In my second edition of this segment, I outline the emerging prospects across the Low Major Conferences for the 2011-2012 season.
Sterling Carter, Seattle- Few first year players assumed as prominent of a role as Sterling Carter did in his freshman season. Originally, Carter was under-hyped coming into college due to an ACL injury which caused him to miss his senior season. However, in 2010-2011, the Redhawks' squad significantly relied on Carter's production, as he took over 30% of his team's shots. And, while he was not particularly efficient from the floor, posting a 93.0 Offensive Rating (good for 7th amongst Independent players with his usage), Carter should only improve upon last season's totals. His 47.4% Effective Field Goal Percentage should increase with Seattle's addition of Washington transfer Clarence Trent. Trent will likely take some of the defensive focus off of Carter and allow him to play with more patience this season, thus enabling him to pick his spots more effectively. Look for Carter to increase his 16.1 Assist Rate when he is called upon to distribute the ball within his team's offensive sets. Further, Carter should continue to perform at a high level on the defensive end. Last year, because of his solid athleticism, Carter caused headaches for the opposition. He had the foot speed and strength to stay in front of most lead guards and generally wreaked havoc on this end of the floor. All in all, if Carter can continue to transition into his role as more of a facilitator, he should receive some attention on a national scale.
Griffan Callahan, South Dakota St.- Playing alongside the nation's most underrated point guard, Callahan posted the second best offensive efficiency in the NCAA a season ago. (2nd in kenpom.com's Offensive Rating) This was largely due to how effective he was shooting the ball from the field, finishing 22nd in the nation with a 64.8% True Shooting Percentage. Callahan accomplished this by improving on his 2009-2010 three point shooting (28.8%) and hitting 43% of his three point field goals. And, while he did not go to the line often- evinced by the fact that he ranked 27th in the Summit League in Free Throw Rate- he was very efficient when he did get there, connecting on 92.6% of his attempts. And while he did not draw contact often enough, he also was only used on 13.8% of his team's possessions. With the loss of Clint Sargent from last year's team, this should change. Callahan will be called upon to step up his production in a major way, and playing alongside talented shot creator Nate Wolters should only help. Defensively, Callahan was capable of stealing the ball from the opposition, ranking 9th in the league in Steals %. Overall, Callahan should have a major impact for South Dakota St. and could potentially lead his team to a 1st place finish in the Summit.
Alex Francis, Bryant University- Francis played inspired basketball as a freshman in the NEC. He was not particularly efficient from the floor, posting the 17th highest Effective Shooting Percentage in the conference and finishing towards the bottom of the conference in Offensive Rating. With that said, Francis was thrown into the fire immediately, being used on 30.3% of his team's possessions. (36th in the NCAA) At 6'6, Francis played primarily as a combo forward, demonstrating no semblance of an outside shooting game. (0-7 from 3 point range) If he hopes to play as a professional, he must develop an outside jumper to keep defenses honest. Despite this obvious hole in his game, Francis possesses considerable athleticism and used it to become one of the best rebounders in the NEC. He ranked 14th in the conference in Offensive Rebounding % and 6th in Defensive Rebounding % last year. Francis was also explosive attacking the basket, finishing 4th in the conference in Free Throw Rate and 3rd in Fouls Drawn Per 40 Minutes. Because he is undersized for an inside player, Alex Francis struggled to guard bigger post options, but was able to play decent help defense. If he can improve his efficiency from the floor and develop an outside jumper, Francis could become one of the more unstoppable Low Major players. For now, though, Francis's game is very reminiscent of Chris Gaston's due to his solid athleticism and ability to clean up on the glass.
Jeromie Hill, UTSA- In his first season with UTSA, Hill was one of the more impressive post players in the conference. Standing at 6'8 230 lbs., the Aussie big man demonstrated a fairly diverse offensive skill set. While he was effective in the post, Hill also displayed a nice shooting touch. His Effective Shooting Percentage was 53.1% a year ago, good for 10th in the Southland Conference. Further, he connected on 40% of his 100 three point attempts last season. On the defensive end, Hill was fairly good at protecting the basket and thereby finished 16th in the conference in blocks %. Look for Hill to improve on the offensive glass this season, where he was only the 22nd best in the Southland. He was effective at collecting defensive rebounds, though, ranking as the 14th best player in Defensive Rebounding %. In the absence of Devin Gibson next season, Hill should become UTSA's top option on offense. And, if he can continue to develop his diversified skill set, he should receive looks from scouts down the road.
Augustine Rubit, South Alabama- After redshirting the season before, Augustine Rubit proved to be one of the Sun Belt conference's most promising young players in 2010-2011. At 6'6 220 lbs, he functions more as a post option than does a combo forward like Alex Francis. Rubit was one of the best undersized rebounders in the NCAA a season ago- he ranked 8th nationally in Offensive Rebounding % and 44th in Defensive Rebounding % (good for 1st and 3rd in the Sun Belt). Not only was he dynamic at crashing the boards, but he also showcased his solid shot blocking ability, finishing 10th in the conference in Blocks %. Further, despite his size, Rubit was efficient shooting the basketball; therein, he ranked 8th in the conference in True Shooting Percentage. Because of this, he was also an effective overall offensive weapon, as evinced by his 13th best Offensive Rating amongst all players in the Sun Belt. Rubit must increase his production, and more specifically, focus on getting to the line more frequently due to the transfer of Martino Brock. When he does get there, though, he must capitalize on his opportunities and improve on the meager 68% free throw percentage that he posted last season. Overall, look for Rubit to make a significant impact for South Alabama and to become a 1st Team All Conference Selection this season. Even with his production, the loss of Brock really hurts this squad and will likely prevent the Jaguars from earning a bid to the Big Dance this year.