Some sixty-eight Australian student-athletes are preparing to help their schools achieve ultimate success in the newly tipped-off college basketball season. Some of these players will be relied upon to lead their teams by example, while others might simply help by cheering on from the bench. Here are five Australian storylines to which we think you should pay most attention this season.
Is Deng Adel ready for the NBA?
One of the biggest storylines heading into this season from an Australian perspective without a doubt surrounds the performance of Louisville junior Deng Adel. The Australian, who has taken an incredible journey en route to playing in Louisville, was one of the best scorers and all-round players for the Cardinals last season, and he's only going to get better.
After finishing the season with averages of 12 points and 4 rebounds, including 16 points and 4 rebounds over the final six games of the season, Adel tested the waters of the NBA draft during the off-season but made the decision to pull out before the deadline and go back to school for at least one more year.
"I didn't want to rush anything," Adel said of his decision. "I didn't want to force myself out there. It was a stacked draft this year and a lot of players ended up not being drafted. For me, there was no point in really risking it."
As one of only 32 student-athletes -- including St Mary's big man Jock Landale -- named to the USBWA's preseason watch list for the Oscar Robertson Trophy (the trophy presented annually to the national player of the year), Adel may be one of only a few positive lights for Louisville after they were rocked by a huge scandal in September that saw their coach Rick Pitino forced to step down.
Adel has the length and athleticism to get to the basket on a consistent basis, and the shooting touch to make him dangerous from the charity stripe. He's also a good three-point shooter and a good multi-positional defensive player. If Adel has a productive season, there's no reason why he can't play himself into being a first-round draft pick.
Chima Moneke and Xavier Cooks are each coming off a fantastic year in which they led their teams -- UC Davis and Winthrop, respectively -- to their first NCAA Tournament in years (and, in Moneke's case, UC Davis' first NCAA Tournament in history). Both players, coincidentally, were the leading rebounders (9.5) and second-leading scorers (14.6) on their teams last season, and both figure to play an even bigger part in their team's success this year.
Moneke's breakthrough season, which he finished with averages of 14.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, earned him All-Big West First Team honours as well as the Big West Conference Tournament MVP and the Big Best Newcomer of the Year awards. Cooks, on the other hand, was awarded All-Big South First Team honours as well as Big South All-Tournament Team honours.
Both players are heading into their senior season, so they will be eager to prove their talents to the college basketball world. They may not get as much coverage as some of the other players mentioned in this list, because of the program they play for, but they are still, without a doubt, two of the most exciting Australian college players to watch this season.
1. Will Duop Reath become an All-SEC Player?
Another of the many South Sudanese-Australian student-athletes, LSU senior Duop Reath will have plenty of pro-basketball scouts watching him throughout the season. Not only is he playing in a legitimate conference in the SEC, but he has the potential to earn himself All-Conference honours come the end of the season.
Reath, who is the returning leader for this Tigers team in points, rebounds and blocks, will no doubt be their best offensive weapon this season. He impressed in their preseason exhibition games, with new head coach Will Wade boyish when asked what Reath could become.
"He's a phenomenal kid", he told the LSU Athletics website. "He wants to be so good and he's one of the hardest workers for us. I absolutely love him as a person and as a player. He's going to have a really good year for us."
Reath added 9kg to his frame during the off-season, which will make him an even more dominant force in the paint. "Getting in shape has been tough, but that's what it takes to get into the shape you need to be in," Reath told the LSU Athletics website. "It's really important, especially in the SEC. You need to be able to hold your ground."
What is perhaps most impressive about Reath, however, is that he recently picked up his second LSU Student-Athlete of the Month recognition for the month of September.
How 'lights out' is Dejan Vasiljevic?
Miami sophomore Dejan Vasiljevic didn't have quite the season for which he may have hoped last year -- finishing with only 6 points a game and shooting a mere 35 percent from the field - but everything we saw in the Hurricanes' preseason exhibition games suggests he is ready for a breakout season. In Miami's first exhibition game of the season, against Newberry, Vasiljevic finished with 30 points and 7 rebounds, including 10/14 shooting (and 8/11 from beyond the arc). This offensive explosion is nothing new for Vasiljevic, who has consistently been one of the best shooters for the Australian underage sides.
He has always had the potential to be one of the best shooters in college basketball, and now he has trimmed down, and spent a season finding his feet in the college game, it is not completely out of the realms of possibility to suggest he could become one of the best shooters in all of college basketball, let alone the ACC.
Can Jack White emerge on a loaded Duke team?
Of all the Australians playing college ball this season, Jack White may have the best chance to win a national championship: He plays for one of the most successful programs in college basketball under one of the greatest coaches that we've ever seen, in Mike Krzyzewski. The thing that may stop the Blue Devils from winning college basketball's ultimate prize, though, is the very thing that may actually allow White to get some decent minutes --- he played only six minutes a game last season -- and that is experience.
White is one of only six returning players for the Blue Devils this season, and only two are upperclassmen; a lot of talent has left the program, including Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Frank Jackson. As is always the case for Duke, though, a lot of talent has come in -- including ESPN's N0. 1-ranked recruit in Marvin Bagley III.
Despite the incoming talent, the Blue Devils are still somewhat thin at the small forward spot -- the position where White is likely to play most of his minutes. This bodes well for White, who really has only to compete with freshman four-star recruit Jordan Tucker.
White's experience could prove to be extremely important for this very young side. He is a strong player, tough, and can knock down the three ball. He's also a very good defender and a high-character guy. He should get some decent minutes this season, especially if the rookies have early struggles.