This is my Breakout Sophomore Formula's fourth-annual attempt to use science, rather than subjectivity, to identify future stars who didn't stand out on traditional stat sheets. It has been mostly successful aside from a few absurd-and-unforeseen blind spots. (I'll explain those later.)
To fit the Breakout Formula, a player cannot have averaged much more than 20 minutes per game as a freshman. The selections need to have some degree of obscurity, and this filter removes too-obvious choices such as Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos and Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash from the equation. The remaining candidates must have used possessions at a rate befitting a star -- at around 24 percent, or higher. The underlying theory of this, as first proposed by Basketball Prospectus, is that go-to-guys tend to act like it very early on, even when restricted to limited playing time. "Players who are not very involved in the offense," BP wrote, "tend to stay that way."
1. Treveon Graham, 6-5 SG, VCU
Freshman points per game: 7.0
Freshman minutes per game: 16.7
Percent of team possessions used: 24.2
Offensive Efficiency Rating: 102.5
There's a small risk in making Graham the headliner: Our background check revealed a proclivity for pantsing, but kept in moderation it should not hinder his breakout. His significant-usage (a team-high 24.2 percent), decent-efficiency (102.5 ORating) profile as a freshman who didn't turn 18 until October 2011 suggests immense potential. The departure of Bradford Burgess, who set the Division I record for career starts while playing the same oversized-wing position as Graham, should free up the minutes he needs to score in the mid-double digits as a sophomore. He was valuable to the Rams in a limited role as a freshman, drawing a team-high 6.0 fouls per 40 minutes and also crashing the glass surprisingly well (with an OReb% of 9.5) for a 6-foot-5 guard. Graham was recruited as a scorer, acted like a scorer off the bench, and there's no reason to believe he'll stop doing so when he's elevated into VCU's starting lineup.
3. Jerrell Wright, 6-8 PF, La Salle
Freshman points per game: 9.8
Freshman minutes per game: 19.8
Percent of team possessions used: 26.5
Offensive Efficiency Rating: 105.9
Before Wright played his first game for the Pioneers, coach/Dr. John Giannini said, "I think he's going to be one of the most productive players I've ever coached." Giannini only put Wright on the floor for 49.1 percent of the team's minutes as a freshman, but the product of Dobbins Tech (the same Philly high school that produced Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble) was exceptionally productive as a high-usage, efficient scorer. He also had the team's highest offensive rebounding percentage (13.0), second-best defensive rebounding percentage (19.9) and he drew the most fouls per 40 minutes (5.6). According to kenpom.com's similarity scores, the player whose freshman season Wright's most closely matched was J.J. Hickson's 2008 at NC State -- and Hickson jumped to the NBA straight after that. Wright has real star potential in the Atlantic 10.