Thursday, July 26, 2012
SEC most important players (by team)
By Eamonn Brennan
Editor's note: ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on SEC, click here.
Alabama:Trevor Releford The Crimson Tide lost a host of important pieces and will be relying mainly on freshmen and sophomores. Coach Anthony Grant will need Releford to lead the way on the score sheet and in the locker room.
Arkansas:B.J. Young The highly touted guard had a solid freshman season and could be poised for a major breakout as a sophomore. Guard play, particularly point guard play, is probably the most important part of Mike Anderson's up-tempo attack. Young will have the ball in his hands often and should be a lot of fun to watch.
Auburn:Jordan Price The top recruit in Tony Barbee's 2012 class, joining a roster decimated by dismissals and offseason transfers, Price should be the best Tigers player from the get-go.
Florida:Kenny Boynton Once seen as a conscienceless gunner, Boynton quietly submitted a fantastic offensive season for the Gators. With Brad Beal and Erving Walker gone, Boynton should get even more touches. If he maintains his efficiency, look out.
Georgia:Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Caldwell-Pope was the gem of Georgia coach Mark Fox's 2011 recruiting class and showed plenty of promise as a freshman, averaging 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game.
Kentucky:Ryan Harrow Harrow won't be the most talented Wildcat -- he is somewhere around fifth or sixth on the list -- but no position is more important to Calipari teams than point guard. Harrow will be responsible for facilitating a star-studded and athletic lineup. How he handles that role could be the key to Kentucky's season.
LSU:Johnny O'Bryant LSU made positive strides in Trent Johnson's final season, chief among them the progress made by 6-foot-9 forward Johnny O'Bryant. After notching major minutes as a freshman, O'Bryant could evolve into a star as a sophomore.
Mississippi State:Jalen Steele Six of Mississippi State's top seven scorers graduated, left for the NBA draft or transferred. Steele, who averaged 8.7 points per game in 2011-12, becomes Mississippi State's best scoring option.
Missouri:Phil Pressey Pressey is the Tigers' most important player, not only because of his stylistic talent -- his thrills-per-possession ratio is off the charts -- but also because he will have to be the glue that connects a team made up largely by transfers.
Ole Miss:Murphy Holloway Holloway quietly posted an excellent junior season, earning him previously unlikely invitations to this summer's Nike Skills Camps circuit. Holloway's rebounding ability on both ends is a major asset.
South Carolina:Bruce Ellington The rarest of breeds -- the collegiate two-sport athlete -- Ellington will return from the Gamecocks football team and become the best point guard option on Frank Martin's depleted roster.
Tennessee:Jarnell Stokes When Stokes joined Tennessee last season -- he graduated high school in December, a semester early -- his first game came just a week after his 18th birthday, when Tennessee was 8-8 overall. The Volunteers finished the regular season 18-13 with a 10-6, second-place SEC finish. The kid's going to be a star.
Texas A&M:Ray Turner Billy Kennedy has some solid talent arriving in his second year, but none of it will replace the size lost in the departures of Khris Middletonand David Loubeau. Turner, the team's best remaining big man, will have a lot on his shoulders.
Vanderbilt:Kedren Johnson This is a shot in the dark, because Vanderbilt returns so little of last season's minutes and possessions that it's hard to know what to expect. Johnson has the highest usage rate of any returning Commodore, and he'll have a major role to play.