Bossi's Best: Zion Williamson remains atop freshman tracker
As such, he continues to lead teammate R.J. Barrett in the second installment of our 2018-19 freshman tracker. Looking forward, the real story could be how different the list might look if big-name freshmen like Oregon’s Bol Bol, Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland, USC’s Kevin Porter or Providence’s A.J. Reeves weren’t out for either the season or extended amounts of time with injuries.
1. Zion Williamson
How he got here: One of the most closely followed recruits of the Rivals.com era, Williamson surprised most of the recruiting world when he picked Duke over Clemson, Kentucky and others midway through his senior season.
This season: 20.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
Analysis: Williamson remains one of the biggest stories in college basketball and has won over college basketball fans as much as any Duke player in recent memory. He is a serious contender for National Player of the Year and a contender for the top pick in 2019’s NBA Draft. His deep jump shooting has been a question, but he broke out making a trio of three-pointers against Wake Forest on Tuesday.
2. R.J. Barrett
How he got here: One of the most decorated high school players of all-time - and arguably the best prospect that Canada has ever produced - Barrett picked Duke over Kentucky and Oregon prior to the start of his senior year.
This season: 22.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
Analysis: Barrett has lived up to his advanced hype and is actually Duke’s leading scorer over Williamson, and he’s making a serious push to overtake Williamson in the freshman tracker. He’s an aggressive, alpha scorer who has done a very nice job of improving his shot selection since the beginning of the season and he fills out all areas of the stat sheet.
3. Romeo Langford
How he got here: Maybe the most heavily pursued prospect the state of Indiana has produced in 20 years, Langford was the center of an intense recruiting battle. The decision ultimately came down to the Hoosiers, Kansas and Vanderbilt with then first-year head coach Archie Miller scoring his first major recruiting win.
This season: 18.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Analysis: Indiana looks to be on its way back under Archie Miller, and Langford’s ability to live up to incredible expectations has been a big part of it. Langford hasn’t shot well from deep (23 percent from three), but for the most part he’s been everything that he was advertised to be coming out of high school.
4. Ignas Brazdeikis
How he got here: Part of an outstanding class of Canadian players, the dynamic scorer was pursued heavily by many programs. But early on, Michigan appeared to be a good fit and outlasted any competition.
This season: 16.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game.
Analysis: A five-star prospect coming out of high school, Brazdeikis has been even better than could have been expected. Michigan has been one of the season’s most pleasant “surprise” teams and Brazdeikis has shown an ability to step in and be an immediate threat as a jump shooter or a guy who can manufacture points at the line and get tough buckets.
5. Keldon Johnson
How he got here: The recruitment of Johnson was a pretty knock-down, drag-out affair. Once Kentucky went all-in for Johnson, the Wildcats were able to knock out early favorites Maryland and Texas, among others.
This season: 15.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
Analysis: For most of the season, Johnson has been Kentucky’s top scorer and jump shooter. He's also been their most reliable and steady player despite an off night against Texas A&M in his most recent outing. His shot selection has been pretty good and he’s not yet had any kind of noticeable slump. For a team that has been very up and down, his steady production has been crucial. Freshman teammate Tyler Herro looks to be taking a big step forward and is pushing for this list and Ashton Hagans is stepping up as well.
6. Luguentz Dort
This season: 17.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
Analysis: After an absolutely torrid start, Dort has been in a bit of a freefall over the last month while he’s struggled to shoot the ball (29 percent from the floor in his last six games). Shooting struggles happen, and freshmen hit the wall, but Dort could help himself by not forcing things and getting back to being active on the glass. The Pac-12 is wide open, and if Dort can return to the form of a top five freshman, the Sun Devils will be dangerous.
7. Coby White
How he got here: There was never really any doubt where White would end up, and he ended things early committing to North Carolina prior to his junior year in high school. He’s the state of North Carolina’s all-time leading scorer at the high school level.
This season: 14.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Analysis: White was setting the college hoops world on fire early, but he did slump some with his jump shot during the month of December. He opened ACC play against Pitt with his best scoring game (22 points) since Thanksgiving weekend and backed it up with a 19-point game against NC State. He needs to continue to be a scoring threat for the Heels to compete for an ACC title.
8. Jaxson Hayes, Texas
Previous: Not ranked
How he got here: Hayes may be one of the most compelling stories in all of college basketball. An unknown until the summer before his senior year of high school, Hayes earned high-major attention and ultimately chose Texas over Kentucky and others.
This season: 9.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
Analysis: Hayes isn’t putting up big numbers yet and was only recently elevated to the starting lineup in Austin, but his impact can’t be measured by stats alone. He’s converting on a sweltering 74.7 percent of his field goal attempts, is a true rim protector and is looking like the most surprising one-and-done prospect of the 2018 high school class. Implementing him into the offense as much as possible would be beneficial for the Horns.
9. Simisola Shittu, Vanderbilt
Previous: Not ranked
How he got here: Another five-star prospect out of Canada, Shittu initially planned to wait until the spring of his senior year to make a college decision. Instead, he chose early and Bryce Drew and the Commodores ended up outdueling North Carolina.
This season: 14.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Analysis: With fellow five-star recruit Darius Garland out for the season with a knee injury, Shittu has been needed even more than expected. So far he’s been up to the task and has become a reliable scorer and rebounder. Can he take his game to another level during SEC play?
10. Antoine Davis, Detroit Mercy
How he got here: The son of then-Texas Southern head coach Mike Davis, Davis initially committed to play for Houston. However, when his father got the head coaching job at Detroit Mercy, he got out of his commitment to the Cougars and headed to the Motor City.
This season: 27.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
Analysis: Playing for his father, nobody in college basketball has a light more green when it comes to letting shots fly. Getting over 23 shots per game at a mid-major is certainly conducive to putting up big numbers, but Davis deserves some recognition, given he’s one of the top five scorers in the country. He’s had games of 42 and 48 points, and has already had two games with at least 10 made three-pointers.
Keep an eye on: Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky), Moses Brown (UCLA), Lamine Diane (Cal State Northridge), Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois) , C.J. Elleby (Washington State), Tyler Herro (Kentucky), Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest), Tre Jones (Duke), Kira Lewis (Alabama), Jalen Smith (Maryland), Wynston Tabbs (Boston College)