The Sun Belt has plenty of individual talent that will shine this year. Some of these players can carry their teams to the top, while others may rely on their supporting cast to get to the "Big Dance". Here are the top 10 players to watch in the Sun Belt this year.
10. Ryan Harrow, G, Georgia State
Ryan Harrow, a Kentucky transfer, is a bit of a wild card because the Panthers already have a solid point guard in Devonta White. But Harrow, also a former member of NC State, is automatically one of the conference's most talented players. A year ago he averaged 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game while starting 24 games for the Wildcats. Look for Harrow to be a big part of a solid squad in Atlanta.
9. Joel Wright, F, Texas State
Danny Kaspar has one key weapon at his disposal with his new Texas State squad and it's Joel Wright. Wright was a scoring machine a year ago averaging nearly 18 points and 7 rebounds per game. Kaspar has focused on making Wright a smarter and more patient player. If the Bobcats are going to succeed in Kaspar's first year then it's going to be because of the solid play of Joel Wright.
8. George Fant, F, Western Kentucky
Hilltopper basketball is in George Fant's blood. Fant wears number 44 for the Hilltoppers because his cousin is former Western Kentucky All-American Jim McDaniels, who was part of the 1971 Final Four team. A year ago Fant averaged nearly 13 points and 7 rebounds per game. Expect those numbers to go up once again if the Hilltoppers are to get back to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.
7. Will Neighbour, C, Arkansas-Little Rock
Will Neighbour has proven that he is among the Sun Belt's best and continue to be honored by the conference for his efforts. Neighbour did drop from the second to third team last year, so expect him to be a man on a mission this upcoming season. Last year he averaged 10.7 points and 7 rebounds per game. He's about as solid as it gets and the Trojans will need his reliability this year.
6. Shawn Long, F, Louisiana
Shawn Long is the insider game that is fed by great point guard Elfrid Payton. A year ago the 6'9 Long averaged 15.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. The scary thing is that Long is just a sophomore and will be haunting Sun Belt fans for the foreseeable future. The conference has some very talented big men and Long will battle with them all season long.
5. Brandon Reed, G, Arkansas State
Brandon Reed is a new name to the Sun Belt Conference and it will also be a short lived name. Reed, a 6'4 guard, comes over from Georgia Tech where he averaged 5 points and 2.6 rebounds per game for the Yellow Jackets. Arkansas State has their best team in quite some times and Reed will be a huge shot in the arm for the Red Wolves.
4. T.J. Price, G, Western Kentucky
15 points, 5 boards, and 2 assists is what you can expect from T.J. Price just about every night in the Sun Belt. The junior was name the Most Outstanding Player in the Sun Belt Tournament a year ago and will be the hear and soul of the Hilltoppers this year. Price got hot at the right time averaging 18 points per game in his last 12 games, expect that momentum to carry over into 2013-14.
3. R.J. Hunter, G, Georgia State
Sun Belt fans get ready for R.J. Hunter! The coach's son got a baptism by fire a year ago being thrust into the starting lineup against Duke where he posted a double-double in his first collegiate game with 14 points and 10 boards. Amazingly, it would be the only double-double of the year for the 6'5 guard, but performances like that became the norm as he finished the year averaging 17 points, 5 rebounds, and nearly 2 assists per game. Look out for Hunter to only grow and become one of the Sun Belt's top players right off the bat in Panthers first year.
2. Augustine Rubit, C, South Alabama
Rubit is the nation's best big man that no one is talking about. Many will tab him as the Preseason Player of the Year and rightfully so for a guy that has nearly 1,400 points and 900 rebound for his career with the Jaguars. Last year Rubit averaged 19 points, nearly 11 rebounds, and over 1 block per games. There is no doubt that first year head coach Matt Graves will lean heavily on the highly talented big fella in his first year as a head coach.
1. Elfrid Payton, G, Louisiana
Payton launched himself into one of the nation's premier point guards with his performance while starting for Team USA this past summer. Payton averaged nearly 16 points and 6 assists per game a year ago, but more surprisingly hit the boards hard averaging 5.6 rebounds per game. Payton is a workhorse who was second in the Sun Belt in minutes per game a year ago, while leading the conference in assists. Point guards can take you far in college basketball and Payton has what it takes to take the Ragin' Cajuns to the promised land.