By Cody Daniel @CodyDanielRS on June 3, 2014
College basketball was loaded with freshman talent last season, and luckily for us, quite a few of them will be returning for their sophomore seasons. Some were thrown into the fire as freshmen while others had to sit back and wait their turn. But 2014-15 will be a new season, so look for these sophomores to have a breakout year.
Sindarius Thornwell put up an impressive stat line of 13.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists as a freshman. Despite the losing ways of the team as a whole in the competitive SEC, with the departure of the team's leading scorer and senior leader, Brenton Williams, Thornwell should have a huge season with a green light offensively.
Being overshadowed by the LSU Tigers senior and leading scorer in the post, Johnny O’Bryant III, Jarell Martin still managed to have a solid freshman season with 10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest. With O’Bryant III out of town, an offseason of development and a heavier workload as a sophomore will show Martin to become a key piece for the Tigers in 2014-15.
For whatever reason, not many people talked about Bobby Portis’ performance for Arkansas as a freshman. That was probably due to the star talent of the other low post forwards in the conference, but after nearly leading the team in scoring as a freshman, Portis will take control of the Razorbacks' offense and become a huge threat in 2014-15.
Andrew Harrison came in last season as the top ranked freshman point guard, but he didn’t start playing like it until whatever ‘tweak’ John Calipari made came into effect. Then he really showed his talent. Calipari is known for producing great guards, and after an offseason to grow in Kentucky, Harrison will be one of the best floor generals in the country.
Just like his twin brother, Aaron Harrison will be on of the top young guards in college basketball next season. After knocking down game-winner after game-winner in the NCAA Tournament, Harrison will come into next season with a noticeable confidence that should make him the most dangerous scorer in the SEC.
Despite only being a freshman, Marcus Foster was the do-it-all guy for Kansas State with 15.5 points and 2.5 assists per game. Expect his playmaking ability and scoring to both take a huge step in the right direction this offseason, as well as his defense which could definitely use some work.
Jabari Bird didn’t come into his own until late in the season, but jr showed flashes of his potential throughout the year with his scoring. An offseason in the gym and some added responsibility on offense could leave Bird averaging around 15 points per game next season.
It wasn’t until late in the season after the Willie Cauley-Stein injury that we really got to see how dominant Dakari Johnson could be. With some work towards getting in better shape, the starting center job could be Johnson’s to lose; and with that, he could prove to be the most dominant low post presence in the SEC.
The other LSU forward who had to wait their turn for the spotlight behind Johnny O’Bryant III was Jordan Mickey. As a freshman, Mickey led the SEC in shots blocked with 3.2 and led the team in rebounds with 7.9 per contest. With the potential to be an explosive force on both sides of the ball, look for Mickey to take over the Tigers and be their go-to-guy next season.
Kennedy Meeks was a late-bloomer for the Tar Heals last season, but he still managed to accumulate 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per night. That came as he sat behind James Michael McAdoo, who is now off to the NBA. In 2014-15, Meeks will now be the anchor in the paint, and with the loaded backcourt of UNC, teams will have a harder time stopping Meeks without so many double-teams.
Wayne Selden was clearly not the first option as a freshman at Kansas with Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis. Heading into his sophomore season, Selden can make this his team now, and with his explosiveness, he will lead the team in scoring and could hover around 20 points per night.
Isaiah Taylor emerged as one of the best young guards in the country last season, and despite putting up 12.7 points and 4.0 assists as a freshman, Taylor clearly had more than enough room to develop for next season. With some added maturity and developing a jump shot, there would be no way to contain Taylor on the court in 2014-15.
If Kasey Hill were able to start as a freshman, he would probably be in the mix as a lottery pick for this month’s NBA Draft. Instead, he sat behind Scottie Wilbekin and had to learn from the senior. That will help Hill this season, and with an already elite passing skill, if he can apply some takeover scoring ability in there, Hill will compete with Andrew Harrison as the best point guard in the SEC.
Where Rondae Hollis-Jefferson makes his money is on the boards and defensively. That said, he still was an offensive threat who managed to compile 9.1 points per game due to his pure athletic ability. With Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon gone, Hollis-Jefferson will be much more involved offensively and continue to dominate the boards and defense next season.
Chris Walker was the potential fans never got to see much of due to eligibility issues. Yet with what few opportunities he got, Walker amazed with the glimpses of how dominant he will be as a sophomore. With great body size at 6-foot-10, 220-pounds to complement his endless skill-set, Walker just may be the SEC Player of the Year in 2014-15.
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