August 14, 2007

Andrew's Mailbag: Surprise players

Andrew Skwara is a national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. He'll be working all summer to get you ready for the season and answer your questions every week in his College Hoops Mailbag.
July 29: Talent isn't everything
July 20: Devilish questions
July 8: Two favorites in the Big Ten
June 22: Tough second act

Most college basketball fans already know about Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo. It will be no surprise if the super-hyped recruits are among the nation's top freshmen next season.

But what about some lesser-known players that might surprise?

Oregon's Tajuan Porter was part of that group last season. He emerged as one of the Pac-10's top guards and became an NCAA Tournament hero.

Porter, a three-star prospect, averaged 14.6 points per game on an Oregon team that went 29-8 and reached the Elite Eight. He hit eight 3-pointers and poured in 33 points in the Ducks' 76-72 win over UNLV in the Sweet 16.

Who will be the next Porter? We explore that question in this week's mailbag.

ANDREWS'S MAILBAG
SLEEPER CHECK

Who do you see as being a potential sleeper freshman this season?

Adam from Nashville, Tenn.
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Adam, the best of the bunch might be in your back yard.

Vanderbilt-signee Andrew Ogilvy turned the U-19 World Championships in Serbia last month into his own personal showcase. The 6-foot-11 center ranked third among all players in scoring (22.3 ppg) and rebounding (9.8) and also shot a remarkable 69 percent from the field.

Dorenzo Hudson doesn't qualify as a true sleeper he's ranked at No.104 in our Rivals150 but I think the 6-foot-4 guard could contend for ACC Freshman of the Year. The Virginia Tech Hokies may need Hudson to start immediately, and he has the offensive skills and aggressive nature to make a quick transition from the high school to college level.

Power forward Mike Scott (No. 109) steps into a similar situation at Virginia. The Cavaliers are painfully thin up front, and the big man could be playing heavy minutes.

Same goes for Penn State's Talor Battle (No. 125). He has a great feel for the game and is stepping into a situation where he may be starting in the season opener.

MISSING THE POINT

With so many score-first point guards recently, it seems as if savvy, playmaking point guards have become less common. That is why I enjoyed watching guys like Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Mike Conley. What type of point guards do you see having a similar type of game this coming season? Can any of the incoming freshmen point guards become this type of player? Or is this strictly the year of the shoot-first, pass-second point guards like O.J Mayo, Derrick Rose and Kalin Lucas?

Sane Washington from Ann Arbor, Mich.
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I'm afraid you're going to see the trend of score-first point guards continue. At least for next season.

Arizona's five-star recruit Jerryd Bayless is the perfect example. Bayless is a pure scorer who is constantly looking for his shot. The Wildcats may wind up using him on the wing.

Indiana's Eric Gordon is another point guard who bring's a scorer's mentality to the court. He should contribute right away for the Hoosiers, but assists will not be his strong suit.

Villanova five-star recruit Corey Fisher is one player that has the body of a point guard and the mentality to go with it.

However, there will be plenty of chances to see the more unselfish, do-it-all type playmakers that you prefer at point.

Rose is a dangerous scorer, but he also has great court vision and can rack up big assist numbers. Rose also joins a team at Memphis that is loaded with scoring weapons.

Florida has a pair in Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas. Calathes has a very high basketball I.Q. and can control a game with the ball in his hands. However, Calathes may play off the ball because the undersized Lucas (5-10) is a true point guard who thrives at creating scoring opportunities for teammates.

There could be another worth watching in the ACC. Georgia Tech's Maurice Miller will challenge for a starting job immediately.

Other candidates who fit the mold include Wake Forest's Jeff Teague, Illinois' Demetri McCamey and Alabama's Rico Pickett.

GROWING UP

What do you think the chances are of Georgia making it to the NCAA Tournament this year? The Bulldogs have shown improvement each year under (head coach) Dennis Felton and have their first full complement of scholarship players since Jim Harrick?

Aaron from Athens, Ga.
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I'd say around 40 percent, which is much more than I would have ventured to guess in previous years.

This will be the most talented and deepest team of the Felton era, especially when it comes to the backcourt. Georgia's guard group is one of the best in the SEC.

Expect a big season from Mike Mercer, who missed the final 10 games last season with a torn ACL. Felton said Mercer's rehab is progressing well. Many top players with the same injury in recent years have bounced back nicely.

Mercer, a former five-star recruit, is a scoring threat (13.6 ppg last season). He also helps on the glass (4.4 rpg) and is a facilitator (3.3 apg). A superb defender, Mercer is capable of matching up with just about every guard in the league.

Veteran Sundiata Gaines (10.5 ppg) can create off the dribble and get to the basket. The talented Billy Humphrey (7.5 ppg) is capable of emerging as a major scoring threat.

The return of junior college transfer Takias Brown, the leading returning scorer at 14.2 ppg, might be the biggest reason Bulldogs fans should be hopeful. He gave the team an inside scoring threat, something they had sorely lacked since Harrick left town.

The SEC East will be tough again, but not nearly as brutal as last season. Florida will be taking a couple steps back with the loss of every starter. Vanderbilt lost its top player (Derrick Byars). There are also a lot of question marks surrounding Kentucky and their thin frontcourt.

I'm tempted to say 50 percent or better, but the loss of Levi Stukes holds me back. Stukes was a very good outside shooter (43 percent from 3-point range last season) who could be counted on to knock down open looks.

I'm not convinced anyone on the roster can fill that valuable role. Mercer and Gaines went a combined 62-of-203 from beyond the arc (30 percent) last season.

CLOUDS BUILDING

What does Florida State have to do this year in order for Leonard Hamilton to keep his job?

Daniel from Atlanta
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You probably don't want to hear this, but I don't think he has to do too much to keep his job.

Expectations aren't that high in Tallahassee in comparison to most ACC programs. Plus, Hamilton - who has an 87-61 record in five years at FSU - landed another good recruiting class. The headliner in the class is five-star center Solomon Alabi.

That's not to say there isn't some growing pressure. In fact, taking a significant step back from last season's 22-13 mark could send Hamilton packing.

It looks like athletic director Dave Hart, who has butted heads with the school president, is on his way out now. Missing the postseason could give a new A.D. more than enough reason to make a change.

Just getting back to the NIT won't be easy. Few players were more valuable to their team last season than former FSU star Al Thornton, a lottery pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

HEADING HOME?

Nigel Munson has been granted a conditional release from his scholarship. Apparently, Munson wanted to play closer to home (Washington, D.C.). Any insights into where he might end up? Is Georgetown an option?

Tom, Washington, D.C.
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We've heard that George Mason, George Washington and American are the main schools in the mix. Each is located a short drive from Munson's D.C. home.

Munson would be a difference maker at any of those schools. A great distributor, he will make the players around him better.

Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.



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