With the college basketball season kicking off here is a quick look at what some of the top freshmen in the country will bring to the table and how they might fare in their first season. Based on rankings from rivals.com, the top 29 recruits get discussed below along with 10 players who could outplay their ranking.
1. Skal Labissere (PF, Kentucky) – Smooth is the best way to describe Labissere. Watching his jump shot is a thing of beauty, good elevation, high release, and soft touch. Labissere’s season will play out on an upward trajectory. He won’t have the impact of Ben Simmons, but possibly more long term potential.
2. Ben Simmons (F, LSU) – Most polished freshmen and will have the biggest impact. Do it all point forward that is an unselfish and the best passer in his class regardless of position. Tough driver and improving outside shooter. Good size and strength to make an immediate impact.
3. Jaylen Brown (SF, Cal) – Stanley Johnson clone. Physical, tough, small forward with an improving outside jump shot. Explosive off the dribble, can play inside and outside. Hard worker and competitor. Will have an all PAC-12 freshman season and average 15-18 points per game.
4. Brandon Ingram (F, Duke) – Ingram’s light bulb came on in July 2014 while playing at the Adidas Unrivaled camp in Chicago and it continues to shine. After two eye opening performances at the McD’s AA & Hoop Summit event, Ingram vaulted up to a top five player and potential top draft pick. Extremely long and skinny. Very versatile. Will have an inconsistent freshman season due to strength deficiencies and is still 2-3 years from reaching full potential.
5. Cheick Diallo (PF, Kansas) – Will he ever play at Kansas? Diallo has one of the top two motors in the freshmen class. Great shot blocker, but will be a bit undersized. Great rim runner. Will impact the game on the defensive end while getting the hustle baskets down low.
6. Diamond Stone (C, Maryland) – Best big men post moves. 12 points, 7 rebounds is my projection for Stone. Big bodied center that can score off either block. Good shot mechanics out to 15 feet. Stamina and defensive concerns will slow Stone down, but Maryland will not need to rely on him with their returning talent.
7. Ivan Rabb(PF, Cal) – Will be able to run the floor and play the pick and pop game for Cal. Injury and strength issues a concern. Could be at Cal for two years. Will have games where he puts up 14 and 10, but also a fair amount of games he struggles in. Up and down freshman season at Cal.
8. Malik Newman (G, Mississippi State) – Newman will be the top scoring freshmen. A natural scoring guard, Newman will have the keys to the car from the opening tap. He can score from all areas and shined during USA world events. Given his offensive skill, Newman is prone to taking (and sometimes hitting) difficult shots. Expect Newman to produce in the high double-digits almost every game, but his efficiency stats won’t be pretty.
9. Jamal Murray (G, Kentucky) - Kentucky's shooting guard put on a show in the Nike Hoop Summit practices leading up to the actual game and then he showcased his skills on national television scoring 30 points. Murray has deep range on his outside shot and will replace Devin Booker as Kentucky's main three-point assassin. Murray also is a better slasher than Booker and can put the ball on the floor more seamlessly. Murray was under the radar in the spring, but he could wind up as one of the best guards in the game.
10. Isaiah Briscoe (PG, Kentucky) – Jersey product that has long, powerful arms. Explosive slasher to the basket. Will continuously put pressure on opposing defenders, but can’t shoot outside of the three-point line. Briscoe brings a swagger to the court. How will he co-exist with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray? Briscoe will put up a decent stat line in terms of points, rebounds, and assists, but will have a high turnover rate.
11. Henry Ellenson (PF, Marquette) – A guard trapped in a power forward’s body. Ellenson slimmed down in the spring of 2014 and his game took off. As long as Ellenson does not float on the perimeter he will be the freshman of the year in the Big East. He will regularly grab defensive rebounds and push the ball up the court setting up the offense. Unique offensive skill-set with the size to compete down low.
12. Allonzo Trier (SG, Arizona) – High scoring guard that will challenge Jaylen Brown for top freshman in the PAC-12. Trier has good size and like Newman is a natural scorer. Will average double-digits and has NBA range. Lacks elite quickness to blow by defenders which will force him to settle for long-jumpers, but when he does get into the paint he can finish. Immediate impact player in Tucson.
13. Antonio Blakeney (SG, LSU) – High volume scorer. Will put up points in Baton Rogue, but will take a lot of shots to do so. Not a pure 3 point shooter, but will connect every game. Explosive jumper off one foot which will allow him to finish at the rim. Will average double figures, but also will produce a low offensive efficiency rating.
14. Derryck Thornton (PG, Duke) – Before he re-classed out of the 2016 high school class, Thornton was the best “pure” point guard out of a talented class. Knows how to run a team, quick first step, good passer, and improving mid-range shooter. Small stature and given he went from playing his junior season at Findlay Prep to Duke, Thornton will be an up and down player. Definitely won’t have a Tyus Jones impact, but will provide Duke with a steady hand at the point guard position.
15. Stephen Zimmerman (C, UNLV) – A finesse 7 footer that will excel at the pick and roll. Can catch and finish at the rim, but will prefer to knock in a 12-15 foot left-handed jumper. Superb passer for his size and can operate out of the high post. Will get pushed around down low and lacks the aggressive mind-set to always perform at a high level. Will put together efficient double-double efforts and then the next game you will wonder where he went.
16. Chase Jeter (PF, Duke) – Go to move is a right hand hook shot. Struggles to go left. Will try to find his niche within Duke’s offense which could be hard this year. Very young for his age, still improving and adding strength. Put together some dominant AAU performances, but will excel more-so as a sophomore.
17. Ray Smith (SF-Arizona) – Suffered a second ACL tear in pre-season. Was a potential NBA draft sleeper before the injury. Long, wiry, athletic guard that will know have missed two seasons in a row due to injury.
