Football season is just over a month away, but as the Big12's announcement of its Big Monday schedule indicates, there's plenty of reason to talk basketball. ESPN.com is providing updates on conferences with its Summer Shootaround Series. Jason King writes about the Big 12 and also provides this "five freshmen to watch" in the Big 12.
Isaiah Austin, Baylor: RecruitingNation has tagged Austin as the
most-talented player in the Class of 2012. The 7-foot, 210-pounder is an elite
shot-blocker on defense and incredibly versatile on the offensive end, with the
ability to bring the ball up the court, make 3-pointers and drive to the hoop.
It's doubtful he'll be at Baylor for more than one season.
Perry Ellis, Kansas: A Wichita native, Ellis is one of eight freshmen on the Jayhawks' roster. Look for him to start immediately alongside Jeff Withey. While the 6-8 Ellis excels in the paint, he is also a strong ballhandler and outside shooter, which makes him a tough matchup for opposing forwards. It's rare the Jayhawks are able to find a player this good in their home state.
Ricardo Gathers, Baylor: The Bears got a gem when they landed Gathers in the late signing period. At 6-7 and 240 pounds, Gathers should be able to fill the "banger" role that was occupied by graduated senior Quincy Acy. Gathers, though, is more than a thick body down low. He handles the ball away from the basket and has a nice touch from mid range. His high school coach said Gathers could blossom into as good of a rebounder as former Kansas star Thomas Robinson.
Cameron Ridley Texas: Much like Tristan Thompson did two seasons ago, Ridley will need to have an immediate impact for the Longhorns, who lack size and depth down low. The eighth-ranked prospect in the Class of 2012 plays with great energy and takes pride when it comes to pounding the glass. He needs to work on his passing, as he'll likely be double-teamed often.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Much of the Cowboys' success will depend on how quickly Smart, a McDonald's All-American, adapts to the college game. The 6-3 Smart (pictured at right) is listed as a shooting guard, but he can play all three perimeter positions. ESPN recruiting analysts have described Smart as relentless when it comes to attacking the basket.