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Five takeaways from our Reranking Recruiting Classes series

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Over the course of the last two weeks, we’ve rolled out a series re-ranking the eight recruiting classes from 2007-2014.

It was a fun project to put together, in part because of the trip down memory lane that came with a number of the players we discussed, but also because it is interesting to take another look at these rankings once the players involved have reached — or approached — their peak years.

Here are five things that we learned while reranking the recruiting classes:

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PLAYING, AND STAYING, IN THE NBA IS AN EXCEEDINGLY DIFFICULT THING TO DO

I knew this before diving into this project, but rolling through each and every one of those eight recruiting classes reinforced the simple fact that having an NBA career is a damn-near impossible dream for many, if not most, basketball players.

On average, there were a couple of all-stars in each of these classes. Once you got outside of the top ten, however, it was difficult to find players that spent their career as starters. By the back-end of the 20s, you were digging through players that spent most of their career on the end of an NBA bench when they weren’t bouncing around between Europe and the G League.

It doesn’t exactly work out this way, but there are roughly 25 five-star recruits in each recruiting class with is roughly the same numbers of kids from each recruiting class that end up getting more than just a cup of coffee in the league.

That doesn’t mean that the guys on the fringes of the NBA are bad basketball players.

It’s quite the opposite actually.

I wrote a long story on Nigel Williams-Goss earlier this summer. He was identified as an elite talent way back in middle school. He was the first four-year player at Findlay Prep, one of high school basketball’s powerhouse programs. He won two high school national titles. He made all of the all-american teams and played in all of the all-american games as a senior. He was all-Pac-12 at Washington before transferring to Gonzaga where, as a senior, he was a first-team All-American on a team that might have won the national title had he not rolled his ankle in the national title game.

And, after getting picked 55th in the 2017 NBA Draft, Williams-Goss went out and had a monster, nearly-unprecedented season with Partizan, a storied basketball club in Serbia that is known for producing NBA talent. His rights are still owned by the Utah Jazz, but even that wasn’t enough to get him a guaranteed spot on their roster, which is why he will be playing for Olympiacos in Greece next season.

He’ll be paid very well and he’ll play in the Euroleague, which might be the best basketball league in the world outside of the NBA.

But it’s not the NBA.

And it should be proof of just how difficult it is to get there.

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

LASTING IN THE LEAGUE IS ALL ABOUT THE ROLE YOU CAN PLAY

A few years back, I was grabbing a beer with a longtime scout that was working for an NBA team, and we got to talking about the differences in evaluating high school players for the college level and college players for the NBA game. The biggest difference, he said, was that with high school players, you try and predict what the player can be as he continues to grow into his body and develop his game.

You think about the big picture.

But at the NBA level, scouting is in the details. What role can that player have for our team? What can he do at an NBA level? Will he be willing to accept that he is just a glue guy that is going to be asked to only do the things he can do at an NBA level? Does he have the positional size to be able to defend?

Because the truth is this: There are a lot of players that are not in the NBA that are “NBA players”, that are good enough to be deserving of a roster spot somewhere in the most competitive league on earth.

Actually getting one of those spots, however, depends on whether or not you fit into exactly what a team is looking for. Just being able to score 20 points in an NBA game isn’t enough, because unless you are one of the absolute best scorers on the planet, you aren’t going to be good enough in the NBA.

Take Andre Roberson, for example. He was unranked as a high school senior and never averaged more than 11.6 points at Colorado, but he’s been a starter in the NBA for five years and is now heading into the second year of a $30 million contract because he can rebound and he can defend and he is perfectly willing to do nothing but rebound and defend.

Is he a better basketball player than, say, Reggie Bullock, who was a top ten prospect coming out of high school? If you were playing pickup, would you ever pick him over, say, Jerian Grant, who was an all-american at Notre Dame?

Probably not.

But he’s likely going to end up making more money and playing more NBA games than both of those guys combined in his career.

The complicating factor in all of this is …

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

 

… THE NBA IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR

The way that basketball is played today is totally different from the way that it was played even just four years ago, and the result is that players that were, at one point in time, thought to be can’t-miss talents are on the verge of being out of the NBA.

