NCAA Basketball 2012: Austin Rivers and the Top 15 Freshmen to Watch Next Season
Those who have followed the basketball recruiting scene for the past couple seasons are well aware of Austin Rivers' talents, while the rest of the basketball world is just getting used to his name on the big stage.
After a solid performance in last weeks McDonald’s All-American game, Rivers created a lot of buzz in the slam contest and even more so for his play in the big game.
Everyone is talking about Rivers, but there are plenty of other talented freshmen in his class that will be making an impact for big time programs next season.
Having had the privilege of seeing many of these players compete numerous times last summer in the Nike Global Challenge, we bring you an advanced look at the next March Madness standouts.
That said, SwishScout.com presents “Austin Rivers and 15 Freshmen To Keep An Eye On Next Season.”
Note: On every player, you can click their name or school to take you to a more detailed profile for a more extensive scouting report and highlights on the respective prospect.
15. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia)
The Georgia prep star is staying home for his NCAA career, looking to build on the recent success Mark Fox has had with the Bulldogs.
Kentavious is a feisty swingman who has great quickness, athleticism, and defensive instincts to pick up a high volume of steals.
If he has a foot of space beyond the arc, the attempt from three is going up without little hesitation. He’s not great at creating off the dribble, but he gives Georgia a serious perimeter shooting threat and needed athleticism on the wing if Travis Leslie departs for the NBA.
14. Nick Johnson (Arizona)
If you haven’t already seen this 6’3” highflyer in action, check out his dunks; they are some of the craziest you will see from a prep player. Johnson is a tremendously gifted basketball player in terms of athleticism and feel for the game.
Perhaps one of the bigger snubs from the McDonald’s All-American game, Nick will be a much needed scoring addition to Arizona next season. He’s a smart, refined player who does everything well and plays extremely tenacious perimeter defense.
The nephew of former NBA star Dennis Johnson, Nick will be a highlight player next season for Zona and could become one of the nation’s best players in a couple seasons.
13. Myck Kabongo (Texas)
Perhaps the coolest name of the 2011 prep class, Kabongo is an absolute wizard with the ball in his hands.
Myck is one of the most refined and mature players in terms of skill set, where he excels at beating the D off the dribble and delivering jaw dropping assists.
Considered by some to be the top point guard in the class, Kabongo doesn’t quite have the crazy upside, athleticism, or shooting ability that other prospects at the PG position have.
With Dogus Balbay graduating and the potential departure of Cory Joseph, Kabongo should be the starter in Austin from day one and could lead them the Longhorns on a deep run through the 2012 NCAA Tournament if Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton remain.
12. LeBryan Nash (Oklahoma State)
Another from the coolest name category, LeBryan has an NBA body and game that has drawn multiple comparisons to Ron Artest.
Not to be outdone by Artest’s theatrics, Nash served up an outlandish surprise of his own to win the 2011 McDonald’s All-American Slam Dunk Contest.
A potential ‘one and done’ caliber player, Nash will be the center of attention for the Pokes in Stillwater next season and on the NBA radar. Great strength, scoring prowess, and rebounding ability, but needs to keep working on his shooting.
11. Jabari Brown (Oregon)
Heading to Eugene after the Ducks won the 2011 CBI title (last year’s 2010 CBI winner VCU, of course made this year’s Final Four) expectations are high for hoops next season.
The crown jewel of Dana Altman’s first year recruiting class, Brown embodies the Ducks up-tempo offense and dangerous 3-point shooting.
A gifted, but streaky shooter, Jabari is a versatile combo guard game that will give Oregon a ‘go-to’ threat on the wing with his ability to create his own shot on the perimeter or get to the basket.
A five star caliber player by nearly every recruiting publication, Brown is the best recruit that Oregon has had at guard since Aaron Brooks back in 2003.
10. Khem Birch (Pittsburgh)
Birch is a little known player from Canada who is a high school Junior that decided to graduate early, but he’s an impact post player right now who should dominate the Big East in the post.
Birch is an absolute whirlwind in the paint that snatches any and every rebound in the vicinity with his monster length, strength, and athleticism. Plays with a great motor around the basket and finishes strong at the rim, reminding some of a young Kenyon Martin.
Doesn’t have a great perimeter jumper or ball skills off the dribble, but he will lock down the paint on both ends of the floor for Jamie Dixon and Pittsburgh next season.
9. Adonis Thomas (Memphis)
Josh Pastner has kept the marquee player from Tennessee at home, getting Thomas to commit to Memphis, where he will be their most heralded recruit since Tyreke Evans.
Adonis is a smart, savvy player who can make an impact regardless of if the ball is in his hands or not. Possesses an NBA body and exceptional basketball IQ that will throttle the Tigers’ attack in Conference USA next season.
