During their run to the Final Four last season, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall relied heavily on junior college products. Players like leading rebounder Carl Hall, starting point guard Malcolm Armstead and leading scorer Cleanthony Early all spent time in junior college during their playing careers before playing vital roles for the Shockers. They came from places normally reserved for those with some sort of problems — exposure, physical make-up, grades or off-the-court issues — and banded together to make a run that became one of the best stories of the 2013 Big Dance.
Every year, the nation’s top junior college talent heads to new, big-time programs and, at least in the case of most of the the upper-tier players, they’ll be asked to contribute right away. So who are the JuCo targets that will be asked to do the most this season? The options are plenty, and so are their talents. The first that comes to mind has to be Louisville point guard Chris Jones. The national junior college player of the year last season helped Northwest Florida State College to back-to-back JuCo national title game appearances. He’ll be asked to step into the role left open by the graduation of Peyton Siva. Jones’ is a better scorer than Siva (21.8 points per game), on par with him as a distributor (4.2 assists per game vs. Siva’s 5.7) and is a better rebounder (5.1 boards per game vs. Siva’s 2.4). If Louisville wants to reach its third straight Final Four appearance and win a second consecutive national title, Jones will be relied on heavily to help get the Cardinals there.