Let’s call this the Jahlil Okafor Phenomenon.

Okafor was a high school superstar in the city of Chicago. He ended up going to Duke, where he teamed up with the likes of Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen as freshmen to win the 2015 national title. He would go on to be the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft — behind Karl-Anthony Towns and D’angelo Russell — before averaged 17.4 points and 7.0 boards as a rookie with the 76ers.

That was the 2015-16 season.

By October of 2017, Okafor was demanding a trade out of Philly because the Sixers had decided not to pick up the option on the fourth-year of his rookie deal, which is almost unheard-of for a player picked as high as he was picked. Granted, there are some off-the-court issues involved here, but the biggest problem that Okafor faced is that the game had passed him by. He was a dominant low-post scorer that couldn’t make threes with limited range that defended on the perimeter like he was wearing cement blocks for shoes.

Philly also had a guy by the name of Joel Embiid on the roster, but it’s telling that Okafor was traded for, essentially, a second round pick and that after half a season in Brooklyn, he signed for a minimum deal in New Orleans.

Four years after looking like he would be the next Tim Duncan and three years after averaging 17.4 points and 7.0 boards as a 19-year old, Jahlil Okafor is Just A Guy.

And it’s not just Okafor, either.

As of today, the position that every team in the NBA is looking for is the big, versatile wing that can defend in space, are switchable and can make threes. Everyone wants the next Trevor Ariza. The O.G. Anunoby’s of the world are in high-demand. It’s why someone like Jaren Jackson Jr. can be looked at as a better prospect than Marvin Bagley III by really smart basketball people.

That’s because the last thing that everyone in the NBA was trying to find — players than can defend the rim on one end of the floor and that can space the court on the other end — were rendered somewhat obsolete by the Golden State Warriors putting together two playmakers that can do both of those things (Draymond Green and Kevin Durant). As valuable as the likes of the Gasol brothers, Serge Ibaka and the like are, if they can’t handle the constant switching that is required these days, they become a liability.

And all that is happening because the NBA has become increasingly more reliant on ball-screens this decade.

The ever-changing landscape of the NBA combined with NBA teams that are drafting players that need two or three or four years of development means that the goalposts are constantly moving.

Think about it like this: Is there any chance in hell that Clint Capela would drop all the way to 25th in the 2014 NBA Draft if NBA teams knew that in three years the only way to hope to compete with the Warriors would be to have a rim-running, shot-blocking center than can switch out onto point guards?

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IF YOU MAKE THE NBA, YOU LIVED UP TO THE HYPE

After working through this project, I’d hazard to guess that somewhere around 60 or 70 percent of a player’s success in the NBA has to do with the organization that they land with and the circumstances that they are put in while there.

For some guys, the stars align and they get their chance to shine. Quinn Cook and Jordan Bell have NBA Championship rings — and a likely future in the league — because they ended up being the perfect fit for what the Warriors were looking for. For other guys, they wind up in an organization — like the Spurs, like the Celtics — that prioritizes and excels in player development. For others, they get drafted by the Kings or the Knicks and are all-but guaranteed to be cursed, regardless of how good they actually are.

Does that mean they are “better” than other guys that don’t get their shot?

Not necessarily. It just means they took advantage of their chance when they got it.

To be fair, there are varying degrees of this — it’s hard not to argue that someone like Josh Selby or Byron Mullens was a bust — but given everything that I just said, if a player gets to the NBA and hangs around for a while, they made it, in my mind. Shabazz Muhammad’s career has been a disappointment relative to the expectations he had in high school, but he averaged 13.5 points one season and just signed with Milwaukee, meaning he is heading into his sixth season in the NBA.

He made it.

FOR THE MOST PART, THE GUYS DOING THE RANKINGS DO FINE

No one is ever going to be perfect when making projections, particularly when your projections involve guessing how a 17-year old will react to getting millions and millions of dollars when he turns 19.

They’re ranking a kid’s personality as much as you are their basketball ability, and I don’t know how many scouts there are with psychology degrees.