Another potential ‘one and done’ prospect, NBA scouts are eager to get a better look at his refined game and potential at the small forward position against NCAA competition.
8. Michael Gilchrist (Kentucky)
Considered by many to be among the best players in the nation for the past couple seasons, Gilchrist is supremely talented but may not even be the best player on his own team next season.
Coming in on another stellar John Calipari recruiting class, Gilchrist is a versatile player with great toughness, rebounding ability, and attack mode.
Very uneven perimeter shooter right now who needs further work on his stroke, Mike is an NBA small forward specimen in terms of athleticism and build.
Expect him to make an impact similar to what Terrence Jones did this past seasons for Kentucky’s interior scoring, boarding up, and defensive production.
7. PJ Hairston (North Carolina)
One of the most explosive scorers in his class, Hairston is a hot hand that can light it up from three during any given stretch of a game.
He’s a compact player who has deceiving athleticism and scoring ability that should remind many basketball fans of Baron Davis.
PJ has exceptional creating ability off the dribble and can get to the rim where has the ability to finish after contact.
Should be a perfect fit for the Carolina break and gives the Tar Heels yet another explosive scorer who will soften the blow if they lose Harrison Barnes to the NBA.
6. Marquis Teague (Kentucky)
Poised to be the next great point guard under John Calipari, the nation’s top floor general is an explosive athlete with unlimited potential.
The younger brother of Atlanta Hawk’s guard Jeff Teague, Marquis is much further along at this point in his basketball career than his sibling. Teague has a deadly crossover, shifty change of direction off the dribble, and incredible quickness that will burn NCAA defenders.
Brings an incredible skill set for a point guard, minus consistent 3-point shooting, but Marquis Teague will contend for 2011-12 SEC Player of the Year as a frosh.
5. Quincy Miller (Baylor)
The most Kevin Durant like player in the NCAA since Kevin Durant was at Texas, Miller is a pure scorer with freaky length and a deadly perimeter stroke reminiscent of the NBA’s leading scorer.
Quincy has excellent creating ability off the dribble and has an aggressive scorer’s mentality that allows him to set up his own shot against just about any defender. Has excellent shooting touch that allows him to hit from anywhere on the floor, but his shot selection is questionable at time.
Miller is another ‘one and done’ candidate who should make his impression felt in the Big 12 at Baylor and get looks for conference newcomer of the year.
4. Bradley Beal (Florida)
If not for Austin Rivers, Beal would be the best pure scorer in the 2011 class because of his heads up basketball IQ and smooth shooting.
Beal is a deep threat shooting the ball and rarely takes a bad look. Has a game very similar to James Harden in terms of on-court intelligence and ‘old man’ game, but he’s supremely effective.
The ‘Real Deal Beal’ won the 2011 National Gatorade Player of the Year award and is going to give the Gators an additional explosive scorer alongside Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton.
3. James McAdoo (North Carolina)
Nephew of former NBA great Bob McAdoo, James is an outstanding player who brings tough interior rebounding and defense to the table.
James is one of the few players from this class who is NBA ready talent right now and could make an impact in the league. McAdoo is a tremendous athlete and tough competitor with an absolute nose for the ball.
He doesn’t have great shooting touch just yet and is a bit of a ‘tweener’ forward, but bring a similar type game to Heels that Gerald Henderson did at Duke.
2. Austin Rivers (Duke)
There’s no question that Rivers is an elite talent with crazy athleticism, impressive scoring ability and cold-blooded perimeter shooting.
The star and biggest name of the class, Rivers looks like the next Stephen Curry in terms of skill set. Can play selfish at times and strongly favors his right hand off the dribble, but how can anyone stop him with his explosive first step and burst in the NCAA.
Rivers has no conscious shooting the ball and won’t hesitate to take an attempt for 25 feet or in if given an inch of space.
1. Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
A late bloomer to the elite prep player scene, Davis has taken the basketball world by storm after his 10-inch growth spurt from his sophomore to senior season.
Only a couple years removed from being a guard, Davis has a mature skill set handling and shooting the ball that many post players never achieve in the pro’s.
Davis is a rare blend of size, length, athleticism, and basketball IQ that will dominate the paint in the NCAA and eventually the NBA when he’s ready.
From rebounding to shot blocking, he does everything at a high level on the defensive end, and can put the moves on defenders in the post.
The only real knock on Davis’ game is his lack of muscle, but he has a great motor and the physical gifts to counteract being pushed around the post already.
Plays reminiscent of Chris Bosh without the "soft label," as he’s a banger in the paint. If one name overtakes Austin Rivers next year as the top freshman in the NCAA and for NBA Draft consideration, expect Ant Davis’ name to be at the top of that list.