College basketball’s freshman class has multiple players already becoming go-to guys just a few weeks after stepping foot on campus. Maturity and hard work have a lot of them considered among the top 10-15 picks in the upcoming NBA draft. Jett Howard and Brandon Miller may have garnered a lot of attention, however, the buzz will only grow for the other three freshmen mentioned.
These five players bring plenty of hype. At Sportskeeda, we are going to rank all five of NCAA men’s basketball’s impact freshmen. Their strengths and weaknesses and how their play ultimately affects the end of the game will be considered. These rankings could change as the season takes shape.
#5. Kyle Flipowski, Duke University
Kyle Flipowski came to Durham and solidified his position as one of the go-to scorers for a Blue Devils team that has a mix of experience and youth.
In the first year without Coach K, Jon Scheyer needs to establish roles early in the season.
Flipowski has taken on the responsibility of being one of the primary scorers in any facet. If he has to bang bodies on the inside to get a board and score while maybe getting fouled, he will. He is a three-level scorer who thrives at shooting the corner 3-pointer. Don’t let his size at 7 feet fool you. He is an impressive ball handler who can create off the dribble.
The Massachusetts native has shown he is a willing defender. If he can play defense at the highest level, the Blue Devils have a chance to contend in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds through five games, Flipowski is showing that he can be efficient and impactful. They will only succeed if Flipowski can help them push the needle on both ends of the floor.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Flipowski finds his way to the top two spots on the rankings in the coming months.
#4. Jett Howard, Michigan
The 6-foot-8 guard has shown the ability to be one of the country’s best freshmen scorers. He will thrive within dribble-handoff sets.
Michigan coach Juwan Howard, his father, has put him in a position to succeed. He’s averaging 14.4 points and 2.8 assists in 29.2 minutes per game.
Howard’s pace and patience as the season has progressed has shown another layer to his game that should interest NBA scouts. When Howard was the ball handler in screen actions, he found some amazing chemistry with junior center Hunter Dickinson.
Howard had 13 points, four assists and four blocks on 5-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-7 from 3-point range, in a 70-66 win over Ohio on Sunday.
#3. Anthony Black, Arkansas
One of the best freshman passers, Black uses his 6-foot-8 frame to see over the top of defenses and deliver the ball exactly where only his guys can catch it. Black shares the ball-handling responsibilities with freshman Nick Smith, who has been battling a knee injury for the last four games.
Black, the No. 1-ranked point guard in the class, has only thrived, showing how special he is as the lead guard. Black’s 26-point, six-assist game on 81.8% shooting in an 80-54 win over Louisville in the Maui Invitational on Monday put the country on notice that Arkansas could be the nation’s best team.
Anthony is hard to stop when his shot is falling. He seems to always be a step ahead. That could be an extra pass to get an easier shot or his good understanding of when to also shoot a floater instead of looking for his teammates. His energy is contagious just like his hair. He will be an elite prospect by the end of the year, and he might flirt with the top five if he can lead this team deep in March.
#2. Jarace Walker, Houston
Jarace Walker’s explosiveness is often the first thing noticed about his game. He is quick, but with a 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame, he is hard to stop, especially in transition.
Walker has shown early this season that he will be one of the most impactful freshmen playing on a very experienced team in Houston. The IMG graduate is averaging 12.4 points and 7.0 rebounds on 50.0% shooting. As the 10th-ranked recruit in his recruiting class, everyone saw the potential Walker had; they just believed it would take some time.
Stretching the floor is another of Walker’s special traits (41.7% from beyond the arc this season) that has impressed spectators early in the season. He’s proving he can be a scoring threat at all three levels, an essential for the Cougars. Walker has shown that he will be a lot to handle inside and outside of the paint.
It will be interesting to see how his game develops in Kelvin Sampson’s offense. Talents like this don’t come around often to the University of Houston. Julius Randle meets Draymond Green is the ideal mix in comparison if he continues to progress in his playmaking.
#1. Brandon Miller, Alabama
The the most impactful freshman so far this season by far, Miller has a bag of elite tools and has shown he has the potential to be a four-level scorer in the NBA.
His impressive release makes defenders pay from beyond the arc. Hand in his face or not, he is confident in his ability to score on anyone. Miller plays above the rim and is an underrated rim runner as well. He has the ability to play point forward, as he has shown flashes of his passing ability already.
The Tennessee native is averaging 20.3 ppg and 9.3 rpg while shooting 51.7% from 3-point range this season.
He has checked every box and has the NBA salivating at getting their hands on him. Miller’s above-average athleticism mixed with his shooting ability confuses defenders. For them, it’s hard to close out. Miller could casually pull up from 3-point range or if he may try to drive and put a defender’s head in the rim.
With time, he should only get better and lead a talented team through a tough Southeastern Conference schedule this season.