NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
With 360-degree and between-the-legs dunks during local Pro-Am games this summer, Miles Bridges already had Michigan State fans dropping their jaws months before the season.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo even praised Bridges’ athleticism after seeing some of his viral YouTube highlights. The springy 6-7, 230-pound McDonald’s All-America and potential NBA lottery pick is delivering on the hype in practice enough to make his Hall of Fame coach invite him to Big Ten Media Day in Washington, D.C.
Bridges, a top-10 player in the 2016 class, is the first Michigan State freshman to attend media day during Izzo’s long and illustrious tenure, according to the Spartans. And that says a lot about what type of impact the Flint, Mich., native is expected to have this season.
"It was surprising," Bridges said about being invited to media day. "I know Izzo has a lot of expectations for me. And he's going to push me to be the best I can."
Here are some other Big Ten newcomers (listed in alphabetical order) who could make significant contributions to their teams this season:
Tony Carr, freshman, Penn State
Carr was the star point guard on Roman Catholic’s Class 4A state championship team. The Philadelphia product has the court savvy and leadership skills to play immediately. The Nittany Lions’ best player is junior Shep Garner, also a former Roman Catholic guard. So building chemistry shouldn’t be an issue.
Amir Coffey, freshman, Gophers
The 6-8 son of former NBA and Gophers forward Richard Coffey is a much different player than his bruiser/rebounder father. The younger Coffey does damage with his versatility on the perimeter off pick-and-rolls. He’s already Richard Pitino’s best passer. He has three-point range and can score off the dribble. The challenge for Pitino is to find what position best utilizes Coffey’s playmaking ability. Minnesota’s three projected new starters are Coffey and transfers Reggie Lynch and Akeem Springs.
Tyler Cook, freshman, Iowa
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery suffered an alarming loss of production with four starters gone, including All-America Jarrod Uthoff. So who was he touting as a potential star at the team’s media day recently? Not returning all-conference guard Peter Jok. It was Cook, a 6-9, 250-pound top-40 recruit from St. Louis. He’s a banger and strong finisher who can also shoot from long distance.
Joshua Langford, freshman, Michigan State
Bridges is joined by Langford, Cassius Winston and Nick Ward in Izzo’s top-three recruiting class. The 6-5, 200-pound Langford, another McDonald’s All-America, is a scorer and all-around player on the perimeter. He compares favorably to a younger version of Big Ten player of the year Denzel Valentine, who is now with the Chicago Bulls.
Josh Newkirk, junior, Indiana
The most irreplaceable player in the Big Ten from last season might be Yogi Ferrell. No point guard across the league has as much experience playing in big games and making big shots. That leaves some big shoes to fill for the Hoosiers. But Newkirk brings experience after playing two seasons at Pittsburgh. Maybe some of Ferrell’s leadership rubbed off on him while sitting out last year.
Micah Potter, freshman, Ohio State
How excited is Buckeyes coach Thad Matta about Potter’s potential? He wore Potter’s No. 0 jersey to model the team’s new uniforms last month. Well, that might not be exactly why he did it, but Ohio State needs a frontcourt presence to go with its deep perimeter talent. And the 6-10 Potter is a real threat to stretch the defense, unlike senior center Trevor Thompson.
Andy Van Vliet, sophomore, Wisconsin
Raise your hand if you’ve heard of a 6-11 Badgers big man who can step out and shoot three-pointers. Sounds familiar, right? That pretty much describes several successful Wisconsin frontcourt players over the years, most recently Frank Kaminsky. Van Vliet was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last season coming from Belgium. But he’s now cleared and gives UW another highly skilled and athletic center.