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School basketball’s 8 greatest freshmen, ranked by their 2023 NBA Draft potential

The No. 1 total choose within the NBA Draft has been a freshman taking part in faculty basketball for the final 13 years. The final time the highest choose within the draft got here from outdoors of the faculty ranks was 2006 when the Toronto Raptors chosen Italian ahead Andrea Bargnani with the primary choose.

That makes this season of faculty hoops one thing of an oddity: everybody is aware of French wunderkind Victor Wembanyama goes No. 1, and G League Ignite level guard Scoot Henderson goes No. 2 when the 2023 NBA Draft rolls round. In the intervening time, Extra time Elite guard Amen Thompson could be the front-runner to go No. 3 total. The final time the highest three picks within the draft all got here from outdoors of faculty basketball was again in 2001, when Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, and Eddy Curry went with the primary 4 picks.

School basketball won’t be the house of the highest picks within the draft this season, however NBA followers will nonetheless discover loads of future execs within the freshmen class. Our first 2023 NBA mock draft had 15 freshmen going within the first spherical. With the faculty season simply getting underway, that is our take a look at eight freshmen NBA followers should be following in faculty basketball this yr — even when they’re not as thrilling as Wemby and Scoot. SB Nation evaluated every of the gamers on this record on the McDonald’s All-American Recreation and the Jordan Model Traditional to get a primary take a look at this yr’s high incoming faculty expertise.

8. Keyonte George, G, Baylor Bears

NCAA Basketball: Northern Colorado at Baylor

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In a draft class loaded with combo guards (Nick Smith, Cason Wallace, Terquavion Smith, and Amari Bailey amongst them), Keyonte George stands out as maybe one of the best pure shooter within the group. Whereas George lacks Nick Smith’s ridiculous flexibility as a scorer and Wallace’s elite defensive aptitude, the Baylor freshman is seemingly in a position to meet within the center on each expertise to claim himself as a 6’4 guard who can knock down open jumpers and compete defensively with lengthy arms.

George initiatives because the go-to possibility for the Baylor offense all yr, however the malleability of his sport alongside different stars is a part of what makes him so interesting. George is a superb catch-and-shoot risk who can dart across the perimeter and hit jumpers off motion. He can assault a closeout, too, with strong ball dealing with potential, good burst as a driver, and enhancing passing potential to seek out the open man when he doesn’t attempt to rating himself. George isn’t an influence athlete on the rim and scouts will need to see if he can end over size. On the defensive finish, George can defend the ball along with his physicality and quickness, although he can lose his man at instances off the ball. George’s on-ball scoring bundle and rim ending may decide his draft ceiling, however for now he seems to be like one of many safer guard bets within the class to be a productive professional.

7. Brandon Miller, F, Alabama Crimson Tide

NCAA Basketball: Longwood at Alabama

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Miller was one of many largest winners of the postseason All-Star circuit, trying like top-of-the-line long-term prospects within the class when going in opposition to his high friends. At 6’8, 200 kilos, he has a super body for a professional wing with a growing dribble, cross, shoot ability set. Miller isn’t an influence athlete just like the wings who often go close to the highest of the lottery, however he’s clean with the ball and has proven spectacular deceleration and physique management within the paint. Miller’s passing has popped off the display in Alabama’s early video games: he has the dimensions to cross excessive of most defenders, and the imaginative and prescient to identify teammates all around the flooring. His potential to place the ball on the ground, rapidly discover the open man or go into his pull-up jumper is the inspiration for inventory as a possible lottery choose.

Miller’s three-point shot is much less developed than his flooring sport, however he knocked down 4-of-5 makes an attempt in Alabama’s win over Liberty with a few them coming from NBA vary. He has the look of a assured shooter and scouts shall be comfortable to see the makes an attempt from deep even when the early outcomes aren’t superb. Miller wants so as to add energy to his body and tighten his deal with, however that may be stated for many 18-year-old wing prospects. If the taking pictures holds, his dimension and passing is compelling sufficient to make him a top-10 choose.

