A Number of Last Year’s ACC Freshmen Are Poised for Breakout SeasonsPosted by Chris Kehoe on October 16th, 2013
A common theme in college basketball is the jump in productivity from a player’s freshman to sophomore seasons. In a player’s second year with a program they are more apt to be familiar with the defensive schemes and offensive playbook of the coaching staff. They have also hopefully better adjusted to the speed and physicality of the college game and added some weight to their frame with a full offseason of serious strength and conditioning. In a premier basketball conference like the ACC, sometimes blue chip recruits struggle to acclimate to the game in their first year and may even spend a good amount of time on the bench. Their sophomore years represent a time for these players to make their names on the national stage and achieve a breakout campaign that will live up to their prodigious high school reputations. In the ACC, some freshmen have already ‘broken out’ and made a name for themselves with their play, like Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan (2012-13’s ACC ROY) and Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon. Here are 10 ACC sophomores ready to make the leap this coming season (listing in no particular order).
1). Justin Anderson, Virginia
This sophomore forward averaged 7.6 points and 1.2 blocks per game in his freshman campaign. He started 17 of Virginia’s 35 games last season, and at 6’6″, 230 pounds, he has the frame necessary to take some of the burden off of the Cavaliers’ senior stars, Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. He ended the season strong, leading the Cavaliers in scoring during their NIT run, and can only hope to build off of that positive momentum.
2012-13 stat line: 7.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 BPG in 24.0 minutes per game
2). Mike Tobey, Virginia
The 7’0″ behemoth has good hands and is continuing to develop the post moves necessary to make himself a force to be reckoned with in the middle. His elite-level footwork has him poised to make the jump in his second season in the ACC. Making the U.S. U-19 World Championship team has only increased his confidence in his ability to play with the best, and strengthened the bond between coach and player, considering Virginia’s Tony Bennett was the U-19 head coach.
2012-13 stat line: 6.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.6 BPG in 13.9 minutes per game
3). T.J. Warren, N.C. State
The 6’8″ marksman flirted with a jump to the NBA after his freshman campaign, but instead watched teammates C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown make the leap. The incredibly efficient forward had 14 starts for the Wolfpack and shot an impressive 62.2% from the floor, 51.9% from three-point range. The 2012 McDonald’s All-American and Brewster Academy graduate will have plenty of scoring opportunities this year without Brown, Leslie, and Richard Howell to contend with. It also can’t hurt having N.C State’s two-headed point guard tandem of Tyler Lewis and Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber feeding him the ball.
2012-13 stat line: 12.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.4 BPG in 27.0 minutes per game
4). Jake Layman, Maryland
The long and lanky Massachusetts native had a rather pedestrian freshman campaign by most accounts, but flashes of brilliance left Maryland fans wanting more. The athleticism displayed by Layman meshed perfectly with the rest of the bouncy Terrapins, and if Layman can continue to improve on his perimeter shooting (29.9% from three), defenses will be less likely to play off the slashing 6’8″ forward. If the Terps’ recent trip to the Bahamas is any indicator, Layman is poised to make a big leap and plant himself firmly in the Maryland starting lineup this season. His 21.3 PPG average in the Bahamas led his squad to a perfect record, but on a team with a lot of scoring guards he will need to find his niche in order to succeed.
2012-13 stat line: 5.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 0.9 APG 0.6 BPG in 19.9 minutes per game
5). James Robinson, Pittsburgh
Robinson took on an extremely challenging role as the floor general for the Panthers as a true freshman, being handed the reins of the team from day one. The blue-chip recruit is a winner above all, having won a gold medal with the U.S.A U-18 team that won the FIBA championships under Florida coach Billy Donovan and concluded his career at DeMatha High School with the most wins in the school’s illustrious history. Last year in the Big East he led the conference in assist to turnover ratio, and his work ethic has made him ready to lead his team to new heights in the new conference.
2012-2013 stat line: 6.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.0 SPG in 26.6 minutes per game
6). Amile Jefferson, Duke
Last season Jefferson was considered an energetic spark plug off the bench for the veteran Blue Devils, relieving senior stars Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee when necessary. He even started in place of Kelly when he was out for an extended period of time with a foot injury. While Jefferson wasn’t a stat sheet stuffer, he did a lot of the little things necessary for Duke to win games, and provided great energy to get his team and the home crowd fired up along with him. This offseason he has added a good amount of bulk to his previously lithe frame and was listed by Coach K as one of Duke’s projected starters for the upcoming campaign. People tend to forget he was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American in high school, but he intends to represent for his hometown of Philadelphia this season and make Duke fans everywhere proud.
2012-13 stat line: 4.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.5 BPG in 12.7 minutes per game
7). Marcus Paige, North Carolina
The freshman point guard took a lot of flak last year for his up-and-down campaign and the somewhat disappointing season the Tar Heels had. The team was very young and the enormous expectations placed on the shoulders of James Michael McAdoo ended up hurting Roy Williams’ squad. Paige will have a bounce-back season with a year under his belt surrounded by McAdoo and the rest of UNC’s loaded frontcourt, P.J. Hairston, and super-athletic J.P. Tokoto. The sheer amount of offensive weapons and depth at Paige’s disposal will make him a more effective playmaker and open things up for him to create and find players for open looks. While Paige may have freshman point guard Nate Britt pushing him in practice for minutes, the job will be tough for Paige to lose and he will show large strides of improvement in year two in Chapel Hill.
2012-13 stat line: 8.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG in 29.2 minutes per game
8). Robert Carter, Jr., Georgia Tech
Carter Jr. was one of two very impressive freshmen for the Yellow Jackets last season, the other being Marcus Georges-Hunt. Carter Jr. had a college-ready frame from the start and at 6’8″, 250 pounds, he was a handful around the basket for ACC foes. He also possessed the ability to stretch the defense with his versatility and make teams pay from multiple spots on the court. He capitalized on his soft touch and should average close to a double-double this season. A member of last year’s all-rookie ACC team, Carter Jr. played on a woeful Georgia Tech squad that did not get him the national attention he may have deserved. Look for Carter Jr. to come back with a vengeance and try and prove he belongs in the conversation as one of the conference’s best big men this season.
2012-13 stat line: 9.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.0 BPG in 26.4 minutes per game
9). Jerami Grant, Syracuse
The 6’8″ athletic forward came in to Syracuse from DeMatha High School with high expectations, but a realization he would first have to sit behind C.J. Fair and James Southerland tempered those thoughts. A top 40 recruit, Grant also played under Billy Donovan’s U-18 squad with high school teammate James Robinson. Grant needs to put on some weight but has very enticing tools and length that intrigues NBA scouts. He has a great motor and is a strong finisher near the rim but needs to play with more consistency in his second season. It is worthwhile to note that he is still playing alongside Fair, the team’s projected star, and has incoming freshman Tyler Roberson breathing down his neck for playing time.
2012-13 stat line: 3.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.4 BPG in 14.3 minutes per game
10). Cameron Biedscheid, Notre Dame
The 6’7″ do-it-all forward has a penchant for floating around the perimeter to hoist threes, and since his shots weren’t falling last season it affected other aspects of his game. Biedscheid was a highly-rated recruit coming into South Bend with a smooth shooting stroke and will look to right the ship this upcoming season. With opposing defenses keying on Notre Dame focal points Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, Biedscheid should be able to exploit openings in drive-and-kick scenarios. Putting on some weight and fine-tuning his interior game will only help his prospects of eventually becoming a professional.
2012-13 stat line: 6.2 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.3 BPG in 17.4 minutes per game