There are headline players and then there are those who don't seek or command the spotlight. And yet, the latter are just as important in deciding their teams' fates.
Some of these players play on nationally-known teams. A few do not. Regardless, get to know these under-the-radar players entering the 2018-19 season:
1. Chris Silva, South Carolina: Silva could be an all-SEC first-teamer and play his way toward conference player of the year if the Gamecocks can sneak up and be in contention. He’s one of the top defensive players in the league and averaged nearly a double-double at 14.3 and 8 a game. He is well-known in South Carolina, but needs more love nationally.
2. Kenny Williams, North Carolina: Williams can be one of the top defenders on the ball for the Tar Heels. He will get overshadowed by incoming freshman Nassir Little, but the Tar Heels can’t compete for the national and ACC title without the experience of a player Williams. The Tar Heels have thrived on veteran guards.
3. Cam Johnson, North Carolina: Hey, look, another Tar Heel with plenty of minutes. Johnson, a transfer from Pitt, will get even more touches this season and could be a double-figure regular. Once again, Johnson is the player who won’t get the national buzz, but is as important as any other potential starter.
4. C.J. Massinburg, Buffalo: Massinburg led the Bulls to the MAC title and ultimately to a stunning first-round upset of Arizona in Boise. He was a lock for nearly doubles every game, pushing the boards with seven a game and averaging 17 points per game. Massinburg will lead Buffalo again in what should be another banner season for the Bulls in the MAC.
🙏blessed https://t.co/lE1KUhjJSI— Cj Massinburg (@cj_ball_is_LIfe) September 7, 2018
5. Javon Bess, Saint Louis: The Billikens have high hopes to be a contender for the top of the A-10. And if it happens, a lot of the credit will go to Bess. He’s a defensive beast and a consistent scorer. He will be an all-A-10 player.
6. Max Strus, DePaul: Villanova coach Jay Wright said on the March Madness 365 podcast that DePaul will be much improved. If that’s the case, Strus will be a major reason for the improvement. He averaged 16.8 and 5.6 boards a game last season. He has to do the same, if not more, for the Blue Demons to be a factor in the Big East. He’s capable of pulling it off.
7. James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan: Thompson is a monster on the boards, averaging 11.2 rebounds in each of the last two seasons. He averaged 10.7 as a freshman. He has corralled over 300 boards in each of his three seasons for a total of 1,103 in three seasons. Oh, he also has been a double-figure scorer at 14 points a game in each of the first three seasons.
Fun fact this Friday: @J_T_IV2 is entering this season as college basketballs active leading rebounder with 1,103 for his career!! Past two years has transformed his body and this offseason expanded his perimeter game! Big year ahead for James 💪🏼🔥🦅 pic.twitter.com/iqgWMYn5j8— Matt Cline (@mcline_emu) September 7, 2018
8. Jeremiah Martin, Memphis: New coach Penny Hardaway is convinced the Tigers will be a contender for the top of the AAC. Well, it’s not solely on newcomers. The reason for his optimism is the return of Martin, who averaged 18.9 points and 4.3 boards last season for Tubby Smith. Martin will be in the mix for AAC player of the year.
9. Jordan Chatman, Boston College: Ky Bowman will get the headlines, but if the Eagles are going to be a postseason team, then Chatman, a one-time BYU player, will be a major reason why. Chatman, now a senior, will log plenty of minutes replacing Jerome Robinson. He averaged a dozen a game but will be even more important this season with Robinson gone.
10. Seth Towns, Harvard: Towns should enter the Ivy as the player of the year and the reason the Crimson could be back in the NCAA tournament and a choice for an upset in March. Towns averaged 16 a game in shot over 40 percent from the field and on 3s. He is not a hidden gem in the Ivy, but he should be getting more national recognition.
11. Vasa Pusica, Northeastern: The San Diego transfer was a major hit in his first season in the CAA, averaging 17.9 a game for the Huskies. He is a pass-first point guard who averaged 5.1 assists a game and is hopeful to be the next in line of successful Serbian professional guards.