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Original Issue

Future Game Changers

Below the radar, in towns not often associated with March Madness, three players are ready to make outsized contributions that could shape their schools' destinies—and their own


6'9" Sr. PF Illinois State

The Skinny

When Carmichael earned one of 45 spots at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas in July, he knew scouts would be less familiar with his game than those of Big 12 defensive player of the year Jeff Withey of Kansas or first-team All-America Doug McDermott of Creighton. It didn't take long, however, for Carmichael to earn a name for himself. He displayed the same blend of athleticism and relentless aggression that helped him average 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds for a team that narrowly missed winning the Missouri Valley Conference's automatic NCAA tournament bid last March. Says Carmichael, "People said I played with a chip on my shoulder."

Key Numbers

Last season Carmichael grabbed an MVC-leading 28.8% of available defensive rebounds, which also ranked fifth in the nation. His board work is getting better and better: He snatched 16.1% as a freshman and 21.8% as a sophomore. "I've always had a knack for it," he says, "but it's definitely been evolving."

Scout's Take

"I'll be honest, he didn't even register on our radar until the LeBron camp. Now he's someone that we have to watch; not a lock to be drafted but a definite prospect."

—Dan Greene


6'4" Sr. PG South Dakota State

The Skinny

A quiet kid from St. Cloud (Minn.) Tech High, Wolters developed his peerless ballhandling skills in his parents' basement. After nearly attending Division II Augustana, he chose South Dakota State, where the Jackrabbits had jumped from D-II to D-I five years earlier and were coming off their first year of NCAA tournament eligibilty and a 13--20 season. During his three seasons in Brookings (pop. 22,056), Wolters has cultivated the nation's highest ability-to-renown ratio among point guards—an obscurity he almost spoiled last December with a breakout 34-point, seven-assist, zero-turnover tour de force in an upset of Washington. As a junior, Wolters led SDSU to its first Big Dance, averaging 21.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds.

Key Numbers

The Jackrabbits' offense was deeply dependent on Wolters in 2011--12. He made 27.2% of their field goals, assisted on 30.2% of his teammates' makes and accounted for 33.0% of the team's free throws.

Scout's Take

"Wolters is a terrific passer who understands angles really well, but who doesn't try to force the ball into difficult destinations. He's not as talented as Steve Nash was in college, but he plays a similar role by being creative and using tricks and fakes to make space for his shot. I'd like to see him improve on long-range shooting. While I don't think he's a first-rounder right now, he could play his way into the discussion."

—Luke Winn


6' 8" Soph. PF, North Texas

The Skinny

Mitchell was once the Lost Boy among the five-star recruits in the class of 2010. He committed to Missouri out of Pinkston High in Dallas but was unable to enroll because of academic issues. He arrived at North Texas in January 2011 as an academic nonqualifier and wasn't eligible to play until the following December, missing the first nine games of the '11--12 season. Mitchell appeared in 23 games as a freshman, averaging 14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks while dismissing all doubts about his rustiness. His 7' 3" wingspan, 41-inch vertical leap and feathery outside shot make him the most versatile power forward in the nation. Says Mean Green coach Tony Benford, an assistant for four years at Marquette, "Mitchell is a 10 on the athletic scale. He's better than any athlete I saw in the Big East."

Key Numbers

Mitchell was the lone D-I player to rank in the top 20 in defensive rebounding percentage (28.8, fourth) and shot-blocking percentage (11.0, 15th) last season. Only three other players even cracked the top 50 in both categories: Kentucky's Anthony Davis (the No. 1 pick in the draft), North Carolina's John Henson (No. 14) and Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn (No. 49).

Scout's Take

"He's first-round material, and if he improves—scouts want to see him show a more consistent level of effort and dominate his league [the Sun Belt Conference]—he'll go in the lottery."



SI Sports Illustrated

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Photographs by BILL FRAKES