The Dopest College Basketball Freshmen You Need To Watch In 2017-2018

Last year’s NBA Draft proved that the one-and-done phenomenon in college hoops is no longer reserved for a select few. If you weren’t dedicated to watching the game on a consistent basis, you weren’t able to see very much of the guys who comprised the upper tier of the league’s selections on draft night.

Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Duke’s Jayson Tatum, Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, Arizona’s Lauri Markkenen, North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. and Gonzaga’s Zach Collins comprised 10 of the first 11 picks.

The first upperclassman selected, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, didn’t come off the board until the 15th selection.

And this year, this will not be much different. The 2017-2018 freshman class is loaded with exceptionally talented players that won’t be around the college game for long. 

I’ve always held a special affinity for players that are able to walk in straight from the prep ranks and dominate, and still marvel at the campaigns of guys like Kenny Anderson, Shaq, the artist formerly known as Chris Jackson, Pervis Ellison, Carmelo, Patrick Ewing, Ralph Sampson, Pearl Washington and Wayman Tisdale, among others. But for the most part, other than Melo, those guys hung around the college game for awhile.

Today, that’s no longer the case. So if you want to see some of the college game’s best players, you need to check them early and often, because in the blink of an eye, they’ll be getting fitted for custom suits come the next draft night.

Here’s a list of the illest one-and-done’s to peep this year. And you better not wait for the NCAA Tournament either. Fortunately, I’ve been able to see most of these guys on the high school stage, so I have some familiarity with their games, unique skill sets and potential. Hopefully, you’ll set aside some time to see it to, before they bolt towards their NBA dreams, which for most of them is only a few games away.

Mohamed Bamba, Texas – The Harlem native already exhibits some Marcus Camby-like potential on the defensive end as a long, fluid 7-footer who can change the tenor of a game with his shot-blocking prowess and rebounding. 

5-Star Mohamed Bamba Dominates High School with a 7’8″ Wingspan!

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What impressed me most about Mo when watching him matched up against elite competition in high school was how he continued to hustle and provide energy, even when he wasn’t the offensive focal point, creating his own opportunities with a healthy appetite for getting boards.

Michael Porter Jr., Missouri – The 6-Foot-8 small forward is smooth, athletic and very competitive. He has versatility galore and a sweet mid-range game. He can do damage off the catch-and-shoot and off the dribble. He always plays with an advanced intelligence off the ball. 

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Porter can pass the rock, attacks the boards and is excellent on the perimeter as a defender as well. He’s projected by many to be among the top three picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Trevon Duval, Duke – The 6-Foot-2 floor general with a wingspan measuring 6-Foot-8 is super exciting in the open floor. Do not, I repeat, do not take your eyes off of him when he’s handling and pushing the rock in transition. He reminds me of a young Kyrie and Rod Strickland with his ability to get anywhere he wants to on the floor while dribbling, regardless of traps and defensive pressure. 

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When he’s driving to the rim, he gets there at will. A great facilitator in the passing game, he can also take over a game when he feels it’s necessary with his ability to get buckets. With his toughness, wingspan, quickness and understanding of the game, he can also bring the pain as a perimeter defender.

Troy Brown, Oregon – The 6-foot-7 guard can run like the wind and jump into the stratosphere. My man dominates above the rim. Along with some freaky handles, the Las Vegas native will be a certified problem once he improves his post moves, mid-range repertoire and deep ball. 

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Troy Brown Jr. has committed this afternoon to Dana Altman and the Oregon Ducks. A native of Las Vegas, NV, Brown is a 6’7, 210 pound versatile forward who could play anywhere from the 1-3. Brown attends Centennial High School where he’s considered the top senior in the state along with being ranked a Top 15 prospect among multiple national recruiting outlets along.

A willing passer, he’s got some point guard boogie to go along with his shooting guard skill set.

Marvin Bagley, Duke – The 6-foot-11 lefty from Phoenix is ridiculously versatile and talented. He’ll be off the 2018 NBA Draft board within the first three picks. Despite his size and length, his athleticism is off the charts. Anyway you need a bucket, he can give it to you. You need power? No problem. Finesse? No Problem. Above the rim off a put-back dunk? No Problem. Splashing three’s? No Problem. 

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Here is Marvin Bagley III’s official Ballislife junior year mixtape. Bagley has maintained his #1 ranking in the class of 2018 all three years of high school so far and doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. At 6’11” he moves around like a guard with range that stretches out to the three yet he is skilled in the post as well.

