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Bossi's Best: Sophomores stepping up

Aaron Nesmith
Aaron Nesmith (Jim Brown, USA Today)

The 2019-20 college season is still young, but many former Rivals150 players such as Vanderbilt's Aaron Nesmith have taken big steps forward during their sophomore seasons.

In this week's edition of Bossi's Best, national analyst Eric Bossi takes a look at Nesmith and 11 others who have developed significantly during their second year. Players are listed in order of their ranking in the final 2018 Rivals150.

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ASHTON HAGANS, KENTUCKY

2018-19: 7.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

2019-20: 13.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game.

Bossi's take: Hagans still needs to become more of a threat as a shooter for Kentucky, but he's become much more reliable at the free throw line and has taken better care of the ball, even though he could still improve there. In roughly the same minutes as his freshman season, he's been more productive across the board and has been trending up since a home loss to Evansville.

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EMMITT WILLIAMS, LSU

2018-19: 7.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game.

2019-20: 15.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.

Bossi's take: The Tigers lost a lot on the front line after the 2018-19 season, particularly with Naz Reid bolting for the NBA after just one year. So, LSU really needed somebody to step up and Williams has been showing why he finished as a five-star prospect despite being a bit undersized as a four man. That he can be reliable from the free throw line is huge.

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REGGIE PERRY, MISSISSIPPI STATE

2018-19: 9.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 0.6 assists per game.

2019-20: 14.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

Bossi's take: Watching Perry play at the USA Basketball U19 tryouts over the summer, you could see this coming. He went through the NBA Draft process and was told he needed to play more physically and more consistently and he's been exactly that. Fellow Mississippi State sophomore Robert Woodard has also made big strides. Perry has improved overall as a shooter, but needs to be better from the free throw line.

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MICHAEL DEVOE, GEORGIA TECH

2018-19: 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

2019-20: 23.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.

Bossi's take: Georgia Tech isn't off to the greatest start at 3-2 and the Yellow Jackets have been involved in mostly close contests. But, Devoe's development into a big-time scorer has been huge for them. The sample size is still pretty small, but he's off to a sizzling start from deep, making 65 percent of his shots from beyond the three-point line.

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MATT BRADLEY, CALIFORNIA

2018-19: 10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.

2019-20: 18.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.

Bossi's take: New coach Mark Fox wasn't exactly left with a team full of talent at California, but Bradley has really stepped up. He's the only Bear scoring in double figures and he's been quite efficient while doing so. He's over 50 percent from the field, shooting 50 percent from three and is over 90 percent at the free throw line.

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DANIEL OTURU, MINNESOTA

2018-19: 10.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.

2019-20: 17.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game.

Bossi's take: The Golden Gophers have gotten out of the gates a bit slow, but Oturu has been awesome for Minnesota. He's gotten more well rounded as a scorer and has been dominant on the glass and as a shot-blocker. He's rapidly developing into one of the nation's best big men and looks ready to have a monster year in the Big Ten.

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AARON NESMITH, VANDERBILT

2018-19: 11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game.

2019-20: 22.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

Bossi's take: Not only has Nesmith taken a big step forward, he is absolutely thriving under new Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse. Nesmith's size and strength have always been impressive, but the advancement he's made as a jump shooter is pretty ridiculous. After shooting just under 34% from deep as a freshman, Nesmith is making 51.5% as a sophomore. Considering he's taking almost nine threes per game, that's significant.

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FILIP PETRUSEV, GONZAGA

2018-19: 6.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game.

2019-20: 16.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

Bossi's take: A lot of Petrusev's jump ahead has to do with having to wait his time as a freshman. Gonzaga is perpetually loaded on the front line and given legitimate minutes as a sophomore he's shown why he was considered a high-upside guy coming out of high school. He's well on the way to being next in the pipeline of outstanding big men in Spokane.

KENDRIC DAVIS, SMU

2018-19: 6.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.

2019-20: 15.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Bossi's take: OK, Davis has only played in four games to date but there's no denying the positive impact he's had on the Mustangs since transferring from TCU. He can get downhill, draws defenders and has improved significantly as a playmaker for others during his short time at SMU.

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ERIC HUNTER, PURDUE

2018-19: 2.2 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

2019-20: 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

Bossi's take: Purdue develops players on a yearly basis and seems to get the most out of them. After playing about 12 minutes per game as a freshman, Hunter has started every game as a sophomore and has improved across the board. He's still got room to improve as a jump shooter, but is well on his way to becoming a reliable backcourt performer.

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JARED BUTLER, BAYLOR

2018-19: 10.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

2019-20: 19.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.56assists per game.

Bossi's take: After originally signing with Alabama, Butler ended up at Baylor and he's been a huge score for Scott Drew. Butler was impressive as a freshman, but he has turned into one of the Big 12's best guards as a sophomore. He can really shoot it from deep and has been a steady performer during the Bears' 6-1 start.

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ISAAC LIKEKELE, OKLAHOMA STATE

2018-19: 8.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.

2019-20: 13.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

Bossi's take: Oklahoma State is off to an undefeated start and the former Fresno State signee has a lot to do with it. Like Reggie Perry above, Likekele showed signs that he was ready for a big leap forward during the summer with USA Basketballl and he's followed through. One of the top two-way guards in the country, Likekele is a physical guard who is just as valuable on defense as he is on offense.

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