court for the Musketeers, went to three sweet sixteens, and finished with 1,194 points. Last year, he averaged 15.1 PPG. He graduated from Xavier, and with a year of eligibility left, Miller won the recruiting battle. Because he is enrolled in a graduate program not offered at Xavier, Lyons can play immediately.
He has undeniable talent and has produced in upper-tier Division I basketball. He is an experienced guard who can score (15 PPG at the college level is nothing to sneeze at) and plays strong defense. There are questions about his leadership because of the Cincinnati/Xavier fight last year, but all reports from Tucson say that Lyons has embraced the leadership role.
Lyons is the perfect fit for the Wildcats at the perfect time. His addition to Arizona’s team, like the next guy on the list, takes his team from a borderline top-20 team to a national championship contender.
Ranked No. 1 in the 2012 class for most of the recruiting season (became No. 2 when Nerlens Noel was reclassified), Muhammad is considered to be a man among boys. He has dominated every scene he has been in: He has won nearly every player of the year award there is (Nevada state, Naismith, SLAM, Morgan Wootten). He played in McDonald’s All-American game, and won the MVP award (and was the slam-dunk champion). He played in the Jordan Brand Classic, and won the MVP. He is as “can’t miss” as he can be.
At 6’6’’ and 220 pounds, he is a complete offensive package. He can play in the post with his size and strength, or he can play outside as a smooth—albeit sometimes inconsistent—jumper. He has great touch, and he is patient and smooth. He has great basketball smarts. The guy even plays defense.
Shabazz Muhammad is an absolute beast. And although he is going to a team loaded with talent—which reduces his overall effect—he is so good, he’d be No. 1 on this list even going to the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls.