During the 2020-2021 season the Baylor Bears won the National Championship becoming the best team in the nation. As well as a lot of talented players that are going professional or graduated from college. So for this upcoming returning players and incoming freshmen have a chance to prove they are one of the best players in college basketball. With that, Anthony Forrester gives you a preview of his top 25 players in this upcoming college basketball season.
1) Chet Holmgren (Center, Gonzaga, Freshmen) – At 7’1″, Chet Holmgren will be joining the Gonzaga Bulldogs this season. After losing the National Championship the Zags regrouped with the #1 player in the nation. Chet is listed as a center but he’s more of a guard or wing offensively. Defensively, he demonstrates outstanding lateral mobility and timing as a shot-blocker. He can attack off the bounce and is a deadly outside shooter. His fluidity handling the ball is guard-like and shooting off the dribble is not a problem for him. Chet separating into fallaway jumpers and playmaking makes him a tough cover expect Chet to take college basketball by storm.
2) Paolo Banchero (PF, Duke, Freshmen) – Paolo Banchero is a modern day power forward with his combination of power and skill. His offensive game from the high post is where he can pick defenses apart with his jumper and his drives to the bucket. Banchero should be among the best rebounders in his freshmen class. Paolo has the ability to be a playmaker with the pass. He isn’t a dominant shot-blocker, his strength, positioning, and IQ should make him a solid defender.Banchero has gradually expanded his offensive skill set to pose a threat handling the ball in transitions. Paolo is strong and athletic around the basket and shooting off the dribble. He will be a key piece to the Bluedevils.
3) Jabari Smith (PF, Auburn, Freshmen) – Jabari Smith should make an immediate impact at Auburn with his 6’9″ size. The mix of his skill and shooting touch makes him an exciting player. Smith has handles to go to different spots on the court, with an ability to jab step into jumpers. Jabari footwork helps him create with his back to the basket. Jabari has made himself into a reliable three-point shooter. Jabari’s skill set makes him an option for the War Eagles to run their offense through him in the post, stretch the floor or switch defensively.
4) Adrian Griffin (SF, Duke, Freshmen) – At 6’7″ with his 210-pound frame Adrian was a very good player in Highschool with his creation potential, shooting and defensive upside. He’s a three level scorer that is strong enough to match up against 4s. Adrian has a skill set that mirrors most elite wings and guards in college basketball and he hasn’t even debuted yet. Adrian will be a big surprise this college basketball season and I hope Duke is ready for him.
5) Jaden Ivey (SG, Purdue, Sophomore) – He had an impressive freshman season, averaged 11.1 points per game, shooting nearly 51% inside of the arc. Ivey’s freshman flashes of creation and shot-making point to breakout season. Jaden uses off ball screens to get to his jumper and layup package and can shoot or drive off the catch. Improving his three-point percentage should ultimately be the key to the 2021 first round. But with his IQ and the way he plays the game, if he starts hitting outside shots that could be great for a Purdue team that could be a top five squad this season.
6) Bennedict Mathurin (SG, Arizona, Sophomore) – Mathurin’s frame at 6’7″ mixed with his athletic finishes, a 41.8 percent three-ball, and nearly 85% from the free throw line make him a must watch player this season.Benedict has tools from his bounce and jumper which point to a surefire wing in today’s basketball. Mathurin averaged 10.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a freshman this past season looking for those numbers to increase as Bennedict will look to lead the Wildcats this season.
7) Caleb Houstan (SF, Michigan, Freshmen) – Caleb comes into his freshman season at Michigan as one of the most reputable shooters among incoming freshmen. His 6’8″ size, jumper and fluid slashing create a high floor for the three-and-D wing. Playing for a Juwan Howard Michigan team expect Caleb and the Wolverines to be among the nation’s top teams once again for the upcoming season. With two key players like Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers leaving Michigan it opened an opportunity for Caleb the 6’8” and 205 pound wing. Caleb is arguably the best when it comes to catch-and-shoot options in his class.
8) Peyton Watson (SF, UCLA, Freshmen) – At Peyton size, flashes of ball-handling, shooting range, one-on-one scoring and defensive playmaking hint as a breakout player in his freshman year. Peyton is a slender athlete at 6’8”,190 pounds, and he’s going to see his game grow as his body does. His defensive ceiling is high because of the way he moves his feet and the effort he puts out on that end, though he’s starting to tap into offensive skills.
9) Walker Kessler C Auburn Sophomore – The former UNC Tarheel didn’t get to show too much in his freshman season but with a change of scenery at Auburn can quickly change that. Kessler is a unique talent with his size. His shot blocking ability can be unreal. He possesses a very high skill level on the offensive end. Walker can shoot the ball from deep which makes him a stretch big which is key for his offensive game.
10) Johnny Juzang (Guard, UCLA, Junior) – Johnny is a scoring wing with good size and long arms. He recently tested the water for the NBA draft but elected to come back. He has a shoot-first mentality but much improved efficiency. Big time threat off the dribble as he is really a level 3 scorer which we got to witness in the tournament. Juzang can knock down threes in bunches from the perimeter. Can get to the basket but is most comfortable scoring with his jumper. Size, length and athleticism give him upside as a versatile defender. Can improve shot selection and handle.
11) Jalen Duren (C, Undecided, Freshmen) – Duren is one of the best prospects in high school basketball and he just reclassified to play in this upcoming college basketball season. Duren is unstoppable in the low post who commands a double team and always knows where it is coming from. He is more physical, athletic, and bigger than his peers. He runs the floor, can explode off it where he shows value as a conscientious rebounder. His touch around the basket, passing instincts and ability to leap multiple times is noteworthy. He is a motored up workhorse who has an affinity for playing hard. Defensively, Duren is alert while in helpside and alters or blocks shots with great elevation and timing. He has a high ceiling that gives many scouts the reason to believe he can achieve all-pro status someday and have a long career at the highest levels of the sport.
