In this edition of the 2012-2013 Breakout Players segment, I explore midmajor talents poised for breakout seasons.
Ray McCallum, Detroit- While he had an excellent season a year ago, McCallum has made some significant strides this offseason, as evinced by his play at Adidas Nations. McCallum thrives as a slasher and got to the line quite frequently last season, drawing 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes. He also does a nice job finishing in transition, and is successful playing alongside one of the nation's "high flyers" in Doug Anderson. As the coach's son, McCallum typically makes the right pass, and is a good decision maker running the show. However, while he does possess good end-to-end speed, McCallum was not particularly effective creating shot opportunities for his teammates last season. This was due in large part to his inability to keep defenses honest with his perimeter shooting. He shot a paltry 24.0% from beyond the arc, and this allowed defenses to slack on him in halfcourt sets. After his performance at the Adidas Nations camp, I expect his outside shooting to be much improved this year and for him to really exploit defenses off the dribble as a result.
James Ennis, Long Beach St.- Ennis is a lengthy, athletic 6'7 wing who is physical slashing towards the rim. Playing alongside Long Beach St. stars Larry Anderson and Casper Ware, Ennis fit in remarkably well and was very efficient from the field. He finished with the 10th best Offensive Rating in the Big West and posted a 58.9% eFG%. (79th best in the nation) Ennis was also a capable rebounder and passer last year, and really helped set up his teammates at times. With the losses of Anderson and Ware, Ennis becomes the clear cut number one option on offense. I expect him to thrive in this role and involve his teammates. On the defensive end, Ennis will likely make his biggest mark, as he did a year ago. He does a nice job contesting shots and stealing the basketball with his great length. I expect this trend to continue and for him to establish himself as one of the best wing help defenders.
Tyler Brown, Illinois St.- Brown is a 6'4 sharpshooter who will likely step into a bigger role this season after Moore's transfer. Not only can Brown fill it up from the outside, (45.4% from 3 last season) but he is also a capable passer, finishing 22nd in the Missouri Valley Conference in Assist Rate. (% of Assists to teammates' field goals made while on the floor) I expect that he will take on some of Moore's point guard responsibilities running the team, as well as scoring the basketball. He will likely attack the rim more often this season, and I feel that he has the quickness and offensive repertoire to be effective off the dribble. On the defensive end, Brown has good hands, but is not a great defender due to his average size and anticipation. He rarely fouls though, and is able to stay on the floor. All in all, I feel that Brown will become more of a national name this season alongside Jackie Carmichael and that Illinois St. will contend for a Missouri Valley Conference title.
Deshawn Stephens, San Diego St.- After not playing high school basketball, Deshawn Stephens continues to improve year after year. I expect that he will become an elite role player this season and will receive looks professionally because he is such a late bloomer. Stephens is one of the most promising rebounders in his conference, particularly on the offensive glass, where he finished 3rd in the Mountain West last season. (in terms of Offensive Rebounding %) He employs outstanding strength, anticipation and length to secure rebounds and create extra possessions for his team. I feel that his ability to grab offensive rebounds will lead to more scoring opportunities for him this season. Last year, he was very efficient from the floor, despite not being an offensive focal point- he shot an outstanding 60.8% eFG% last year. In terms of his scoring ability, I expect that Stephens will continue to make adjustments to his shooting form, which is still very much a work in progress. This will come in time. On the defensive end, Stephens is aggressive chesting players outside the paint. However, he tends to have momentary lapses where he does not box out and allows tip ins after not securing the defensive glass. Overall, I expect that Stephens will continue to make incremental improvements and should enjoy some success after he learns to employ his outstanding physical gifts.
Derrick Henry, Winthrop- Two years ago, Henry was one of the top 10 players in the state of Georgia. After receiving limited playing time in his first season at Winthrop, Henry returns in better physical shape and with a sense of purpose. The 6'3 200 lb. guard is a slasher who does a nice job of getting in the lane and drawing contact. He is physical when attacking the hoop and is creative off his dribble. Henry compliments his slashing game with a nice perimeter shooting stroke. As a point of reference, he shot 41.7% from three point range on limited attempts last season. If he can learn to involve his teammates, Henry may be a player to watch down the road. In terms of his defensive ability, Henry has decent lateral quickness and rarely fouls unnecessarily. Overall, Derrick Henry is a young player to keep an eye on in the Big South.
