Let’s take a few minutes to scout some of the new faces in the Pac-12 this season.
Chass Bryan – When Maurice Jones was suspended and left the USC basketball team in September, it appeared that one of the biggest holes on the roster would be the backup point guard position; there seemed no obvious solution behind senior guard Jio Fontan. But, as the Trojans head to Maui, it’s pretty clear that the walk-on freshman from Oaks Christian is the man there. What’s more, he’s not just a place-filler. He’s a tiny guy, yeah, and young, but he plays with a maturity and a confidence beyond his years. He’s got all the speed you’d expect of a guy listed at 5’9” and 165 pounds, capable of getting past most defenders and getting into the lane, but what makes him a really great prospect is his basketball IQ and great court vision. And he’s able to create for himself as well as for his teammates; once he’s got a step on his man, he is just as likely to pull up for a mid-range jumper as he is to drop a nice dime. Head coach Kevin O’Neill has been talking this kid up since the middle of summer, but many still didn’t know what to expect from him. While Bryan shouldn’t expect a ton of minutes this season, he’ll help earn Fontan some rest while still giving O’Neill a solid floor general. And, frankly, he may already be an upgrade over the departed Jones, at least in terms of basketball IQ. Not to mention, size.
Devon Collier – Last year, Collier started 33 of the 36 games for the Beavers. This season, however, he had been asked to take on a new role, coming off the bench. But, with the news Sunday that senior center Angus Brandt had been lost for the season with a knee injury, it appears Collier will find his way back into the starting lineup. A junior from the Bronx, Collier made a return to New York this past weekend and had moments of excellence mixed in with a few head-slappers. Yeah, he went for 27/14 in an inspired performance on Friday night, and is clearly a physically gifted athlete. At 6’8” with terrific athletic ability, Collier is able to rebound with the best of them, score in an efficient manner around the paint, drop the occasional brilliant dime and hold his own defending guards from time to time. And his maturity was made evident by the grace with which he took his new role coming off the pine this season. However, from time to time, his athletic ability is undermined by some poor decision-making. In Thursday night’s loss to Alabama, he turned the ball over five times, a pair of which came when after he made great plays grabbing rebounds he then just decided to throw the ball to the first guy in the same color jersey he could find, whether that be somebody expecting an outlet pass or not, and whether or not there was somebody in the opposite color uniform that was in the vicinity. While his physical skills can often overcome these lapses in judgment, for him to be a consistently reliable upperclassman for the Beavers, he’ll need to improve the mental side of the game.