12) Caleb Love (Point Guard, UNC, Sophomore) – Like a lot of UNC freshmen last season Caleb had an up and down year. In year 2 leading the way for a new head coach we should see Caleb excel in year 2. Last season UNC struggled with spacing which didn’t allow him to play to his strengths. Caleb is at his best when attacking the rim and scoring in transition but if Love starts knocking down jumpers as well, he could help lead the Tarheels back to the tournament.
13) Matthew Mayer (SF, Baylor, Senior) – Mayer flashed that ability off the bench this year by putting up 20.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, shooting 39.5% from 3 and helping the Baylor Bears win a National Championship. Looking to repeat as champions Matthew will return as a leader on this year’s team. In limited minutes this past season, the 6’9″ forward was able to show his shooting, passing and athleticism around the rim.
14) Mark Williams (Center, Duke, Sophomore) – Last season Duke had a down year but a bright spot in Williams was the biggest positive to come out of that season.When Williams played at least 25 minutes, the 7’0” averaged 16.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Mark showed flashes of being a beast in the college game and year two will give him another year to show the world what he has in store.
15) Max Abmas (Guard, Oral Roberts, Junior) – Abmas made a name for himself as he helped Oral Roberts Cinderella deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The 6’1” point guard was one of the main two scorers for the Golden Eagles this past season. Abmas averaged 24.6 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game. He also shot 47.8% from the field and 43.3% from three-point range on 8.3 attempts per game. Look for Abmas to lead the nation in scoring and help ORU get back to the tournament.
16) Keyontae Johnson (SF, Florida, Junior) – The Gators star had a rough season last season coming off from covid-19 and a serious health scare. If Keyontae can return to the player he was before the health scare the college basketball world should be worried. The mix of strength and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect and with the loss of Tre Mann Florida will need its star back to lead them in a competitive SEC.
17) Patrick Baldwin Jr (SF, Wis. Milwaukee, Freshmen) – Patrick earned headlines recently when he chose to play for his father at Wisconsin-Milwaukee over blue bloods. Patrick shot-making at his size is highly convincing and would be nice to see it translate to the college game. Patrick ball handling and face-up moves help him play both forward spots. Baldwin is a very skilled player from his jumper, body-controlled finishes and overall smoothness helps cancel out concerns about his explosiveness. He’s arguably the sharpest perimeter-oriented frontcourt player in his class.
18) Kennedy Chandler (PG, Tennessee, Freshmen) – Kennedy has been a winner everywhere he goes and coming off a GEICO National Championship in High School he looks to bring that to Tennessee. He is quick and shifty with sharp handles, Kennedy gets anywhere he wants while maintaining vision for live-dribble playmaking. He’s an excellent passer and improved shooter with touch on his floater. And despite an underwhelming physical profile, Kennedy causes problems on defense with his snapping hands and anticipation. Kennedy has that clutch gene so watch some vols games this season for some excitement.
19) TyTy Washington (PG, Kentucky, Freshmen) – A 6’3″ combo guard, Washington offers a balanced mix of scoring and playmaking with his change of speed. Washington’s ability to be a three-level shot-maker will be important as he joins the Wildcats as much as it would be for his unselfishness to show love to his Kentucky teammates. Signs point to a one-and-done ball-handler with NBA tools, creation ability and a confident jumper.
20) Micah Peavy (SF, TCU, Sophomore) – For Peavy to be the player he wants to be at TCU he’ll likely have to show more ability with his jumper than he did as a freshman at Texas Tech. But during his time he did display the kind of length and smoothness. Athleticism and versatile defense at times, and with him moving on to TCU, he could fare well with a bigger opportunity.
21) Andrew Nembhard (PG, Gonzaga, Senior) – With Jalen Suggs departure the Zags will look to Andrew the senior guard to lead the way. Andrew will be returning to a loaded Zags team. Andrew became a key player behind Gonzaga’s run to the title game last season. He is an interesting player because of his size at 6-foot-5 and playmaking ability which can help him as he will have the keys to the ship.
22) Matt Clevland (SF, FSU, Freshmen) – Matt Clevland is the next big thing to come through FSU. Matt is a natural scorer, manages to rack up points just by capitalizing off transition, driving lanes and cuts. Coach Hamilton doesn’t have to run many plays or ball screens for the 6’6″ wing to produce.
23) Jahvon Quinerly (PG, Alabama, Junior) – After a quiet freshman season at Villanova, Quinerly reminded scouts about his ball-handling and jumper last year with Alabama. A 43.3 percent three-point shooter, he also operates with pace, an exciting bounce to his step and creativity which makes Jahvon a great leader for this Alabama team.
24) Julian Champagnie (SF, St. Johns, Junior) – The 6’8″ wing hit 2.4 threes per game last season. Julian is a wing that can shoot at a high clip and will have a lot of opportunities this upcoming season. Look for Julian to be a 20-point scorer next year in the Big East.
25) Taevion Kinsey (SG, Marshall, Senior) – Taevion is known as an explosive leaper. Kinsey has gradually improved each core skill year by year which should make for an exciting senior season. From his creation and passing to his shooting, Taevion has all the tools to be a great playmaker for his squad. He is a scoring machine with a really solid frame who had a huge jr season and has elected to return to Marshall for his sr. year.