Some of the biggest busts we found in this project (Josh Selby, Cliff Alexander, Mullens) were ranked high despite their red flags. Some of the biggest misses (Russell Westbrook, C.J. McCollum) had growth spurts while in college, while others (Steph Curry, Paul George, Damian Lillard) were overlooked by recruiters, not just people doing rankings.

It’s an inexact science by definition.

And that makes it a hard job.

But for the most part, the guys that look like the best players in the class at 17 years old often end up being among the best players when they reach the NBA.

Penn State, West Virginia set up hurricane relief exhibition

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Tuesday afternoon it was announced by Penn State and West Virginia that the two programs will meet in an exhibition that will benefit Hurricane Florence relief efforts. The exhibition will be played November 3 in Morgantown, with all proceeds being donated to the American Red Cross.

While the game won’t impact either team’s record, it is the first meeting between the Nittany Lions and Mountaineers since January 1991. At the time both schools were members of the Atlantic 10, with Penn State leaving to join the Big Ten that summer.

Ahead of the 2017-18 season there were numerous exhibitions matching Division I teams, a move that requires NCAA approval, in the name of charity. That’s certainly the most important aspect of these exhibitions, but it also gives coaches the chance to evaluate their players against similar competition as opposed to the standard preseason game against a Division II, III or NAIA opponent.

Teams also have the option of setting up scrimmages before the season begins, and those affairs cannot be viewed by the general public.

CBT Podcast: Breaking down our top 25, preseason All-Americans

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As the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk podcast returns, Rob Dauster was joined by Raphielle Johnson to breakdown the NBC Sports preseason top 25 and the preseason All-American teams that were released this week.

Here is a full rundown of today’s podcast:

OPEN: Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Gonzaga are the clear-cut preseason top four.

19:30: Which top ten team is the most likely to be a bust?

22:30: What should we do with Loyola-Chicago heading into 2018-19?

25:15: Washington vs. Oregon as the Pac-12’s best.

30:00: Which team outside the top 25 will get to the Final Four?

32:05: R.J. Barrett vs. Carsen Edwards for Preseason Player of the Year and Zion Williamson vs. Tyus Battle for 1st team All-America.

39:40: Kentucky is No. 2 but doesn’t have a player on our 1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-America.

43:30: Who are the National Player of the Year sleepers?

No. 24 N.C. State Wolfpack: Can Kevin Keatts win without frontcourt?

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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Every day at Noon ET, we will be releasing an in-depth preview of one member of our Preseason Top 25.

Today we dive into No. 24 N.C. State.


Kevin Keatts is in just his second season as the head coach of the Wolfpack but he’s already managed to more or less completely turn over a roster that had developed a reputation for completely underachieving.

Just two of N.C. State’s scholarship players were at N.C. State when Keatts was hired — point guard Markell Johnson and wing Torin Dorn. Of the 11 players that Keatts has landed, eight of them came via the transfer market, and Johnson is the only non-freshman on the roster that began his collegiate career in Raleigh.

Normally it takes three or four seasons before a new head coach is able to turn a roster over and get “his guys” into the program

With Keatts, it took him all of 18 months, and he already is coming off of a surprise trip to the 2018 NCAA tournament to boot.

The question that needs to be answered is this: Did Keatts simply find a way to get it done with the talent that Mark Gottfried let waste away on his roster last season?

Or is he just getting started?

MOREPreseason Top 25 | NBC Sports All-Americans | Preview Schedule

N.C. STATE WILL BE GOOD BECAUSE …

This team looks so much like the juggernauts that Keatts built at UNC Wilmington.

Prior to his move to Raleigh, Keatts spent three seasons with the Seahawks. He won at least a share of the CAA regular season title all three years, getting to the NCAA tournament twice where he lost by single-digits to ACC powerhouses Virginia and Duke.

Those UNCW teams were built around a certain style of play that isn’t all that dissimilar from what Shaka Smart did during his VCU days. UNCW wasn’t playing an all-out, gambling defense like Havoc, but they did defend full court and they did gamble for steals quite a bit and, most importantly, they were built around the idea that Keatts could play four guards at once, forcing enough turnovers with his pressure and creating enough mismatches on the offensive end that his team would win despite being outsized every time they stepped on the court.

