Here's an interesting thought for all of you to ponder on. ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford was recently speaking on the potential of Isaiah Briscoe improving as a jump shooter for his sophomore season.
During this, the name of former Oklahoma superstar Buddy Hield was mentioned. While Ford made sure to insist that he was not claiming Briscoe could transform into Buddy Hield in the offseason, he brought up some interesting points.
Most significant is the fact that Hield did struggle significantly from three point range in his freshman season, shooting 19-80. What was also mentioned is the fact that Hield put in unparalleled effort into improving his game and his jumper from long distance. Briscoe more than likely will never be that incredible of a shooter, but we do know that he is going to work and work and work to improve his offensive game.
This got us thinking about how good Briscoe could potentially become in his sophomore season. We know he has the talent to make a fairly significant jump, and a loaded roster around him could make for an excellent season for Kentucky's stud point guard. To get an idea of what we could be seeing out of Briscoe in his second season at Kentucky, we take a look at some of the best guards who returned to school for their sophomore season and turned out to be college superstars in recent years.
It just wouldn't be right to leave Tyler off this list. The jump that Ulis made from tenth man role player his freshman year to arguably the best player in the country in his sophomore year was nothing short of incredible. The difference between Ulis' two seasons was obviously being able to stay out there 38 minutes a game and do his thing.
However, you have to include the fact that so many of his mental attributes grew outstandingly in the two years. His court vision, awareness, instincts, and fearlessness all grew. Ulis and Briscoe were obviously teammates last season, so if there were anybody the Zay could shoot to mold after it is Tyler.
Marcus Smart came into his freshman season at Oklahoma State as a top-10 recruit and had a fantastic freshman season. Smart was the 2012-2013 Big 12 Player of the Year and a Second Team All-American as a freshman while averaging 15.4 points and 3 steals per game. Many thought Smart would be a one and done prospect and would be a top ten draft pick that year. Smart decided to shock everybody, and return for his sophomore season. This benefited Smart more than a lot of people may realize.
While the accolades didn't pile on in Marcus' sophomore season, he did jump his point totals to 18 per game, along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2.9 steals per game. While things like shooting percentages and such did not see a drastic increase, Smart did lower his turnovers from 3.4 per game his freshman year to 2.6 per game his sophomore year. He also was able to hone his defensive abilities, especially on the perimeter. This has allowed him to be the player he is now for the Boston Celtics.
While Briscoe may never have the take-over mentality that Smart had in college, the two are similar in their play styles and their work ethics.
In the 2012-2013 season that every Kentucky fan on the face of this earth will refuse to remember, Georgia's sophomore two guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope became an absolute superstar. The SEC Player of the Year saw increases in every statistic from his freshman season, and the second year helped Pope become an everyday starter for the Detroit Pistons.
Pope pulled in an average stat line of 13.2 points/5.2 rebounds/1.2 assists/1.8 steals with a shooting line of 39.6/30.4/65.4 in his freshman season. The heralded sophomore year saw Pope's numbers rise to 18.5 points/ 7.1 rebounds/ 1.8 assists/2.0 steals with a 43.3/37.3/79.9 shooting line. It goes unnoticed what KCP did on the defensive end in college and what he does in the pros. All it will take is a major improvement in Briscoe's jumper and we could see a similar kind of impact.
After a pedestrian freshman year at Michigan, Trey Burke exploded onto the scene as a sophomore and wound up being the 2012-2013 National Player of the Year. While leading Michigan to a National Championship game appearance, Burke averaged over 18 points, 6.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a sophomore and shot a 46.3/38.4/80.1 shooting line.
While Trey has yet to put it together in the NBA, it is hard to forget just how dynamic he was that year. The roster is simply too stacked to think Briscoe could put up those kinds of numbers. But again, if the jumper improves from deep and he continues to play great defense, you're looking at two possibly similar players here.
A player I always thought Briscoe plays similar to is former Syracuse standout Michael Carter-Williams. While in terms of size, the two are significantly different with Carter-Williams being 6'6", they both are versatile players that don't need to be scoring to be effective.
The former NBA Rookie of the Year came off a freshman season where he only played ten minutes per game, to a sophomore season that made him worthy of being a top ten NBA draft pick. MCW averaged 11.9 points/ 7.3 assists/ 5 rebounds/ 2.7 steals per game and led the entire nation in Defensive Win Shares that year.
We saw last year that Briscoe doesn't need to put up huge scoring totals in order to be efficient, especially when it comes to this team now. In terms of stat predictions, these are numbers I could see Briscoe averaging this season. The assists may not get that high considering that DeAaron Fox will be handling the majority of point guard duties, but with this many weapons, I wouldn't rule it out.
Man, the 2012-2013 season was just loaded with these guys. Miami's Shane Larkin came in as a sophomore and took the country by storm in a year which the Hurricane's were not supposed to be competitive. Instead, Larkin won ACC Player of the Year and Miami wound up winning the ACC.
While the numbers were never completely glamorous for Larkin, he ran Miami's offense beautifully and was no doubt the best overall player that the ACC had that season. That is something that I could potentially see Briscoe doing next year. When you have the weapons that Kentucky will have, you can ask a guy like Zay to do nothing but simply facilitate and run the offense. If Calipari does decide to put Briscoe in that role, I believe he could excel in it.
Kendall Marshall's sophomore season at North Carolina is one that I see as comparable to Isaiah Briscoe's potential sophomore season. Mostly because Marshall played in a similar situation that Briscoe is in now; in terms of being a point guard on a roster stacked with talent.
Marshall averaged just 8.1 points but a whopping 9.8 assists per game as the starting point guard for a Tar Heel team that had Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller just to name a few. Obviously, that UNC team was had a lot of success. Obviously, those two had contrasting play styles, but I could see Briscoe putting up similar numbers.
What made Kendall so successful was simply sitting back and facilitating. Making play after play with such a talented lineup, the assists simply fell into Marshall's lap. Like I said earlier if Cal lets Briscoe just sit back and facilitate then we could potentially see monstrous assist numbers.
Just to note, this list only goes back a few years. So I'm sure there are some old timers that were left off. Also, I stuck with major conference players for this because that is what Briscoe is. So guys like Damian Lillard, Elfrid Payton, and Cameron Payne who had fantastic sophomore seasons for mid-major schools, I extend my apology.