Skip to content

College Hoops Preview: 15 Players with Breakout Potential

Oct 15, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Lehigh v Duke Getty Images

Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of The Lists we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

There are a handful of different ways to predict what players are destined for breakout seasons. Were their minutes eaten up by players that have graduated or headed to the NBA? Did they produce high-efficiency numbers while playing limited minutes? Are they finally healthy? Was it simply a matter of a freshman becoming a sophomore or a player legitimately spending a summer improving?

The answer, simply, is yes. To all of the above.

So without further ado, here are 15 guys (plus a few extra) whose name we believe you will become familiar with by the end of the season:

Wayne Blackshear, Louisville: Blackshear, a sophomore, entered Louisville with a fair amount of hype, but spent the majority of last season dealing with a shoulder injury that, originally, was thought would end his season. He put together a couple of promising performances late in the season. A 6-foot-5 scorer on the wing, Blackshear gives Louisville a weapon that they were missing last season. He may not put up huge numbers next year — with how many bodies Louisville has, there may not be anyone that does — but he will be one of their biggest assets.

Michael Caffey and James Ennis, Long Beach State: Long Beach State was one of the nation’s best mid-majors last season, but lose five of their top seven scorers from last season. The two guys that do come back — Caffey and Ennis — should keep the 49ers atop the Big West this year. Caffey, a sophomore, is a dynamic back court presence who should fill the void left by Casper Ware while Ennis, a senior, is a rangy, 6-foot-6 wing whose athleticism is already drawing NBA scouts to Long Beach.

Michael Carter-Williams and CJ Fair, Syracuse: Carter-Williams is a perfect fit for Syracuse on both sides of the ball. A talented scorer in high school, Jim Boeheim recruited the 6-foot-5 guard with the intention of molding him into more of a play-maker. With Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine gone, there will be plenty of minutes and touches available for the sophomore. Fair wasn’t as highly-regarded in high school as MCW, but the long and athletic — and lefty — 6-foot-8 forward has shown flashes of greatness in his two seasons with the Orange. As a primary option in the front court this season, don’t be surprised to see Fair become the best face-up power forward in the Big East.

Quinn Cook, Duke: As we wrote in our preview, Duke has a lot of potential this season, but whether they reach that potential is dependent of a number of factors. The most important is Cook, now a sophomore. The Blue Devils have some weapons offensively, but what they are missing — what they were missing last season — was a play-maker that could break down a defense. That’s precisely what Cook, who finally had a healthy summer to improve his game, is.

Sam Dower, Gonzaga: Despite playing limited minutes for the Bulldogs in his first two seasons in Spokane, Dower was actually quite a productive player. Last season, he scored 8.3 points and grabbed 3.7 boards despite playing a little more than 18 minutes a night. With Robert Sacre graduating, Dower will slide into a starting role as a junior alongside Elias Harris in Mark Few’s front court.

Anton Grady, Cleveland State: Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters has called Anton Grady his future, and he’s right. He was incredibly productive — 8.5 points, 6.4 boards, 1.4 blocks, the team lead in offensive and defensive rebounding percentages — in limited minutes as a freshman, and with so much of Cleveland State’s production from last season graduating, Grady will have plenty of opportunities. Even without Butler in the league, the Horizon has quite a bit of talent. Grady might be the best player in the league.

Treveon Graham, VCU: The Rams bring back the majority of their roster as they move to the Atlantic 10, but the piece they lost was arguably their most valuable: Brad Burgess. Graham, a sophomore, has the tools to fill his role. He’s a bigger wing that has proven that he can shoot the three and rebound the ball, both of which are important as he’ll play as a four in VCU’s pressing system.

Myck Kabongo, Texas: Kabongo entered his freshman season as one of the top point guard recruits in the country, but it took him a while to really learn how to be a point guard at the collegiate level. With J’Covan Brown gone, he’ll be responsible for running the show, and with a core of young talent around him, he’ll need to embrace that leadership role if Texas is to be a contender in the Big 12. All of this is pending a positive outcome to the current agent issue he’s dealing with.

Alex Len, Maryland: Len is an interesting case. He’s a legitimate seven-footer who has put on 30 pounds of muscle during the offseason. He also now has a season under his belt to get used to American basketball. With a full offseason of practice with the team and a chance to spend a full season playing games (he was suspended for the first ten games last year), Len should be on track to become an integral part of Maryland’s offense. Oh, and he’s now able to communicate with his teammates, which is always a plus.

James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina: McAdoo had a chance of being a first round pick if he had left school after his freshman season. Instead, he decided to return, where the former top ten recruit will become the star of the North Carolina front court. And if the 15 points he scored against Thomas Robinson in the Elite 8 last season are any indication, McAdoo is in for a big season.

