The most impressive thing about Kris Joseph's sophomore season at Syracuse wasn't his 10.8-point scoring average or his 5.5 rebounds per game.
Instead, it was that the forward posted those figures as the Orange's sixth man.
That won't be the case in 2010-11. The departures of Wesley Johnson, Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins will mean an increased role for former reserves such as Joseph and guard Scoop Jardine.
Both players will go from subs to starters in an effort to keep Syracuse near the top of the Big East standings. Joseph (27.8 minutes) and Jardine (22.2) each saw a significant amount of playing time last season, but there's a certain responsibility that comes along with a starting role that doesn't exist when you're coming off the bench.
"It's all about leadership," Jardine said last month. "Your teammates look to you more, especially on our team, where we'll have a lot of young guys. All of a sudden we're the ones setting an example."
Just like Joseph and Jardine, players at almost every prominent program are preparing to jump from the bench into the starting lineup. Here are 10 former reserves who can keep their teams in the conference title hunt by excelling as starters.
Gilbert Brown, Pittsburgh – Considering they lost just one standout (Jermaine Dixon), it's no surprise that the Panthers are expected to contend for the Big East title. Brown – Pittsburgh's sixth-man the past two seasons – will play a pivotal role. One of the nation's more athletic wing players, the 6-foot-6 Brown ranked third on the team in scoring last season (10.7 points) after missing the first 11 games because of academic suspension.
D.J. Byrd, Purdue – Replacing defensive standout Chris Kramer won't be easy, but Byrd has the intensity to give it a whirl. Byrd is actually a better offensive player than Kramer because of his versatility and ability to connect from long range. Byrd also has more size and length than Kramer, which will help him defensively and on the boards. Still, it's not as if Byrd has a starting role locked up. He's expected to compete with sophomore Kelsey Barlow for the job.
Draymond Green, Michigan State – Green was the fourth-leading scorer (9.9 points) despite coming off the bench for the national semifinalists last season. With Raymar Morgan gone, it's likely that Green will move into the starting lineup in 2010-11. Green averaged 25.5 minutes a year ago, so he's used to being on the court. Still, he has the ability to play an even bigger role as a junior.
John Henson, North Carolina – The feeling at this time last year was that Henson would spend a year in school and then become a lottery pick in the 2010 NBA draft. Instead, he spent most of the season coming off the Tar Heels' bench before injuries catapulted him into the starting lineup near the end of the season. Henson began to shine as he received extended minutes and became more and more comfortable. As a full-time starter he could end up being the Breakthrough Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2010-11.
Wally Judge, Kansas State – A McDonald's All-American, Judge is the most high-profile signee of the Frank Martin era in Manhattan. But he averaged just 3.3 points and 11.7 minutes as a freshman last season. The graduation of Luis Colon and the transfer of Dominique Sutton should thrust Judge into a starting role. If he performs well, Kansas State should be in the Top 10 all season.
Markieff Morris, Kansas – Although his twin brother, Marcus, garners most of the attention, Markieff is pretty salty, too. He averaged 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds off the bench last season and reached double figures in four of his last seven games. A tenacious rebounder, Markieff will move into the starting lineup alongside his brother now that center Cole Aldrich is gone. The Morris twins should make Kansas' frontcourt one of the more athletic and versatile anywhere.
Venoy Overton, Washington – It's rare that a non-starter earns a reputation as one of the country's top defensive players. But Overton did just that in 2009-10. With leading scorer Quincy Pondexter now in the NBA, Overton must improve his offensive game as he moves into the starting lineup. He'll team with Isaiah Thomas to form one of the country's top backcourts. Overton must also use his leadership to help bring along sophomore Abdul Gaddy, who struggled as a freshman.
Mason Plumlee, Duke – NBA scouts and analysts are in love with Plumlee. Draftexpress.com predicts he'll be taken with the 10th overall pick in next summer's draft. Not bad for a guy who averaged 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds for the national champion Blue Devils last season. The graduation of center Brian Zoubek will create more opportunities down low for Mason and his brother, Miles.
A.J. Walton, Baylor – As much as the loss of forward Epke Udoh hurts, the graduation of point guard Tweety Carter may sting even more. Walton averaged 3.8 points as Carter's backup last season and will now battle incoming freshman Stargell Love (if Love qualifies academically) for the starting role. If Walton is at least serviceable, the Bears have enough talent surrounding him to contend for the Big 12 title. LaceDarius Dunn, Perry Jones and Quincy Acy can handle the scoring. Walton just needs to be a facilitator.
Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova – Yarou probably would've been a full-time starter last season if he weren't forced to miss seven weeks of action after contracting Hepatitis B. Yarou returned in January and spent the new few months displaying the flashes of brilliance – including a 13-point, eight-rebound effort at Syracuse – that have Wildcats fans excited about the upcoming season. Expect Yarou to balance out the guard-oriented Wildcats while blossoming into one of the Big East's better post players.