By Jon Rothstein
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– It’s starting to look more and more like Ben McLemore will wind up being the best player on Kansas next season. The 6-foot-5 guard was ruled academically ineligible last fall but he should give Bill Self a legitimate go to guy in 2012-13 after the departures of both Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson. Jamari Traylor, another freshman from last season that was ruled ineligible by the NCAA figures to be in the mix for the Jayhawks’ starting power forward slot.
– Look for Baylor power forward Cory Jefferson to make a major statistical jump for the Bears following the departures of Quincy Acy, Perry Jones, and Quincy Miller. The 6-foot-9 Jefferson has a fan in Baylor coach Scott Drew but never got consistent playing time this past season because of the log jam in the Bears front court. Drew also brings in two Top 100 front court players in 7-footer Isaiah Austin and burly forward Ricardo Gathers.
– You can’t forget Texas A & M transfer Jamal Branch when looking at St. John’s recruiting class for next season. The 6-foot-3 Branch was a Top 100 recruit out of high school and should blend nicely with the Red Storm’s assortment of long, athletic wings. Branch will be eligible for Steve Lavin’s club in December and should split time at point guard with returning sophomore Phil Greene.
– Notre Dame won’t have Tim Abromaitis back for a sixth season but the Irish will still have a legitimate Top 20 team next year. Mike Brey returns arguably the best back court in the Big East in Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant as well as sharpshooter Pat Connaughton and bruising big man Jack Cooley. Former Michigan State big man Garrick Sherman will also be eligible for Notre Dame, who is still awaiting word on whether or not the NCAA will grant Scott Martin another season of eligibility after missing multiple seasons with injuries.
– They may not qualify for the NCAA Tournament or even the postseason but Arizona State will show marked improvement in 2012-13 under Herb Sendek. The Sun Devils will likely have two brand new starting guards, headlined by floor general Jahii Carson, a consensus Top 50 recruit a year ago that was never cleared to play last year by the NCAA. Next to Carson will likely be Liberty transfer Evan Gordon, the brother of current NBA star Eric Gordon.
– Former TCU commit Ryan Rhoomes is one of the better big men available during the late signing period and will likely select a local New York school in the next few weeks. The 6-foot-8 Rhoomes is considering Iona, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Fordham, and Hofstra.
– Don’t be surprised if incoming Fordham point guard Jermaine Myers seriously challenges for a starting position with the Rams. The Blair Academy product is a true floor general and will compete with veteran Fatty McMillan for minutes in hopes of moving junior to be Branden Frazier exclusively off the ball. We’re also hearing out of Rose Hill that combo guard Jeff Short has been tremendous since the end of the season and has drastically improved his strength. Short, a freshman last season was slowed by an early knee injury and never really got into a rhythm but could be in line to have a monster sophomore year for Tom Pecora and the Rams.
– Wagner coach Bashir Mason raved about the progress made by big man Naofall Folahan in spring workouts. The 6-foot-11 Folahan is a rarity at the NEC level because of his size, timing, and ability to protect the rim in a league that usually doesn’t sport a starting player in the pivot over 6-foot-7. If Folahan blossoms, Mason’s first season on the sidelines in Staten Island should be a memorable one.
– Was blown away last weekend when I saw Nick Emery, the brother of former BYU guard Jackson Emery at an AAU Tournament outside Philadelphia. The 2013 lefty guard is incredibly poised for someone entering their senior year of high school and was incredible coming off screens and moving without the ball. Currently playing with the Utah Reign’s AAU program and already committed to BYU, Emery has intergalactic range and a certain toughness about him that will ensure he’ll be a special college player. It looks like Dave Rose has another good one on the way in Provo after this season.
– Former St. John’s guard Nurideen Lindsey should be a All-Conference MAAC First Team selection next season at Rider. The talented Lindsey will explode in Tommy Dempsey’s high octane offensive system and the Broncs’ have always been known to be an offensive juggernaut. With Iona, Loyola, and Fairfield all suffering mass defections, look for Dempsey to Rider right in the thick of things at the top of the league standings.
– If you’re up for some good hoops, take a ride to Jersey on Saturday to check out the 2nd Annual Mary Kline Classic in Pennington. For more info, go to maryklineclassic.blogspot.com.
Your thoughts, college hoops fans? Sound off below…