Heading into the college basketball season a lot of talk surrounded the incoming freshman class. It’s a group that college coaches couldn’t wait to get on campus and it’s a collection of players that NBA executives can’t wait to draft.
And we are quickly seeing why.
Markelle Fultz has already eclipsed the 30-point mark twice, Malik Monk pumped in seven three-pointers in the Garden and Arizona may have the best freshman to ever come through their program. But those are just a few of the notable freshman storylines a week and a half into the season.
With the sheer depth of the freshman group and the impact it’s already making, we plan to periodically release a power ranking of the top freshmen in the country. This isn’t who we think is the best prospect, per se, but who is playing the best.
Malik Monk, Kentucky
Monk’s 23-point, seven three-pointer outing against Michigan State in Madison Square Garden at the Champions Classic is the best single-game performance by a freshman thus far, which is why he made the cut over his teammate De'Aaron Fox. Monk, who has drawn comparisons to Lou Williams, is a special athlete, but it's his jump shot that stole the show against the Spartans. Monk has also shown quite a bit of potential on the defensive end. He is averaging 15.8 points a game.
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
Is Markkanen on the way to the best season by an Arizona freshman, ever? May sound crazy, but it's not out of the question. Sure Arizona has had good ones, especially recently, like Derrick Williams and Aaron Gordon, but Markkanen is making his way into that conversation. He's a 7-footer with a unique and advanced skill set, and he’s been incredibly effective through three games. Markkanen is averaging 20.3 points and 6.7 rebounds, while connecting on 5 of his 11 three-point attempts and shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.
Another member of UCLA's flaunted incoming class, T.J. Leaf has been just as good as Ball through the first four games of the season. Leaf has a versatile scoring attack and is averaging 20.3 points a game. It's his efficiency that has impressed the most, as he's shooting nearly 73 percent from the field through his first 44 attempts. Leaf, a 6-foot-10 versatile forward, is also reeling in 10 rebounds a game.
Jae C. HongAP
Lonzo Ball, UCLA
There aren't many that can stuff the stat sheet like UCLA guard Lonzo Ball. The former five-star recruit was touted as the best passer in high school last year and he's quickly showing why, averaging nine assists a game through the Bruins' first four contests. UCLA hasn't played great competition yet, but it's impressive nonetheless. To go with the passing stats, Ball is also putting up 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. He’s 7-for-16 from three.
Jae C. HongAP
Markelle Fultz, Washington
Outside of Anthony Davis, I haven't seen a player improve as much as Fultz in such a short time. From junior varsity as a sophomore in high school to the national stage, Fultz has gotten better every step of the way. Although there's a blemish on his early Washington resume (a loss to Yale), Fultz has already had games of 35 and 30 points this season. Through three games, Fultz is 7-for-14 from three and in high school that wasn't a strength, so that's a notable early-season improvement. He's shooting an outstanding 67 percent from the field. Fultz is averaging 27 points, 6.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds.
(Just missed the cut: De'Aaron Fox, Shamorie Ponds, Frank Jackson, Miles Bridges & Amir Coffey)