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15 Impact Freshmen in College Basketball for 2016-17


For the third consecutive year, Duke and Kentucky are ranked first and second nationally in the recruiting rankings. The team that’s No. 1 and the team that’s No. 2 seems to change from year to year, but the point stands.

No other teams are recruiting on the same level from year to year.

Kentucky and Duke will produce their share of stud freshmen before many of them enter the draft in 2017, but others will be just as dependent on freshmen.

Kansas has the top player in the class in Josh Jackson. The Pac-12 race may be dependent on freshmen as UCLA, Washington and Arizona add key pieces. Even Michigan State makes an appearance on our list of top freshmen with the rare five-star player venturing to play for Tom Izzo.

All 2016-17 predictions and a preview of every team and conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.

Bam Adebayo, F, Kentucky

The 6'9", 232-pound power forward is regarded as one of the hardest workers in the 2016 class and will give the Wildcats an imposing post presence they were missing last season.

Rawle Alkins, G/F, Arizona

The five-star swingman from New York City is adept at getting to the basket. He, along with fellow freshmen Lauri Markkanen and Kobi Simmons, will be asked to make big contributions for a young but very talented team.

Jarrett Allen, F, Texas

Allen signed with Texas in the spring after a long recruiting process. He should be worth the wait. The 6'10" power forward is a good athlete who can run the floor — just what Shaka Smart is looking for in his big men.

Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA

Ball, who tied a McDonald’s All-American Game record with 13 assists, is a unique point guard talent who is known for deep outlet passes and 30-foot jumpers. Even his route to UCLA is uncommon for elite recruits: He opted to play on his local travel and high school teams rather than on the shoe company AAU circuit.

Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State

Bridges is Michigan State’s first top-10 recruit since 2003, but he’s hardly a break from tradition for Tom Izzo. Bridges is the latest in a line of Flint, Mich., natives to play at Michigan State (though Bridges finished high school at Huntington Prep in West Virginia). 

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Tony Carr, G, Penn State

The point guard leads a trio of Philadelphia recruits who could turn Penn State into an NCAA Tournament team in the near future. Carr and his Philadelphia Roman Catholic teammates Lamar Stevens and Nazeer Bostic won a state title last year. Carr, the Pennsylvania Player of the Year, is the centerpiece of a standout recruiting class (by Penn State standards).

De’Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky

If the diminutive Tyler Ulis broke the mold of the big John Calipari point guard, Fox is a throwback of sorts — all the way back to John Wall in 2009-10. Fox’s speed on the fast break will be reminiscent of Calipari’s first point guard in Lexington. He still has to work on his jumper, but he can change the game on both ends of the court.

Markelle Fultz, G, Washington

Fultz is a late-blooming athletic point guard who arrives in an interesting situation in Seattle after the Huskies — surprisingly — sent two players to the first round of the NBA Draft. Fultz is fearless and very gifted — a combination that should yield big-time results for Lorenzo Romar.

Alterique Gilbert, G, Connecticut

Gilbert gives UConn a pure point guard who could conjure memories of some not-so-distant history. Coach Kevin Ollie alluded to national championship point guard Kemba Walker in referencing Gilbert’s ability to break down opponents.

Harry Giles, F, Duke

There appear to be few concerns about Giles, who has had ACL surgery on both knees and hasn’t played basketball since November 2015. The 6'10", 230-pound power forward remained one of the top players in the class of 2016. He’ll be an imposing force around the rim and a ferocious rebounder on both ends of the court. Giles figures to improve a frontcourt that was decimated on the glass last season after Amile Jefferson went down with injury.

Mustapha Heron, F, Auburn

Heron is the type of talent Auburn envisioned it would be getting when it hired coach Bruce Pearl. The five-star small forward from Connecticut will lead a banner recruiting class in what could be a turnaround season for the Tigers.

Frank Jackson, G, Duke

Jackson might not be the best player in Duke’s outstanding recruiting haul, but he might be the most important. As the only true point guard on the roster, he will have to run a team loaded with elite talent at each spot on the floor. 

Josh Jackson, G, Kansas

Five-star freshmen have been an enigma the last two seasons for Kansas. Cheick Diallo, Carlton Bragg, Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander averaged fewer than 10 points per game at KU. Jackson should break that mold. He’s a long, athletic scorer with unusual defensive chops and leadership qualities for a rookie shooting guard.

Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State

Isaac arrives at Florida State as a 19-year-old freshman with room to fill out — he’s a 6'10", 205-pound small forward. He will join a talented roster that is seeking to get the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.

Malik Monk, G, Kentucky

Monk will have to battle for scoring opportunities playing on a talented Kentucky team, but he will no doubt make a big contribution. The Arkansas native boasts supreme athleticism and deep range on his jumper.

Dennis Smith Jr., G, NC State

Smith slides into to the role vacated by ACC leading scorer Cat Barber. Smith should put up numbers with a better supporting cast. He could lead a turnaround season in Raleigh.

Jayson Tatum, F, Duke

The 6'8", 205-pound rookie joins the parade of versatile wings such as Brandon Ingram and Justise Winslow who have starred at Duke in the last three seasons. Tatum has a complete offensive skill set and could bring the ball up the court for a Duke team that features only one true point guard.