2018 McDonald's All-American Game Stars Who Will Make an Instant Impact in CBB
The future is upon us in the form of the McDonald's All-American Game, in which college basketball fans can get a preview of the next wave of stars. And if history serves, at least a few of them are in line to put up some big numbers as college freshmen.
Of the 125 freshmen who averaged at least 10 points per game during the 2017-18, 16 participated in the 2017 McDonald's All-American Game. And that doesn't include Duke's Marvin Bagley III, who reclassified in order to play this past season, while a trio of McDonald's participants—Brian Bowen, Billy Preston and Mitchell Robinson—didn't play college ball for varying reasons.
Before Trae Young took the college game by storm and became the first player to lead Division I in scoring and assists, he had nine points and five assists in 22 minutes in the McDonald's game. And before likely No. 1 NBA draft pick DeAndre Ayton dominated the Pac-12, he put up eight points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes.
Which players set to participate in the 2018 game are likely to be instant college stars? Scroll down for our picks.
SF R.J. Barrett
Recruiting Ranking: No. 1
Status: Signed with Duke
R.J. Barrett is a 6'7" wing who isn't just the top overall prospect in the country, but also the crown jewel of Duke's latest ridiculously good recruiting class. The Blue Devils are adding the top three players, the others being small forward Cameron Reddish and power forward Zion Williamson, as well as No. 1 point guard Tre Jones, younger brother of former Duke guard Tyus Jones.
We could have easily put all four of those players on this list, since they'll likely all start. In fairness to the rest of the field, though, only Barrett has been picked, because he's the one most likely to take on a featured role.
That's because Barrett figures to be the one who will get the most touches, both as a shooter and a ball-handler. He has a penchant for scoring in bunches—he averaged 21.6 points per game for Canada during the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup—and that should translate well to the college game.
Bagley was Duke's first freshman to average 20 points per game, and he also pulled down 22 double-doubles. To expect Barrett to match those numbers on such a stacked team is unrealistic, but he should be the Blue Devils' leading scorer and may be a candidate to post a triple-double or two.
C Bol Bol
Recruiting Ranking: No. 4
Status: Signed with Oregon
The highest-rated player in Oregon's second-ranked recruiting class, Bol Bol is a prospect who would be well-regarded, even if he weren't the son of former NBA giant Manute Bol. At 7'1" and 225 pounds, he still has room to grow, and with the Ducks' Nike-funded facilities, he figures to only get stronger before his freshman season.
By the time he debuts in November, Bol could be ready to be more than just a big guy in the middle who will alter shots and grab rebounds. His offensive game is still raw, but that can still translate into good scoring numbers depending on how Oregon operates on offense.
He's not going to be a dominant scorer like Arizona had with Deandre Ayton, but he also won't just be taking up space.
Oregon has had at least one player block 80 or more shots in each of the last four seasons, and assuming Kenny Wooten returns for his sophomore year, that streak will continue in 2018-19. But Bol could give the Ducks two high-volume shot-blockers while also chipping in a fair amount of points on dunks, much like Chris Boucher did in his two seasons.
CG Quentin Grimes
Recruiting Ranking: No. 11
Status: Signed with Kansas
Malik Newman's play in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments has Kansas fans salivating at what he'll do next season, though he could easily parlay his current run into a jump to the NBA. If that's the case, the Jayhawks won't be lacking for aggressive offense with 6'5" Quentin Grimes coming in.
Grimes averaged 29.5 points per game for his high school team in Texas, and he'll be looking for his shot with Kansas. Whether that's as a starter or the first reserve off the bench will depend on Newman's future as well as how coach Bill Self integrates three transfers (California guard Charlie Moore and Memphis forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson).
With more options than normal, Self might only use Grimes in small spurts at first and then play him more as the season goes on.
Grimes isn't going to be Kansas' fourth freshman to average 15 points per game since 2012-13, but that's mostly because there won't be a need for him to do so like there was with Josh Jackson, Andrew Wiggins and Ben McLemore. He'll still have solid scoring numbers in his first season, however.
SG Keldon Johnson
Recruiting Ranking: No. 13
Status: Signed with Kentucky
A lot will depend on which of Kentucky's many freshmen end up entering the NBA draft—three are currently projected a first-round picks by NBADraft.net—but regardless of what the roster looks like in 2018-19, expect Keldon Johnson to stand out. The 6'6" shooting guard employs what he calls a "dominate and kill" approach to the game, both on offense and defense. That kind of mindset will keep Johnson on the court.
