10 College Basketball Freshmen Who Could Turn Their Programs Around
When you look at any national high school recruiting site and you see where the best players are going, you find out quickly that elite-level players generally head to some of the most successful programs.
The following list is of 10 college basketball freshmen who could turn their programs around.
As you check this out, you will see that many of the high-profile prospects in the Class of 2013 are missing here. This was not an oversight.
If an elite-level player is going to a school that is solid and stable and winning ball games, they are not included here.
In spite of the fact that Kentucky followed up their 2012 NCAA championship with a first round NIT loss, you won’t find any Wildcat players on this list. Last year was a glitch with a hitch for Calipari and the Cats.
The same is true about other big-time players heading to successful programs. They will not be included here either.
Here we go!
10. Karviar Shepherd (TCU)
TCU’s Karviar Shepherd had offers from almost every Big 12 school, but the 6’9” center from Dallas decided to stay close to home for college.
Horned Frog basketball has been far from dominating over the years. They have only made four NCAA tournament appearances in the last 50 years—one in the 60s, one in the 70s, one in the 80s and one in the 90s.
Last year, in its first year in the Big 12, TCU went 11-21 overall and only won two of its 18 conference games.
But, the future could change in a hurry.
Shepherd’s ESPN scouting report (Insider subscription required) describes why second-year head coach Trent Johnson is optimistic:
He's got some of the sharpest elbows in high school basketball. Shepherd does an excellent job of laying down the law in the lane. He goes up strong for rebounds and gets his elbows extended. He's the kind of center who takes pride in owning his realm and usually gets his way. He's got big feet so we're keeping open the possibility that he isn't done growing. If you come into his area, he'll also reject what comes at him. He has good pace to his game and stays focused.
While Shepherd may not score tons of points right away, he gives the Horned Frogs size, athleticism and an immediate, physical presence in the middle.
9. John Egbunu (South Florida)
South Florida’s John Egbunu will bring serious size (6’10” and 230 lbs.) and critical interior skills to the Bulls lineup.
USF is trying to recover from a disappointing 12-19 (3-15 Big East) season. Bringing in “Big John” will definitely give head coach Stan Heath a nasty front line with 6’9” PF Victor Rudd.
ESPN’s Paul Biancardi listed Egbunu as one of the “Top 5 sleepers in the ESPN 100.” He said (Insider subscription required):
This explosive athlete looks to affect the game in two areas: shot blocking and rebounding. Offensively, he will finish drop-off passes without interruption or wasting time trying to gather himself, and he catches cleanly in traffic, which will help on alley-oop passes. But Egbunu truly separates himself by playing with great energy. He will also have a built-in advantage playing with one of the best point guards in the country next season in Anthony Collins, who finds open teammates and enjoys handing out assists. In his first year, Egbunu's physical tools will allow him to make an instant impact. Over time, as he develops footwork and a go-to move, he will blossom into one of the better post players in the new American Athletic Conference.
Because Heath’s teams focus on determined defense and half-court offense, Egbunu will have the chance to stand out from the liftoff of his collegiate career.
8. Keith Frazier (SMU)
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Keith Frazier surprised a lot of college basketball onlookers when he decided to stay home to go to SMU.
The McDonald’s All American will be one of the smoothest jump shooters in the nation. At 6’5,” Frazier will give head coach Larry Brown an elite wing scorer with NBA range and unlimited confidence. He can absolutely take over games by scoring points in bunches.
With Frazier and a talented group of transfers and high school prospects, the Mustangs will massively improve on their 15-17 (5-11 Conference USA).
Can SMU challenge Louisville, UConn, Memphis or Cincinnati in the new American Athletic Conference? That might be a stretch, but there’s a good chance that Brown’s bunch could make their first March Madness appearance since 1993.
7. Devin Williams (West Virginia)
West Virginia’s Devin Williams couldn’t have picked a batter program to complement his physical style of play. The 6’8 PF matches the kind of player that seems to excel under Bob Huggins.
During this past season, ESPN’s Paul Biancardi mentioned Williams as one of “Five Recruiting Ranking Risers.” He said:
He is a hard worker who does the dirty work by blocking out and rebounding on the defensive end, while also setting screens and scrapping for offensive rebounds. The best way to describe his performance this season is that he asserts his will on opponents in the paint, where he is exceptionally effective. Physically powerful, he scores double-figure points and grabs double-digit rebounds in traffic.
After Williams signed with WVU, CBS Sports’ Jeff Borzello said:
One of the stronger players in the class of 2013, Williams is still developing on the offensive end. He has a great motor, though, and simply outworks opponents in the paint. He's strong enough to overpower players and get points via offensive rebounds. Moreover, he's very good on the glass and he knows how to finish.
The Mountaineers need Williams to come in and contribute in order to improve their unexceptional first year (13-19; 6-12) in the Big 12.
Huggins’ dismissal of Aaric Murray, their leading rebounder from 2012-13, paves the way for Williams to bring it from Day 1.
6. Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina)
South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell gives head coach Frank Martin a gritty wing player to add to his scuffling Gamecock squad. More than just a physical specimen, Thornwell has a well-rounded game that allows him to make a variety of contributions.