6. Jarace Walker, F, Houston Cougars

Houston v Saint Joseph’s

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Head coach Kelvin Sampson has turned Houston into a contemporary faculty basketball powerhouse, however he’s by no means had an NBA prospect like Jerace Walker earlier than. A protracted-time standout at IMG Academy, Walker is a 6’8, 240-pound powerhouse who combines huge uncooked athletic energy with spectacular perimeter expertise for his dimension. Maybe one of the best factor about Walker is that he’s at all times taking part in with a excessive motor, making him a monster on the glass and an element for each 50/50 ball with such imposing physicality.

There’s extra to Walker’s sport than simply bully ball. He’s an excellent ball handler and flashes spectacular shot-making contact from contained in the arc. His spot-up three-point shot is coming round: the discharge is gradual, however he’s displaying he can knock down pictures if he’s extensive open. As Walker’s three ball improves, it’s going to make him even scarier as somebody who can assault closeouts. For such a giant physique, he’s proven the flexibility to get downhill and alter instructions on the transfer, with sufficient craft to attain constantly within the quick midrange space. Walker’s defensive translation looks like an even bigger query when he has to protect faster wings on the perimeter, however that is merely a giant, highly effective athlete with actual ability flashes who goes arduous on each possession.

5. Kel’el Ware, C, Oregon

Nike Hoop Summit

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Ware partnered with Nick Smith Jr. to steer North Little Rock Excessive to a state championship in Arkansas earlier than flying to the other nook of the nation to begin his faculty profession at Oregon. Ware joins a deep Geese entrance court docket that already included N’Faly Dante and Nate Bittle as beginning caliber facilities, however his bodily presents are so immense that it is going to be arduous for head coach Dana Altman to maintain him off the ground. Ware seemed like probably the most proficient 7-footer within the incoming freshman class through the All-Star circuit, displaying off spectacular athletic fluidity and tantalizing flashes of ability that may be developed long-term.

Ware’s protection shall be his calling card early in his profession. He strikes effectively on his ft for somebody his dimension, giving him the flexibility to play a number of defensive schemes. His size and shot-blocking expertise are suited to play drop, however he may get to the extent of the display and hassle peterimeter shooters. On offense, Ware shall be a lob risk on rolls and has the growing indicators of a face-up sport. He’s already hit one three-pointer early within the season, and appears comfy on the foul line, too. Ware isn’t in a super state of affairs for enjoying time with Oregon having so many different good bigs, however there’s little doubt his long-term projection is tantalizing.

4. Cam Whitmore, F, Villanova Wildcats

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: APR 15 Jordan Brand Classic - Boys Game

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Cam Whitmore was lengthy thought-about a five-star recruit throughout a standout prep profession in Maryland, however his robust play on the All-Star circuit and dominance through the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in the summertime out of the blue has him getting hyped as a possible top-five choose. Nobody on this class has a greater mixture of dimension, pace, and energy. At 6’6, 240 kilos, Whitmore performs basketball like a center linebacker with a 40-inch vertical: he relentlessly assaults the rim on drives, in transition, and as an offensive rebounder, utilizing his huge body and unimaginable leaping potential to constantly end at and above the rim. If Whitmore has a runway and time to load up, there aren’t many rim protectors who’re going to be highly effective sufficient to disclaim him a bucket.

Whitmore’s three-point shot shall be his largest swing ability. In the intervening time, he initiatives as a low quantity shooter who can hit them at an honest clip if he’s extensive open on a spot-up. His protection may even be value monitoring: is he too cumbersome to stay with wings darting round screens on the perimeter? Is he higher used as a weak-side rim protector inside? There hasn’t been a freshman freight prepare in faculty hoops like this since Zion Williamson. His debut has been delayed due to a surgically-repaired thumb, however his immense physicality offers him an amazing likelihood to be an instant-impact freshman when he finally takes the ground.

3. Dariq Whitehead, G, Duke Blue Devils

2022 Jordan Brand Classic

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Dariq Whitehead is the most recent star from Florida prep powerhouse Montverde Academy, going from a sidekick alongside older stars Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, and Moses Moody early in his highschool profession to the group’s main man as a senior. Now Whitehead is poised to be the primary freshman star of the post-Coach Ok period at Duke. The 6’5 combo guard has the correct mix of open flooring athleticism, halfcourt ability, and defensive upside to demand seems to be within the top-10 and even the top-five of the 2023 draft.

