This year’s freshman class might not have quite as much talent as the star-studded group that shook up college basketball last season and produced the first seven picks in the most recent NBA draft.
But it still has plenty of difference makers.
“It’s a good class, just maybe not an exceptional star-power class like we saw last year,” said Jerry Meyer, the director of scouting for 247Sports.
The most notable newcomers arguably are Duke forward Marvin Bagley III and Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. They’re the top two prospects in the class according to composite rankings of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports .
Porter is just the fifth freshman ever to make the Associated Press preseason All-America team .
“If you were in a laboratory and creating a power forward, Marvin Bagley would be the guy,” Meyer said. “And if you’re creating a small forward or wing player, Michael Porter would be the guy.”
Here’s a rundown of some freshmen poised to make major impacts in the 2017-18 college basketball season.
DeANDRE AYTON, ARIZONA
Notes: Ayton, who is from the Bahamas, has averaged 26 points and 10.5 rebounds in two preseason exhibition games with the third-ranked Wildcats after being rated as the nation’s No. 4 prospect in his class according to the 247Sports Composite. “It’s his intelligence that sets him apart more than anything, in my opinion,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “He’s got great ability, but he knows what he’s doing out there and he makes his teammates better.” Ayton also is so athletic that he can jump high enough to touch the top of the backboard. He may be the final piece that earns Miller his first Final Four appearance.
MARVIN BAGLEY III, DUKE
Notes: Bagley was the consensus No. 1 recruit in the 2018 class before reclassifying so that he could start his college career now. “He has a very refined jump hook for a player who hasn’t even played in college yet,” Meyer said. “He’s way ahead of the curve.” Bagley had 24.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season at Sierra Canyon in Chatsworth, California. Bagley averaged 20.5 points and 8 rebounds in two exhibition games with the top-ranked Blue Devils . “The kid, he really loves to play,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is just unique – and you have to let unique happen.” Bagley leads a loaded Duke recruiting class that includes three other players also rated among the top 17 prospects in the 247Sports Composite: Trevon Duval (6th), Wendell Carter (7th) and Gary Trent Jr. (17th).
MOHAMED BAMBA, TEXAS
Notes: Bamba, ranked third in the 247Sports Composite, will try to help rejuvenate a Texas program coming off an 11-22 season . Bamba had 15 points and 10 rebounds in an exhibition victory over Texas A&M. “He’s an elite rim protector and just kind of an unbelievable defensive presence,” Meyer said. “He’s so long and he thrives at being good at it – his shot blocking and his rebounding. I think he’s going to surprise a little bit with his offense because what you focus on and talk about is his defense, but he’s not a bad offensive player by any means.” Bamba was born in Harlem, New York, but played high school basketball at Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His parents are originally from the Ivory Coast but met in New York.
KEVIN KNOX, KENTUCKY
Notes: We could have put a few different Kentucky newcomers on this list, but we believe Knox could make the biggest impact for the fifth-ranked Wildcats. Knox is the son of former Florida State wide receiver Kevin Knox, who played on the Seminoles’ 1993 national championship team. He averaged 28.5 points and 11.3 rebounds his senior year at Tampa Catholic after collecting 30.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game as a junior. Knox had 15 points and 11 rebounds in Kentucky’s final exhibition game. Meyer says that Knox is still a little unrefined at this point but has “freaky” athleticism. Kentucky’s freshman class includes seven players rated 31st or better in the 247Sports Composite: Hamidou Diallo (10th), Knox (11th), Jarred Vanderbilt (12th), P.J. Washington (15th), Nick Richards (18th), Quade Green (26th) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31st).
MICHAEL PORTER JR., MISSOURI
Notes: Porter faces the burden of trying to help turn around a Missouri program that has finished in the Southeastern Conference basement each of the last three years. Porter showcased his enormous potential by collecting 21 points and eight rebounds in an exhibition loss to No. 4 Kansas. “There’s really nothing offensively he can’t do, and he has versatility defensively as well,” Meyer said. Porter headlines a heralded Missouri recruiting class that also includes his younger brother Jontay Porter, who reclassified from the 2018 class so that he could begin his college career right away.
TRAE YOUNG, OKLAHOMA
Notes: Young will try to lead his hometown school back to NCAA Tournament contention after the Sooners staggered to an 11-20 finish last season . Young, ranked 23rd in the 247Sports Composite, scored a whopping 42.6 points per game his senior year at Norman (Oklahoma) North High School. Young had 23 points and six assists in Oklahoma’s final exhibition game. “He’s going to score,” Meyer said. “The questions for Trae will just be defensively, containing his opposition and holding up physically. He doesn’t have the biggest frame. He’s kind of slight, so just holding up to the rigors of high-major college basketball the whole season, those will be the questions. The one thing that’s not a question is (whether) he’s going to score points. He’s a natural-born scorer.”
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