Scoring is a strong point, but it might not be his main focus as a freshman, depending on which Wildcats return. Being able to carve out a function as a defensive guru will still enable him to shine.
There have been 26 freshmen to average at least 10 points per game at Kentucky under Calipari, including four this season. One guy who didn't reach that mark in his first season was fan favorite Tyler Ulis, who was known for his passing and defense. Expect Johnson to adopt a similar following for his effort, even if it doesn't show up on the stat sheet.
SG Romeo Langford
Recruiting Ranking: No. 5
Our projection on Romeo Langford, a 6'5" shooting guard, is dependent on him ending up at Indiana. The Hoosiers are one of three schools in the running for the top uncommitted player in the 2018 class, along with Kansas and Vanderbilt, and if the in-state prospect stays home, he figures to be the focal point of coach Archie Miller's second season in charge.
Indiana "wants me to come back up there just so they can have the last word," Langford told Fletcher Page of the Louisville Courier Journal.
The fourth-leading scorer in Indiana high school history with more than 3,000 points, Langford would be in line to be the Hoosiers' primary offensive weapon in 2018-19 if junior forward Juwan Morgan turns pro. Even if Morgan returns, Langford would be heavily involved and could be Indiana's highest-scoring freshman since James Blackmon averaged 15.7 points per game in 2014-15.
Assuming Morgan returns, Langford would be Indiana's No. 2 scorer and top three-point shooting threat. He'll also be the most frequently fouled player by driving to the rim often, which will net plenty of points from the foul line.
PF Reggie Perry
Recruiting Ranking: No. 20
Status: Signed with Mississippi State
Mississippi State had a breakthrough season in 2017-18 by reaching the NIT semifinals under third-year coach Ben Howland. And next year could be even bigger for the Bulldogs, with no seniors in the rotation and 6'9" Reggie Perry added to the mix.
The one thing MSU lacked this season was size inside, but Perry figures to change that. He's physical and agile and will draws the defense away from guards Quinndary and Nick Weatherspoon on the perimeter.
The son of former MSU point guard Al Perry, he could be used like Kevin Love in his freshman year at UCLA in 2007-08.
The last frontcourt guy to average double figures in scoring for MSU was Rodney Hood in 2011-12 before he transferred to Duke. Perry will end that drought, though the Bulldogs will still lean more on their guards for production and leave Perry to be more of a cleanup guy on the glass.
PF Nazreon Reid
Recruiting Ranking: No. 18
Status: Signed with LSU
At 6'9" and 220 pounds, Nazreon Reid isn't as large as some historic LSU bigs. But Reid may still end up being as impactful to the Tigers as Anthony Randolph, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Brandon Bass or even Shaquille O'Neal.
Recently named the New Jersey Player of the Year, Reid enters an LSU program that will be loaded with guards (including incoming freshman Ja'Vonte Smart). Oregon transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams will be eligible. but he figures to be more of a defensive player, leaving Reid open to focus on scoring.
Reid has the versatility to play on the wing as well as inside and will be a matchup nightmare for most defenders.
Reid could flirt with averaging a double-double as a freshman, which Ben Simmons managed for LSU two years ago. The difference is Reid won't have to do everything by himself because of a better supporting cast, not to mention stronger coaching from Will Wade, and he will be allowed to ease into a leadership role over time.
PF Simisola Shittu
Recruiting Ranking: No. 10
Status: Signed with Vanderbilt
One of two McDonald's All-Americans headed to Vanderbilt, along with point guard Darius Garland, Simisola Shittu is a 6'9" forward who Commodores coach Bryce Drew figures to build his team around next season. Vandy graduates its top three scorers and will be in need of scoring, and Shittu can fill that void while also being a force on the boards.
Shittu may quickly move into a role similar to how Drew utilized Alec Peters when the two were at Valparaiso, though with a greater reliance on him to be the go-to player. The 6'9" Peters averaged 12.7 points per game as a freshman in 2013-14 on a team that started three seniors.
He could also get used much like 7-footer Luke Kornet was for Vandy in Drew's first season in 2016-17, when he was second on the team in scoring and rebounding and also took a fair number of three-pointers.
Shittu may not be Vandy's leading scorer, depending on the development of Garland and sophomore Saben Lee, as well as how Notre Dame transfer forward Matt Ryan fits into the system. He'll be starting, though, and may find himself playing as much on the perimeter as in the paint.