Otto Porter, Georgetown: Porter is a serious talent. A terrific rebounder and defender, the 6-foot-8 sophomore spent the offseason developing his offensive repertoire. Georgetown’s offense thrives on big men that are able to play on the perimeter and be a threat when facing the basket. That’s Porter. He may not be Jeff Green on the offensive side of the ball just yet, but he’s getting there. That, combined with the threat his imposes in the other aspects of the game, will make him a popular prospect among NBA scouts.

LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State: Ross was once the No. 1 recruit in the country, but a series of injuries and conditioning issues dulled the hype. As a freshman at Ohio State, he wasn’t cleared until December and then spent much of the season glued to the bench, playing a grand total of 35 minutes. The talent is still there, however, and with more minutes available as a sophomore, Ross is a guy who could thrive alongside Deshaun Thomas this season.

Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee: Stokes joined the Tennessee program last December, helping lead the Vols to a second place finish in the SEC despite the fact that he was supposed to be preparing for his high school prom. He finished with averages of 9.6 points and 7.4 boards last year. Don’t be surprised if turns into a 15 and 10 performer this year.

Gelaun Wheelwright, Weber State: Wheelwright was a pretty highly regarded prospect coming out of high school in California, as Weber State was able to beat out San Diego State and USC, according to his ESPN profile, on the recruiting trail. He averaged 5.6 points as a freshman backing up Damian Lillard. With Lillard gone to the NBA, the Wildcats offense will be his to commandeer.

Aaron White, Iowa: As a freshman, White averaged 11.1 points and 5.7 boards for an Iowa team that snuck up on some people. With quite a bit of talent returning on that team, Iowa is a sleeper in a loaded Big Ten. White is one of the more promising sophomores in that conference.

Five more breakout candidates to keep an eye on: Anthony Collins, USF; Cory Jefferson, Baylor; Ian Miller, Florida State; Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa; Brad Waldow, St. Mary’s

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Dayton’s Elite 8 run, Archie Miller’s decision to stay help continue Atlantic 10’s success

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Dayton head coach Archie Miller spurned high-major programs to remain at Atlantic 10. He’s not the only one in the league happy with where they are.

  2. Assigned Reading: Devonta Pollard opens up about the kidnapping he was involved in

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT

    NIT Northeastern Alabama AP

    Pollard is looking to reignite his career at Houston this season.

  3. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Treveon Graham, VCU enter as favorites in the Atlantic 10

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Atlantic 10 is out to gain respect again this season from the rest of the college basketball world, a year after the league saw a record six teams selected for the NCAA tournament with one team reaching the Elite 8.

  4. Former Georgia Tech head coach recuses self from Syracuse’s NCAA hearing

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    bobby-cremins AP

    Bobby Cremins says that his relationships with other coaches has led to his having to recuse himself from other cases in the past.

  5. Transfer guard dismissed from Minnesota program

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT

    Zach Lofton, Zach Lofton,

    Zach Lofton was expected to develop into a more efficient player during his year sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.

  6. Long Beach State, head coach Dan Monson agree to contract extension

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Dan Monson AP

    Monson is four wins away from becoming Long Beach State’s winningest coach.

  7. Buffalo-area programs to wear special jerseys for Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Big 4 Basketball Classic Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired uniforms for their doubleheader November 29.

  8. ACC releases its preseason media poll, all-conference team

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    AP AP

    North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was the media pick to win ACC Player of the Year.

  9. St. John’s loses key power forward to academic scandal at Junior College

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT

    lavin AP

    Keith Thomas was expected to start for the Johnnies.

  10. 2014-15 Season Preview: Toledo looks to end a 35-year NCAA Tournament drought and rep the MAC

    Oct 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Julius Brown (AP Photo) Julius Brown (AP Photo)

    The MAC is sure to be one of the more intriguing mid-major leagues during the 2014-15 season.

  11. Top 25 Countdown: No. 8 Texas Longhorns

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    Isaiah Taylor (Getty Images) Getty Images

    How can Texas build off of last seasons surprising success?

  12. The American releases their preseason poll

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT

    Kevin Ollie AP

    Who would you pick in first, UConn or SMU?

  13. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Stanley Johnson, Sam Dekker lead wing forward rankings

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Stanley Johnson (Arizona Athletics) Stanley Johnson (Arizona Athletics)

    CBT’s rankings of the best wings in college basketball heading into the 2014-15 season.

  14. Jeff Newberry throws down 360 dunk at Oklahoma State’s Hoops and Homecoming (VIDEO)

    Oct 28, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT

    Jeff Newberry

    The JuCo transfer guard is expected to have an impact in his first season in Stillwater.

  15. Jim Boeheim on Syracuse center DaJuan Coleman: ‘If we get him, it will be a bonus’

    Oct 28, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Jim Boeheim DaJuan Coleman AP

    The Syracuse big man was limited to only 12 games during the 2014-2015 season.

  16. Top 10 2016 recruit cuts his list to 10

    Oct 28, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Derryck Thornton Derryck Thornton

    Arguably the top point guard in the junior class, and a consensus top 10 recruit in the Class of 2016 has narrowed his list of offers to just 10.