These Are The Top 25 Freshmen Of Men's College Basketball

We can't wait to see where their careers take them.
Kentucky guards De'Aaron Fox, far left, and Malik Monk have both been marvelous, but Washington's Markelle Fultz has asserted himself as the best freshman in the country.
Kentucky guards De'Aaron Fox, far left, and Malik Monk have both been marvelous, but Washington's Markelle Fultz has asserted himself as the best freshman in the country.
Getty Images

College basketball’s freshmen class of 2016 was graced with the much-hyped Australian Ben Simmons, a polarizing blend of passing and rebounding whom Philadelphia selected first overall in the NBA Draft. There was also Duke’s Brandon Ingram ― unfairly compared to Kevin Durant ― and the Lakers’ choice with the second pick. Naturally, Kentucky was actively involved in this process, too. In fact, there were five freshmen drafted in the lottery and 10 in the first round last year.

The 2017 freshmen class is once again brimming with potential, perhaps even more than last year. Duke, for example, has a wealth of talent: Power forward Harry Giles, while small forward Jayson Tatum and combo guard Frank Jackson have also flashed tremendous ability, albeit not in consistent doses.

John Calipari’s quartet of ESPN Top 100 recruits in Lexington isn’t too shabby either. Malik Monk stole all the headlines when he dropped a school-record 47 points ― including the eventual game-winning triple ― against highly touted North Carolina in Las Vegas. But his backcourt mate, De’Aaron Fox, is a lightning quick point guard with splendid creative abilities and exceptional on-ball defensive characteristics.

Maybe the best freshman of all, however, is Washington’s Markelle Fultz, an enticing playmaker with few flaws. The 6-foot-4 guard hailing from the basketball-rich Washington, D.C., area averages over 23 points per game, which ranks sixth in the country. And he could very well be the No. 1 pick in June, should he turn pro.

With that in mind, here are my top 25 freshmen ― not ranked in order ― for this college hoops season.

All stats are through Feb. 8.

Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Christian Petersen via Getty Images
Fultz is the biggest recruit in Washington history, and that includes decorated names like Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson and Spencer Hawes. Lorenzo Romar's club isn't particularly good elsewhere, which gives the 6-foot-4 Fultz a real opportunity to display his array of skills. A highly fluid scorer without any real weaknesses -- he hails from the basketball hotbed of Upper Marlboro, MD -- Fultz is terrific in pick-and-roll and with the tricky in-between game. He can really shoot it as well, a huge plus for a young guard who already has the ball skills to be immediately effective as a pro. Fultz's 23.2 points per game slot him sixth in the country.
Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
Michael Reaves via Getty Images
Jackson was widely regarded as the top prospect in his class and you can't help but draw comparisons with him and former Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, was probably a better shooter at this point, but Jackson displays similar athletic traits, along with the ability to drive the basketball and lock down three positions. He is the type of player every NBA team covets -- a lockdown defender who can get to the rim whenever he wants. And Jackson can pass, too: He averaged over six assists as a high school senior and has flashed his passing prowess in Lawrence as well. Plus, he has excelled playing the four spot for Bill Self.
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Ball dazzles with the rare ability to control a game without scoring. He is likened to former UCLA star point guard Russell Westbrook. Lofty expectations come with being the Gatorade High School Player of the Year. At 6-foot-5, Ball is a slashing playmaker who excels in transition. As he continually develops in pick-and-roll and further masters the tempo at this level, he will have a chance to exceed to the expectations bestowed upon him by bringing a national championship back to Westwood for the first time in over two decades. His 7.8 assists per game rank second in the country.
T.J. Leaf, F, UCLA
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leaf may not have been as heralded as Ball, but he's arguably been even more important. The former Arizona commit was the 13th rated player in ESPN's Top 100, and he's burst onto the scene for Steve Alford. His all-around game at 6-foot-9 is complemented by a fluidness we rarely see with young bigs. He is fantastic as both a face-up scorer and passer. And he had one NBA head coach gushing to me over his offensive prowess. Leaf leads the Bruins in both scoring and rebounding (17 and 9), as well as 3-point percentage (47 percent).
Harry Giles, PF, Duke
USA Today Sports / Reuters
Standing nearly 6-foot-11 and somewhere between 222 and 235 pounds, Giles reminds us of Chris Webber. Add in a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a maximum standing reach an inch taller than Anthony Davis, Giles has the body to play either position on the front line. He tore his MCL and meniscus in his left knee, and he’s torn the ACL in both knees -- all before turning 18. So don't let his limited sample size fool you. The returns on Giles will come.
Jayson Tatum, F, Duke
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Tatum has emerged as a top-notch offensive weapon for Duke. At 6-foot-8, he can post up, as well as face up out to the 3-point line. His ability to handle the ball is a huge bonus as well. While Tatum isn't a special athlete nor a great finisher at the rim yet, his immense skill stands out. He is a typical new age NBA wing.
Frank Jackson, SG, Duke
Lance King via Getty Images
Jackson is a combo guard and one of the main reasons Duke will contend for a sixth title under Mike K. Similar to teammate Grayson Allen -- the Wooden Award favorite -- Jackson can fill it up from deep, while attacking the paint and using his elite leaping ability to finish among the trees. Remember, "Frank from Utah" was named the McDonald's All-American game MVP and the dunk contest champion as well.
Dennis Smith, Jr., PG, North Carolina State
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Smith's smooth handle and creativity is sensational. He was a great get for NC State head coach Mark Gottfried. Not only did he replace an NBA caliber point guard in Cat Barber, but he entered Raleigh amid ACC Player of the Year expectations. A downhill player with elite quickness, Smith impresses with his finishing and passing ability, as well as an eagerness to compete defensively. Averaging nearly 19 points and 7 assists, he is likely to eclipse 200 free-throws as well. With respect to Kansas' Frank Mason III, here isn't a more all-around guard -- regardless of class -- in America.
Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Alkins hails from basketball-rich Brooklyn and is a pure power guard (think Lance Stephenson). At 6-foot-5, he attacks with ease, flashing tremendous scoring ability. Alkins would be well served to become a more consistent perimeter shooter to complement his driving, but there is no question that his blend of size, dynamic ability and defensive prowess will take him to the next level.
Kobi Simmons, PG, Arizona
Darryl Oumi via Getty Images
Simmons is a dynamic scorer and not much more at this point, but that's OK. The Atlanta native possesses the prototypical size at 6-foot-4 for a lead guard. He must add weight to a lean frame for the next level, but Simmons has assumed most of the playmaking responsibilities of formerly suspended guard Allonzo Trier. He's not a great pick-and-roll operator yet, but Trier's ability to get into the paint is undoubtedly impressive.
Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Christian Petersen via Getty Images
Markkanen is a wonderfully skilled, classic new-age NBA big who can spread the floor as a shooter. Don't let his shooting overshadow his interior game, though. The 7-foot Finnish product is constantly mixing it up in the paint, while showing the capacity to score with either hand as well. He is deft out of the pick-and-roll as well.
Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
Lexington Herald-Leader via Getty Images
