Last season Ben Simmons (pictured), Brandon Ingram and Jamal Murray took the basketball world by storm with eye-opening performances as freshmen in college basketball's biggest arenas.
While last year’s crop of freshman were certainly notable and a number will go on to star in the NBA, this year's incoming freshman class is arguably the best since 2007, which produced the likes of Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon and Kevin Love.
The 2016 crop is not only full of star power, but also plenty of depth. In fact, there are a handful of players that were ranked in the 20’s that would be top 10 prospects in a normal class.
With that said, putting together a list of the top freshmen isn’t easy, simply because there are so many quality candidates. Here is our top 10.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
Bill Self already had plenty of perimeter talent, but landing Josh Jackson, the nation’s top recruit in 2017, gives the Jayhawks legitimate star power on the wing. Known for his competitive nature, Jackson plays with intensity and will be one of college basketball's best all-around athletes. His potential as a wing defender is elite, but his passing and ability to make plays in transition is special. Now Jackson isn’t a shooter, but he’ll contribute in just about every other way. Kansas fans should enjoy him while they have him, as he’s projected as a top three pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
NBAE via Getty ImagesSam Forencich
Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
As a freshman and sophomore in high school, Fultz wasn’t good enough to make Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha’s varsity team. Now, according to a host of NBA sources, the 6-foot-5 versatile guard is emerging as a potential top pick in the draft. But first, Fultz will have to prove himself in college and he’ll have plenty of opportunity to do so at Washington. The physical gifts are there, as he has good size for the point guard spot, impressive athleticism and a remarkable ability to change speeds. Fultz is still learning the position, but his vision and passing are notable. He’s also equipped to score in a variety of ways and his jump shot has progressed over the years. Fultz has a chance to be an All-American in what will likely be his only year in college.
NBAE via Getty ImagesCameron Browne
Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Grayson Allen and even fellow incoming recruit Harry Giles seem to be getting more attention than Tatum in the preseason. But don’t be surprised if Tatum, a 6-foot-8 wing, pushes Allen as the Blue Devils' top scorer this season. Scoring comes easy to the St. Louis native, and his versatility in that department sets him apart from his peers. From pull-up jumpers to advanced moves from the mid-post, Tatum has an advanced arsenal and he’s equipped to score in a variety of ways. Tatum will be one of college basketball’s best all-around scorers.
Lance KingGetty Images
Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
The early returns on Monk’s summer and first practices at Kentucky are that he’s surpassing expectations. Monk will be called upon to score, and that’s what he does best. Athletically, he’s beyond gifted and Big Blue Nation will quickly fall in love with his highlight-reel plays at the rim due to his 42-inch vertical. Where he’s surprised the Kentucky staff is with his shooting, which was fairly streaky in high school. If it indeed is improved, look for Monk to lead the Cats in scoring.
Getty ImagesBrace Hemmelgarn
Jonathan Isaac, PF, Florida State
His numbers won’t be as gaudy as some freshman, but his impact will be significant. He’ll push for a double-double and will make some wow plays in the process. One FSU source said he’s pushing 6-foot-11, 225 pounds. For a prospect that is versatile enough to handle the ball, shoot jumpers from distance and play on the wing, that’s absurd to think about. Not to mention as a junior in high school, Isaac stood just 6-foot-7. Now, Isaac is able to touch the backboard on his tiptoes. Between sophomore wing Dwayne Bacon and Isaac, Leonard Hamilton has at least a pair of future NBA players.
Getty ImagesRob Foldy
Harry Giles, PF, Duke
When he was healthy, Giles was arguably the best player in the 2017 recruiting class, but he tore both ACL’s during high school and recently had a knee surgery that has him sidelined until November 15. So there are concerns about his durability. But one thing is clear — when Giles is 100 percent, he’s a dominant force in the paint. At 6-foot-10, Giles was arguably the best rebounder in the 2017 class, but he was also a versatile scoring threat that had the ability to make plays on the block, score facing the rim or knock down jump shots. Giles won three Gold Medals with USA Basketball and assuming he gets back to full strength, will be a big part of Duke’s potential 2017 run.
Getty ImagesBrace Hemmelgarn
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
As a senior, Lonzo Ball was the best passer in high school basketball. That quality will translate to college, and with the amount of scorers on UCLA’s roster, expect his assist number to be high. One source in the program even thinks he could push for double-digit assists a game. That seems a bit high, but the point remains that Ball has exceptional vision and pinpoint passing. Throw in impressive size (6-foot-6), length, quickness and instincts and Ball will rank as one of the most impactful freshmen in the country.
Getty ImagesDavid Banks
Dennis Smith, PG, NC State
Due to tearing his left ACL in August of 2015 at adidas Nations, Dennis Smith sat out his entire senior season and enrolled at NC State this past December. If he had played he could have finished much higher than his No. 10 ranking. Smith returned to adidas Nations exactly a year later and NBA scouts were buzzing about his game. Smith will step right in for Cat Barber at NC State, and the transition should be seamless. Smith has remarkable athleticism and a very quick first step. Look for Smith and the Pack to play fast, which plays right into Smith’s strengths.
Getty ImagesKelly Kline
De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
John Calipari has had his fair share of gifted point guards. From Derrick Rose to John Wall to Tyler Ulis, he’s continuously had one of the best lead guards in college basketball. That shouldn’t be any different this year. Fox has all the tools to be an elite point guard, and NBA executives left the Kentucky combine this past weekend raving about his physical gifts. Fox has a lightning-quick first step and is an extremely impressive athlete, especially considering he’s a point guard. Fox brings a good blend of facilitating and scoring to the position. He’s also tracking as a potentially elite on-the-ball defender.
NBAE via Getty ImagesSam Forencich
Edrice Adebayo, C, Kentucky
It seems like Calipari always rolls out an athletic and imposing post player. This year that guy is Adebayo. At Kentucky’s NBA combine, he recorded a 39.5-inch vertical, which is ridiculous considering he was measured at 6-foot-10. Adebayo runs the floor well, plays with impressive energy and seems to enjoy physical play. Look for Adebayo to lead the Cats in rebounding and likely dunks as well. Although not known as a skill guy, Adebayo has developed a good mid-range jump shot and he should be a threat to make shots from the mid-post.