He’ll lead the transition off the boards and finish with a ridiculous dunk on the other end. Bagley can play and guard multiple positions on both ends of the court. An unselfish teammate who loves to rebound and block shots, people are already penciling him as one of the top candidates for Player of the Year honors. Along with his tremendous natural ability and gifts, he’s also fundamentally sound.

Gary Trent Jr., Duke – The strong, 6-foot-6 wing hunts buckets with a physical hunger that is reminiscent of his pops, who was a bulldog on the court back in the day. Trent has innate instincts coupled with a physicality and aggressiveness that make him tough to handle. 

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A fierce competitor, he enjoys hitting the glass and has a decent stroke from beyond the 3, both as a spot-up shooter and off the dribble. Very good defender who can both muscle his opponent while also being adept at getting into the passing lanes for steals.

Collin Sexton, Alabama – The 6-foot-2 point guard is the highest ranked prospect that head coach Avery Johnson has been able to lure to Tuscaloosa. The Atlanta native has some cat-like quickness and excels on the offensive end, both as a shooter and as a penetrator in the halfcourt and transition. Sexton can drop it in off of sweet, soft floaters along with difficult step-back J’s from deep with a hand in his face.

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He’s always in attack mode, probing defenses to find the sweet spots while unafraid to both initiate and finish through contact. An excellent offensive rebounder, Sexton has great lateral quickness which serves him well on the defensive end. He’s a fearless player that can finish with both hands at the rim.

DeAndre Ayton, Arizona – The 7-footer from Nassau, Bahamas runs with a fluidity that belies his size. A ferocious rebounder, he’s a defensive menace that alters shots with his mere, intimidating presence.  Watching him in workouts while matched up against other elite talent, his footwork and athleticism is exceptional for someone of his size.

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DeAndre Ayton is a 7’0 center, ranked #1 overall in 2017 by ESPN. He attends Hillcrest Academy (AZ). Ayton played with Cal Supreme this summer on the EYBL circuit. Follow @EliteMixtapesNC on Twitter

His understanding of the high/low post game and the pick-and-roll is way more advanced than most big men his age. A patient scorer in the paint, he has a very nice touch when contested down low and he has a surprisingly nice stroke from deep. Ayton also sees the floor exceptionally well, and hurts defenses when passing out of the double-team and finding cutters for easy looks. Like Porter and Bagley, he’s penciled in as the possible #1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State – The 6-foot-10 big man from Indianapolis has a soft set of hands that allows him to convert with a certain smoothness in the paint. He swallows rebounds, can shoot from the perimeter and is an innate shot-blocker. 

5 Star Jaren Jackson Jr is Michigan State Bound! Official Junior AAU Mixtape!

Jaren Jackson Jr. has always been labeled as someone with potential. His shot-blocking ability has always been there. His ability to take over a game, not so much. This past AAU season while running with the Indy Spiece Heat, he took that next step. Scouts took note and Jaren Jr.

He understands spacing and moves the ball well. Jackson is also adept at putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket. Still only 17 years old, his potential is through the roof.

Lonnie Walker, Miami – A raw talent who excels as a slasher, Walker is a demon when it comes to attacking the rim. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard out of Reading, Pennsylvania has exceptional quickness, moves well without the ball and is very agile. 

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Lonnie Walker, who’s headed to the University of Miami next fall, has been shooting the ball incredibly well so far here this week at the McDonald’s All-American practices. He’s also put his athleticism on display at times. Definitely a player to keep an eye out for in tomorrow night’s game.

He looks extremely comfortable shooting on the wing and elevates with ease.

Wendell Carter, Duke – Carter has a rare combination of strength and finesse for a big man. He’ll seek out contact in the paint and can finish at the rim with both hands. He can attack off the bounce and excels at grabbing offensive boards. 

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Wendell Carter is a 5-star power forward from Atlanta, Georgia. He plays for Pace Academy in school ball and Team CP3 in the spring and summer’s EYBL circuit. There is not a more physical and explosive big man in the 2017 class and that’s why he’s ranked 3rd overall and 1st at his position.

His mobility stands out, along with his work ethic. 

Kevin Knox, Kentucky – Knox has a plethora of skills that allows him to play both the small and power forward positions. He’s a load to handle down low and also has some mid-range and perimeter scoring skills. His strength is finishing in transition, but he’s also got skills off the catch-and-shoot and scoring off the dribble. 

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He’s also very versatile on the defensive end and can guard a wide range of positions. His quickness and mobility is a problem for opposing big men, and his size creates mismatches on the wing. Knox has the athleticism, bounce and hunger that translates well on the boards and on the defensive end.

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