6 college sophomores avoiding second-year slumps

Imagine John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins still on the court

together at Kentucky, instead of being among the NBA’s best

rookies. Or Xavier Henry playing another season for undefeated

Kansas.

But in an era of one-and-done players in college basketball,

they all came and then went quickly to the pros.

What about some of the first-year stars from last season who

stayed for a second go-round in college? There are several now

following up impressive debuts with equally or even better

seasons.

Wall was drafted No. 1 overall after being the SEC player of the

year as a freshman and Cousins, tabbed the league’s freshman of the

year, was the fifth overall pick. Henry became the first Jayhawks

player to go pro after only one season.

Among those who stayed are a pair of players named Williams

starring on opposite sides of the country and a non-major still

standing out among the big boys. There are no sophomore slumps in

this group:

Derrick Williams, Arizona. The Pac-10 freshman of the year after

averaging 15.7 points and 7.1 rebounds a game last season, Williams

took about 700 jumpers a day during the offseason with the goal of

getting better. After all that shooting, the 6-foot-8 forward is

now the nation’s most efficient player, averaging 2.29 points per

field goal attempt. While being an explosive force inside, he also

hits short and midrange jumpers – and even from long range.

Williams hit 17 of 24 3-pointers (71 percent) in his first 18 games

this season. He also led the nation by making 134 free throws. He

already had five 20-point games, including a career-high 31 points

with 10 rebounds last week against Arizona State, while averaging

19.7 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Wildcats.

Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State. The first Mountain West

Conference freshman of the year to also be an all-MWC pick, Leonard

is now averaging a double-double (team highs 15.7 points and 10.3

rebounds a game). With him, the Aztecs became the first team to

reach 20 wins this season. The 6-foot-7 forward, who already has 13

double-doubles this season and 30 in his career, also leads the

undefeated Aztecs with 29 steals and is second with 50 assists. In

the Mountain West tournament championship game last season, Leonard

scored 16 points and had a career-high 21 rebounds, setting a

tournament record. He is leading the MWC in rebounding again after

getting 9.9 a game last season.

Jordan Williams, Maryland. Double down, Mr. Williams. In

Maryland’s two NCAA tournament games last March, Williams had an

impressive introduction to the national stage with consecutive

double-double games. This season, the 6-10 Williams has been Len

Elmore-like. Williams has 12 consecutive double-double games,

matching the school record Elmore set 37 years ago when he had 11

points and 11 rebounds in a loss Thursday against Virginia Tech.

That followed 25 points and 14 rebounds against seventh-ranked

Villanova last Saturday. After averaging 9.6 points and 8.6

rebounds as a freshman, Williams has bumped those totals to 17.7

points and 12.1 rebounds a game this season and is third nationally

in rebounds.

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh. New season, same result for McCollum. The

nation’s top freshman scorer last season (19.1 ppg) is now the top

scoring sophomore (21.5 ppg). The 6-3 guard was the first Patriot

League rookie of the year who also was the league’s player of the

year at the same time. He capped his freshman season with 26 points

against top-seeded Kansas in the NCAA tournament. This season, he

also leads Lehigh with 7.2 rebounds a game and 46 steals, and has a

four-game streak with at least 23 points in each. He has gone over

30 points three times, including a 42-point game.

Alec Burks, Colorado. After being somewhat of a hidden

recruiting gem for the Buffalos, Burks was the Big 12’s top

freshman last season, when he averaged 17.1 points and became the

first Colorado freshman to lead the team in rebounding (5.0 a

game). The 6-6 long-armed guard is now the league’s second-leading

scorer at 19.8 points a game. After opening this season with five

consecutive 20-point games, he now has 11. He had a career-high 36

points when Colorado won its first Big 12 opener in 14 years with

an upset win over then-No. 9 Missouri. It was the Buffs’ last Big

12 opener – they move to the expanded Pac-12 next season.

Maalik Wayns, Villanova. The only thing that kept Wayns from

playing much as a freshman was being a guard on a Final Four team

that had a backcourt of Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher. With

Reynolds gone, the 6-2 Wayns is now starting with Fisher and is

flourishing. A quick burst and reliable floater has helped Wayns

average 13.5 points and 5.3 assists a game for the Wildcats. In the

Big East opener, he had nine points, nine assists and eight

rebounds. He had another game with 21 points, eight assists and

four steals. He was limited to 15 minutes a game as a freshman,

when he still had 6.8 points and 1.3 assists a game.