Monday, we spotlighted eight frontcourt players who were poised for breakout seasons in 2012-13. Today, we look at eight guards who should become stars next season.
The list encompasses guys will go from being their team's second or third (or fourth) scoring option to all-conference (and maybe even All-America) performer.
The players are listed alphabetically.
Michigan State PG Keith Appling
Particulars: 6-1/190, Jr.
2011-12 stats: 11.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.2 spg
Buzz: Appling, a former four-star recruit, is the only returning Spartans player who averaged in double figures this past season. With the departure of F Draymond Green, Appling becomes Michigan State's most important player. He is a tough-minded player, but he has struggled somewhat offensively. That can't happen again; the Spartans have to be able to count on his offense. He was excellent from the line and from 3-point range as a freshman but slumped last season from beyond the arc (from 41.1 percent as a freshman to 25.0 percent as a sophomore, on just one more attempt). But he didn't let his offensive struggles affect his solid defense. He is quick and physical and did a nice job getting into the lane; a return to the 3-point form of his freshman season should mean Appling averages around 16 or 17 points next season. That would be vital for a Michigan State team looking for a go-to guy.
Louisville G/F Wayne Blackshear
Particulars: 6-5/225, Soph.
2011-12 stats: 2.5 ppg
Buzz: Injuries wrecked Blackshear's freshman season; he played in just 15 of the Cardinals' 40 games. But he showed why he was a touted four-star recruit when he scored nine points in just 14 minutes in Louisville's national semifinal loss to Kentucky. Blackshear is both athletic and physical, and when healthy, he is a solid all-around player who can do everything well. And if healthy, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him average in the low teens and even perhaps lead the Cardinals in scoring.
[Mike Huguenin: These frontcourt players can become stars next season]
Georgia SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Particulars: 6-5/200, Soph.
2011-12 stats: 13.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.8 spg
Buzz: Caldwell-Pope is Georgia's only returning double-figure scorer, and considering that none of the Bulldogs' big men are that good offensively, Caldwell-Pope is going to have a chance to average close to 20 points per game. He is extremely athletic and can jump out of the gym. He is a solid defender and works hard on the boards. His outside shot needs a lot of work, though, and he was much better at slashing into the lane than firing up jumpers this past season. He took 44 more 3-pointers than 2-pointers as a freshman and that has to change. Still, he will be among the SEC's top scorers next season and has a shot to lead the league in scoring.
Virginia SG Joe Harris
Particulars: 6-6/211, Jr.
2011-12 stats: 11.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 38.0 3-pt FG%
Buzz: Harris is the only returning double-figure scorer for the Cavs, who are going to sorely miss star F Mike Scott. Harris, though, should be able to increase his scoring average into the mid-teens to help erase some of the angst about Scott's departure. Harris, who is from smalltown Washington state (from Chelan, a town of about 3,890), has a nice outside stroke and is capable of hitting better than 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. He has a nice offensive game and was a bit more aggressive as a sophomore; he shot almost 40 more free throws than he did as a freshman in basically the same amount of playing time. His height makes him tough to defend on the perimeter, and he got better at using his size with his mid-range game this past season. He can be exploited defensively by quicker guards, but his offensive potential has to be tantalizing for coach Tony Bennett. He played with a broken left hand in the latter part of this past season, and his production tailed off.
Kansas SG Elijah Johnson
Particulars: 6-4/195, Sr.
2011-12 stats: 10.2 ppg, 3.5 apg
Buzz: Johnson is a former five-star recruit who made a huge jump between his sophomore and junior seasons, increasing his scoring average by almost seven points per game. It seemingly took him a while to get acclimated to high-level basketball, but he began to live up to the five-star billing last season. He should average in the mid-teens this season and be the Jayhawks' go-to scorer. Johnson is ultra-athletic and can get to the rim against anybody, but he was far too in love with the 3-point shot this past season; he has good range, but shot only 33.3 percent from beyond the arc and there's no way he should've attempted 61 more 3-pointers than 2-pointers. If he curbs his tendency to fire away, he could become a superb offensive player. He is a solid distributor and defender.
Texas PG Myck Kabongo
Particulars: 6-1/169, Soph.
2011-12 stats: 30.6 mpg, 9.6 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.3 spg
Buzz: Kabongo is a former five-star recruit who was the No. 26 player nationally in the 2011 class. He has the potential to be one of the nation's top dozen or so point men next season. His scoring average also should go up because of the departure of J'Covan Brown, who shot and shot and shot and shot and … well, you get the idea. Kabongo struggled at times, especially early in the season, but that's not overly surprising considering he was a true freshman. As long as Kabongo makes the expected improvement as a scorer and distributor, Texas will have the talent to compete for the Big 12 crown next season
Xavier G/F Dez Wells, Xavier
Particulars: 6-5/215, Soph.
2011-12 stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 50.4 FG%
Buzz: Wells should see his scoring average climb into at least the mid-teens next season because he will be the Musketeers' go-to scorer. Xavier lost its top three scorers and also is No. 5 guy; that means ample opportunity for Wells. He is physical and a good athlete; he can get into the lane and also has a nice mid-range game. Three-point shooting needs to become a bigger part of his game. He has the athleticism to be a solid defender, too, even if he didn't always show that facet of his game this season.
Washington SG C.J. Wilcox
Particulars: 6-5/185, Jr.
2011-12 stats: 14.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 40.3 3-pt FG%, 83.9 FT%
Buzz: Wilcox is, pure and simple, a scorer, and with Washington having lost its top two scorers, Wilcox is going to get more shots and score more points. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him flirt with averaging 20 points per game. He shot more 3-pointers than 2-pointers last season; while he has excellent range, he also is money from the foul line, so a few more forays to the basket might be called for next season. Again, though, he is going to be hoisting up a ton of shots, which is going to lead to more free throw attempts regardless. His dad, Craig, was a talented guard for BYU in the mid-1990s.
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