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September 24, 2007

Monday tip: Super sophs unleashed

Cast Your Vote: Who will have the best sophomore season?

With the NBA instituting a minimum-age requirement for entering the NBA Draft, it closed the door on players going directly from high school to the pros. That made the 2006-07 season the year of the freshman.

Was it the greatest class ever? Only time will tell, but the NBA sure seemed to think so. Eight freshmen were taken in the first round, including consensus player of the year Kevin Durant of Texas and Ohio State's Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.

So what does that say for the sophomore class? Good question. Yes, it lost many of its marquee names, especially in the frontcourt. But don't give up on the second-year guys. There are plenty of super sophs in the crowd.

Who will have the best sophomore season of the players who lasted that long? Rivals.com Basketball Editor Bob McClellan and staff writer Andrew Skwara make their picks:

Skwara's pick: Texas' D.J. Augustin

I almost chose Villanova's Scottie Reynolds. By the end of last season, there may not have been a better player in the Big East. Reynolds averaged 24.1 points over his last eight games.

However, Reynolds won't be putting up those kinds of numbers in 2007-08. The Wildcats added a pair of five-star prospects, guards Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes. Reynolds won't have to carry the team.

Texas' D.J. Augustin will. Kevin Durant, the No. 2 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, averaged 25.8 points a game for the Longhorns last season.

That all translates into more shots and more responsibility for Augustin. The 5-foot-11 point guard is more than capable of handling it.

Augustin, who has a game similar to that of former Ohio State star Mike Conley (the No. 4 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft), showed signs of being a special player himself while playing in the massive shadow of Durant. He ranked fourth in the nation with 6.7 assists a game last season while posting a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Augustin, who averaged 14.4 ppg, also showed he can go on scoring tears. He poured in 31 points in a win over Iowa State, adding six assists and four steals. Texas coach Rick Barnes called it the best performance from anyone on his team all year after the game. That was on Feb. 10, well into Durant's record-breaking season.

This season, Barnes will be saying Augustin is having some of the best performances of any sophomore. And, he'll be right.

McClellan's pick: Arkansas' Patrick Beverley

I'm impressed with the depth in the sophomore class despite the guys who left for the NBA. It's not like Skwara and I didn't have plenty to choose from. I strongly considered Michigan State's Raymar Morgan, North Carolina's Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, Connecticut's Jerome Dyson, Davidson's Stephen Curry, Tennessee's Ramar Smith and Notre Dame's Tory Jackson.

But I have to go with Beverley. He had an outstanding summer with the U.S. team at the FIBA 19-Under World Championships in Serbia. Beverley led the team in scoring (13.0 ppg), assists (3.2), steals (3.4) and minutes. He was second in field-goal percentage (54.4 percent) and was third in rebounding (5.3). There wouldn't have been a silver medal without the contributions of Beverley.

The shooting guard can fill up a stat sheet like few in college basketball. He can shoot the 3 (eighth in the SEC in 3-point percentage last season), or he can drive to the basket. Good things happen for the Hogs when Beverley goes to the rim because he can create opportunities for teammates or get to the line - where he's one of the best shooters in the SEC (81.2 percent).

His quickness and length also make Beverley a top-notch defender. His steals total at the U-19 Championships set a U.S. record in that event.

New coach John Pelphrey knows he has a special player in Beverley. Even with every significant player returning for Arkansas, Beverley is going to have a monster sophomore year.

Cast Your Vote: Who will have the best sophomore season?

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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