Bossi's Best: Players who should make big leaps as sophomores
Programs across the country can officially begin practice for the 2019-20 season in just under two weeks. In this week’s edition of Bossi’s Best, National Analyst Eric Bossi takes a look at 10 former Rivals150 players -- who played fewer than 20 minutes per game as freshmen -- that can be expected to make big leaps and expand their roles during their second season on campus.
2021 Rankings: Rivals150
1. JULES BERNARD, UCLA
As a freshman: 7.6 points, 3.1 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: As a sophomore, Bernard will be playing for a new coach in Mick Cronin and he should benefit greatly. He’s the type of wing with some inside/out game and a solid frame who experienced success under Cronin when he was at Cincinnati. He and fellow sophomore guard David Singleton are both going to be relied upon to take a big step forward.
2. RECHON BLACK, NORTH CAROLINA
As a freshman: 2.5 points, 2.1 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: The Tar Heels don’t have a wealth of returning experience or production on the wing and Black is perhaps the most versatile player on the roster. He often played point guard as a high schooler and can help freshman Cole Anthony with ball-handling duties. Black can defend multiple positions and should benefit as much as any player in America from a full offseason in a high-level strength and conditioning program.
3. TAESHON CHERRY, ARIZONA STATE
As a freshman: 5.9 points, 2.6 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: A year of experience plus a full summer to get stronger and healthy should do wonders for Cherry. He has the type of inside/out game that is perfectly suited for the college game. The Sun Devils also play a style that should give him opportunities to take a big step forward and show why he was so highly regarded coming out of high school.
4. NATE HINTON, HOUSTON
As a freshman: 7.2 points, 4.4 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: There are a few things that are really working in the former four-star prospect’s favor. One, Kelvin Sampson has proven time and again that his guys get better. Also, the Cougars lost a lot of firepower with the departures of Corey Davis and Armoni Brooks. Hinton was very good as a freshman and should be able to step up as one of the Cougars' go-to guys as a sophomore.
5. NATE LASZEWSKI, NOTRE DAME
As a freshman: 6.9 points, 3.9 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: The Irish are going to have an interesting blend of young and experienced talent and are surely looking to prove that last season’s 14-19 record was a fluke. If they are going to do so, then the evolution of Laszewksi should be key. He’s gotten stronger and his size and ability to stretch defenses will be a big key if the Irish want to take a step forward.
6. EMMITT MATTHEWS, WEST VIRGINIA
As a freshman: 5.4 points, 3.1 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: If I was going to make a list of sneaky good teams for the upcoming season, West Virginia would be on it. The Mountaineers' young talent really started to come on strong late last year and Matthews showed tremendous flashes late in the season. A big wing, Matthews went for double figures (including 28 against Texas Tech) in four of his last six games after only doing so twice in the previous 26 games. Expect him to be one of the Big 12’s most improved players.
7. DAVID MCCORMACK, KANSAS
As a freshman: 3.9 points, 3.1 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: Kansas is going to have an interesting front-line situation with senior Udoka Azubuike back from injury and Silvio De Sousa back from suspension so it may be tough for McCormack to get big minutes. But the game started to slow down for the rugged big man late in his freshman season. He’s continued to get in better shape and he’s going to be too physical and play with too much energy to not log more than the 10.7 minutes per game he played as a freshman.
8. E.J. MONTGOMERY, KENTUCKY
As a freshman: 3.8 points, 4.1 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: The Wildcats are likely going to play a lot of small ball this season but somebody has to step up and help on the interior. The most naturally gifted and skilled of Kentucky’s big men, Montgomery could be the perfect five man in a high-octane system. He watched firsthand what P.J. Washington did to improve as a sophomore and if he picked up on any of it he could be a very important piece for John Calipari.
9. EMMITT WILLIAMS, LSU
As a freshman: 7.0 points, 5.4 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: Look, LSU isn’t going to have much size this year and the Tigers don’t have a ton of interior production returning. Williams is a bit of an undersized post, but he’s a freak athlete, incredibly tough and plays with a motor. He already played a pretty big role as a freshman, but he’s got every opportunity to step up and be one of the Tigers' most important big men and could be the leading rebounder in his second year.
10. TREVION WILLIAMS, PURDUE
As a freshman: 5.2 points, 4.0 rebounds per game.
Why he’ll make a jump: When Williams received extended playing time as a freshman he was extremely productive. While he only logged 20 or more minutes four times, he averaged a double-double when given that kind of playing time. During the summer, Williams looked really good playing for USA Basketball’s U19 team and he could be the Big Ten’s most improved player as a sophomore.