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May 26, 2010

Rivals.com 2010-11 all-junior team

The nation's top juniors still have work to do.

Of the five members of the Rivals.com All-Junior first team, only two reached the NCAA tournament last season. In addition, two members of the team - Klay Thompson and Trey Thompkins - never have played in the tournament at all.

Teams making deep runs in the NCAA tourney usually have an experienced upperclassman leading the way. One of those veterans might be on these two all-junior teams. Most members of the all-junior team have been complementary players in the past, but they will be expected to become team leaders next season.

Here's a look at the top third-year players for the 2010-11 season.

ALL-JUNIOR FIRST TEAM
F Marcus Morris, Kansas
PARTICULARS: 6-8/225, Pennsauken (N.J.) APEX Academy
BUZZ: After winning the 2008 national title, the Jayhawks needed Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich to step out of the shadows to lead the team. Now, Bill Self will turn to Morris to do the same. There are key differences - Kansas in 2010 didn't win the title, but the Jayhawks did spend much of the season ranked No. 1. Unlike Collins or Aldrich, Morris is a returning starter; he averaged 12.1 points and 6.0 rebounds last season, and he should be expected to be one of the top players in the Big 12 next season.
F Trey Thompkins, Georgia
PARTICULARS: 6-10/247, Lithonia (Ga.) Wesleyan
BUZZ: Thompkins is one of the nation's most underrated players after he averaged 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds for a surprisingly resilient Bulldogs team last season. It's not that big a leap to believe Thompkins could become a 20-point, 10-rebound player as a junior. With Thompkins and fellow junior Travis Leslie (14.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) returning, the Bulldogs should continue to make strides in 2010-11 in coach Mark Fox's second season in Athens.
G Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
PARTICULARS: 6-2/190, West Orange (N.J.) Seton Hall Prep
BUZZ: As a freshman, Gibbs gave Pittsburgh a 3-point threat off the bench. His development as a sophomore was a major reason Pitt was able to win 13 Big East games in what was supposed to be a "rebuilding" season. Gibbs proved to be more versatile and more of a leader than most thought. Pitt will be one of the favorites in the Big East next season because of Gibbs, who averaged 15.7 points last season.
G Klay Thompson, Washington State
PARTICULARS: 6-6/200, Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita Catholic
BUZZ: Thompson was one beneficiary of first-year coach Ken Bone's up-tempo style. Thompson averaged 19.6 points as a sophomore and will be one of the nation's leading returning scorers as a junior. One of the biggest improvements in Thompson's game in his second season was his ability to get to the free-throw line. He attempted 135 more free throws as a sophomore despite playing a similar amount of minutes as a freshman. The Pac-10 looks as if it will be wide open, and a good season from Thompson would mean the Cougars have a shot to finish in the upper half of the league.
G Kemba Walker, Connecticut
PARTICULARS: 6-1/172, Bronx (N.Y.) Rice
BUZZ: One of the quickest guards in the country, Walker will be a key part of the effort to return Connecticut to the NCAA tournament. With Jerome Dyson gone, Walker will be the unquestioned leader in the backcourt. Walker averaged 14.6 points, 5.1 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals in his first full season as a starter. He's not too far off from becoming of the nation's best point guards.
ALL-JUNIOR SECOND TEAM
F Kevin Jones, West Virginia
F John Shurna, Northwestern
F Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt
G William Buford, Ohio State
G Shelvin Mack, Butler

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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