Austin Freeman and Elliot Williams Top List of NCAA Players Poised to Break Out
Breakout players come from all kinds of backgrounds. Sometimes they are highly hyped freshmen that underperform but eventually live up to expectations, or sometimes they'll be misused players waiting to break out under a new coach. Other players just need a bump up the depth chart after graduation and defection.
Using a formula that determines offensive value, depth charts, coaching changes, and other key factors, these 10 players jump out as stars poised to break out.
Austin Freeman, Georgetown—Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Everything went wrong for Georgetown last season. After a promising start, the Hoyas epically tanked during the final two-thirds of Big East conference play. One part of the massive Hoya collapse was the drop-off in Austin Freeman's play.
Freeman entered D.C. as a freshman touted to have the potential to be good enough to not need four years of school before turning pro. After a solid freshman season, the wing player saw significant drop-offs in his shooting percentages and didn't progress as expected during his second season.
The most notable dip came from behind the arc. Freeman drilled 40 percent of his three-point shots in 2008 but took fewer in 2009 and hit only 30 percent of his attempts.
The atmosphere is changing in Washington, as Georgetown is poised to turn things around, and Freeman could be at the center of it. If Freeman can take a step forward in 2010, he could quickly become an All-Big East performer.
Elliot Williams, Memphis—Shooting Guard
Sometimes a change of scenery can spark a player's performance. For Elliot Williams, this change of scenery comes under unfortunate circumstances. Williams left Duke—where the sophomore guard would have had a starring role—to return home to Memphis in order to attend school near his ailing mother.
Williams was the latest in a long line of five-star recruits to play for Mike Krzyzewski. But Williams never had a definitive role under Coach K. He started to perform when inserted into the starting lineup, but his production dropped down the stretch.
Memphis coach Josh Pastner will rely heavily on the two-guard given the lack of depth. Williams will be the best player on a rebuilding Tiger team that still has many dates on national television.
Solomon Alabi, Florida State—Center
There were times last year when Seminoles center Solomon Alabi looked brilliant, a dominating center capable of carrying FSU on his back. Those times were for the most part only glimpses, as the 7'1" Nigerian is still developing his post moves and getting accustomed to ACC-caliber basketball.
Alabi played second fiddle to then-senior guard Toney Douglas. With Douglas and fellow big man Uche Echefu gone, Alabi can shine next to fellow sophomore Chris Singleton.
A few more polished offensive moves and Alabi can be an absolute star. He's already one of the league's best rebounders and shot blockers. Alabi ranked 16th in the country in shot-blocking percentage, swatting away more than 10 percent of shots taken when he was on the floor.
Dexter Pittman, Texas—Center
During his few years in Austin, Dexter Pittman has lost a lot of weight but gained a lot of game. Pittman enrolled at Texas out of shape and overweight. Pittman obviously didn't play much. But before last season, he took the initiative to lose weight and improve his conditioning.
Pittman's minutes increased, and he flourished in the Longhorns' frontcourt. The senior forward only played 16 minutes per game as a junior, but a further increase this year, combined with an improvement in his game, means his scoring average of 10 points per game will increase dramatically as well.
Drew Gordon, UCLA—Power Forward
UCLA brought in one of the best recruiting classes in the country last year, but many of the stud recruits didn't see much time on the court because of talented upperclassmen. After four of the five starters from 2009 graduated or went pro, coach Ben Howland will now be leaning on last year's solid recruiting class.
Drew Gordon was the second-best prospect in UCLA's 2009 class behind Jrue Holiday, who's now on the opposite coast playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. Gordon came to UCLA loaded with talent and a potential star in the making. After posting strong tempo-free statistics in 2009, Gordon could be UCLA's top option in 2010.
Mike Scott, Virginia—Power Forward
A coaching change may be the key to Mike Scott finally getting the touches he deserves for the Cavaliers. The soon-to-be Virginia junior might see an increase in minutes this season and potentially more touches. Scott is one of the most efficient yet underutilized players in the ACC.
Scott has a terrific 110 offensive rating, which is much higher than any other Cavalier's rating—including rising sophomore star Sylven Landesberg. The problem for Scott is he only takes 17.7 percent of his team's shots, a ratio good for just eighth-best on the team.
The solution? A new coach. Former Washington State coach Tony Bennett has always stressed efficiency in his offense. If he brings the same mentality to Virginia, Mike Scott will be sure to see a much bigger role in the Cavalier offense.
Keaton Nankivil, Wisconsin—Power Forward
Wisconsin seems like it always has multiple highly efficient forwards in its frontcourt. That should continue in 2010 as Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil return to the Badgers. Leuer already has a prominent starting role in Bo Ryan's offense, but Nankivil came off the bench last season, averaging only 14 minutes per game.
Nankivil is a strong offensive player and great offensive rebounder, meaning he'll fit quite nicely in Ryan's system as well. If Wisconsin is going to sniff the NCAA Tournament in 2010, they'll need Nankivil to step up and fill the shoes of the recently departed Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft.
Quincy Acy, Baylor—Power Forward
Baylor brought in two decorated freshmen last year to anchor its frontcourt of the future. The lesser touted of the two, Quincy Acy, ended up having the bigger impact during his freshman campaign. Acy, with his athleticism, became a playmaker off the bench for the Bears.
Acy should have his role already defined for him for 2010 because he'll have big shoes to fill with the graduation of Kevin Rogers. Acy's situation is similar to the aforementioned Mike Scott. His offensive efficiency of 112.7 is very high, but his 14.1 shot percentage is very low.
With other top options Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat also gone, Acy could see a starring role for Scott Drew.
Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas—Shooting Guard
Courtney Fortson and Rotnei Clarke are both about to be sophomore guards. Fortson has received more hype despite having a poor offensive efficiency rating and high turnover percentage.
Clarke is a deadly three-point shooter and incredibly protective of the ball. Clarke also missed a total of three free throws last season. If Clarke continues his progression during his sophomore year, he'll eventually outshine Fortson and become the Razorbacks' new star player.
Alex Tyus, Florida—Center
Alex Tyus almost left Florida, but the big man decided not to transfer out of Billy Donovan's program and should be rewarded in 2010. Tyus is on the verge of becoming a star for the Gators. Nick Calathes rightly received all the attention last year with the tremendous season he posted, but he left to go pro.
Florida needs a talented player to step up if the school wants to compete in a much-improved SEC. Tyus is Florida's most efficient and utilized player on offense returning this season. He'll be the most likely candidate to shoulder the load and become a star in Gainesville.
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