The Year of the Freshman Point Guard in the SEC?

Posted by Greg Mitchell on October 29th, 2013

Antonio Barton was held out of Tennessee’s practice yesterday with a leg injury. The Memphis transfer is expected to handle the bulk of the minutes at point guard for the Volunteers this season, so having Barton available immediately was important because last year’s starting point guard, Trae Golden, transferred to Georgia Tech. Freshman Darius Thompson is the most likely replacement if Barton’s injury lingers. Thompson doesn’t bring the buzz of fellow freshman guard and five-star recruit Robert Hubbs, but he does bring intriguing size (6’5″) to the position. Thompson would join a slew of SEC freshman being counted on to lead talented offenses this season.

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin Is Making a Habit of This (AP/Adam Brimer)

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin Is Making a Habit of This (AP/Adam Brimer)

Andrew Harrison is the most high-profile of these freshman point guards. As talented as the Wildcats are, the Kentucky offense won’t run itself. Harrison will need to get Julius Randle the ball in the right spots on the block, and his penetration will also be the key to getting easy baskets for Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee.

Billy Donovan may also have to rely heavily on his blue chip freshman point guard, Kasey Hill. Hill was going to get big minutes this season regardless, but with Scottie Wilbekin’s indefinite suspension in play, these minutes may be more front-loaded than Donovan originally anticipated. Wilbekin was excellent at the top of Florida’s half-court defense last season, so there is more than just the offense that may need to be replaced.

Missouri is also without an established point guard to begin the season. Frank Haith has said that Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson can handle the position. Haith said the same thing about Jabari Brown last season, and it was clear from the beginning that Brown was much better suited off the ball. Clarkson may very well be the same way. Haith will likely have to rely on freshmen Wes Clark and Shane Rector. Brown, Clarkson, and Earnest Ross are a talented perimeter trio, and Haith will need one of the freshmen point guards to step up to best utilize this strength.

There are high hopes for all four teams. Youth and inexperience aren’t necessarily death knells for the point guard position. Marcus Smart, Yogi Ferrell and Dominic Artis each led their respective teams to piles of wins as freshmen last season. Sports in general are showing young, inexperienced players excel right away. The starting rookie quarterback is no longer taboo in the NFL. Johnny Manziel won the Heisman in his first season on the field, and Jameis Winston might do the same this year. Michael Wacha has pitched the Cardinals into the World Series just a year removed from pitching to college competition. Every coach would prefer to have an experienced point guard, but as numerous recent examples have shown, this isn’t a prerequisite for a successful season.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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