SEC: 5 freshmen to watch

Yesterday it was the ACC. Today it is the SEC. Let’s get right to it.

J’Mychal Reese, Texas A&M: The Aggies were a bad Big 12 team last season, and now they’re set to be a bad SEC team. But with a solid recruiting class coupled with high end transfers, there is hope for the fans in College Station. But coaches don’t need hope. They need point guards. Which is why they brought in Fabyon Harris and J’Mychal Reese. Harris is more of a known product, having bounced around the JUCO ranks. But Reese – whose father was hired to be an assistant at A&M – has the higher ceiling. Of interest will be how well he can compete with an older player for minutes. He has the talent to win the starting spot, but he’s a freshman. Stay tuned.

Sheldon Jeter, Vanderbilt: The Commodores lost a ton after this past season, so Vandy fans have to consider that the recruiting class is a bit underwhelming. But the late addition of Jeter at least finished the class with a flourish. The 6-7 wing has a guard’s game in a forward body. He’ll need to add strength, and there’s question as to whether he can create his own shot, but there’s a reason Jeter blew up late in the recruiting process. He’s comfortable shooting the three, and comfortable finishing at the rim. In other words, there’s plenty of material there for Coach Stallings to mold.

Willie Cauley, Kentucky: Considering what the Wildcats lost, it’s impossible to pick just one freshman to watch, but Cauley will be of most interest. When a player who is “merely” a consensus top-40 recruit becomes an afterthought, then you know you have a special class. Nerlens Noel (assuming he gets in), Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress all have the games to step in and star from day one. Cauley is a bit different. His athleticism is completely ridiculous for a player his size. He’ll be able to rebound and defend as a freshman. But he needs to add strength, and to develop offensively. On this team he’ll get plenty of dunks while other players garner attention, but for the next level he needs to develop post skills.

Malik Morgan, LSU: LSU has a long way to go, and to get there they need talent. Enter Malik Morgan, a 2-guard with an explosive first step and the ability to develop into a big-time scorer. Coach Jones has been cautious in his praise of Morgan, but it’s clear he expects him to compete for a starting role. It’s common for freshman on bad teams to struggle but at minimum Morgan should put together some games which give Tiger fans a glimpse of a more attractive future, and at best his maturity and work ethic will propel him into the conversation for conference freshman of the year.

Craig Sword, Mississippi State: No team last year did less with more than Mississippi State. But now a new era has arrived, along with a big recruiting class needed to replace everything that was lost from Rick Stansbury’s final team. The freshman poised to make the most immediate impact is Sword, who wrapped up his high school career by winning the 6A State title and being named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama.