Top newcomers in Big 12 basketball

If point guard is truly the most important position on the court, the Big 12 could be in trouble. Seven of the league’s 10 teams will likely have a first-year player running the show when the season opens this fall.

Myck Kabongo is just one of the talented point guards headed for the Big 12.
(Kelly Kline/Getty Images)

From Jeremy Jones taking over for Jacob Pullen at Kansas State to Pierre Jackson stepping in at Baylor to Myck Kabongo replacing Cory Joseph at Texas, the Big 12’s newest guards will have to adapt quickly if the conference hopes to maintain its status as one of the best leagues in the country.

The good news is that a handful of the Big 12’s new point guards come from the junior college ranks, which means they may be quicker to adjust to Division I basketball than the average freshman.

Jackson and Oklahoma’s Sam Grooms are the No. 1 and No. 3-ranked junior college prospects in America, respectively. Jones, the Kansas State signee, is ranked No. 7.

Texas Tech also signed a juco point guard in Midland (Texas) College’s Ty Nurse, who will replace John Roberson.

Signing junior college players was a trend in the Big 12 this season. Eight of the top 30-ranked juco prospects signed with Big 12 schools.

Here is a list of newcomers expected to play a significant role in the Big 12 in 2011-12.

LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State, SF – Nash’s combination of power and athleticism make him one of the most feared players in the Class of 2011. The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder attacks the lane with ferocity and has developed an outside game to complement his slashing ability. Nash, who chose the Cowboys over Kansas, will probably only spend a year or two in college.

Quincy Miller, Baylor, F – Not many – if any – teams in the country will have a frontcourt rotation as lethal as the one featuring Miller, Perry Jones and Quincy Acy. A potential NBA lottery pick in 2012, the 6-foot-8 Miller can score from anywhere on the court. He missed his senior season of high school because of a torn ACL but should be 100 percent by the time the Bears take the court this fall.

Myck Kabongo, Texas, PG – Regarded by some analysts as the top point guard in the 2011 class, Kabongo will have plenty of opportunities to shine following the early departure of Cory Joseph and the graduation of Dogus Balbay. He’s the kind of vocal leader Texas has been missing on the perimeter the past few seasons. The Canadian is a smart player who rarely makes poor decisions.

DeAndre Daniels, Kansas or Texas, SF – Daniels is still trying to decide between the Jayhawks and Longhorns. Whichever team he picks, Daniels will likely be an impact player from the get-go. The 6-foot-8 Daniels is an excellent outside shooter who has exceptional ball-handling skills for a player of his size, making him one of the more versatile players in the Class of 2011.

Deuce Bello, Baylor, SG – Bello – a high school teammate of Quincy Miller – is regarded as one of the top dunkers in the world. He’ll be one of the Big 12’s most athletic players. Most of his points come on dunks or on baskets in transition. He also has a strong work ethic. Recruiting analysts have said Bello’s biggest areas of concern are his left hand and his outside shot.

Naadir Tharpe, Kansas, PG – Tharpe may be one of the biggest sleepers in the Class of 2011. He is an excellent scorer and decision-maker and transition. Tharpe takes pride in making his teammates look good and is known as a winner. His 3-point shooting could use some work. Still, he’s expected to see significant action in a backcourt that also includes Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson.

Jamal Branch, Texas A&M, PG – The addition of the 6-foot-3 Branch will help make up for the loss of B.J. Holmes on the perimeter. His size allows him to pass over smaller defenders with ease and he exhibits excellent body control when he encounters traffic in the paint. If Branch adapts to the college game quickly, the Aggies could have their best team since the Billy Gillispie era.

Chris Allen, Iowa State, SG – The Michigan State transfer averaged 8.8 points as a junior in 2009-10, when he shot a team-high 39.8 percent from 3-point range. Spartans coach Tom Izzo dismissed Allen from the squad last summer for a violation of team rules. His experience – Allen has played in two Final Fours – will be huge for a rebuilding Iowa State team.

Royce White, one of the premier recruits of 2009, is poised to make his debut at Iowa State.
(Ned Dishman/Getty Images)

Royce White, Iowa State, PF – White was one of the most heavily recruited players in the country when he signed with Minnesota two years ago. But a pair of legal issues kept him from ever seeing the court. The 6-foot-8 White is getting a second chance at Iowa State, where he’ll almost certainly make a quick impact on a team that is short on post players.

Brady Heslip, Baylor, G – The Bears would’ve been a totally different team last season if Heslip, a Boston College transfer, would’ve been eligible. Even though he has yet to play a game, Heslip is drawing comparisons to former standout Baylor guard Aaron Bruce. Heslip’s leadership and court savvy will be huge for a team that was far too erratic last season.

Elston Turner, Texas A&M, F – Turner averaged 5.5 points as a sophomore at Washington in 2009-10 but grew frustrated with his tag as a spot-up shooter. Turner feels he is a more versatile player. He’ll get the chance to prove it in College Station. With B.J. Holmes graduating, Turner and freshman guard Jamal Branch will have a quick chance to show what they can do.

Pierre Jackson, Baylor, PG – Jackson is the No. 1-ranked junior college player in the country. He averaged 18.6 points and 4.4 assists in leading the College of Southern Idaho to the NJCAA national title. Along with providing some offense, the Bears are hoping Jackson will focus on getting the ball inside to standout forwards Perry Jones, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller.

Sam Grooms, Oklahoma, PG – Grooms averaged 11 points and six assists for a Chipola (Fla.) Junior College squad that was ranked second in the country for most of the season. Grooms is ranked as the No. 3 junior college prospect in the country. He is often compared to former North Carolina standout Ty Lawson because of his speed up and down the court.

Philip Jurick, Oklahoma State, C – The 6-foot-11, 265-pound Jurick redshirted at the University of Tennessee in 2008-09 before spending the last two seasons at Chattanooga State, where he earned second-team All-American honors this spring. He averaged 10.5 points, 12.6 rebounds and 9.5 blocks. His defensive presence should be big for a Cowboys squad hoping to return to the NCAA tournament.

Jeremy Jones, Kansas State, PG – Much like his predecessor (Jacob Pullen), Jones is a Chicago native known for his toughness. He averaged 18.5 points and 4.6 assists for Seward County (Kan.) Community College last season. The seventh-ranked junior college prospect in the country chose Kansas State over Houston, West Virginia, Arizona State and South Florida.

Tyrus McGee, Iowa State, SG – One of the top shooters in the junior college ranks, McGee made 115 3-pointers for Cowley County (Kan.) Community College last season, when he shot 48.6 percent from beyond the arc. He averaged 3.5 made 3-pointers per game. With McGee and Michigan State transfer Chris Allen, the Cyclones will likely be one of the top long-range shooting teams in the Big 12.

Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, May 26, 2011