Zion and RJ aren’t the only freshmen with the potential to steal the show at the NCAA Tournament.
Duke’s four freshmen have had a chokehold on the NCAA men’s basketball coverage all season, but Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett controlled the headlines on their way to a No. 1 overall NCAA Tournament seed. Even when Zion wasn’t playing, he held the balance of March Madness in the palm of his hand — and his strained right knee.
These 5 bucket busters are poised to rise out of the shadows and into the March Madness spotlight.
Cam Reddish was the third leading scorer on the Blue Devils this season. Despite a freshman campaign that definitely puts him on the NBA path, the 6-foot-8 forward from Pennsylvania played the background, as the world glamoured over Zion and RJ.
Reddish has become the glue guy on this insanely-talented Duke squad, which features eight players who ranked in the RSCI Top 100 of their respective high school classes. It’s not like the sharp-shooting Cam hasn’t made those 13.7 points per game count. He’s also had some clutch games in which he played a huge factor in Duke wins.
After Reddish scored 22 points including the game-tying 3-pointer and game winning free throw in a 23-point comeback win against Louisville in February, ESPN analyst Jayson Williams said Cam had the potential to be the best pro in his class.
“Cam Reddish is like the Chris Bosh for the Miami Heat,” Williams said. “Think about the Miami Heat, you think about LeBron James, D Wade and then you think about Chris Bosh. When you think about Duke and you think about Cam Reddish, you think about Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett first. Cam Reddish is the biggest enigma in the draft. These are little things you have to see from Cam Reddish.”
Reddish will surely get his shot to leave a deeper imprint on this season in the NCAA Tournament, where the talented but unheralded often rise to king status overnight.
Ja Morant vs. Markus Howard
We can kill two birds with one stone as these two Player of the Year candidates will face each other in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a matchup of explosive scorers.
Both of these future lottery picks will remind folks that there are players from teams other than Duke that will be coveted NBA selections. The 6-foot-3 Morant is a walking highlight reel. The sophomore guard is averaging 24.6 points, 10.0 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals in 36.5 minutes per game. He’s also money from the field and from three.
The 5-foot-11 Howard was sixth in the nation in scoring, averaging 25.0 points, 4.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 33.6 minutes per game. When it comes to lighting it up, Howard is Times Square on a Saturday night. He poured in 45 points twice this season and hung a half dollar plus 3 on Creighton back in January.
Shamorie Ponds: The Redemption
It’s make or break time for St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds, who didn’t do much in The Big East Tournament to help his chances of elevating into the first round of the NBA Draft. The 6-foot-1, All-Big East junior shot 4-for-14 with just 13 points in a loss to Marquette in the quarterfinals, after scoring 18 points and shooting 75 percent (3-of4) from three in an opening-round win against Depaul.
With some help from the selection committee, Ponds and the Red Storm have a chance to redeem themselves in a First Four matchup against Arizona State on Wednesday. This is the perfect spot for Ponds (19. 5 ppg) to show his NBA ability and lift his team in the big moment. Arizona State ranks 78th in the nation in team defensive efficiency. A 30-point explosion is definitely in play for Ponds.
UNC Freshman Sensation Coby White
The kids already love Coby. North Carolina’s dynamic freshman averaged 16 points and 4 assists per game for the Tar Heels.
“Coby White can push that basketball the way I like it to be pushed, probably better than anybody I’ve had since Ty (Lawson),” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
The 6-foot-5 guard is also a favorite of the junior high school and high school hoop fans as well. Any freshman who scored more points than Michael Jordan at UNC is must-see TV.