While next season’s college basketball slate is still a ways off, it’s never too early to attempt to predict how things will pan out next March or which players have super-stardom in their future.
For the upcoming season, most experts will be focused on the tremendous influx of talent coming in from the high school ranks, as potential future NBA stars like Andrew Wiggins at Kansas, Julius Randle at Kentucky, and Jabari Parker at Duke will probably only grace the collegiate hardwood for just one season.
But there are several key returning players that decided to fore-go the NBA for one more year in attempt to win an NCAA title or improve their draft stock.
Players like Michigan State’s Gary Harris, North Carolina’s PJ Hairston, and Louisville’s Chane Behanan just missed the cut.
Check out THD’s Top 10 Returning Players In College Basketball For 2013….
’12-’13 Stats: 10 ppg, 4.6 ast, 3.6 reb, 2.1 stl
While he may not have the gawdy offensive stats like a few others on this list, true college hoops fans know just how much of a difference Craft can have on a game from the defensive side of the ball. He’s regularly among the nation’s leaders in steals and is a joy to watch as he takes pleasure in frustrating opposing point guards on a nightly basis. Few, if any players sacrifice their bodies like Craft, who will have to take over some leadership duties from DeShaun Thomas, now off to the NBA.
’12-’13 Stats: 14.5 ppg, 7 reb, 1.1 blk, .469 3PT%
For the past 3 seasons, the multi-talented forward has been satisfied with being the ultimate team player, providing, scoring, rebounding, and defense, helping the Cuse make it back to the Final Four last season. But towards the latter part of the season, and into the Big Dance, it was clear that Fair was coach Boeheim’s best player, finishing as the team’s leading scorer. As the Orange head South, entering their inaugural season in the ACC, look for Fair to take more of a lead role with another fresh batch of talented freshmen arriving on campus.
’12-’13 Stats: 11 ppg, 5.4 reb, .572 FG%, .324 3PT%
In a surprising twist, while elder Wolverines Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. decided to declare early for the NBA Draft, freshman sensation Robinson III decided to return to Ann Arbor along with fellow freshman Mitch McGary. The son of former NCAA POY and NBA All Star Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, Glenn III has future star written all over him as a high flying, ever improving, match-up nightmare, as he can score from both inside the paint and behind the arc.
’12-’13 Stats: 14.4 ppg, 7.3 reb, 1.5 stl
The once highly touted HS prospect decided for the 2nd time to return to the Tarheels rather than put his name in the NBA Draft, in the process turning down millions. The nephew of Naismith Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, James has the size, chiseled physique, and basketball bloodlines to one day be a star at the next level but has settled for jumpshots rather than using his tools and muscle to get to the basket. With UNC expected to regain a Top 10 ranking, McAdoo should get plenty of airtime on ESPN as he tries to improve his stock for the 2014 NBA Draft.
’12-’13 Stats: 10.5 ppg, 7.6 reb, 1.3 blk, .546 FG%
As a super athletic 6’10 and 240lb forward, Payne projects well at the NBA level but hasn’t quite had the breakout year statistically to match his through the roof potential. He returns for his senior season, joining a talented supporting cast led by Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, and Gary Harris, as the Spartans attempt to win coach Izzo another National Title.
’12-’13 Stats: 7.5 ppg, 6.3 reb, .598 FG%
Not many players had a better NCAA Tournament, as the former Top 10 ranked HS phenom blew away his regular season numbers, putting up postseason marks of 17 ppg and 11 rebounds, in leading the Wolverines on their deepest Tourney run since the Fab 5 era. It’s a rarity when a 6’10 and 250lb big man decides to return to school, so look for McGary to play with a purpose, in an attempt to make a push towards becoming a Top 10 draft pick.
’12-’13 Stats: 13 ppg, 8.3 reb, 1.7 blk
Standing a legitimate 7’1 and with a skill set tailor made for the next level, Austin is an NBA Lottery pick in waiting. Even though he had a bit of a disappointing freshman campaign, it was still a surprise to hear that the shot-blocking big man would be returning to Baylor for his sophomore season. If he adds some bulk to a still thin 220lb frame and stears clear of taking too many shots from behind the arc, look for Austin to be one of the nation’s most dominating big men.
’12-’13 Stats: 22.3 ppg, 7.7 reb, .548 FG%, .490 3PT%
For the past 2 seasons, McDermott has arguably been the nation’s most prolific offensive player, earning 2 consecutive NCAA All American 1st Team nods. The nation hasn’t had the pleasure of watching the sweet shooting SF much as Creighton doesn’t make it on national television too much, but he has a game that some have compared to the great Larry Bird. Now as the Blue Jays enter a new conference, formerly the Big East, look for McDermott to light up scoreboards and ESPN highlights on a nightly basis.
’12-’13 Stats:18.7 ppg, 3.3 reb, 2.9 ast2.1 stl
Fresh of helping the Cardinals win the 2013 NCAA Championship, Smith headlines a talented group of players returning to Louiville in an attempt to win back-to-back titles. Last season, the pint sized shotmaker conjured up images of a younger Allen Iverson, as a prolific scoring little man that wears his heart on his sleeve. He finished 2nd in Big East scoring and averaged nearly 23 ppg in the NCAA Tournament. Smith should be the main man for coach Pitino next season, as one of the hardest to guard players on college basketball for ’13-’14.
’12-’13 Stats: 15.4 ppg, 5.8 reb, 4.2 ast, 3 stl
It was an outright shocker that potential Top 3 pick Marcus Smart decided to return to OK State for his sophomore season. As a freshman, he was a National Player of the Year candidate all season and even had his game compared to that of both James Harden and Lebron James. As a do-it-all combo guard, he has arguably the most complete skill set of any player in the college ranks and should be a potential 1st Team All American by season’s end. With a good supporting cast with the likes of Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash also returning, look for Smart to keep the Cowboys in the hunt with Kansas and Baylor for the Big 12 title.