18. Tyler Dorsey (SG, Oregon) – Underrated freshman. Was a Top 10 player as a junior before dropping out of the Top 30 before a strong senior season in addition to a fantastic U19 performance playing for Greece. Long first step, good elevation at the rim and on jump-shots. Will step in for Joe Young and become an instant impact player in Eugene.
19. Caleb Swanigan (PF, Purdue) – Junkyard dog power forward. Great hands and rebounder, but a below the rim player. Uses strength and size to uproot weaker players out of post position. Nimble feet and a good short turn-around jump shot. Will struggle when faced with length in the post. Needs to continue to improve stamina. Will slap together several double-doubles, but will also find it more difficult in the post than high school.
20. Jalen Brunson (PG, Villanova) – The best college style point guard in his class. Brunson knows how to run a team efficiently and can score and pass. Brunson is knocked for his athleticism, but his strength and floater help him on drives to the basket and he has deep range on his outside shot.
21. Carlton Bragg (PF, Kansas) – Very well suited for the high-lo offense at Kansas. Prefers to play outside the paint too much, but is an able jumper shooter. Can dominate at times, but lacks consistency. Good bounce and tight form. Should make an impact at Kansas despite the big man depth.
22. Dwayne Bacon (SF, FSU) – Physical small forward that will be one of the top scorers for the Seminoles along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Likes to overpower defenders which could be more of a problem in the ACC, but will not need any time adjusting to college style of play. Should be an all-ACC freshman this year.
23. Jalen Adams (PG, UConn) – Most explosive point guard in the freshmen class. Adams can get by almost any one using his first step. He is a blur in the open court and can finish high above the rim. Produces lots of steals on the defensive end and can also block shots from help-side or when chasing defenders down from behind. Will provide excitement to an already talented UConn backcourt.
24. Justin Simon (PG, Arizona) – Great size and length. Excels with the ball in his hands, but how much time will he see at PG? Old for his age, but the California native will be a regular in the Wildcat rotation. Lock down defender potential. Struggles with outside shot.
25. Luke Kennard (SG, Duke) – Improved foot speed has turned Kennard into a talented player that struggled to create off the dribble into an all-around threat. He will be a three-point weapon from the wings and corners this year and also has the ball-handling and passing skills to player the point. The Ohio native could turn out to be Duke’s most consistent performer.
26. Deyonta Davis (PF, Michigan State) – Pogo stick power forward that is a bit raw offensively, but will be a valuable shot blocker and rebounder for Izzo. Davis will use his athleticism to finish at the rim and has the ability to hit the occasional outside jump shot, but will not be asked to score much during his first year in East Lansing.
27. Thomas Bryant (C, Indiana) – Bryant enters a great situation. Bryant’s strengths will shine while his weaknesses won’t be exposed (that much). High motor kid that never takes a play off. Bryant uses his 7’6” wing span to corral offensive and defensive rebounds. Uses strength and physicality to make life uncomfortable for opposing big men. Limited skills around the basket but will not be asked to score. Can run north-south, but struggles with agility moving east-west. Could average 8-10 rebounds a game.
28. Tyler Davis (C, Texas A&M) – Sean May style body, below the rim big man. Good passer that will struggle with conditioning during his freshman season. Skilled player in the post that can also step outside of the paint to score as well.
29. Elijah Thomas (PF, Texas A&M) – Thomas is a beast in the low post. He missed out on the McDonald’s All-American game, but will impress viewers once he fully returns from an injury that kept him out of some pre-season action. Solid pair of hands down low. Knows how to use his size and is a physical player.
10 Players That Will Play Above Their Ranking:
P.J. Dozier (G, South Carolina, #37) – Came back strong from an ACL injury while also growing taller and getting stronger. Dozier will be a versatile threat for South Carolina. A smooth playmaker that can handle the ball and get to the basket.
Deng Adel (SF, Louisville, #47) – Adel can attack the basket and has a solid mid-range game. He has a tight form on his shot and is a bouncy athlete. Should thrive in Pitino’s system.
Daniel Giddens (PF, Ohio State, #51) – Strong and physical power forward that will dominate the boards and block shots for Thad Matta. Will score off of put-backs and fast breaks, but will be an immediate defensive presence.
Bennie Boatwright (PF, USC, #57) – An ideal stretch four. Boatwright is an excellent shooter for his size and also plays with a mean strength. Will give USC an added dimension this year and will alter the game on both ends of the court.
Aaron Holiday (PG, UCLA, #60) – Just like Thomas Bryant, Aaron Holiday enters into the perfect situation at UCLA. Lacking a true point guard last year, the explosive Holiday can penetrate and is able to finish in the paint or draw fouls through his ability to draw contact.
Tevin Mack (SF, Texas, #61) – Mack was a Shaka Smart recruit at VCU, but is talented enough to make an impact in the Big 12. Mack possesses ideal height for a small forward and can stretch the floor with his outside shooting. A wiry athlete, Mack could make an impact for the Longhorns in his first year.
Esa Ahmad (F, West Virginia, #72) – Bob Huggins got a steal in Ahmad. A physical forward that has skills to play on the perimeter and in the post. He has an old school flair to his game and will provide immediate versatility in the Big 12.
Aaron Falzon (F, Northwestern, #92) – Just like Boatwright, Falzon will space the floor for Northwestern. He has NBA range and loves to shoot. He can put points up in a hurry and will certainly do so in Evanston.
Damion Wilson (G, Pittsburgh, #100) – Wilson is a 6’5” playmaker that is usually too tall and physical for many of the guards he’s going against.
Ed Morrow (PF, Nebraska, #105) - A bit undersized for a power forward, but Morrow brings his lunch pale to work every game. He outplayed numerous big men that were more talented than the Chicago native and should do the same for Nebraska.