I was intrigued by USI coach Rodney Watson’s comment in my story about Orlando Rutledge being declared academically ineligible on Monday. Watson was saying how he thinks others on the team will now have to start scoring to help make up the difference even though, in the past, they didn’t. I can only speculate who he was referring to, but I think I have a pretty good idea. Not to point fingers, but every USI hoops fan must wish that certain players who have been showing potential for years would finally live up to that potential. So, in no particular order, is my list of players who could have the breakout year everyone’s been expecting of them.
• Taylor Wischmeier, 6-8 senior forward, has been a starter since his sophomore year and was playing regularly even as a freshman. Watson early on kept talking about how he loved Wischmeier’s rebounding technique — that he used both hands. But Wisch has yet to put together more than a partial season of excellence. Last year, for example, he averaged 18.2 points over his first five games, with high games of 28 and 20 points — then only had 11 more games of double-figure scoring out of 26 games the rest of the season, with one game at 18 points the rest between 12 and 14.
• Austin Davis, a 6-8 redshirt junior forward, looked like he was going to be USI’s version of those impossibly tall, dead-eye shooting guards that Bellarmine always seems to recruit. Recall that’s exactly what he did two years ago in the GLVC Tournament in Springfield, Ill., when he lit up, ironically enough, Bellarmine for 16 points, going 4-for-5 from 3-point range. But Davis dropped from averaging 4.9 points per game during what we thought was the start of his breakout to 3.3 points last season, never scoring in double figures over his last 18 games while going just 6-for-22 (an average of just 27.2 percent) from beyond the arc during that stretch.
• Lawrence Thomas, USI’s 5-9 starting point guard, showed much potential his sophomore year when he averaged 9.5 points and 3.8 assists per game. But that potential didn’t flower last year as a junior when his averages were virtually the same, at 9.8 points and 3.7 assists.
Not to pick on these guys exclusively. There are others who could turn out to be sudden scorers: DeAndre McCamey, who was felled very early last season with a torn ACL and was supposed to be Thomas’ backup at the point; Manny Ogunfolu, who came on at the end of last season to become a scoring threat from mid-range (not to mention an effective rebounder); Ben Jones, who had his moments from the field last season while also turning into a lockdown defender; and Evan Brinkmeyer, who may turn out to be the Eagles’ best 3-point shooter.