2021 Prospects: Immediate Impact Next Season

Auburn: Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl has had the Auburn program, a so called only football program, consistent over the last few years and has been an amazing recruiter. The Auburn staff has reeled in multiple high level and consistent prospects over the last few years and that has helped their success recently. Next year’s big time prospect that will be representing Auburn? Jabari Smith Jr., a potential future lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. It is without question that Smith Jr. should make his impact on the Auburn Tigers program right away and should be in the starting lineup once the college basketball season begins. NBA personnel have already raved about the 6-foot-10 forward’s game and will be keep tabs on him throughout the college basketball season. Jabari is an extremely skilled versatile prospect that is a playmaker on both ends of the floor. Can block shots, score from all levels, past out the post, runs the floor, and finishes plays around the rim. Trey Alexander, a 6-foot-4 guard coming out of Oklahoma, could receive some quality minutes as well at the guard positions. Alexander will be one of those freshman that will help put points on the board for the Tigers next season and will add guard depth in the backcourt for Bruce Pearl and company.

F Jabari Smith Jr photo by Ty Freeman

Michigan: Juwan Howard will be coming into his third season with his alma mater Michigan University and has already had some major success with the program since arriving. Howard led the Wolverines to an Elite Eight appearance this past season and could ultimately lead them to a NCAA Championship pretty soon. Howard and staff have done a solid job with recruiting and will be coming in with the number one freshmen class according to 247sports. Incoming freshmen Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate could be the main freshmen coming in that could receive immediate quality minutes and make their impact right away at Michigan. Houstan, a 6-foot-8 Canadian forward, has a potential to be a one-and-done type prospect. He is an elite three point shooter who will space the floor and have the defenses eyeing on him at all times. He holds good length for his size and moves well without the ball. Diabate will earn his minutes with his outstanding motor and energy. He is a versatile 6-foot-10 forward from France and will impact both sides of the ball for the Wolverines next season.

Kentucky: The Wildcats of Kentucky did not have the type of season we are certainly used to seeing out of them last season after finishing with a 9-16 overall record and not making the NCAA Tournament. Guys like Terrance Clarke, B.J. Boston Jr., Isaiah Jackson, and Olivier Sarr have already declared for the 2021 NBA Draft which gives the new incoming freshmen some playing time. Point guard Nolan Hickman, out of Seattle, should most definitely make his impact immediately for John Calapri and staff. Hickman is an elite all around point guard who can possibly be taking the starting point guard role early in the year for the Kentucky Wildcats. The 6-foot-2 point guard is a possible one-and-done prospect with his elite skillset and should open the eyes of the NBA personnel. Incoming freshman big man Damion Collins will make his impact down low in the paint and especially on the defensive end. Collins will give Kentucky that defensive presence with his next level shot blocking abilities. Guard/forward Bryce Hopkins could also receive some important minutes for Kentucky at the wing spots as he will give them another scoring option next season.

PG Nolan Hickman photo by Montverde Academy

Kansas: The Kansas Jayhawks have been one of the elite college basketball programs since forever and have been one of the best over the last decade or so under head coach Bill Self. Although they have not really made any major noise over the last couple years in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas still finds away to recruit the best of the best. They will lose a few key parts from this past season’s squad, including Marcus Garrett, Jalen Wilson (possibly), Ochai Agbaji, Bryce Thompson, and others. A freshman who could and should receive some major minutes early and make an impact next season in Lawrence? Zach Clemence, a hometown prospect who attended powerhouse Sunrise Christian. Clemence is a versatile 6-foot-9 forward who can step out and knock down three’s, run the floor, score from inside the paint, and rebounds very well. His motor goes unnoticed and was an undervalued type prospect in the 2021 class. Bill Self should fall in love with his game if not already. He will certainly cause mismatch problems in the Big 12 next season.

Duke: Last season’s Duke team was certainly one of the worst teams under Coach K and a very young team at that. The Blue Devils did not make the 2021 NCAA Tournament field but should be back next season as one of the best teams in college basketball. Their freshmen class is legit and is one of the better freshmen class in the country in 2021. Coach K was able to snag elite forward Paolo Banchero, a Seattle, Washington native. Banchero is arguably the number one prospect in the 2021 class and should make an immediate impact in Durham next season. He is a future top-5 pick in next season’s 2022 NBA Draft. His skill level, physical frame, and work ethic already have NBA scouts drooling over him and could win ACC freshmen of the Year. He will be joined by forward A.J. Griffin Jr. and shooting guard Trevor Keels. Both Griffin Jr. and Keels should see some much needed playing time in the rotation next season. Keels is an elite defender, has a football-like body frame, able to utilize his size when attacking the rim, and could hit the outside shot when needed. Griffin Jr. is a freak explosive athlete with an already college ready body. He shows versatility on both ends, rebounds well, and makes plays above the rim.