The 6’5” SG uses his strength to muscle smaller opponents on the wing or in the post. He is also an outstanding driver who doesn’t mind dishing the ball or kicking it out to teammates ready to score.
His ESPN scouting report says (Insider subscription required):
He has spectacular court vision combined with a high level of athleticism. He is shifty with the ball inside the arc splitting defenders and finishing with either hand at the rim or feeding the open man. Standing at 6'5 he can look over the defense pinpointing his pass or shooting a floater he likes going to.
CBS Sports’ Jeff Borzello detailed the reasons why Thornwell was such a sought-after recruit:
He is one of the tougher scorers in the country, using his strength and body control to score at the rim against defenders. During the spring and summer, he worked on his perimeter shot and his ball-handling ability, attempting to become more well-rounded offensively.
With Thornwell coming to Columbia, South Carolina’s upgrading just took some sizable steps forward.
5. Isaac Hamilton (UTEP)
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
McDonald’s All-American Isaac Hamilton will have a huge impact on this season’s UTEP team…if he ends up playing for the Miners.
The El Paso Times’ Bill Knight reported that Hamilton has asked head coach Tim Floyd to void his national letter of intent. As of now, Floyd has denied Hamilton’s request. Can you blame a coach for trying to clamp down on one of the best recruits since getting to town?
Knight also said that it could take six-to-eight for the NCAA to deliver a decision on this case.
If Hamilton comes to campus, he will provide significant scoring punch and better-than-average playmaking skills.
Stay tuned to see how this one turns out!
4. Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss may be just what is needed to get the Huskies back on the winning track.
His versatility and leadership will help him have an immediate, positive impact on the court.
NWG has had a booming last couple months. He was this year’s McDonald's All-American three-point shooting winner.
He was chosen to play on the Team USA U19 squad that won the World Championship in Prague.
VCU head coach Shaka Smart was one of Billy Donovan’s assistants. Smart had this to say about the 6'3" guard:
I really like him. He made some major, major strides on the trip and is going to be a very good player—probably a four-year player. He helped us win a lot of games. He's a point guard with good size at 6-foot-3 and has a crafty quickness. He's not super-quick, but he can make you pay with angles. He had a phenomenal assist-to-turnover ratio of 4-to-1 and won a lot of people over. After the first day and a half, I wasn't sure he was going to make the team—but he kept getting better and better.
Huskies head coach Lorenzo Romar will immediately benefit from Williams-Goss’ creativity and high basketball IQ.
Washington has only qualified for the NIT the last two years. With NWG on board, look for UDub to be back in the Dance this season.
3. Rysheed Jordan (St John's)
Rysheed Jordan is the typical Philly PG: Assertive, physical and confident. As he heads to St. John’s, he will bring those qualities and more to the Red Storm lineup.
ESPN’s Dave Telep expressed that
Jordan’s rise was well-documented this season as he added the distribution skills to an already-impressive array of drives and his size at 6-foot-4. There’s an element of both potential and production with his ranking as the No. 3 point guard and No. 17 overall recruit.
Jordan ‘s ESPN scouting report declares
He's a big time finisher for a lead guard with strength to absorb contact and explosion to play well above the rim. He's just as good getting to the elbow as he is the rim, where his size enables him to see over the defense to both pass and make short pull-ups.
As the Red Storm prepare to play in the new Big East, Jordan will be more than ready to do his part in helping them elevate above their 17-16 record this past season.
2. Jarrell Martin (LSU)
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Jarrell Martin made a lot of LSU fans very happy when he stayed home to play for the Tigers. He will make them even happier when he gets them back on the right side of 20 wins for the first time in five years.
Martin is still sharpening his skills since he didn’t play his first two years of high school. His explosiveness and athleticism make him a nightmare on the glass at both ends.
ESPN’s Paul Biancardi described (Insider subscription required) why head coach Johnny Jones is ready to start the season today:
His physical tools and skill set, along with a major opportunity, will help Martin dominate early in his college career. He is a big-bodied forward who has excellent ball and shooting skills for his 6-7, 210-pound size. Martin is a matchup nightmare because he can take bigger, less-mobile players away from the basket with his shot and his drive, or he can punish smaller and similar-sized defenders inside the elbows. Playing along with fellow ESPN 100 prospects Tim Quarterman and Jordan Mickey next season, Martin will have plenty of help and a chance to shine. LSU coach Johnny Jones will insert this freshman into his lineup; Martin is a skilled scorer and high-level rebounder who has continued to improve at a steady pace and will no doubt be ready next season.
When the Bayou Bengals put Martin alongside Johnny O'Bryant III, they will have one of the most formidable front lines in the college hoops.
1. Bobby Portis (Arkansas)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Arkansas’ Bobby Portis is the incoming freshman that could have the biggest impact on turning his team around in 2013-14.
The Razorbacks have lingered in a place of ordinariness for the last five seasons, winning less than 20 games each year since 2008.
Portis is a terrific defender, rebounder and shot-blocker. His mobility allows him to get out and fill the lane on the break. The 6’9” PF can beat you either posting up down low or stepping out and nailing jumpers out to the three-point line.
It won’t be a surprise when he averages a double-double this year and competes for the SEC Freshman of the Year.
Portis’ arrival will also help Arkansas get back into post-season play for the first time in three seasons.
Sounds like a win-win to for everyone!