Feb 6, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Dons center Mark Tollefsen (23) dribbles around a San Diego Toreros defender during the first half at Jenny Craig Pavillion. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Future Stars of WCC

 

Last season, the WCC showcased a plethora of young talent. Several freshman and sophomores took on significant roles for their schools, showing large amounts of promise and potential.

Here is a list of players that we think will be stars in the West Coast Conference by their junior and senior seasons. I picked one player from each school that I felt had the best chance of shining in the near future. Remember to keep an eye out of these players, and if you have any other suggestions, feel free to tweet us at @westcoastconvo.

Enjoy!

 

Jared Brownridge

One could make a strong argument that Brownridge has already risen to stardom.

Brownridge was one of the most electric scorers in the conference this past season, scoring 17.2 points per game and shooting 45.4 percent and 43.6 percent from the field and the 3-point line respectively.

The Aurora, Ill. native showed off his clutch gene this past season as well. Against the Saint Mary’s Gaels on Jan. 9, Brownridge hit a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the Broncos up 57-55. Not to mention, Brownridge finished the game with a team-high 23 points.

To improve, Brownridge will need to get more consistent. The freshman sharpshooter scored only seven points on one of seven shooting the following game against Pacific. That will be Brownridge’s next step into superstardom.

 

Evan Payne

This bouncy, upcoming player was an integral piece on an injury laden LMU team last season.

The Akron, Ohio native scored 15.5 points last season, showing his vast talents as a scorer. Payne chipped in 19 points on seven of 14 shooting in LMU’s upset victory over Portland.

For Payne to improve and become a superstar, he must improve his shot selection. Payne possesses the talent to become one of the best scorers in the conference, he just must be more selective to do so.

 

T.J. Wallace

It was an up-and-down year for the freshman, but Wallace showed why Pacific fans were so excited about him in the beginning of the season.

While playing under Andrew Bock and Sama Taku, Wallace averaged 7.0 points and 2.1 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game.

The freshman really hit his stride during the Southern California road trip, where Wallace accounted for 15 and 22 points and against Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount respectively.

Wallace also had a few off games, posting low, single-digit point totals on poor shooting percentages. Once Wallace gets a firmer grasp on college basketball, however, he should be contributing more like he did against Pepperdine and LMU.

 

Eric Mika

While the 6-foot-10 Mika is off serving his mission for the next two years in Italy, he showed why he was a highly touted recruit during his true freshman season in Provo.

In his first season, Mika averaged 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds. Those numbers easily could have been increased if it were not for foul trouble.

The BYU frontcourt will severely miss his presence the next few years. His blend of talent and energy is a perfect fit for a team like BYU. While he has a bit of reputation for being a little too passionate on the court, once he harnesses that into basketball production he will be a force to be reckoned with.

 

Jeremy Major

As only a freshman, all signs pointed to Major being one of the primary leaders on the team.

With the help of a freshman class, which was led bu Major, the Waves turned from perennial bottom feeders into the fifth place team in the conference in 2013. That transition went a lot smoother as Major took the reins as the team’s starting point guard, as the Pasadena, Calif. native averaged 9.1 points and 4.5 assists per game.

While Major tailed off towards the end of the season, particularly in the scoring department, his potential shined throughout the season. His innate ability to distribute to his teammates, combined with his cunning decisions and explosiveness will make him one of the more exciting WCC players over the coming years.

 

Bryce Pressley

Pressley was mister do-it-all for the Pilots this past season, and he will likely take on that role this season.

When the Pilots needs a key defensive stop, Pressley was there guarding their best player. If Portland needed a key 3-point shot, Pressley was right there to take it.

Pressley’s combination of size, length and athleticism just screams potential as it is. On top of that, Pressley is a proven scorer and passer, making him a fantastic off guard in Coach Eric Reveno’s system.

His statistics are not gaudy – 8.7 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game and 3.4 assists per game – but in an increased role the next two seasons his numbers should subsequently increase.

 

Dane Pineau

Pineau was the only freshman to earn any playing time with the Gaels last season, and his versatility as a post has intrigued several fans across the conference.

Playing time was scarce for the Australian four-man, but he showed why he will be the Gaels starting power forward in no time. In about eight minutes of action per game, Pineau averaged 1.9 points and 1.4 rebounds. His 41.4 percent clip from beyond the 3-point arc was better than most expected from the freshman big, despite his lofty expectations.

Pineau projects to be the next Australian player to excel at Saint Mary’s, based on his talent and overall skill set. Once more playing time is readily available – which it should next season – Pineau will break out and have a nice season.

 

Mark Tollefsen

If there was a WCC dunk contest, the high-flying USF forward would be a lot of people’s choice to win it.

After coming on strong at the end of his freshman year, the long and lanky Tollefsen settled into more of distinct role his sophomore season. While it was not a prominent one on the team, the Danville, Calif. native energized the squad frequently with his rim shattering dunks and timely 3-balls.

All-in-all, Tollefsen was productive last season with 10.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. However, with Cole Dickerson out of the fold, Tollefsen will be asked to do a lot more in the Dons front court. Based on what Tollefsen has shown during his progression the past two seasons, he should be able to contribute a lot more.

 

Kyle Wiltjer

The former five-star recruit, McDonalds All-American and National Champion at the University of Kentucky will finally make his debut with the Gonzaga Bulldogs this upcoming year.

Zag fans are extremely excited for Wiltjer, and there is reason for that. The 6-foot-10 power forward has unique skill set and was the South Eastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year his sophomore season at Kentucky. On top of that, Wiltjer has been working with Gonzaga Strength and Conditioning Coach Travis Knight over the offseason, the same trainer that worked with Kelly Olynyk during his redshirt year at GU.

If Wiltjer turns out to be the player that most expect him to be, he will be one of the best in the WCC, if not the best.

Long story short, expectations are very high for Wiltjer, and for good reason.

 

Jito Kok

While Kok was a nominee by many to be this seasons breakout player of the year, but Kok did not quite pan out the way many were expecting.

But it’s not too late.

Kok has been a phenomenal rim protector ever since he got to San Diego, but his offensive game has been holding him back from being one of the elite players in the WCC. His offensive game showed some, albeit, slow progressions this past season. Kok displayed a mid-range jump shot this season and a few more post moves this season, an improvement to what he had his freshman year.

Kok, who oozes potential with his athletic, built frame, will most certainly build on his 4.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game he posted this past season, as long as he puts enough work in the offseason to progress further.

Tags: Basketball Brigham Young Cougars Gonzaga Bulldogs Loyola Marymount Lions Pacific Tigers Pepperdine Waves Portland Pilots Saint Mary's Gaels San Diego Toreros San Francisco Dons St. Mary's Gaels WCC

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