Ceola Clark - Junior Guard, Western Illinois
I have slept on this guy long enough. It remains to be seen how much damage Western Illinois can do this year in The Summit League, so there might not be many reasons to watch the team this year other than to see Mr. Clark. This dude will be called upon to pretty much do it all for the Leathernecks in 2010-11, and he's surely capable. In 2009-10, this is what his stat line looked like: 14.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.7 assists per game to go along with 47.0% field goal shooting and 40.6% from downtown. His shooting percentage was good enough for third in the conference and second amongst those who played more than 10 minutes per game. This season Ceola will have to shoulder more of the scoring load as his backcourt-mate David Nurse has graduated, but he's definitely up to the challenge. So long as Clark's teammates can knock down some shots to relieve some of the defensive pressure that is bound to follow him, there is no doubt that his numbers could explode during his junior year. If you can convince yourself that his play is enough to get you to watch a Western Illinois game, then you will not be disappointed. Just try to stay focused on Number 23.
Jordan Dykstra - Freshman Forward, South Dakota State
Although South Dakota State's 2009-10 season ended abruptly in the first round of The Summit League tournament, the Jacks had an otherwise impressive campaign. Coach Scott Nagy made the most of what he had, which was mostly a squad full of guards and small forwards. This season he'll welcome freshman Jordan Dykstra to the fold, a 6'8" forward who checks in at 222 pounds. Dykstra may be one of the Jacks' best overall recruits yet as he comes from a team that won back-to-back state championships in Iowa during his junior and senior years. A proven winner on the court and all-star in the classroom (graduated with a 3.9 GPA), Dykstra just seems like the kind of guy who works hard no matter what he's doing. I fully expect him to make an immediate impact for SDSU this season with the potential to develop into a star forward in the conference. He'll surely have some ups-and-downs in his first year, but it'll still be exciting to watch him just to see if he can capitalize on some of his promise.
Ledrick Eackles - Sophomore Guard, Oakland
I attempted to stay away from any Oakland players in this discussion, but in filling out this list, Ledrick Eackles kept coming to mind. As a neutral basketball fan, I love the way Eackles plays (and obviously as an Oakland fan, that love is tripled). Entering his freshman season, Eackles was sort of a mystery to most, hailing from a faraway state and part of a first-year class that wasn't expected to get much playing time. Due to his aggressive defense and emotional play, Eackles quickly earned regular minutes off the bench and was arguably one of the team's best players during the month of January. His minutes dropped off considerably after that, almost to the point that he became a non-factor. And then came the NCAA Tournament game. In an emotionally draining game, Eackles seemed to be the only guy playing with intensity in the second-half for Oakland. I hope he can build on that performance during his sophomore season. He is an incredibly exciting, athletic player capable of getting to the basket and drawing fouls, knocking down the occasional outside shot, and giving opponents fits on the defensive end. If you're watching an Oakland game this year, look out for the dude (hopefully) rocking the flat-top.
Hunter McClintock - Redshirt Freshman Guard, Oral Roberts
This guy joins the Oral Roberts active roster after redshirting during his first year due to a season-ending injury. Heading into 2009-10, the ORU faithful were stoked on this quick guard, no doubt thanks to a series of YouTube videos called "Hunter McClintock Breakin Ankles." There is no way someone watches those videos without getting supremely excited about McClintock. Prior to his injury, many had pegged McClintock as a starter from day one, but after strong performances from the team's backcourt last season, that remains to be seen. While there should be a lot of competition amongst the Golden Eagle guards for playing time in 2010-11, I hope that Hunter spends some significant time on the court. As an Oakland fan, it would be nice if he isn't as strong as he appears on paper (and video), but as a fan of the conference and college basketball in general, it's impossible to root against a guy this smooth. This dude also seems like the perfect candidate for a sick nickname. ORU fans, what say you?
Alex Young - Junior Forward, IUPUI
Even though Alex Young had hefty averages last year, no one would argue that Robert Glenn was the focal point of IUPUI last season. With the departure of Glenn, Mr. Young will get his opportunity to be the number one guy for the Jaguars in 2010-11. My first encounter with the junior was when he visited Oakland during his freshman season. He jacked up seven three-pointers and connected on only one of them, and he had four turnovers and zero assists. Even though he had a poor shooting night and was out-of-control at times, I could see the promise. I remember thinking that Coach Ron Hunter may have found a replacement for the venerable George Hill, but that was before Robert Glenn started to dominate. So Young had to wait a little bit longer, but he still has two years left in Indianapolis and should make a lot of noise in The Summit League. This guy could seriously average close to a double-double this year if he picks up some of the rebounding lost from the graduation of Glenn and Billy Pettiford. He will be very exciting to watch throughout the season and will be a big reason why the Jaguars will contend in the upper-echelon of the conference this season.