NCAA: The Stars’ Replacement
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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The upcoming 2011-2012 NCAA season is going to be one of the most star-studded seasons in recent memory. The fear of a lockout in the NBA, which not only happened but is still ongoing, convinced many of the top prospects to stay in school for another year.
However, they didn’t all stay. Six schools lost players to the top 10 in the 2011 draft, leaving them with holes to fill. In this NCAA notebook, we take a look at who will be looking to fill their shoes and gauge how well they can replace them:
Duke Blue Devils (Kyrie Irving drafted #1)
It was hard for the Blue Devils to become too dependent on Irving since he only played in eight games total last year due to injury. After becoming the talk of college basketball through his first eight games, Irving suffered a sprained toe that kept him out until the Blue Devils’ opening game of the NCAA Tournament.
Seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith were a big reason why they were able to remain a contender without him, but they’ll be gone next year as well. Losing stars is something that Coach K is well accustomed to at this point, though. Not only does he have two solid players in Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins returning in the backcourt, he also has heralded recruits Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook coming in. They’ll miss their big three early on, but given some time this team could still be quite formidable.
Arizona Wildcats (Derrick Williams drafted #2)
In all seriousness, it would have been hard for Williams to replace himself this year as efficient as he was last season. The 19 points he averaged on 59% shooting from the field and 56% from deep was ridiculous, duplicating that would have been quite difficult. That’s why his decision to leave as a sophomore was a no-brainer, his stock couldn’t get any higher.
The Wildcats will be a lot more perimeter oriented this season, led by returning guards Lamont Jones and Kyle Fogg. Wildcats head coach Sean Miller may use a lot of three guard lineups this year because his top two recruits, Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner also happen to be guards. Keep an eye on freshman shot blocker Angelo Chol to replace some of Williams’ inside presence in time.
Texas Longhorns (Tristan Thompson drafted #4)
Technically, sophomore forward Jordan Hamilton is the biggest lost statistically for the Longhorns. He was also drafted in the first round, along with freshman point guard Corey Joseph. Of the three, Thompson was the best player overall. They’ll really miss his activity defensively, but at this point Longhorns head coach Rick Barnes knows not to bank on his top recruits sticking around for long.
Barnes has a monster, nine-man class coming in that is highlighted by McDonald’s All-American point guard Myck Kabongo. He’ll assume the role as the team’s best player, with returning big men Alexis Wangmene and Clint Chapman vying for Thompson’s minutes. Freshmen Jonathan Holmes, Kevin Thomas and Jaylen Bond will also be in the mix for them.
Kentucky Wildcats (Brandon Knight drafted #8)
The fact that Knight was the only underclassmen to leave the Wildcats last year (Enes Kanter doesn’t count since he was permanently ineligible), was a real victory for Coach Cal. Typically he loses a lot more than that. The combination of keeping sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones and a ridiculously-talented incoming recruiting class has the Wildcat faithful expecting championship.
Point guard Marquis Teague is one of the stars of the class and he appears more than capable of taking over the reins at point guard. He’s quick, crafty and tailor made for Calipari’s dribble-drive offense. Don’t be surprised if he too has a freshman year that makes it impossible to return because his stock is so high.
UConn Huskies (Kemba Walker drafted #9)
At the end of last season it was ludicrous to think that the Huskies could come back even better without Kemba Walker, but that all changed a couple of weeks ago. The addition of Andre Drummond, who is now the premier center in college basketball, makes the Huskies a viable candidate to defend their title.
The Huskies will miss Walker’s explosive scoring ability and headiness in the clutch. Their still talented enough from top to bottom, though, to develop into a championship contender. That will require sophomore shooting guard Jeremy Lamb continuing to improve, along with freshmen Ryan Boatring and DeAndre Daniels being ready to provide an instant-impact like Drummond.
Brigham Young Cougars (Jimmer Fredette drafted #10)
When it comes to recruiting, the Cougars can’t go after anyone they want like the other schools on this list. Even if they could, it’s highly unlikely they’d find any single individual capable of putting up the 28 points, three rebounds and four assists a night that Jimmer Fredette did last year.
Fredette would have been tough to replace no matter where he was at, but at BYU in particular it’s extremely tough to do so. It’s going to have to be done by committee. Forward Brandon Davies will likely be the leader of that committee, with freshman Damarcus Harrison being the wild card who could really help the Cougars be successful in their first year in the West Coast Conference.
Oklahoma State Lands Future Star: Earlier in the summer we profiled one of the most dominant players on the AAU circuit, senior guard Marcus Smart of Flower Mound Marcus High School, the reigning 5A champions in the state of Texas. At that time, Smart’s recruiting was wide open with no favorites or even a top five. Now, the race is over completely.
Smart committed to Oklahoma State this weekend along with his long teammate and best friend Phil Forte. They join Kamari Murphy and Adam Wing in the Cowboys’ 2012 recruiting class that is shaping up to be another good one.
This is the second-consecutive year that Cowboys head coach Travis Ford has landed the top player in Texas after signing LeBryan Nash as a part of his 2011 recruiting class.
Although their future in the Big XII is uncertain, the future is very bright for the Cowboys basketball program. Smart will be a star from day one who does everything necessary for them to win. And, Forte is a nice grab for them as well.
Forte has made 600 three pointers a day religiously for the last two years, taking only two days off for Christmas. When teams try to pack the lane against Smart’s driving ability, he makes them pay every time and will continue to in Stillwater.
Senior NCAA and NBA analyst Yannis Koutroupis will be hosting his weekly chat on 9/16/2011 at 11 am EST. You can get your questions into him here.