In preparation for the 2012-13 season, the college basketball staff here at Rant Sports will be running through a number of player and team breakdowns from now until the start of the season.
Another year is approaching and the opportunity for returning players to burst onto the scene will once again present itself.
Let’s take a look a look at the Top 10 Breakout Candidates-SEC:
No. 10- Lakeem Jackson (South Carolina): It’s a new era in South Carolina as the Gamecocks bring in former Kansas State head coach Frank Martin. New intensity is sure to be the motto for USC this season and players like Jackson will have the opportunity to step it up. Jackson’s numbers last season aren’t nearly as impressive as what they could be in 2012-13, as he averaged just 3.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in roughly 17 minutes of action per game. However, Jackson could be the guy to step in and have a respectable junior season.
No. 9- Levi Randolph (Alabama): The Crimson Tide had some off-the-court issues late last year that nearly cost them their spot in the Big Dance. However, head coach Anthony Grant has a young squad and talent to work with in 2012-13 and Randolph, along with fellow sophomore Trevor Lacey, could make a nice tandem that can once again have Alabama in the NCAA Tournament hunt. Randolph showcased his true potential at times, but looks to build off his 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game from 2011-12.
No. 8- Mike Rosario (Florida): At times, Rosario got lost in the back court shuffle behind guys like Bradley Beal and Erving Walker. However, the Gators lost both guards this past off-season and alongside the return of Kenny Boynton in the back court, head coach Billy Donovan once again has an elite rotation on the perimeter. Rosario, a one-time Rutgers transfer, could be poised to put up big numbers in 2012-13 and emerge as more than just a back court complement.
No. 7- Dai-Jon Parker (Vanderbilt): Head coach Kevin Stallings lost both Jeffrey Taylor and John Jenkins to the NBA Draft this past June, but others will step up for the Commodores in 2012-13. There’s a lot to replace in Nashville, but Parker, a former top-100 recruit, is only a sophomore and could be poised on breaking out and taking over at Vanderbilt. As a role player in 2011-12, Parker averaged just 1.7 points per game, but that number should skyrocket this upcoming season.
No. 6- Trevor Lacey (Alabama): Like Randolph, Lacey is just a sophomore. Trevor Releford returns in the back court for the Crimson Tide, but Lacey could be poised to see a larger role in his second season in Tuscaloosa. Lacey should have no trouble building off his 24.7 minutes per game and increasing his scoring average (7.3 ppg) from last season. Lacey is another former top-100 recruit that can make a tremendous freshman-to-sophomore leap.
No. 5- Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee): Stokes was originally part of the class of 2012, however midway through the 2011-12 season he decided to enroll at the University of Tennessee. Stokes stepped right in, immediately helping the Vols nearly sneak into the NCAA Tournament. Senior-to-be Jeronne Maymon teams up with Stokes to give the Vols one of the better front court tandems in the conferences. Stokes has all the potential to be a double-double star in 2012-13.
No. 4- Johnny O’Bryant (LSU): O’Bryant was among one of the top recruits from the class of 2011, however the Tigers once again failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. O’Bryant decided to return to LSU and now as a sophomore, he should emerge as one of the top low post threats within the SEC. Johnny Jones take over the program this season after former head coach Trent Johnson bolted for TCU. O’Bryant will be called upon heavily to help lead the Tigers in 2012-13.
No. 3- B.J. Young (Arkansas): Young decided to return to the Razorbacks this season and that is great news for Arkansas fans. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 15.3 points per game last season as a freshman and it’s not out of the question to expect that number to increase. Young already is one of the best guards within the SEC, but this season he should be among the elite nationally. The only issue at hand is whether or not the Razorbacks can improve off an 18-14 season from a year ago.
No. 2- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia): Caldwell-Pope was among the top incoming freshmen, not only in the SEC last year, but also nationally. The guard averaged 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, but head coach Mark Fox now needs more from his star. Entering his sophomore season, Caldwell-Pope can now look to put UGA on his back and move them up the conference standings. A big season should be on the horizon for the Georgia-native.
No. 1- Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky): Part of Kentucky’s 2011 heralded freshman class, Wiltjer enters the 2012-13 season as one of the Wildcats’ few contributing returners. Wiltjer fought for minutes last year and at times showcased the potential the once dubbed him as a top-50 recruit. There’s a new group of incoming freshman coming to Lexington this season, but Wiltjer, along with the now-eligible Ryan Harrow (North Carolina State transfer) will be counted upon to provide a veteran presence. Wiltjer has the tools to break out in 2012-13, as the Wildcats will be in search of back-to-back national titles.
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