The NBA draft early-entrant deadline to withdraw is at the end of May, leaving college teams to speculate about what their rosters may look like in the fall.
But there are a number of key players in each class who decided against putting their names in and wanted to continue to playing college basketball.
I cherry-picked five players in each class that can have a break-through season as a major contributor on their team. Here are my picks for five rising sophomores to watch:
Daniel Oturu, 6-10, C, Minnesota: Oturu scratched the surface with his ability to fluster opponents and take up valuable space. Jordan Murphy took the pressure off Oturu but now the focus will turn to him. Oturu will/should become a dominant presence in the Big Ten. He averaged 10.8 points and 7 rebounds last season. He has the potential to increase both of those numbers by at least five and three in each category. Maryland’s Bruno Fernando was the top rim protector in the Big Ten. The Gophers should have that tag with Oturu next season.
Tyrese Haliburton, 6-5, G, Iowa State: Haliburton wasn’t expected to be a go-to scorer last season. He averaged 6.8 points, 3.4 boards and 3.6 assists. Those numbers should climb. Marial Shayok took many shots, and Lindell Wigginton, when healthy, was counted on to produce. Haliburton should assume much more of a leadership role as a sophomore for Steve Prohm and shine in the Big 12. Haliburton stepped up in the Big 12 tournament with 13 against Baylor and 11 in a championship victory over Kansas.
Leaky Black, 6-7, G, North Carolina: Black was pushed down the ladder as a freshman and with good reason. The Tar Heels were loaded at the position with experience and studs in his class like Coby White and Nassir Little. The departures of those two with seniors Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams and the transfer of Seventh Woods creates even more opportunities for Black. Black’s numbers were limited at 10.3 minutes, 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds but have to climb. He has the potential to be someone who can be counted on next season. Roy Williams has historically done well in developing depth at guard with players ready to take the baton when it’s their turn. Black gets a chance next season.
Francis Okoro, 6-9, F, Oregon: The Ducks had quite a run to the Pac-12 tournament title and a Sweet 16 appearance against Virginia. Okoro played a role, albeit a minor one. That should change next season. Kenny Wooten was blocking shots and affecting shots. Okoro should see his minutes climb up from 13 a game, his points and rebound jump from three a game to closer to 10. He has the potential to be a double-double player for the Ducks if his summer improvement continues.
Keyontae Johnson, 6-5, F, Florida: The Gators have done a tremendous job from Billy Donovan to Mike White of developing talent. Johnson is ready for a breakthrough season with the Gators as they contend for a top-five finish in the SEC. Johnson averaged 8.1 points and 6.4 rebounds last season. But take a look at how he had an impact in key games down the stretch — recording a double-double in the first-round win over Nevada and prior to that double-doubles in SEC tournament wins over Arkansas and LSU. Johnson should enter the SEC as one of the top forwards and a player who could compete for first-team all-SEC next season.