Jon Rothstein over at the FanRag Sports Network put together a list of the 25 impact freshman to watch in NCAA basketball this season.
More than half of the list comes from blue blood programs, with Kentucky having the most representation. Five Kentucky Wildcats appear on the list, while there are four players from Duke and two from UCLA.
Rothstein did not rank the players on the list, but he did talk about why each player has the potential to make an impact on his team. This is what he had to say about the young Kentucky guys:
Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky: A freak athlete, the 6-5 Diallo has wiry athleticism that simply cannot be taught. After almost a full year on Kentucky’s campus since arriving last January, this kid should be ready to hit the ground running when the season starts on November 10. Think another Latrell Sprewell.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky: While the expectation is that [Quade] Green will replace Fox as the Wildcats’ starting point guard next season, don’t count out the forgotten piece of Kentucky’s fabled recruiting class. Gilgeous-Alexander has great size for a guard at 6-5, boasting the length to guard multiple positions.
Quade Green, Kentucky: The Philadelphia native is expected to replace De’Aaron Fox as the Wildcats’ starting floor general next season, arriving in Lexington with high-level cachet thanks to his ability to set the table. If a teammate is open, Green will find him.
Kevin Knox, Kentucky: The combo forward is being touted as a “6-9 version of Malik Monk” and should be a lock to start for the Wildcats next season on the wing opposite Diallo. Rupp Arena will love this kid’s ability to fill it up.
P.J. Washington, Kentucky: Versatility personified, the 6-8 Washington can play either forward spot and will be a regular mismatch for opponents. Armed with the ability to score both inside and out, the Findlay Prep product will give the Wildcats another player with size who can affect the game offensively, both around and away from the basket.
While it is no surprise that there is a slew of Wildcats on this list, some may have expected Jarred Vanderbilt to be listed here as well. If healthy, those in Lexington expect him to have as much of an impact on this group as anyone.
Regardless, the praise for this incoming class at Kentucky continues to pour in from virtually every sports media outlet. This may be Coach Calipari’s youngest team to date, but their versatility and athleticism may be just enough to ease the learning curve early in the season.
In addition to the Kentucky players, the SEC is represented on Rothstein’s list by Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri), J.J. Caldwell (Texas A&M), and Collin Sexton (Alabama). Notable omissions from the list are LiAngelo Ball (UCLA) and Austin Wiley (Auburn), although Wiley’s absence may be explained by the stress fracture in his left leg.
What do you think of Rothstein’s list?