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Small forwards with big expectations

11:02 AM, Jul 10, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Next season's crop of small forwards does not have any over-hyped stars like in years past. However, there are a handful of talented three men who could become household names by next March. The following is an early list of small forwards to keep an eye on during the 2012-13 season:

LADONTAE HENTON - Although Providence struggled to compete with the powers that be in the Big East Conference last season, Henton managed to put together a respectable freshman campaign. The Friars' forward earned himself a spot on the league's All-Rookie Team with averages of 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Despite being just a freshman, Henton did not shy away from the pressure in key moments and earned the nickname "Buckets" due to his ability to score both inside and out. Coach Ed Cooley managed to bring in a pair of top-tier recruits for next season, which should open up the floor and make Henton's sophomore season even more successful.

KYLE ANDERSON - Ben Howland has received a ton of praise for convincing the nation's top high school prospect, Shabazz Muhammad, to ink a letter of intent with UCLA, but Anderson might be just as big of a factor as the Bruins seek a return to national prominence. Anderson uses his 6-8 frame to see the floor well, post up smaller opponents, and finish in the lane. His superior passing skills have many calling him as a "point forward". UCLA should be a perfect fit as he will find distributing the ball easy while being surrounded with talented weapons at every position. The St. Anthony's product will bring his unbelievable ball handling and mid-range shooting abilities to the new look Bruins who are hoping to compete for their 12th NCAA title.

LEBRYAN NASH - Oklahoma State had never had a Big 12 Freshman of the Year before Nash shared the honor with Baylor's Quincy Miller last season. The Cowboys' forward was the top scorer among freshman in the conference with 13.3 ppg, and he also grabbed 5.0 boards per game. Nash already has the size, athleticism and offensive skill set to compete at the professional level. He was a streaky shooter from the perimeter during his freshman season, which was cut short by a fractured hand. Nash is expected to return fully healthy in 2012-13 and compete for the Big 12 Player of the Year award as he attempts to end the Cowboys' two-year streak of missing the NCAA Tournament.

RODNEY WILLIAMS - Minnesota is going to compete for the Big Ten Conference crown next season with its dynamic duo of [Trevor] Mbakwe and Williams back at full strength for their senior seasons. Williams became the go-to-guy after Mbakwe's season-ending injury in the early stages of the 2011-12 schedule and almost led the Golden Gophers to the NIT Championship with his electric play. The athletic swingman struggled to remain consistent for the entire year, but he made believers out of many by averaging 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in his five postseason NIT games. Williams is not only an efficient performer on paper, but he is also delivers highlight-reel dunks which makes him one of the more exciting players to watch.

JAYVAUGHN PINKSTON - Villanova had a down year in 2011-12 as its young roster clearly lacked the leadership needed to compete with the elite teams in the ultra-competitive Big East Conference. Pinkston may have gotten off to a slow start to his freshman season, but he demonstrated his intriguing abilities during the Wildcats' conference schedule when he averaged 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. The Brooklyn native plays the small forward position with great effectiveness despite being bigger and stronger than most power forwards. Pinkston really gave 'Nova fans a reason to be optimistic about the team's future when he tallied 28 points and 14 rebounds in the team's 74-72 win over Providence on Feb. 7, 2012. His ability to carry the load will make him the primary option in head coach Jay Wright's offense this winter.

DEZMINE WELLS - Xavier had the most up and down season of any program in the country in 2011-12. After an 8-0 start Wells, Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons were all suspended for their roles in a brawl with crosstown rival Cincinnati. The Musketeers seemed to be out of sync even after all the suspensions were served until an unexpected pair of runs to the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Championship Game, as well as the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Wells contributed 18 points in the A-10 Semifinals and a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds in the second round of the Big Dance to help the team's cause. He was the third or fourth option for the Musketeers' talented offense last season as a freshman, but with Holloway, Lyons and Kenny Frease all gone, expect the A-10 Freshman of the Year to have a bigger role for XU in 2012-13.

ADONIS THOMAS - Memphis did not have Thomas for 15 games during his rookie year as he was sidelined with an ankle injury. Coach Josh Pastner and the Tigers still managed to win the Conference USA championship and reach the NCAA Tournament without the McDonald's All-American, but his services will be much more necessary in 2012-13 with Will Barton gone. Although Thomas did not string together a pair of double-digit scoring efforts when he was healthy, he did impress with a 19-point effort in a double-overtime victory against Tennessee. The hometown star was expected to flirt with the idea of jumping to the NBA after just one season before his injury hurt his stock. Thomas has a lot to prove as he slides into Barton's starting small forward spot next season.

E.J. SINGLER - The Ducks will have to find a way to replace their high-scoring backcourt of Garrett Sim and Devoe Joseph. Oregon was very competitive in the Pac-12 Conference last season and Singler is by far the most well-rounded player returning next season. He really stepped up in the postseason NIT with 25 points and six rebounds versus Iowa, and 19 points and nine boards against Washington in the quarterfinals. Although many see him as the younger brother of the former Duke star Kyle Singler, E.J. has the basketball savvy and versatility to make a name for himself during his senior year. Oregon has not been to the NCAA Tournament since Singler stepped on campus and, it will not be easy to reach the Big Dance in next season's enhanced Pac-12, but the Ducks should have a fighting chance with their talented forward leading the way.

OTTO PORTER - Georgetown will have a much different look next season due to the departures of Henry Sims, Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson. Porter was rather unselfish as a freshman last season, but still managed to average 9.7 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game as the Hoyas played well enough to earn a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Coach John Thompson III will expect his small forward to assume more scoring and leadership responsibility next season to keep the team rolling. Porter was an excellent scorer, rebounder and defender as a rookie, but he will need to exhibit a more threatening shot from the outside to really thrive. If he can improve his perimeter game, Porter should find himself on an All-Big East team at the end of his sophomore year.

RYAN BROEKHOFF - Valparaiso might not be in the limelight of college basketball coverage, but that did not stop Broekhoff from relentlessly competing night in and night out last year. The Australian import is as efficient and well-rounded on the hardwood as you're going to find. As a junior in 2011-12, he finished fourth in the Horizon League in scoring with 14.9 ppg and first in rebounding with 8.5 rpg. His outstanding season earned him Horizon Player of the Year honors and a spot on the league's First Team with his teammate Kevin Van Wijk. The Crusaders finished the regular season at the top of the league standings, but could not get past Ray McCallum and Detroit in the Horizon League Tournament. The Aussie three man will be a player to watch as he looks for redemption as a senior.

Honorable Mention - Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Fuquan Edwin (Seton Hall), Scott Wood (NC State), Travis McKie (Wake Forest), Joe Harris (Virginia), Solomon Hill (Arizona), Alex Poythress (Kentucky), Kyle Casey (Harvard), Leonard Washington (Wyoming), Branden Dawson (Michigan State), Pierce Hornung (Colorado State), Ian Hummer (Princeton)

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