Reading the tea leaves, it’s not hard to envision the Wolfpack doing something very similar this season. Of the 11 players that are eligible to play this year after it was announced that freshman Immanuel Bates will redshirt following shoulder surgery, seven of them are guards and two of their forwards are decidedly perimeter-oriented.

And that depth on the perimeter isn’t just bodies. They’re talented. Let’s start with Torin Dorn, the redshirt senior transfer from Charlotte that averaged 13.9 points last season. At 6-foot-5, I would not be surprised to see Dorn get quite a few minutes playing as a four for the Wolfpack; Keatts’ best teams at UNCW used Chris Flemmings, a 6-foot-5, 175-pound Division II transfer as their de-facto power forward, and he won himself a CAA Player of the Year award in the process.

Torin Dorn (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Along those same lines, I can see C.J. Bryce getting plenty of minutes alongside Dorn. Bryce, who also stands 6-foot-5, was a first-team all-CAA player as a sophomore at UNCW when he averaged 17.4 points. He followed Keatts to N.C. State and sat last season out as a redshirt.

Markell Johnson is in line for the starting point guard gig after leading the ACC in assists a season ago, and I would not be shocked to see him partnered with Braxton Beverly in the backcourt once again. Beverly started 26 games and averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 assists as a freshman after transferring into the program from Ohio State.

The reason I don’t think it is a guarantee that Beverly starts is due to the pieces that Keatts is bringing in around him. Eric Lockett is a graduate transfer from FIU that averaged 14.3 points and 6.5 boards last season. Devon Daniels is a redshirt sophomore that sat out last season after averaging 9.9 points as a freshman at Utah. Blake Harris, a former top 100 recruit, will be eligible immediately after transferring into N.C. State from Missouri, where he averaged 3.8 points before leaving the team in January.

Beverly has the inside track to a starting spot, but he is going to have to earn it, and that’s unequivocally a good thing if you are an N.C. State fan, because Beverly is a good player.

And that’s really what this comes down to for the Wolfpack.

Their guards are really good, there are a lot of them and if Keatts has proven anything during his coaching career, it’s that he can win with teams that have good guards.

RELATED: Expert Picks | CBT Podcast | Best non-conference games
Markell Johnson (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

BUT N.C. STATE IS GOING TO STRUGGLE BECAUSE …

There really is no frontcourt depth to speak of.

And while the guards are the players that have gotten all of the attention for Keatts’ best UNCW teams, the truth is that those teams had big men that were really good at doing what they needed to do to anchor that defense.

Neither C.J. Gettys nor Davontae Cacok put up stat lines that would ‘wow’ you, but they were really good at two things: Rebounding the ball and defending the rim.

I don’t know if there is a guy on this roster that can do those things. Wyatt Walker averaged 12.9 points and 9.7 boards for Samford back in 2016-17, but he dealt with a knee injury last season that limited him to just two games, and even then, he’s 6-foot-9 and had just 56 blocks in two-plus years. D.J. Funderburk is 6-foot-10, but he weighs just 210 pounds and is much more of a wing than he is a post. Put another way, he averaged just 4.4 boards in Junior College last season. Ian Steere is a good player but he’s not exactly a game-changing recruit; you don’t want him anchoring the frontcourt as a freshman.

The cruel irony is that Immanuel Bates might have been the guy that could help fill that void, but he’s going to redshirt to recover from his shoulder surgery, and even when healthy, he, like Steere, is not necessarily someone you want to rely on for more than some minutes off the bench.

This is an issue for a couple of reasons:

  1. When you play a gambling style of defense, having someone that can erase shots at the rim is so important. The offense is far more likely to be able to get to the rim, and making it just that much more difficult for those layups to be scored makes all the difference.
  2. N.C. State is already going to be playing small, which inherently hinders them on the glass. Having a big man on the floor that can vacuum up caroms on the defensive end helps to end possessions. As the saying goes, forcing a miss only matters if you get rebound.

