Projecting Five Breakout Players

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on November 17th, 2016

Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Josh Hart, Josh Jackson. Everyone already knows the studs of the game, the Preseason All-Americans, the incoming superstars. But by the end of the season, there are going to be several more names for you to know as a number of players will force themselves into national relevance. Using Sports Illustrated writer Luke Winn’s annual breakout players column as a starting point, here is an incomplete list of who five of those players might be.

  • Kelan Martin, SF, Junior, Butler — With Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham no longer enrolled at Butler, this is now Martin’s team. Last year the 6’7″, 220-lb wing displayed an improved outside shot and enough quickness to get to the rim, registering eye-popping totals like a 35-point outburst against Georgetown. Martin also rebounds well for his position, registering five double-doubles in Big East play last year. He is now the undisputed first option for head coach Chris Holtmann, and stands to see his usage and scoring increase accordingly. Winn, as a matter of fact, projects Martin to lead the Big East in points per game this year. Butler hasn’t had a player with Martin’s all-around dynamism since Gordon Hayward from 2008-10, and he is reason alone to tune into the Bulldogs’ games this year.
It is now Kelan Martin's show at Butler. (USA TODAY Sports)

It is now Kelan Martin’s show at Butler. (USA TODAY Sports)

  • Jawun Evans, PG, Sophomore, Oklahoma State — Evans missed the final 10 games of Big 12 play last year with a shoulder injury, but before he was hurt the freshman showed why he was underrated as the 33rd-ranked prospect in his class. His season high of 42 points against Oklahoma was the pinnacle, but Evans consistently scored throughout his 22-game season, hitting for double figures 15 times. He was far from one-dimensional, though, as his 41.9 percent assist rate was good for fourth nationally and he managed 4.4 rebounds per game despite his diminutive stature. All of this makes the sophomore a prime candidate to explode in his sophomore campaign (spoiler alert: it’s already started) and perhaps prove to be the most complete player in the Big 12 by the end of the year.

  • Malcolm Hill, SF, Senior, Illinois — Hill earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, so calling him a relative unknown is a reach. But expect him to break out in a big way this season. Hill filled the stat sheet for Illinois last season, ranking among the top 10 Big Ten players in minutes played, proportion of possessions, and offensive rating. Despite his high volume scoring, he also ranked 20th in the conference in assist rate. Head coach John Groce desperately needs to get the Illini back to the NCAA Tournament this year — Hill is as capable as anyone of taking them there.
Is Malcolm Hill ready to make that final leap into superstardom? (Getty)

Is Malcolm Hill ready to make the leap into superstardom? (Getty)

  • Caleb Swanigan, PF, Sophomore, Purdue — Maybe it’s cheating to select a preseason All-Big Ten player as a relative unknown, but when everyone ranked ahead of him in the recruiting rankings (#9) is now either in the NBA or a preseason All-American, all-conference honors feel somewhat hollow. Swanigan was the best defensive rebounder in the Big Ten last season and his numbers there will surely improve given the departure of seven-footer AJ Hammons. The early returns — 20 points and eight boards against Villanova; 23 points and 20 rebounds against McNeese State — suggest that we’ll be hearing Swanigan’s name quite a bit as the season wears on.
  • LJ Peak, SG, Georgetown — After a promising freshman campaign followed by a good-but-not-great sophomore non-conference slate, Peak quietly exploded in Big East play last year. Of 34 qualifying players using at least 20 percent of their possessions in conference play, he was the fifth most efficient; of the 12 players using at least 24 percent of possessions, he was the most efficient. He converted 43.1 percent of his three-pointers — second only to Butler’s Kellen Dunham — and was one of three players in the top 25 in both steal and block rates in Big East play. Peak blossomed at midseason last year, and he appears more than capable of providing the scoring punch for a Hoyas team that needs to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Other names to remember: Peter Jok, Iowa; Zach LeDay, Virginia Tech; Nick Emery, BYU; E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island; Donovan Mitchell, Louisville.

William Ezekowitz (30 Posts)

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