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Big 12 Blue Chippers Who Need to Step Up

While the blue chip recruits coming into the Big 12 like 2010 Rivals #1 prospect Josh Selby get all the pub right now, a few programs need stud recruits from 2009 to step up their games. Listed are three whose teams, and fans, need to see vast improvement from them to have a chance to meet their lofty expectations.

Wally Judge - Kansas St Wildcats

Came into Kansas State as the #18 ranked prospect by Rivals and great things were expected, especially with Michael Beasley memories still dancing in the heads of Wildcat fans. The pressure of living up to Beasley probably wasn't as much of a factor as the Wildcats depth which allowed Frank Martin to bring Judge along slowly early but culminated with him seeing increased and meaningful playing time late in the season. While Judge disappointed K-State nation with meager totals of 3.3 PPG & 3.0 RPG, those totals should figure to take a nice jump now that Martin is no longer inexplicably allowed to start and play Luis Colon.  The only thing that may continue to slow Judge down is the team's front court depth with Curtis Kelly & Jamar Samuels returning along with hyped transfer Freddy Asprilla, of whom Wildcat fans have to believe is miles better than the last Art Alvarez pipeline center by the name of Jason Bennett. If Judge continues to struggle gaining Martin's confidence, it could be another frustrating season for Wildcat fans who had such high hopes for Judge coming out of high school.

Elijah Johnson - Kansas Jayhawks

Recruited out of Las Vegas, NV as the #24 ranked recruit by Rivals in 2009, Johnson was stuck on the bench the majority of the season behind Sherron Collins and fellow freshman Xavier Henry. For the season Johnson averaged just 2.4 PPG and racked up 13 DNP's through the season. This should be the year that KU fans begin to see Johnson get some meaningful playing time with Collins & Henry both now out of the program. As is the case with Judge, depth will be an issue that Johnson will have to overcome with KU returning fellow guards, Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar & Tyshawn Taylor, not to mention Josh Selby coming in to presumably run the show from day one. Even with this stiff competition, for KU to once again have national title aspirations, they should hope to see Johnson living up to his recruiting ranking and allowing Morningstar & Reed to thrive in their role positions. If Johnson can't break the rotation this year, KU fans should worry that he might never live up to his high school hype.

Jordan Hamilton - Texas Longhorns

Came into Texas as the #6 ranked player by Rivals ahead of Xavier Henry of Kansas who is now a lock for the first round of the NBA Draft.  Hamilton definitely had some moments during the course of the season that makes you believe he will be a star, like his 27 point effort on the road in Stillwater where he almost single-handily carried Texas to a win. In other games though, Hamilton struggled to find his rhythm and in many cases he struggled to find anything regarding a shot selection.  His final average of 10.0 PPG while playing on average just under 20 minutes per game makes you believe he has the potential to be a high double figure scorer with increased minutes in the upcoming season. With Texas losing Avery Bradley to the NBA along with Damion James & Dexter Pittman graduating there is a definite need for someone to step up and lead the Longhorns, fans should hope Hamilton can become this leader and be a consistent force in Austin. If he continues to not involve his teammates and take bad shots at times, Texas may have another long disjointed season like the one they just experienced.

 

Submitted by Joe Loyd, Special to Big 12 Hoops