Monk, an Arkansas product, is one of the most ready NBA guards to play for John Calipari. The comparison I would make is former Temple product and NBA All-Star Eddie Jones. Monk is 6-foot-3, so he's not as big. But he's a rangy athlete with unlimited shooting range. Monk is decent enough in the pick-and-roll, as well as in isolation opportunities and clearly relishes primetime: He lit up North Carolina for a school-record 47 points, including the game-winning triple. If he can become a more versatile playmaker for others, that would be the icing on the cake to this exciting young talent.
Wenyen Gabriel, F, Kentucky
Andy Lyons via Getty Images
Gabriel is Calipari's junkyard dog. He can defend and finish in the paint, but isn't asked to do much more. At 6-foot-9, though, Gabriel's length and athleticism make him a highly intriguing NBA prospect, especially if he stays in school another year or two to further his offensive game.
De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
USA Today Sports / Reuters
The fastest guard in America -- and it's not even close. Fox, who is 6-foot-3, runs the show for John Calipari and Kentucky. Calipari has called this maybe his quickest backcourt ever -- or at least since the John Wall/Eric Bledsoe combination. The dynamic Fox is most lethal in the open floor and is an effective isolation player. He is a total non-shooter at this point in his career (has only attempted 31 3s) and that's OK. The lefty more than makes up for it with his passing (5 assists) and ability to finish (16 points per game).
Edrice "Bam" Adebayo, C, Kentucky
Steven Ryan via Getty Images
The 6-foot-10 Adebayo is a physical specimen who also happens to play with a relentless motor. Like Bismack Biyombo, but maybe with more offensive upside. Adebayo is a potentially dominant rebounder and defender with a decent enough touch around the rim to get double digit points as well.
Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State
Michael Reaves via Getty Images
Bridges is the most explosive dunker Tom Izzo has had since Jason Richardson, and he might be the most exciting prospect as well. The Flint native -- Izzo's favorite -- can score in a variety of ways, using his powerful frame and athleticism to get back to his left hand. He has enjoyed an exceptional freshman campaign -- averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds -- despite an uncharacteristically subpar Spartans team.
Tony Bradley, PF, North Carolina
Lance King via Getty Images
The McDonald's All-American has flashed for the Heels, but hasn't dominated. An excellent rebounder (about 15 per 40 minutes), the 6-foot-10 Bradley is a fluid young four man with a decent set of skills. His mobility and length (7-foot-4 wingspan) are very hard to ignore.
Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Michael Reaves via Getty Images
Allen, who hails from Austin, has a deft shooting touch in the paint and displays good dexterity for a 6-foot-11 freshman. While he must improve his toughness, he isn't soft -- just really young. The upside isn't as high as his peers on the list, but he will play in the NBA for a long time.
Jonathan Isaac, SF, Florida State
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Isaac, a Florida native, is an impressive talent who impacts the game in a variety of ways. He can score when needed, but his rebounding (8 per game) is more noticeable, as is a tireless motor to lock down his man. At 6-foot-11, he is a natural small forward, with the potential to guard three or even four positions.
Charlie Moore, PG, California
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Moore was an ESPN Top 100 guy and has quietly become one of the most underrated guards in the Pac-12. He can really shoot it (40 percent 3s) and is an explosive scorer who can get his in bunches. The challenge for the 5-foot-11 Chicago product is simply to become a more harassing defender and more consistent offensive weapon.
Zach Collins, PF, Gonzaga
William Mancebo via Getty Images
Collins, the 6-foot-10 freshman from Las Vegas, has quickly become a terrific weapon for Mark Few. He converts an incredible 66 percent of his field goals -- though most are in the paint -- and displays a capable shooting touch out to 15 feet. Collins is a big reason why the Zags have achieved the best start in school history, along with a No. 1 ranking.
Justin Patton, C, Creighton
USA Today Sports / Reuters
Creighton continues to pile up wins, in large part to Patton, the local product out of Omaha. At 6-foot-11, Patton is a really big kid and surprisingly nimble athlete. His 18-point (9-12 shooting), 8-rebound, 2-block effort against previously undefeated and No. 1 Villanova proved he doesn't mind the big stage either. He knows what to do with the ball on the block and, like North Carolina's Tony Bradley, runs the floor extremely well.
Robert Williams, PF, Texas A&M
Robert Laberge via Getty Images
Williams is oozing with potential. At 6-foot-9 with an insane 7-foot-4 wingspan, he plays really big. From a defensive standpoint, he is a natural shot-blocker with impeccable timing. Offensively, he understands spacing well and likes to post up on both blocks. He can shoot it as well.
Mustapha Heron, SG, Auburn
Frederick Breedon via Getty Images
Heron -- ESPN's 25th rated player in his class -- was a big fish to land for third-year head coach Bruce Pearl. And he's yet to disappoint. After averaging 30 points per game in high school, the powerfully built 6-foot-4 Heron has averaged over 16 points per game on 40 percent 3-point shooting for the Tigers. Plus, he is an outstanding guard rebounder (5.7 per game).
Marcus LoVett, PG, St. John's
Steven Ryan via Getty Images
LoVett is a better version of fellow freshman standout guard Shamorie Ponds. Firstly, he possesses a prodigious ability to score the ball (17 per game). He's constantly probing the lane, using his terrific handle and first step to attack gaps and straight-line drive. What is most impressive about the Indiana native is his efficiency: LoVett converts 48 percent from the floor and 41 percent from 3, both sensational numbers.

Email me at, ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report. Be sure to check out Bleacher Report during all of March Madness for my coverage.

Before You Go

Popular in the Community