As we quickly approach the 2015-16 college basketball season, a lot of talk will center around on who will break out in the coming year. Well, the Big East has quite a few under-the-radar players ready to break out and become household names.
So, what you will read below are 10 candidates in the Big East who are poised to take their games to a new level. For the purpose of this exercise, no newcomers (whether freshman or transfers) will be listed in this column. I’ll tackle newcomers in a different column soon enough.
In my humble opinion, those listed here have not significantly broke out just and there are no quantitative parameters or arbitrary numbers that back my claim. Some would say that players like Trevon Bluiett, Angel Delgado, Isaiah Whitehead and Luke Fischer (who will not be listed here) have not fully broken out yet, but I think we have seen enough from those players to know they are in for great things, so they will be excluded, too.
Also not included will be any player who have for the better part of the word, plateaued. Meaning, they are solid and we know what we should get from them and these include players such as Tommy Hamilton of DePaul, Andrew Chrabascz of Butler and Myles Davis of Xavier.
The only quantitative measure excluding a breakout candidate is a player who has already made the all-Big East Team team or honorable mention
Honorable Mention: Kyron Cartwright, Providence, Tre Campbell, Georgetown, Jalen Lindsey, Providence, Paul White, Georgetown, Kris Jenkins, Villanova and Phil Booth, Villanova.
10. Rashaun Stimage, DePaul
Although not much of a scorer, Stimage may make waves this season for his ability to defend, block shots and rebound the ball. He was supposed to play a major factor in DePaul’s rotation last season, but a preseason foot injury knocked him out for the first 15 games. Stimage plays with a lot of energy and thrives off the bounce and he possesses above-average athleticism. He is coming off a trip to France where he averaged 7.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, while shooting .555 percent from the field. Again, you’re not going to get a huge scorer in Stimage, but if you’re looking for an elite defender to emerge in the Big East, look no further than Stimage. He is exactly the type of player who can thrive under new coach Dave Leitao, who is a coach that preaches defense.
9. J.P. Macura, Xavier
Coming off an erratic freshman campaign where he showed glimpses of potential, but also head-scratching lapses in judgment, Macura is ready to put behind that inconsistency and become a more reliable offensive weapon for the Musketeers this season. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 5.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game, while shooting .337 percent from three-point range. Macura is better than that, and with Musketeers head coach Chris Mack likely to give him more responsibility, Macura will show what he is really made of.
8. James Milliken, Creighton
Just recently coming off a minor knee injury that limited him on Creighton’s recently-completed Italy trip, Milliken should be healed and well rested before the season begins in November. Milliken is a talented and diverse scorer and he is ready to have the spotlight shone on him. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 9.6 points per game. Milliken was especially impressive in the Big East Tournament, where he averaged 18 points per game while connecting on seven three-pointers in two games. Considering the season the Bluejays are coming off, Milliken will be needed to take his game to new heights and has the skills to do just that.
7. Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall
Overshadowed by fellow freshmen Angel Delgado and Isaiah Whitehead last season, Carrington got lost in the shuffle. It would be not a wise thing to take him lightly, as Carrington is a very capable player in his own right. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Once he gains a better command of the game, Carrington will play second fiddle to nobody. He has the requisite athleticism and skill to be a feared guard in the league for years to come.
Khadeen Carrington will be a breakout star for Seton Hall in 2015-16. Book it. #SetonHall
— CollegeHoopNews (@CollegeHoopNews) May 17, 2015
6. L.J. Peak, Georgetown
Peak is one of a few intriguing sophomores on Georgetown ready to move on to a bigger role. Peak should fully blossom this season, as he showed more than enough last season that he is ready for the big stage. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 7.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. With a little more consistency, Peak is ready to make strides in his game and be a player Hoyas’ coach John Thompson III will lean on for scoring.
Team USA wins 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship. L.J. Peak played key minutes throughout. Congrats. #Hoyas
— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) July 5, 2015
5. Duane Wilson, Marquette
Wilson is coming off a fantastic European trip, where he led the Golden Eagles to a perfect 4-0 showing overseas. While on the trip, Wilson showed a great deal of maturity and poise, while scoring in high volume and also setting up his teammates. Wilson is coming off a season in which he averaged 11.9 points and 2.1 assists per game, while being named to the Big East All-Rookie Team. Expect his scoring and assists numbers to increase as he takes big steps in his game.
4. Ben Bentil, Providence
With Providence losing a lot of punch down low, the maturation and development of Bentil is key for the Friars this season, as they try to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. Bentil showed last season that if given more time, he can be one of the next great big men in the conference. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, while shooting .436 from the field in just 21.5 minutes per game. You give Bentil more minutes and we could be looking at a guy who could go for close to a double-double each night he takes the floor. With Ed Cooley losing LaDontae Henton, Carson Desrosiers and Paschal Chukwu in the frontcourt, he will need a big season from Bentil and Bentil should deliver with the goods.
— Big East Hoops 24/7 (@BigEastTourney) August 12, 2015
3. Isaac Copeland, Georgetown
With a quick release, great range and the ability to work inside and out, Copeland could be in line for huge things this season. The versatile forward is coming off a season in which he averaged 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting .389 percent from three-point range. Considering the Hoyas lost Josh Smith, Mikael Hopkins, Aaron Bowen and Jabril Trawick, Copeland will need to expand his game, and look for him to do that in spades this season. He and Peak, will prove to be a nightmare to match up for.
2. Jalen Reynolds, Xavier
While some would argue that Reynolds has already broken out after a strong run in the postseason, I would counter with saying that you haven’t seen anything yet. Reynolds might be good enough to make first-team all-Big East this season. He averaged a solid 9.9 points and 6.1 rebounds on .618 shooting from the field last season. With a motor that just won’t quit and a nasty streak that is unmatched, Reynolds is ready to take not only the Big East by storm, but the whole country as well.
1. Josh Hart, Villanova
I went into detail about what we should expect from Hart this season in this column. In short, with Darrun Hilliard II and Dylan Ennis having departed Villanova, Hart will likely be a starter in Jay Wright’s rotation this season and become more of a scorer. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 10.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, while shooting a remarkable .464 percent from three-point range. With top-notch athleticism, a great stroke and a toughness that you can’t teach, Hart is ready to explode this season.
— Josh Hart (@JoshHart_3) August 9, 2015