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College Basketball's Best Freshmen for 2015-16

Author:
Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons

Months after three freshmen helped Duke to a national championship, the 2015-16 freshman class is littered with question.

Two of the top freshmen in the country — Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere and Kansas’ Chieck Diallo — have yet to be cleared to play this season by the NCAA. And if they are declared eligible, it’s unclear if it will be for the entire season.

Elsewhere, the consensus No. 1 player in the class, Ben Simmons, doesn’t play for a consensus top 25 team.

For our purposes, we’re considering Labissiere and Diallo part of the freshman class in our fourth and final installment of the “All-Class” series.

The following article and more can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine, available now.

Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?



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First-Team All-Freshman

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G Derryck Thornton, Duke

The Blue Devils scored perhaps their most important recruiting victory when Thornton reclassified from the class of 2016 to 2015 and committed to Duke. The move gives the Devils a true pass-first point guard to replace Tyus Jones. Like Jones, Thornton is a five-star prospect.

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G Malik Newman, Mississippi State

Arguably the most heralded recruit in Mississippi State history, Newman will be the top playmaker on a team full of veterans. He’s a 6'3", 175-pound guard who will play the point, but he’ll also be the go-to scorer for Ben Howland in his first season in Starkville.

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F Ben Simmons, LSU

The 6'10", 225-pound Simmons will be a matchup nightmare. He can play all five positions, run the floor and pass. He’s a “point forward” by trade who is LSU’s most anticipated recruit since Shaquille O’Neal.

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F Brandon Ingram, Duke

Mike Krzyzewski is doing just fine in the one-and-done world. Out goes Justise Winslow, and in comes Ingram. The 6'8", 200-pound North Carolina native will step in on the wing for Winslow, giving the Blue Devils length and some perimeter shooting.

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C Skal Labissiere, Kentucky

His eligibility for at least part of the season is in doubt, but when he’s on the court, Labissiere — a center who arrived in Memphis after the tragic earthquake in Haiti in 2010 — is a skilled big man with potential to be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Second-Team All-Freshman

G Jalen Brunson, Villanova

Villanova already has a standout point guard in Ryan Arcidiacono, but when was the last time Jay Wright had too many guards? Brunson is a left-handed point guard who should immediately step in to fill the void left by Darrun Hilliard in Villanova’s potent attack.

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G Allonzo Trier, Arizona

Neither of Arizona’s last two big-time freshmen, Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson, needed to shoulder the load offensively. That may change for Trier, a five-star 2-guard who can score from just about anywhere on the court.

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G/F Jaylen Brown, Cal

The addition of two top-10 prospects to Cal’s returning veterans has positioned the Bears among the favorites in the Pac-12. While forward Ivan Rabb is a local kid from Oakland, Brown comes all the way from Marietta, Ga. A top-five recruit, the 6’7”, 220-pound Brown can play four positions and should be a dynamic scorer.

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F Cheick Diallo, Kansas

After the Cliff Alexander flameout, Kansas will welcome any production from its big-time forward signee. On that, Diallo should deliver. He was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic. He’s a little raw skill-wise but makes up for it with competitiveness.

C Diamond Stone, Maryland

Stone will give Maryland — an undersized team a year ago — a true inside-out game with his offensive ability around the rim, complementing the Terrapins’ standout 3-point shooters.

Honorable Mention All-Freshman

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G/F Dwayne Bacon, Florida State

With his ability to attack the rim, Bacon could be a big-time scorer for a team that averaged only 66.6 points per game (10th in the ACC) last season. He’s no ordinary freshman, either; he’ll be 20 when the season starts.

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F Thomas Bryant, Indiana

Indiana’s biggest weakness last season was on the interior. The Hoosiers launched 3-pointers but couldn’t defend a lick around the basket. Now, Tom Crean’s team adds a 6'10", 220-pound McDonald’s All-American with a 7'6" wingspan. If Bryant is a force in the post as expected, Indiana will have a more complete team that could contend for the Big Ten title.

F Henry Ellenson, Marquette

The arrival of Ellenson, a five-star prospect from Rice Lake, Wis., is the first major recruiting victory for Steve Wojciechowski — and the biggest recruiting victory for Marquette in decades. He’s a skilled power forward who could be Marquette’s top offensive weapon.

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G Jamal Murray, Kentucky

When Murray reclassified from 2016 to ’15, the combo guard changed the complexion of Kentucky’s recruiting class. The Wildcats struck out on some top names in April and May, but Murray gives UK a standout jump shooter at the 2 and backup to Tyler Ulis at the point.

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F Ivan Rabb, Cal

Rabb was the first big-time prospect to sign at Cal this offseason — and the first in quite some time. It was his arrival that helped pave the way for Jaylen Brown later in the spring. Rabb, though, is no sidekick. He’s a top-10 prospect who should be an athletic power forward and rim protector.

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F Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

Swanigan’s arrival at Purdue could represent a major shift in the Big Ten this season. Not only did Swanigan abandon his commitment to Michigan State in May, but his flip to Purdue also gives the Boilermakers one of the strongest frontcourts in the country. Swanigan is a skilled 6'9" forward who joins 7-footer A.J. Hammons and 6'7" Vince Edwards on a talented frontcourt.