Cole Aldrich averaged just 8.3 mpg as a freshman, before becoming one of the best centers in the country this past season.
Jodie Meeks had two unimpressive, injury-plagued seasons before becoming one of college basketball's most electrifying scorers as a junior.
Every season, there are kids that come from college basketball obscurity and burst onto the national scene. Who will have a breakout year in 2009-2010?
Ed Davis, North Carolina - 6'10" 225lb: Davis is in kind of the same boat Aldrich was last season. As a freshman, he was a promising prospect that was stuck behind a loaded front line.
Davis is long, athletic, and plays with a great deal of energy. He has shown the ability to be one of the better defenders and rebounders in the country, and with the added scoring opportunities with the graduation of Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, and Ty Lawson, it isn't a stretch to think Davis could average 15 and 10 as a sophomore.
Kemba Walker, UConn - 6'1" 172lb: Walker was stuck playing behind AJ Price as a freshman. But with Price's graduation, this will be Kemba's UConn team to run. And run they will. The last two seasons, UConn has played a much more controlled pace than you expect from a Jim Calhoun team. Price, Hasheem Thabeet, and Jeff Adrien were all more suited to a slower paced, grind-it-out style.
With those three gone, UConn will rely on Walker, Jerome Dyson, and Stanley Robinson to lead them, all of whom could be considered the most athletic player at their positions. UConn is going to press defensively and run offensively, and Walker is going to be the catalyst.
Kim English, Missouri - 6'6" 200lb: Anyone that watched the NCAA tournament (and if you read this blog, that means you) should know what English can do when he gets hot: during a four-minute stretch against Marquette in the second round, English hit three threes and scored 15 points.
A 6'6" two-guard, English is tall enough to get his shot off over most perimeter defenders, but he also has enough athleticism to survive in the 40-minutes-of-hell style the Tigers play. With guys like Leo Lyons, DeMarre Carroll, JT Tiller, and Matt Lawrence all graduating, expect English to get many more minutes and shots.
Chris Wright, Georgetown - 6'1", 208lb: Wright was a much-hyped recruit coming out of St. John's high school in Maryland, but an injury to his foot severely limited his court time as a freshman. Combine that with playing behind Jonathon Wallace, and last season was essentially Wright's first in the Big East.
With that came the growing pains—at times he was brilliant, but overall he had an inconsistent season. He now has a year of experience under his belt, and knowing what to expect in a watered down Big East, Wright should be more comfortable and confident leading the Hoyas.
Wesley Johnson, Syracuse - 6'7", 198lb: Johnson was a player for two years with Iowa State, averaging 12 ppg both seasons. But during his sophomore year, he played on an ankle that required surgery after the season was done. Now that he has had 16 months to get healthy, Johnson will start over in a program looking for their own fresh start.
The Orange lost a ton of talent on the perimeter, and Johnson will be expected to shoulder the scoring load from day one. Johnson is a tremendous athlete with a jumper that is very effective when he doesn't fall in love with it—which is what happened during his sophomore season (although, that was most likely a result of his injury).
If he can become the player he was as a freshman—attacking the glass, going to the basket, defending—Johnson should put up impressive scoring numbers and thrive playing the back line of the Syracuse zone.
(photo credit: Flagrant Fouls)
Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington - 6'9", 240lb: A lot of people are predicting the Huskies to be the best team on the West Coast, and that prediction could very well hold true as U-Dub will field one of the most dynamic back courts in the country.
But back court play will only get you so far during the season.
Washington will be heading into this year with a gaping hole in their frontline courtesy of Jon Brockman's graduation. Bryan-Amaning will be the guy called upon to fill a lot of those minutes. He has shown signs of being a star-in-the-making during his first two seasons, but both seasons faded down the stretch as his minutes and production tailed off during Pac-10 play.
The Huskies, if possible, are going to play an even faster tempo than they did last season, and given Bryan-Amaning's length, athleticism, and face-up game, he should be able to thrive.
Malcolm Lee, UCLA - 6'5", 180lb: Lee has been getting a ton of attention during the offseason, and it isn't hard to see why—the kid looks like he could be the second coming off Russell Westbrook. If you remember, Westbrook flew under the radar as a freshman before exploding as a sophomore and becoming the fourth pick of the 2008 draft.
Like Westbrook, Lee is a rangy combo guard with outstanding athleticism. He struggled to find minutes in a crowded back court last season, but that doesn't mean that he isn't blessed with loads of talent. Lee is still a bit raw, especially on the offensive end, but he has already garnered a reputation for being a playmaker defensively. If he is allowed to take some advantage of his outstanding ability to create in the open court, Lee could be a first team all-Pac 10 player.
Roburt Sallie, Memphis - 6'5", 196lb: Remember what I said about Kim English? If you watched the NCAA Tournament, you know what this guy is capable of. The exact same can be said about Sallie.
Sallie spent most of the season on John Calipari's bench, but exploded for 35 points and 10 three's as he carried the Tiger's to a first round win against Cal State Northridge. One of the best shooters in the country, new coach Josh Pastner is going to need a big season out of Sallie, as the NBA Draft and a disappearing recruiting class has left the Tiger's cupboard pretty bare.
Ishmael Smith, Wake Forest - 6'0", 175lb: As a freshman, Ishmael Smith was one of the most promising point guards in the country, averaging 6.0 apg. But something happened over the past two seasons, and that something was named Jeff Teague.
Teague dominated the ball during his time in Winston-Salem, forcing Smith into a much less significant role. But that doesn't mean Smith can't play. He is not a great scorer, but what he does well is break down a defense and lead a break. In other words, he can create scoring chances for others, which is going to be so important for a Wake team that doesn't have a lot of polished offensive weapons.
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh - 6'2", 200lb: Pitt will be heading into this season with basically a whole new team. With four starters gone, and two of their top returners out to start the season (Jermaine Dixon's foot injury and Gilbert Brown's suspension), Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker will be basically the only two guys back.
Gibbs played a limited role as a freshman for the Panthers, but in those limited minutes he produced. He also had an impressive summer playing for the U-19 World Champions (coached by Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon).
Gibbs will be counted upon immediately to produce for the Panthers, and he should be up to the task. He proved his ability to shoot from the perimeter last season, but this year he will be asked to lead this team as a scorer and playmaker.
William Buford, Ohio State - 6'5", 185lb: Buford took some time to find a rhythm as a freshman, but once he got comfortable, he really started to show some promising signs at the end of the year.
Buford is one of the most fluid scorers in the Big Ten. He is so good at reading a defense and coming off of a screen, and is deadly when shooting in the 15-18 foot range. If Buford can expand his ability to slash to the rim, he could prove to be a deadly complement to Evan Turner.
Michael Dunigan, Oregon
Paul George, Fresno State
Demetri Goodson, Gonzaga
Terrence Jennings, Louisville
Larry Sanders, VCU
Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt