Commentary

The Pac-10 sophomore bounce

After a hugely down year out west, a bunch of second-years are ready to run

Originally Published: December 2, 2010
By Matt Giles | ESPN The Magazine
Getty ImagesReeves Nelson, battling for a rebound in last year's Pac-10 semis, is one of the conference sophs looking to step up big.

Solomon Hill is big enough to admit that he let himself go last season. "I was not in the best shape," says the Arizona soph. Wildcats coach Sean Miller was counting on Hill, an ESPNU Top 100 recruit, to fill some of the void created when forwards Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill bolted early for the NBA. But Hill, out of condition all year, was a nonfactor, committing an unsightly 4.4 fouls per 40 minutes and averaging just 6.7 PPG. His low point, he says, came in an ugly 67-64 loss to Oregon State in January, when he scored just two points. "I struggled against their zone and couldn't get back on defense," he says.

Much like the rest of the student body, hoops players battle the freshman 15. "A lot of guys enter college resistant to change because of their high school success," says an NBA scout. "But they aren't used to playing at a faster pace against quicker opponents. It just so happens, most of the Pac-10 freshmen were in that boat last year." The league has had an abundance of rookies on the floor the past two seasons because in the 2008 and 2009 NBA drafts, 21 Pac-10 players were plucked, the most from any conference over that span.