In the world of mid-major basketball, one breakout player can make the difference. Last year, Little Rock sprang an upset over Purdue in the First Round with forward Lis Shoshi, who averaged just a little over seven points and five rebounds, but broke out and hit an important three-pointer to help the Trojans to victory.
Here, we take a look at five candidates to either have bigger numbers as a result of more playing time, or players stepping into unfilled roles that have a chance to make an impact for their respective teams.
B.J. Miller, Troy
The sophomore comes into the 2016-17 season after playing in all 31 of the Trojans' games a year ago, averaging 3.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in about 17 minutes. The 6-foot guard had one standout performance against Georgia Southern, where he scored 17 points on 7-8 shooting.
Miller is a willing shooter, but only hit nine threes in 42 attempts. Being one of the first off the bench all season last year, Miller likely will be used in a similar role with the Trojans returning backcourt starters Wesley Person and Daniel Peace. But do not be surprised if Miller could supplant Peace at the point guard spot during the season if given the opportunity.
Shaq Calhoun, South Alabama
The sophomore guard came to the Jaguars via junior college last year and may have been one of the most efficient players in the conference. Averaging 19.2 minutes per game, the 6’4 guard averaged 8.7 points per game and had 43 steals in 33 contests. Hitting on 36 percent of his three point attempts (49-138), Calhoun hit at least two threes in 15 games for the Jags. Calhoun will need to be better with the basketball and look to be more of a playmaker in an expanded role. He only dished out 16 assists and committed 52 turnovers last season.
Expect Calhoun to take the place of departing guard Barrington Stevens, who started in all 33 games last season. Calhoun is an established player and should make a formidable duo with Ken Williams in the backcourt.
Colton Ray-St Cyr, Coastal Carolina
The senior posted career-high numbers a year ago for the Chanticleers, averaging 24.3 minutes, 8.6 points, and 5.6 rebounds in 12 starts. Cyr missed time last year with a wrist injury in the middle of the season, but performed well in postseason play, scoring 10 points against Grand Canyon and a team-high 16 points against UC Irvine in the CIT.
At 6’5, Cyr has good size and exhibits versatility to attack the boards and bring it up the floor. His 1.8 assists ranked third on the team, and his role is likely to expand this season with Shivaughn Wiggins removed from the roster. With a backcourt position up for grabs, the experienced Cyr should take full advantage of the playing time and be a key contributor along with fellow guards Elijah Wilson and Jaylen Shaw.
Montae Glenn, Georgia Southern
The sophomore was an efficient player despite averaging only 13.1 minutes per game last season for the Eagles. Averaging 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds, Glenn could be a piece that the guard-heavy Panthers can rely on for more production in the paint this season. The Eagles' four-guard look meant a lot of three-point attempts (43.8 percent of their total field goal attempts), so some production down low would help balance the scoring. Coye Simmons was the primary frontcourt starter a year ago, and also has the capability to up his production, but Glenn could be the man to bust out. With good touch for a big man, Glenn should be an interesting player to watch as the Eagles challenge in the Sun Belt race.
Jake Wilson, Appalachian State
The 7’1 redshirt sophomore is a transfer from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, and is eligible for the Mountaineers in a position of need. The Mountaineers' frontcourt lacked a presence in the paint on both ends last season, and Wilson can step in right away and play meaningful minutes. Defenses a year ago shot almost 56 percent at the rim on Appalachian State, and the big man can provide a bit more rim protection to help a defense that allowed over 77 points per game. Wilson averaged 6.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game at Lenoir-Rhyne in just over 22 minutes. After a year of practicing with the team, Wilson is a bit of a project, but can be a nice piece for what could be a solid Appalachian State team.