Welcome to the Show, Part II: Breakout Newcomers in the Former SEC West

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on November 18th, 2014

Last week, we sorted through Kentucky’s latest five-star recruiting haul and delved into Frank Martin’s latest freshman class to determine who the SEC East’s breakout newcomers would be in 2014-15. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the first-year players who are ready to make a splash in the division once known as the SEC West. A number of high-profile junior college pickups will help teams like Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, and Mississippi replace departing talent and reload en route to a potential NCAA Tournament bid.

Alabama: Justin Coleman. Coleman was a big pick-up for Anthony Grant, and the embattled Alabama coach may need his four-star freshman to come through in a big way if he’s going to keep his job. Coleman started the Crimson Tide’s sole exhibition game and had six assists (and four turnovers) in 31 minutes as the team’s floor general. He’ll cede minutes to Ricky Tarrant – an explosive scorer from the same spot – but it looks like Coleman will have every opportunity to remain his team’s primary option at the position. He’s a diminutive player at just 160 pounds, but he has the passing instincts and shooting range to make an impact against SEC opponents as a true freshman.

Justin Coleman Can Fly (Al.com)

Justin Coleman Can Fly (Al.com)

Arkansas: Anton Beard. Beard is one of two solid point guard prospects in Fayetteville. He’s currently locked in battle with junior college transfer Jabril Durham for a role behind or alongside Rashad Madden, who can handle either guard spot. As a result, this prediction could change as the season wears on. Beard grew two inches in his senior year of high school to bolster his solid man-up defense and develop into a high-major recruit. However, he struggled to find his shot in exhibition play (25% FG). Durham had similar issues, but his JuCo experience and stronger passing from the point carried him to a start in the Hogs’ season opener last weekend. The two newcomers will see their roles expands and contract based on Mike Anderson’s offensive and defensive strategies and Madden’s availability this winter.

Auburn: Cinmeon Bowers. Bruce Pearl is hoping his junior college gem can help offset the loss of eight players from Auburn’s 2013-14 team. Bowers was the top-rated JuCo prospect in the class of 2014 and already projects to be Pearl’s go-to guy up front. The Tigers staff gave him the green light to take 15 shots on 24 minutes in the team’s exhibition win over West Alabama and Bowers finished that game with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He added 18/17 in the team’s season-opening win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee over the weekend. The wide-bodied power forward plays like a bull in the paint and does not shy away from contact at the rim. If Bowers can keep his nose clean, he’ll have plenty of chances to stand out in the middle of Auburn’s rebuilding efforts.

Cinmeon Bowers was SEC Player of the Week on Monday

Cinmeon Bowers was SEC Player of the Week on Monday

LSU: Josh Gray. Gray is coming off of a season where he averaged 33.8 points per game for Odessa Junior College. That’s not something he can replicate in the SEC, but still… dang. He’ll be one of two newcomers in the Tigers’ starting lineup alongside 7’1″ monster Elbert Robinson III. While Robinson should get ample touches inside, Gray appears to be the player poised to have a bigger impact this season. Gray is a hyperactive point guard who can fill up the basket behind a bevy of insane hot streaks and distribute the ball with success. He scored 9.3 points per game in his freshman season with Texas Tech and should be even better after taking the equivalent of a season in the minors last year.

Mississippi State: Fallou Ndoye. Ndoye is a first-year player who came to Starkville as a raw and skinny prospect. His redshirt season didn’t fix problems with his rawness, but he’s filled out a little bit and is ready to take on major minutes as one of the Bulldogs’ key rim-protectors. Ndoye has solid defensive instincts and the length and jumping ability to block shots in the paint. Unfortunately, he hasn’t developed a reliable shot and fouls too much when opposing centers work against him in the post. This season will be a learning experience for him, but he’ll have his share of strong performances along the way.

Ole Miss: Stefan Moody. The Rebels are banking on a pair of JuCo transfers to help ease Ole Miss into a world without Marshall Henderson. Moody is a 5’10” shooting guard who will handle point guard duties on the court due to his lack of size. Despite a dismal season opener (0-of-7 on three-pointers), he’ll have several chances to contribute this season. There’s no doubt about his ability to score, but he’ll have to prove that he can distribute the ball and facilitate Andy Kennedy’s offense. The former Sun Belt Freshman of the Year will pair with 6’3″ point guard Jarvis Summers most of the season to limit his size disadvantages on the defensive end. Fellow transfer Roderick Lawrence, another scoring guard, should also have a significant impact in his first season with the Rebels.

Texas A&M: Alex Robinson. The SEC “West” is loaded with talented first-year point guards, and Robinson is no exception. The four-star point guard may be in a better situation than most since he’ll share the Aggies backcourt with a shooting guard who also happens to be an outstanding passer. Alex Caruso led the SEC in assists last season, and his ability to facilitate the A&M offense will give Robinson plenty of room to operate as his team’s starting point guard. Robinson showed that he was capable of scoring on pull-up jumpers or as a slasher driving to the rim as a high school prospect. He should provide immediate value for Texas A&M this winter.

Christian D'Andrea (20 Posts)

Christian D'Andrea is a SEC microsite contributor. He also manages and writes for the Vanderbilt blog Anchor of Gold. You can find him on Twitter at @TrainIsland

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