Bossi's Best: Players poised to take big steps as sophomores
As the season approaches there will be a lot of talk about All-Americans and highly touted players. But what about the young guys who are already on campus and in a position to take a big step forward?
In this week’s edition of Bossi’s Best I take a look at sophomores around the country who could be poised to take a big leap. A few caveats, though. They can’t have been five-star prospects coming out of high school and they have to have averaged less than 10 points and 20 minutes per game as freshmen.
Savion Flagg, Texas A&M
As a freshman: 4.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 15.6 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: A big and athletic wing who can also play some as a small-ball four, there’s a lot of opportunity opening up for Flagg. Somebody is going to have to replace D.J. Hogg’s minutes and scoring and Flagg appears to be best suited for it. He and fellow sophomore T.J. Starks have the potential to turn into a dangerous duo.
Marcus Garrett, Kansas
As a freshman: 4.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 19.2 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: Garrett earned tons of valuable experience on last year’s Final Four team and should be one of the country’s elite role players this year. Kansas will move Garrett all over the floor and he’ll be one of the Big 12’s best and most versatile defenders. If he has improved his jumper, added scoring will be icing on the cake.
Jeremiah Tilmon, Missouri
As a freshman: 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 19.4 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: As a freshman, Tilmon flashed major potential but struggled mightily with foul trouble. He’s big, he’s strong and he’s adding to his offensive repertoire. The reality, though, is that with fellow sophomore big man Jontay Porter out for the season with a knee injury, it’s going to be on Tilmon to help fill the void. If he can limit fouls and improve on his one block per game, he’ll be one of the most valuable big men in the SEC.
Jericho Sims, Texas
As a freshman: 5.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 18.5 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: If you take a look at Sims, he looks like an NBA player. He’s athletic, he’s ripped and he can play the game fast. He looked a little lost at times making the jump from high school to the Big 12 as a freshman, but he should be ready this time around. Look for him to play many more minutes and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him shoot up NBA Draft boards if he produces like his natural talent says he can.
Ty-Shon Alexander, Creighton
As a freshman: 5.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 17.7 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: Alexander had his moments as a freshman. But with a year under his belt and Marcus Foster lost to graduation, Alexander is the in line to play many more minutes. He’ll be stronger, more confident and he’s a jump-shooter who should be able to develop confidence in Creighton’s freewheeling, up-and-down style that creates plenty of open looks.
Jordan Poole, Michigan
As a freshman: 6.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 12.5 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: One of the most confident shooters in the Big Ten, Poole reached double figures in 10 of Michigan’s 38 games. With the experience of a Final Four run and another offseason in the weight room under his belt, Poole is a safe bet to step forward. If he’s added to his in-between game, he should average double figures without much trouble.
Tristan Clark, Baylor
As a freshman: 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 19.9 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: Why will Clark step forward? Because every single year Scott Drew and his staff seem to take a guy who was well-regarded (but not crazily recruited) out of high school and turn him into a reliable and dangerous frontline player. Clark is next in line and has the size, touch and skill to eventually be a double-double guy in the Big 12. It’s not fair to expect him to reach that level this year, but an efficient 12-and-seven a night wouldn’t be a surprise.
Justin Smith, Indiana
As a freshman: 6.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 14.9 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: Smith scored 13 or more points in four of his last five games as a freshman and that success should give him confidence this year. An athletic combo forward, he’s really found a nice role for himself playing for Archie Miller in Bloomington. Even minimal improvement as a jump-shooter from mid-range and beyond could make him a serious mismatch.
Garrison Brooks, North Carolina
As a freshman: 4.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 14.6 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: The Tar Heels have a potential All-American in Luke Maye, a reliable senior in Cameron Johnson and a potential freshman star in Nassir Little. They just need one of their three sophomore bigs to take a big step forward, and Brooks looks like the best bet. Hes’ got size, he’s got strength and he’s got soft hands. He should benefit from Maye’s ability to stretch and soften defenses.
Juhwan Harris-Dyson, Cal
As a freshman: 6.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 19.4 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: Cal had a tough year during Wyking Jones' first year at the helm, but the bright side was an impressive group of freshman wing scorers. Darius McNeill and Justice Sueing were both double-digit scorers as freshmen, and Harris-Dyson should join them this year. He’s physically tough, athletic and has had time to work on the biggest hole in his game, his jump shot.
Tyler Bey, Colorado
As a freshman: 6.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 19.7 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: Bey is athletic, he’s quick and he’s got a serious nose for the ball. But as a freshman he lacked strength, which held him back at times. He’s never going to be a power lifter but his activity can make him a problem on the glass and in transition. If he plays with energy every night, he’ll be part of a dangerous group of second-year players in Boulder, led by star point guard McKinley Wright.
Kenny Wooten, Oregon
As a freshman: 6.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 19.8 minutes per game.
Why he’ll take a step forward: One of the most athletic frontcourt players in America, Wooten was pretty effective shaking the rust left over from sitting out his senior year in high school. He’s had a summer to add to his offensive game – which primarily consisted of dunks as a freshman – and this year he’ll be playing alongside freaky talented big man Bol Bol. Between Bol and Wooten, look for Oregon to be among the country’s leaders in blocked shots.