COLUMBIA, MO - JANUARY 28: Jordan Tolbert #32 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts after committing a foul during the game against the Missouri Tigers on January 28, 2012 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
This is the last installment of five I'm going to do for the Top 25 returners. For the top 5 I'll be doing them one by one. For the newbies, no Freshmen, no transfers.
10 Jordan Tolbert, Sophomore, Texas Tech
Doubling as perhaps my favorite non KU player in the league, Tolbert actually finished with under a 100 ORtg, but much of that had to do with him being the only real option for the worst team in the league, and he was the focal point of opposing defenses, who overwhelmed him with numbers, talent and experience.
That's not to say Tolbert's season was without positives, however. He carried the Red Raider offense (28.5% usage rate) and shot 52% from two. Tolbert was able to draw 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes, 32nd in the country, a very encouraging sign for a Freshman. And he was willing to get the garbage points as well, with a 10.8% offensive rebounding rate that led the team. What's more, Tolbert was no slouch on the defensive end with a 19.2% defensive rebounding rate and a 3.5% block rate. With a pair of top 115 recruits coming to Lubbock next year, Tolbert will have more help and should post a huge season.
9. Sheldon McClellan, Sophomore, Texas
McClellan did a lot of everything for the Longhorns last year, shooting 54% from two, 31% from three and 76% from the line. He shot 42% on two point jumpers, the best on the team, which suggests that an improvement in 3 pt% should be coming next year as well. In addition to the scoring, McClellan was fourth on the team in offensive rebounding, had just a 10.3% turnover rate, committed just 1.6 fouls per 40 minutes, and drew 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes. With J'Covan Brown gone he'll probably be Texas's primary outside scorer, and while he won't dominate in any other area he will contribute in all of them.
8. Melvin Ejim, Junior, Iowa State
I am torn on where Ejim should go on this list. On one hand, he shot 56% from two, being adept at scoring at the rim and from farther away from the basket. And he also had a 20.4% defensive rebounding rate and shot 76% from the line. On the other hand, 60% of his two point jumpers were assisted on, and with Royce White gone (and impossible to replace) I wonder whether he'll get the ball in favorable spots enough to make this kind of an impact. Add in the fact that Scott Christopherson, who shot 46% from three, is gone and the lane should be much more clogged up for Ejim.
7. Brady Heslip, Junior, Baylor
Heslip didn't take many shots (19.1%), and had an even lower usage rate (13.1%), but no one in the country was more efficient than the Boston College transfer. Heslip's 138.6 offensive rating led the country. (sidenote: he wasn't good enough to see the floor for BC, but he was good enough to start for a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament?).
Heslip's main weapon, of course, is the three pointer: He took 220 threes last year and made 45.5% of them. He also shot 45.6% from two and 92% from the free throw line. That gave him the 14th best true shooting percentage in the country and that, plus his 7.5% turnover rate, led him to that obscenely high offensive rating. He's not higher on this list because he doesn't defend well and he isn't the focal point of a team's offense. But there's no better shooter in the league, and he doesn't kill the team in other areas offensively.
6. Travis Releford, Senior, Kansas
Releford's calling card is his defense; he's the best perimeter defender in the Big 12 and among the best in the country. His length bothers smaller and bigger guards alike, and he's quick enough to stay in front of both (side note: I am willing to admit I was terribly wrong about his defensive abilities, though I do still say that his ankle injury masked his talent a bit).
But what few people realize is that Releford is quite accomplished offensively as well. His 126.4 offensive rating in conference play was second in the league, and he is a very versatile scorer as well. He took 44% of his field goals at the rim, shot the three fairly well (32.5%) and shot a ridiculous 48% on two point jumpers. Last year his usage rate was just under 14%, but he will likely take a bigger role in this year's offense, and there's little doubt he'll be up to the task: he had a three game stretch in late December/early January where he took 10 or more field goal attempts in each game, and shot over 50% in each game, including a 9-13 effort against Oklahoma which wrapped up the Big 12 player of the week for him. Even if he does end up carrying a bit lighter load however, going 4-6 from the field every game while playing fantastic defense is an extremely valuable player.