Marcus Davis, Houston Baptist- Davis is a 6'5 wing with good size and athletic ability. While he was one of Houston Baptist's top offensive weapons a year ago, Davis did not consistently serve as his team's go-to weapon last season. He came off the bench at times, and did not always receive consistent playing time. However, Davis is a capable slasher with good athletic ability, which allows him to finish through contact in the paint. His first step is not especially stifling, but he can cover ground in a hurry, particularly in transition. Further, he is aggressive on the glass, and finished 5th in the Great West Conference in Defensive Rebounding %. Davis is also a capable long range shooter, who connected on 40.5% of his three point attempts last year. In terms of where he can improve, Davis must finish easy buckets at the rim. While he shot an efficient 50.2% eFG% last year, he did miss many easy attempts going to the rim. This is captured by his pedestrian 45.3% two point field goal %. On the defensive end, Davis has good size and lateral quickness. He is also great at stepping in the passing lanes. Overall, if Marcus Davis can improve on his offensive consistency and play fundamental man to man defense (without gambling too much), he should receive some attention. He is an exceptionally athletic player for his level, and likely has more untapped potential.
Davion Berry, Weber St.- Following the departure of Damian Lillard to the NBA, Weber St. brings in talented transfer Davion Berry. The 6'4 guard comes from Cal St. Monterey Bay, where he was a Division II All American. In terms of his strengths, Berry is a solid shooter who can fill it up from the outside. He shot over 40% from three point range two years ago. Berry can pull up off the dribble, and is also a threat dishing to teammates. While he was an average decision maker two years ago, he did pass to open teammates. After practicing against Lillard last year, I expect that Berry will make better decisions in 2012-2013 as his team's leader. On the defensive end, Berry has decent hands. But, before I can evaluate just how effective he is on this end, I will have to see how he plays against Division I competition. Overall, Davion Berry is one of the best transfers in the country that no one has heard about.
Justin Crosgile, Eastern Washington- After functioning solely as a spot up shooter at St. Joes, Crosgile should be one of the more improved players in the country. Crosgile is quick off the dribble and has decent court vision, despite never being able to display this strength at St. Joes. At 5'11, this point guard is a very good spot up shooter, much better than what he showed with the Hawks. He often was forced into taking difficult three point attempts, and was playing out of position off the ball next to Carl Jones. While he must improve his overall efficiency by focusing on his shot selection, Crosgile has the ability to get hot from beyond the arc. He must learn to do a better job finishing at the rim, though, so that he can set up his teammates for easy buckets. Defensively, he does give up some height and is not especially quick laterally. I expect Crosgile to score early and often this year, and to begin transitioning to his full time role as his team's lead guard. He must look to create for teammates; in particular, Collin Chiverton is a solid option for him.
Nate Maxey, Texas A&M Corpus Christi- While Maxey is still a work in progress, this 6'11 center is taking noticeable strides forward and should make more of an impact in his second season with the Islanders. In terms of his strengths, Maxey is quickly becoming one of the best shot blockers in the nation, and he does a nice job utilizing his 7'8 wingspan. (2nd best blocks % in NCAA so far) He also uses his length to poke the ball away. While he is statistically productive on the defensive end, he does not yet have the lower body strength to hold his ground and prevent deep post positioning. He did add weight in the offseason, though, and I expect him to be stronger in the paint this year. Maxey is also fairly productive on the defensive glass, and he should be effective in this area as well. Offensively, Maxey is still very raw and relies primarily on tip ins and dunks for his points. As a result, he shot 59.7% eFG% last year. This is because he does not possess the lower body strength to post up against more physically imposing big men. In time, I expect this facet of his game to come along as well. All in all, while Maxey is still a project this year, he is an interesting player to keep an eye on.
(Image Sources: bleacherreport.com, noschnacks.com, stephenbrashear.com, and mysanantonio.com)