Khem Birch and Bryce Jones, UNLV (from Pittsburgh and USC): Birch, the former McDonald’s All-American, scorched a path from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas, lambasting his former team on the way out the door. Now he’s got a more up-tempo style and a ready-made scoring partner in the form of Mike Moser. Jones, who left USC with similar ill will after reports of an altercation with a teammate followed him out of town, is already a proven scorer -- he averaged 11 points per game before his minutes dropped following the addition of Jio Fontan.
Birch will be eligible to play next season, but not until after the fall.
Don't get me wrong, I think Birch will make an impact. But will we see a huge improvement over what he did this season? I'm not so sure.
For Birch to be ready to play, a lot of it is going to depend on his work ethic in getting ready for the second half of the season while he's sitting out the first half. That's not to say he doesn't have any work ethic, only that his success will largely be tied to it. If Birch comes in unprepared (and I don't think he will) or even a bit out of shape, next year could be another throw-away season for him.
Birch was definitely a good player at Pitt and to act as if he didn't contribute anything would be foolish. But he had large strides to make in his offensive game. Having missed the second half of last season and missing the first half of next season, I'm not sure how much he's been able to, and will be able to, develop his offensive game.
I'm convinced Birch will be a rebounding and defensive presence, but his offensive game still might not all there by the time he suits up halfway through next season.