Class of 2016 CBB Recruits Best Prepared to Make an Instant Impact as Freshmen
The spring all-star games for the class of 2016 are almost all behind us, and that means that many of the nation's elite seniors will soon be heading to campus to get ready for freshman year.
Some of these incoming freshmen are expected to come in and produce right away as the only notable members of their respective recruiting classes, while others will fit into great recruiting groups entering next season.
While some freshmen might have up-and-down stretches during their first season in college, here are 10 first-year guys who will be expected to be productive right away at the college level.
Shamorie Ponds, St. John's
What he does well: An absolute blur with the ball, the 5'11" Shamorie Ponds uses his speed to help on both ends of the floor, but he's wired to score. With a lethal dribble pull-up game and an ability to get in the paint with his quickness, Ponds was one of the top scorers in the EYBL last spring.
Why he fits: St. John's badly needs talent, especially on the perimeter, and Ponds is a scoring guard who is also a local product. With his natural ability, he should be able to receive a healthy number of early minutes as a freshman.
2016-17 projection: With Ponds entering the program along with redshirt freshman guard Marcus LoVett, the Red Storm have a lot of incoming backcourt firepower for next season. That means Ponds will also have some early help, and he should have the potential to be a double-figure scorer in his first season.
Andrew Jones, Texas
What he does well: An aggressive, attacking guard who can score from all over the floor, Andrew Jones has the size and athleticism to be a major problem as a lead guard. At 6'4", he can see over smaller guards and finish over them around the basket.
Why he fits: Texas is looking for aggressive and athletic guards so that the team can utilize Shaka Smart's press when needed. But Jones also fits a need for the Longhorns, as they lack talented starting-caliber players.
2016-17 projection: With Isaiah Taylor signing an agent and entering the 2016 NBA draft, there's a big open spot in the Texas offense that Jones can help fill. Jones can help handle and score, but it remains to be seen what kind of distributor he can be.
Mustapha Heron, Auburn
What he does well: A powerful and athletic 5-star prospect, Mustapha Heron is a lefty scorer who can bull his way to the basket thanks to his size and strength. There aren't many 6'5" wings who weigh 200 pounds as freshmen, but Heron will be ready to get to the rim at the college level.
Why he fits: Since Bruce Pearl took the job at Auburn, he's been searching for a top-caliber 5-star recruit, and he finally has one in Heron. As one of the better high school scorers of this past season, Heron is prepared to produce right away.
2016-17 projection: Auburn loses three of its top four scorers but gains Heron and talented Houston graduate transfer Ronnie Johnson. As a 5-star prospect who is a natural scorer, Heron could quickly become a go-to guy for the Tigers.
Miles Bridges, Michigan State
What he does well: As a top-six scorer and rebounder in last season's Nike EYBL, Miles Bridges showed that he can be productive and win games, as he led a depleted Family team to Peach Jam. A powerful 6'6" wing who can shoot or produce in transition, the 5-star forward is a lethal presence in any lineup.
Why he fits: Michigan State is losing a hugely productive player in Denzel Valentine and the shooting of Bryn Forbes, so Bridges leads a talented freshman class that will be counted on to play and produce from the opening game.
2016-17 projection: Bridges is a major matchup nightmare at the college level with his power and versatility, so he could be the type of forward who puts up some double-doubles during the season. If Bridges improves his ability to attack off the dribble, he could be a tough cover.
Dennis Smith, N.C. State
What he does well: An elite athlete who can get in the paint at will, the 6'2" Dennis Smith can play above the rim and also hit perimeter shots. A maestro running the pick-and-roll, Smith can find shooters or big men for easy shots while keeping turnovers low.
Why he fits: N.C. State is turning it over to Smith, who will have the point guard responsibilities as a freshman with the departure of Cat Barber. Smith will have the opportunity to make plays with the ball in his hands from the start.
2016-17 projection: The Wolfpack rely heavily on their perimeter attack, so Smith should put up huge numbers this season. As long as he's fully healthy from his torn ACL, Smith is the kind of big, attacking guard the college game doesn't see for long.
Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
What he does well: With raw power and athleticism, the 6'9" Bam Adebayo will be able to rebound, defend the rim a bit and finish right away at Kentucky. Adebayo was a double-double machine in high school, and his leaping ability and long arms enable him to be an elite rebounder.
Why he fits: Kentucky has a lot of big men who play more finesse games or don't have his type of athleticism, so Adebayo should be a great fit for the Wildcats. Since Adebayo ran with Dennis Smith on the grassroots circuit, he's used to playing with a point guard who likes to run high ball screens.
2016-17 projection: Among Kentucky's crowded frontcourt, Adebayo stands to be the power big man who gets a ton of rebounds and is able to work some high ball screens. If Adebayo can improve his ability to protect the rim, he could be a major two-way force next season.
Markelle Fultz, Washington
What he does well: One of the most creative scoring guards in the class, Markelle Fultz is a 6'4" late-developing point guard with good vision. Although he can rifle passes through traffic, Fultz is at his best playing in attack mode, where he gets rolling as a scorer.
Why he fits: Now that Washington has Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss leaving for the 2016 NBA draft, it has a big hole to fill, and Fultz can take over and play on the ball immediately. The Huskies are searching for a takeover guy, and Fultz can fit the bill as the go-to guy.
2016-17 projection: With Fultz getting the keys to the Washington offense, he should put up huge numbers, as he still has a talented roster returning around him. Fultz should be able to put up points, and he also has the size and skill to get a high number of assists and rebounds.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA
What he does well: Owning an exceptional basketball IQ and a high skill level, the 6'6" Lonzo Ball put up a lot of triple-doubles in high school. Ball is a tremendous passer who can find the open man from the full length of the floor, as he can rebound and outlet at an elite level.
Why he fits: Ball is one of the highest-rated point guards in a loaded class of 2016, and his IQ and skill level mean he can fit on any team and stand out. Since he's a tall guard who can see over defenses, Ball can cover wings on the defensive end if the Bruins want to play a smaller guard with him.
2016-17 projection: The addition of Ball makes UCLA a likely preseason Top 25 team, and it should return to the NCAA tournament after missing last season. As for Ball, he should get a few near triple-doubles and be a major contributor.
Jayson Tatum, Duke
What he does well: A known scorer who attacks his spots on the floor, Jayson Tatum gets a high level of free throws and has a polished mid-range game. The 6'8" Tatum has also improved as a driver and adds rebounding and defense from the wing as well.
Why he fits: Over the last three years, Duke has helped produce wings such as Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, Justise Winslow and Brandon Ingram, so Tatum fits next in line as a big one-and-done who will score a lot of points.
2016-17 projection: With the way Duke wings have produced the past few seasons, the Blue Devils are loaded enough that Tatum will have a lot of help with him on offense. Tatum should be one of the ACC's most potent players almost immediately.
Josh Jackson, Kansas
What he does well: A complete wing who can score, pass, rebound and defend, the 6'7" Josh Jackson should be able to come in and change multiple facets of the game. With a competitive nature and extreme athleticism, Jackson can take over a game at a moment's notice.
Why he fits: Kansas has two experienced guards and some talented big men returning, so Jackson fits in perfectly on the wing. The Jayhawks have recently produced Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre and Wayne Selden on the wing, so Kansas has done well producing talent at that position.
2016-17 projection: Since Jackson is so good at so many different things, he's able to just fit in and see where Kansas needs him to make an impact. After an adjustment period, Jackson will likely see his scoring spike, and he should be a strong defender and rebounder out of the gate.
Recruiting ratings via 247Sports.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and information were obtained firsthand.