We continue our "New Guys" series (it started last week with our All-Freshmen team for 2012-13) by spotlighting some key newcomers outside of the "big six" conferences for next season.
We chose 13 players from 12 teams who, for various reasons, should make an immediate impact in their first season with their new team. These are not the best 13 freshmen signed; instead, they are guys who should receive ample opportunity to make a splash.
Each of the 13 (seven are freshmen, five are four-year transfers and one is a junior college transfer) will play important minutes right away. We have listed them in reverse order of their expected impact; we are starting at 12 because two are on the same team.
Our "New Guys" series will continue Wednesday with a look at the top junior college transfers nationally.
12. Southern Illinois SG Desmar Jackson
Particulars: 6-5/175, Jr.; transfer from Wyoming, preceded by Warren (Ohio) Warren G. Harding
Buzz: Jackson should provide a much-needed infusion of athleticism and talent for SIU, a program that has fallen a long way in a relatively short time. Jackson was Wyoming's leading scorer (14.6 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (4.9 rpg) as a sophomore in 2010-11. He was far too in love with his 3-point shot as a sophomore and is better off as a slasher. SIU is going to finish in the bottom half of the Missouri Valley, but should be able to show a bit of improvement next season.
11. Colorado State C Colton Iverson
Particulars: 6-10/261, Sr.; transfer from Minnesota, preceded by Yankton (S.D.) High
Buzz: The Rams made the NCAA tournament last season despite a severe lack of height, so new coach Larry Eustachy has to be happy Iverson will be ready to go. Iverson isn't overly athletic, but he is big and physical and used to the rigors of the Big Ten. He should have an impact on the boards and defensively, at the least; he also can help provide low-post points for a team that again is going to be strong from the perimeter and again should be a fringe NCAA tourney team.
10. Memphis PF Shaquille Goodwin
Particulars: 6-8/230, Fr.; Decatur (Ga.) Southwest DeKalb
Buzz: Goodwin is a physical, athletic big man who could do damage teaming with holdover big man Tarik Black. He runs the floor well and is a top-flight rebounder. Goodwin isn't the most skilled offensive player, but he knows how to get to the basket and finish. As for his toughness, he was a good high school tight end in a football-mad area; at one point, he said he wanted to play both sports in college. Memphis won Conference USA this past season and will be the prohibitive favorite to do so again; how much damage the Tigers do in the NCAA tourney likely depends on the production they get from their frontcourt.
9. Long Beach State SG Keala King
Particulars: 6-5/210, Jr.; transfer from Arizona State, preceded by Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Buzz: King is a physical shooting guard, but he arrives with some baggage. Arizona State coach Herb Sendek kicked King off the team in January for poor conduct. At the time, King was the Sun Devils' leading scorer (13.7 ppg) and also was averaging 4.9 rebounds. He has 3-point range and does a nice job using his size to get into the lane. He has petitioned the NCAA to be allowed to play the entire season, but unless the NCAA acts on his request, he won't be eligible until after the first semester, meaning he would play his first game a week or so before Christmas. Long Beach State made the NCAA tourney this past season after dominating the Big West Conference, but the 49ers lost their top three scorers, meaning King is going to have the opportunity to put up some points.
8. Wichita State PG Malcolm Armstead and SG Nick Wiggins
Particulars: Armstead, 6-0/205, Sr., transfer from Oregon, preceded by Chipola JC (Fla.) and Birmingham (Ala.) Central Park Christian. Wiggins, 6-6/190, Jr., Wabash Valley CC (Ill.), preceded by Vincennes (Ind.) and Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby
Buzz: We're grouping these two together because they could (should?) be Creighton's starting backcourt next season. Wichita State is losing starting Gs Toure Murry and Joe Ragland, along with each of its top five scorers. Armstead averaged 4.3 assists per game in his two seasons at Oregon, and also is a pesky on-ball defender. He should be one of the top two point men in the Missouri Valley Conference next season. Wiggins is the son of former NBA G Mitchell Wiggins. Like his dad, Nick Wiggins is an offense-minded player with 3-point range. He has good size and shot better than 53 percent from the floor at Wabash Valley this past season. If Wichita State is to have any hope of repeating as MVC regular-season champ, this duo needs to produce big numbers.