This is likely going to be an issue for this team all season long. The answer is less solving the problem and more finding a way to work around it.

Braxton Beverly (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

THE X-FACTOR

It really is incredible just how many new faces there are going to be on this roster.

Dorn and Johnson are the only players that have been in Raleigh for more than two years. Just five of the 13 players on scholarship have been on campus for one year, and three of those five transferred into the program and sat out last season as redshirts.

Put another way, there is a ton of experience on this roster, but they have very little experience actually playing with each other.

I’d love to be able to analyze this deeper, but it’s really simple: We don’t know how teams are going to come together until we see them, you know, come together.

Role allocation, role acceptance, understanding the plays, learning defensive assignments. These are the things that are going to determine if the Wolfpack hit their ceiling.

2018-19 OUTLOOK

And frankly, I think that ceiling is pretty high.

I am a believer in Kevin Keatts. I think he’s a terrific basketball coach and a guy that will find a way to get the most out of the talent that is on his roster, and there is plenty of talent on this roster. It is also the kind of roster makeup that Keatts has had success with in the past.

That’s enough to look at this team and see a group that should make a return trip to the NCAA tournament and make a run at finishing fourth — behind Duke, Virginia and North Carolina — in the ACC.

But it’s hardly a guarantee.

Beyond the simple fact that we have no idea how this group is going to come together and the issues they have in the frontcourt, there are questions to be asked about whether or not this team has a go-to guy, or if the players that transferred into the program are anything more than role playing cast-offs from another program, or if the style that Keatts had success with in the CAA will work as well in the ACC.

N.C. State is going to be fun to follow this year precisely because of that fact.

We don’t really know what they are going to do this season. Hell, we don’t even really know what the starting lineup is going to be.

All we really know is they have talent on paper and one of the best young coaches in the league.

That’s a good combination of things to have.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

No. 25 Marquette

NBC Sports Preseason All-Americans

Reagan Lunn/@DukeMBB
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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are unveiling the NBC Sports Preseason All-American teams.

We went with four teams this year, and at the bottom we listed every player that received at least one vote for one team.

Unlike past seasons, there is no shortage of options for Preseason National Player of the Year.

Three different players received at least one vote for us, and I would not be surprised to see two or three others pick up the title from someone on the internet between now and the start of the season.

Without further ado, here are our All-America teams.


R.J. Barrett, Reagan Lunn/@DukeMBB

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: R.J. Barrett, Duke

Barrett got the nod as the NBC Sports Preseason National Player of the Year as he seems to be the safest pick this season even if he’s not the only potential Player of the Year on his own roster.

He is a bonafide star, a player that has proven the ability to be a game-changer against elite competition despite the fact that he is just a freshman. Remember, two summers ago, Barrett — just three weeks after his 17th birthday — was the star of Canada’s U19 national team that won the FIBA U19 World Cup. In a game against Team USA in the semifinals of the event, Barrett had 38 points, 13 boards and six assists. That team featured first round picks Kevin Huerter and Josh Okogie as well as current All-Americans Carsen Edwards and P.J. Washington, among others.

A 6-foot-8 point guard, Barrett — along with Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish — will be the latest face of the small-ball movement at Duke. Williamson is going to get all the hype and be the one to go viral and there are those that believe that Reddish actually has a higher ceiling should he put it all together, but this is going to be Barrett’s team in 2018-19. I fully expect him to have the kind of season that will justify being taken as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Carsen Edwards (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICA

CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue

Edwards is going to put up massive numbers this season if the Boilermakers are going to be as good as some project them to be. A borderline top 25 team that should make it back to the NCAA tournament, Purdue is losing four senior starters off of last year’s roster. Edwards — who averaged a team-high 18.5 points this past season — is going to be thrust into a role where he is asked to carry this group while showcasing more point guard ability than he has in the past. I don’t think averaging 24 points is out of the question, although I think he’s more likely to put together a junior season that looks something like the year Aaron Holiday had for UCLA in 2017-18 — averaging 20 points and six assists for a team that gets into the tournament as a double-digit seed.

RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga

The Japanese forward only recently arrived back on campus after taking part in FIBA World Cup qualifiers with his national team. Hachimura is exactly the kind of big, athletic and versatile forward that dominates basketball in today’s day and age. He’ll need to be a more consistent perimeter shooter, and there are still times where he seems to get lost defensively, but 6-foot-8 combo-forwards with his physical tools do not come around often. He scored 24 points in an upset win over a very good Australian national team this summer in a World Cup qualifier.

DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas

The Memphis transfer is in line to be the focal point of a loaded Kansas attack that will enter the year as the No. 1 team in the country in the NBC Sports Top 25. Lawson is precisely the kind of player that Bill Self has thrived with in the past: A face-up four that can make shots on the perimeter but is at his best from 15 feet and in. As a sophomore with Memphis in 2016-17, Lawson averaged 19.2 points, 9.9 boards, 3.3 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals. He is not going to put up those numbers at Kansas while playing in the Big 12, but he might not be all that far off.

LUKE MAYE, North Carolina

Maye might just be the best returning player in all of college basketball, which is not something that I ever envisioned myself saying. After hitting the game-winning jumper to send North Carolina past Kentucky and into the Final Four in 2017, the year the Tar Heels won the national title, Maye ended up having an All-American season as a junior, averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 boards while shooting 43.1 percent from three.

Tyus Battle (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICA

MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette

Quite possibly the best shooter in all of college basketball. As a freshman, he shot 54.7 percent from three on 4.8 attempts per game. As a sophomore, he shot 40.4 percent from three while shooting more than eight threes per game while spending more time on the ball. He’s missed 14 free throws in two seasons. And, coming off of a year where he averaged 20.4 points while ceding lead guard duties to Andrew Rowsey, Howard will now be the centerpiece of what Marquette does offensively. He, and Marquette as a team, might just score enough points to overcome the fact that they can’t guard a team of out-of-shape dads.

TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse

Battle’s efficiency numbers went in the tank as a sophomore thanks to the fact that he played on a team with no floor spacing and even less help for him in halfcourt offensive settings. But the Orange, who finished as one of the nation’s top five defenses and add some offensive weapons to a team that returns everyone, including Oshae Brissett, Battle should be more effective this year. He could average 20 points on a top 15 team.

CALEB MARTIN, Nevada

Martin averaged 18.9 points and shot 40.3 percent from three as a junior at Nevada while leading the Wolf Pack to the Sweet 16 despite the fact that he played the second half of the season with a foot injury that was initially thought to be season-ending. He’s in line for a massive season on one of the best teams in the country.

GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee

Did you know that Tennessee is the reigning SEC regular season champion? Did you know that Williams is the reigning SEC Player of the Year? If you did, then you shouldn’t be surprised to see the 6-foot-7 junior listed here. He averaged 15.2 points and 6.0 boards as a sophomore.

ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

Williamson is an absolute freak of nature athletically. We all already knew that. The reason Williamson is slotted this high on our All-American teams is that he is far more skilled than he gets credit for. While Duke was in Canada playing their exhibition games in August, Williamson was unstoppable. I am much more bullish on him now than I was at the start of the summer.

Eric Paschall (Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICA

TREMONT WATERS, LSU

Waters is in line to be this year’s Trae Young. He averaged 15.9 points and 6.0 assists as a freshman for an LSU team that wasn’t overloaded with talent.

SHAMORIE PONDS, St. John’s

Ponds had some monstrous performances for the Johnnies in big games last season — including a stretch where he averaged 31.5 points an 5.0 assists during a four-game winning streak against Duke, at Villanova, Marquette and at DePaul. Can the Johnies be better this season than they were last?

ERIC PASCHALL, Villanova

With everything that the Wildcats lost this past offseason, Paschall is going to have a chance to showcase what he can do offensively. People forget he scored a ton of points as a freshman. Paschall is going to be a first round pick.

DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

For my money, Hunter is Virginia’s best and most important player, but I am concerned that his production can get stymied by A) playing in Virginia’s system and B) being forced to play out of position. He’s at his best if he can be a mismatch four. Depth issues might force Virginia to play him at the three.

ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin

Happ was an All-American after his sophomore year and a preseason All-American heading into his junior season. And now, as a senior, his Wisconsin team looks primed to have a bounceback year.

De’Andre Hunter (Eric Espada/Getty Images)

FOURTH TEAM ALL-AMERICA

KYLE GUY, Virginia

Guy will play the role that was populated by Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon. He would probably be higher on this list if he was a better defender.

KELLAN GRADY, Davidson

Grady is the next superstar at Davidson, although he ceiling looks closer to that of Jack Gibbs than that of Stephen Curry.

NASSIR LITTLE, North Carolina

Little is a tremendous athlete that is going to give the Tar Heels some lineup flexibility, but he may still actually be a better prospect than player at this point.

P.J. WASHINGTON, Kentucky

Picking a player from Kentucky for this is difficult, as the Wildcats have a handful of options, a ton of depth and no real clarity on what their starting lineup and rotation will be. But after the week he had in the Bahamas, Washington is a pretty good bet to be Kentucky’s best player this season.

DEAN WADE, Kansas State

Wade, a 6-foot-10 perimeter forward, was Kansas State’s best player last season, and he didn’t even play in their NCAA tournament Elite 8 run.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

KY BOWMAN, Boston College
MIKE DAUM, South Dakota State
ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky
SAGABA KONATE, West Virginia
CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan
CAM REDDISH, Duke
KILLIAN TILLIE, Gonzaga
REID TRAVIS, Kentucky
NICK WARD, Michigan State

NC State looks to transfers for help on overhauled roster

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Devon Daniels, C.J. Bryce and Blake Harris spent the better part of last season leading North Carolina State’s practice team and working on their games — along with their ability to stay patient — while sitting out as transfers.

The Wolfpack’s success this season could depend on how successful they were in turning that time into sharpened skillsets, particularly with so many new faces on the roster for coach Kevin Keatts’ second season.

“They know how the game is,” sophomore guard Braxton Beverly said Monday during the team’s preseason media day. “They’re a little more mature. They know how everything goes, so that makes it a lot easier when it’s not a lot of freshmen who’ve never experienced this level.”

N.C. State has only three returning players — Beverly, senior Torin Dorn and junior Markell Johnson — who played for the Wolfpack last season. The roster now features 10 newcomers, though not all are eligible to play this season. The list includes a pair of graduate transfers who weren’t with the team last year: forward Wyatt Walker (Samford) and guard Eric Lockett (Florida International).

Daniels is a 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore who averaged 9.9 points and shot 57 percent while starting 26 games as a freshman at Utah. Bryce, a 6-5 redshirt junior was a first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association performer under Keatts at UNC Wilmington while averaging 17.4 points.

Daniels and Bryce were with the Wolfpack from the start of last season, working in practices while sitting out to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements.

“Last year we competed every day against the starters, when we were leading the practice team,” Daniels said. “We just got each other better. We came in here by ourselves and got better a lot — ballhandling drills, shooting together, all that. I think it was good.”

Bryce said he particularly worked to improve his 3-point shot by keeping his elbow in more to tweak his shooting stroke.

“It was a year of work,” Bryce said. “I feel like throughout it all, I stayed pretty dialed-in for the most part.”

Harris, a 6-3 sophomore, joined the program in January after playing 14 games for Missouri. The native of nearby Chapel Hill later received a waiver from the NCAA allowing him to play immediately instead of sitting out the fall semester as typically required by the rules.

To listen to Keatts, they all handled that sitting-out time well, even if it’s not easy.

“The tough part of when you sit out as a transfer, you’re the best player on the (practice) team,” Keatts said. “So we really don’t have a chance to coach you all the time. So you take bad shots and you really don’t know the system as well as you think they should.”

Yet to listen to Dorn, the practices were “super competitive” and helped last year’s team improve enough to return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-season absence.

“They were ready to play,” Dorn said. “They were in street clothes (during games) so they’d come in at practice like this is their game. . I appreciate those guys for doing that because it pushed us to be the team we were last year.”

Now those guys get to show what they’ve learned in games that count.