F Paolo Banchero photo by City of Palms

Tennessee: Rick Barnes has made Tennessee one of the top programs in the SEC since his arrival and unfortunately got knocked out the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament. The Volunteers will have one of the nation’s best freshmen class coming in for the next college basketball season and a few of them should make their impacts on the floor right away. Let us start with incoming freshman Kennedy Chandler. The 6-foot-1 floor general should receive the keys right away for the Volunteers next season and should begin in the starting lineup. Chandler is coming in as the number one ranked point guard in the 2021 class. He is an elite floor general with great speed, quick instincts, has improved his jumper, and an all around incredible playmaking point guard. Rick Barnes and staff were also able to capture center Jonas Aidoo, a former Marquette commit. Aidoo is very underrated. The 7-foot-0 center is super versatile with a unique talent and should be used in different situations on the offensive end for Tennessee next season. One other incoming freshman, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, could receive some quality minutes as well next season in Knoxville. Huntley-Hatifled has reclassed up to the 2021 class and was a top-10 prospect in the 2022 class.

Baylor: The 2021 national champions, Baylor Bears, had an amazing college basketball season this past year and what an incredible run it was en route to their national championship. Their dynamic trio of guards MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell, and Jared Butler are for sure going to be playing at the next level next season in the NBA and it will be the next man up on the Baylor roster next season. Scott Drew does have a couple key freshmen that will be stepping on campus soon for the next college basketball season and they for sure could see some major minutes early. Top-25 prospect forward Kendall Brown is the highest rated freshman coming in and could possibly be in the starting lineup next season. Brown is a 6-foot-7 forward with next level athleticism, an above the rim playmaker, long arms, extremely engaged defensively, and moves very well without the ball. A potential lottery pick and 3-and-D type prospect for Scott Drew. Other incoming freshman, Langston Love, will fit right in the Baylor Bears system. Love, a Texas native, is an scoring guard who could be the next Davion Mitchell at Baylor with his ability to score the ball in a variety of ways.

F Kendall Brown photo by Annette Wilkerson

Connecticut: Very intrigued by this incoming freshmen class that head coach Dan Hurley and staff were able to get for the 2021 class. UConn has been very impressive with their recruiting over the last couple years with Dan Hurley in charge. The Huskies made their NCAA Tournament appearance this past season but unfortunately was put out in the first round by Maryland. Their star guard and leading scorer, James Bouknight, is off to the NBA and could be a potential lottery pick this summer. Incoming freshmen Samson Johnson, Jordan Hawkins, and Rashool Diggins could all receive minutes early in their freshmen season in Storrs next year. Johnson is a 6-foot10 long arm forward who has showed his versatility offensively, an elite rim protector, effective rebounder, and runs the floor. Jordan Hawkins might make the most impact out of all the freshmen next season. He is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard with an elite shot making ability, athletic, high energy, and is a microwave type scorer on the wing. Rashool Diggins could receive some early minutes at the point guard spot next season for Dan Hurley. A 6-foot-1 guard who can weave his way through a defense, a slithery finisher at the rim, and a reliable shot maker from the perimeter.

Gonzaga: Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has dominated the West Coast Conference and has had Gonzaga as one of the premiere programs in college basketball for the last decade or so. The Zags are coming off one of their best season’s in program history and one of the best overall college basketball teams in NCAA history making the national championship game. Last season Mark Few reeled in one of the best prospects in the 2020 class in Jalen Suggs, who is a potential lottery pick for this upcoming NBA Draft, and has got himself a couple more top recruits for next season. The nation’s number one prospect in the 2021 class, Chet Holmgren, will be taking his talents to Gonzaga. Holmgren is a 7-foot-1 forward with tremendous skill, elite rim protector, an elite playmaker at his size, and extremely versatile. Chet is already considered a number one pick for the 2022 NBA Draft and played high school and AAU basketball with former Zag Jalen Suggs. Hunter Salis is another incoming freshman prospect who will make his impact right away in a Gonzaga uniform. Hunter comes in as a talented scoring guard who can create his own offense. Both Chet and Hunter could see themselves playing high quality minutes for Mark Few and staff.

F Chet Holmgren photo by Hannah Foslien

Others:

UCLA – Peyton Watson

Georgetown – Aminu Mohammad

Florida State – Matthew Cleveland and Jalen Warley

Dayton – DaRon Holmes

South Carolina – Jacobi Wright

Ohio State – Malaki Branham

Michigan State – Pierre Brooks and Jaden Akins

Indiana – Tamar Bates

Alabama – Charles Bediako

Stanford – Harrison Ingram