5 Unknowns Who Will Become Must-See College Basketball Players in 2012-13
You can have your Cody Zellers and Nerlens Noels.
I’m more interested in the players who are going to jump onto the national scene and establish themselves as household names by season's end.
Every year there are hidden gems that are just below our noses in November and December that eventually take us by storm in March.
Think C.J. McCollum of Lehigh a season ago.
Of course, I am not suggesting that the following five players will become must-see attractions by upsetting Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
However, they will find a way to enter the national consciousness. Read on to see why.
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If only Tony Mitchell didn’t play for North Texas, college basketball fans everywhere would know about his greatness.
If he was at a Mountain West school or even in the Atlantic 10 things may be different. Just imagine if he had followed through with his original Missouri commitment.
Alas, Mitchell will have to settle for dominating the Sun Belt conference.
Mitchell became a double-double machine as a freshman, averaging about 15 points and 10 rebounds a night. He threw in three blocks and a steal per contest just for good measure.
Unfortunately for North Texas fans, Mitchell won’t have a lot of chances during the regular season to thrive on the national stage. You could argue that the game with St. Louis provides a decent barometer, but that won’t register on the national radar.
That’s why North Texas needs to win the Sun Belt tournament and give Mitchell a chance to really make a name for himself in the NCAA tournament.
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It wasn’t that long ago that Kawhi Leonard was leading San Diego State to an incredible 34-3 season and a trip to the Sweet 16.
That is exactly what Aztec fans are hoping for from Jamaal Franklin this year.
Franklin unexpectedly sprung onto the Mountain West scene last year and averaged 17 points and eight boards a night. What’s more, he was playing out of his natural position at the power forward slot.
Unlike Tony Mitchell, Franklin will have plenty of chances to showcase his abilities as the key player of a ranked team in the talented Mountain West.
If he can become more consistent with his jump shot, this athletic threat will lead the Aztecs to a terrific season.
photo appears on sports.yahoo.com
Marcus Smart is not an unknown player among those who follow recruiting news closely, but the rest of the country is going to be in for a treat.
The freshman point guard for Oklahoma State is strong and big for his position at 6’4” and 200 pounds. He uses that size and strength to muscle up on defenders as he drives the lane.
What’s more, he is an effective rebounder from the guard position, something the Cowboys will need in the deep Big 12.
The 5-star prospect may make his biggest impact on the defensive side of the ball, where he is known as a lockdown defender thanks to his athleticism and size combination.
If Oklahoma State can once again make the NCAA tournament, it will largely be due to the skills of its star freshman.
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If you aren’t paying attention to the Mountain West, or at least its top two teams, you will be by season’s end.
While San Diego State has Jamaal Franklin in its corner, UNLV is probably the deeper roster. However, that doesn’t mean Mike Moser doesn’t bring plenty of star power of his own.
The former UCLA Bruin averaged 14 points, 10.5 rebounds, two steals and one block per contest in his first year as a Runnin’ Rebel. He is a double-double machine who leads one of the most formidable frontcourts in the nation.
Moser will probably see plenty of time from the small forward position in 2012-13, so an improved perimeter game would serve him well.
Look for UNLV to turn some heads before (and during) March thanks largely to the contributions of Moser.
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Memphis always seems to have that one guy who not many people have heard about going into the season but who will have the NBA scouts drooling by year's end.
Perhaps the names Derrick Rose and Will Barton ring a bell.
This season’s version of that player will be Adonis Thomas, who was off to a great start last year before suffering an injury that cost him the majority of conference play.
The former McDonald's All-American stands at 6’7” and weighs 240 pounds. He will be much bigger and stronger than a lot of fellow small forwards who try to guard him, especially in the Conference USA.
Expect Thomas to lead the Tigers to yet another Conference USA crown before they head to the Big East.