7. Houston SF Danuel House
Particulars: 6-7/195, Fr.; 5-star prospect from Missouri City (Texas) Hightower
Buzz: Houston finished tied for eighth in conference USA last season, and while the Cougars aren't going to win the league next season, the addition of a top-notch recruiting class headed by House lends hope they can compete for some kind of postseason berth. House is an athletic play whose defense is a big calling card; he can guard everyone expect true centers. Offensively, he's at his best as a slasher, though he can hit the 18-footer. Houston needs offensive-minded players, so House should score a bunch as a freshman.
6. VCU F/G Jordan Burgess
Particulars: 6-5/180, Fr.; Richmond Benedictine School
Buzz: VCU loses just one starter off its NCAA tourney team – and that's swingman Bradford Burgess, Jordan's brother. Jordan Burgess should slide nicely into the spot vacated by his brother. Originally a Class of 2011 prospect, Burgess reclassified to 2012 when he transferred to Benedictine before his junior season. While Burgess could stand to add bulk, he is a talented offensive player on the perimeter and in the lane; in addition, he works well along the baseline. And as with all VCU players, Burgess puts his athleticism to good use on the defensive end. VCU will be the Colonial Athletic Association favorite and should open the season in most top 25s.
5. Xavier PG Semaj Christon
Particulars: 6-3/170, Fr.; 4-star prospect from Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy
Buzz: Christon is a Cincinnati native who will be returning to his hometown to play college ball. Xavier needs a new point guard, and Christon should be that guy. He is a good ballhandler with excellent quickness and has the potential to be a top-flight defender. His height is a positive, and once he adds a few pounds and some strength, he'll be even more of a handful for opposing point men. Xavier lost its top three scorers, and Christon needs to provide a steady hand immediately if Xavier is to make it back to the NCAAs for the eighth season in a row and the 12th time in 13 seasons.
4. Gonzaga C Przemek Karnowski
Particulars: 7-1/280, Fr.; unranked prospect from Torun, Poland
Buzz: If Karnowski (his name is pronounced Puh-shemick Car-now-ski), who signed with the Zags last month, lives up to the hype – he has been compared to Marc Gasol – Gonzaga will be one of the top three or four teams on the West Coast. As with many European big men, Karnowksi has a high basketball IQ and a nice all-around game. He can hit the 15-footer, find the open man and also is solid from the line. He has played on the Polish Junior National team and in several European championship tournaments, among them the 2008 U16 European Championship, the 2009 U16 European Championship, the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship, the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship and the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship. Karnowski played in Poland's top league last season and averaged 10.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and shot 54 percent from the floor.
3. UNLV F Anthony Bennett
Particulars: 6-7/230, Fr.; 5-star prospect from Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep
Buzz: Bennett is an athletic combo forward who can run all day. He has good strength and can do damage in the lane on both ends; he also has 3-point range, though he is better-suited to playing from 15 feet in. Bennett is a native of Canada who played his high school ball near Las Vegas. There are some concerns about his academics, though. He joins a team stocked in the frontcourt with holdover Mike Moser and Pitt transfer Khem Birch. Finding minutes for each of the trio should be an enjoyable task for coach Dave Rice. UNLV should be a fringe top-25 team in the preseason and should contend with San Diego State for the Mountain West title.
2. San Diego State SF Winston Shepard
Particulars: 6-8/206, Fr.; 5-star prospect from Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep
Buzz: Signing Shepard was big for the Aztecs, showing that they can hang with almost anyone on the recruiting trail. Shepard is an athletic guy who should fit nicely into coach Steve Fisher's up-tempo offense. SDSU needed a frontcourt player who can score, and that's what the Aztecs got with Shepard. Shepard also is a good ballhandler and adept passer. San Diego State should head into the season in the top 20 and will battle UNLV for the Mountain West title.
1. Butler SG Rotnei Clarke
Particulars: 6-0/190, Sr.; transfer from Arkansas, preceded by Verdigris (Okla.) High
Buzz: Clarke was a key player at Arkansas in each of his first three seasons. He is, first and foremost, a 3-point shooter; almost 70 percent of his field-goal attempts at Arkansas (595 of 868) came from beyond the arc. Butler lacked a consistent outside threat this past season, one reason the Bulldogs had a rare down season. That shouldn't be the case next season: Clarke hit 42.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc in three seasons with the Hogs. But he's not a one-dimensional player, being named second-team All-SEC in 2010-11. He's a gritty guy and will be a key cog on a team that will be favored to win the Horizon League.
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