Whitehead has spectacular pace as a ball handler in transition, and a fast first step in opposition to a set protection. He’s an excellent leaper when he will get into the paint, displaying the flexibility to rise off one foot or two for finishes above the rim. Whitehead can also be a heady passer, one which’s growing his reside dribble chops whereas already possession the ‘connective’ traits as a fast ball-mover that coaches like to see. Whitehead must also be a plus on the defensive finish, utilizing a 6’8 wingspan and large body to harass smaller ball handlers. The swing ability is once more the three-point shot, however Whitehead actually has the boldness to take it typically off the dribble. When it goes in, there’s a convincing argument that Whitehead is the second most full guard within the draft behind Henderson. Professional scouts will need to see good shot choice and fewer variances in accuracy when he lets it fireplace from deep. If the jumper is falling, Whitehead is without doubt one of the most well-rounded gamers on this yr’s class.

2. Cason Wallace, G, Kentucky Wildcats

Howard v Kentucky

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Cason Wallace is subsequent within the lengthy line of nice guards to return out of Texas (Marcus Sensible, Tyrese Maxey, Jimmy Butler, and so forth.) taking part in with an simple nasty streak. He’s additionally the subsequent freshman star for John Calipari at Kentucky. At 6’4, 195 kilos, Wallace is a lockdown defender on the level of assault who’s going to stockpile steals, deflections, and blocks in opposition to overmatched opposing guards all season. He’s extremely tough to display and he’s seemingly by no means out of a play on the defensive finish with super closing pace and the size to problem pictures from a wide range of angles. He has the energy to tackle larger assignments on switches, and also will make an affect as a roaming off-ball defender. His depth on the defensive finish will draw comparisons to Sensible and Jrue Vacation, however he ought to have actual offensive utility within the NBA, too.

Wallace can swap between both guard function on offense. He’s a ok driver to bend defenses by stepping into the paint and kicking out to teammates. He additionally has connective traits as a flooring spacing shooter and fast ball-mover across the perimeter. Simply how dependable he’ll be as an out of doors shooter shall be a query mark for Wallace, however Kentucky will really feel comfy letting him take the open ones. There aren’t many gamers on this draft class who will pack the field rating the way in which Wallace does on an each night time foundation. The Wildcats will nonetheless really feel just like the veteran group we noticed final yr, however now they’ve a stud freshman guard to function the proverbial head of the snake.

1. Nick Smith Jr., G, Arkansas Razorbacks

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: MAR 26 McDonalds All American Game Portrait Day

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Nick Smith Jr. is a lightning-quick 6’4 guard who sky-rocketed up the category rankings as a highschool senior, going from a four-star recruit ranked within the late 30s to the No. 1 participant within the nation, in accordance with 247 Sports activities. He determined to remain house and play for his in-state Arkansas Razorbacks, the place he’s the crown jewel of a category that features two different McDonald’s All-People with legit aspirations to be one-and-done first spherical picks in Jordan Walsh and Anthony Black. Sadly, Smith has been sidelined to begin the yr for the Razorbacks with what this system is looking “proper knee administration.”

When Smith does take the court docket, he’s anticipated to be probably the most electrical freshman scorer in faculty basketball who initiatives as a dynamic offensive risk each on- and off-the-ball. Smith is a quick and shifty ball handler who can burn his preliminary defender and collapse the protection by stepping into the paint. He’s has nice flexibility and physique management in tight areas, with comfortable contact on floaters and the creativity to get off his shot from a wide range of angles. Smith additionally has deep vary on his jumper out to the NBA line, whether or not he’s pulling up off the dribble or recognizing up. Smith seems to be good taking part in off the ball, displaying the flexibility to area the ground, assault closeouts, and run late shot-clock actions within the mould {of professional} scorers like Jordan Poole and Jordan Clarkson. There are some intriguing passing flashes right here, too. He could possibly be a killer within the pick-and-roll as he continues to hone his playmaking. Smith lacks the majority to complete by means of contact within the paint, and he’s by no means actually had the elite leaping potential to complete above the rim. His greatest NBA match would possibly come subsequent to an even bigger main initiator, however for now, Smith ought to be top-of-the-line scorers and greatest shot creators within the class.



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