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Rivals Roundtable: Coach of Year, unsung freshmen, top HS players

This week in the Rivals Roundtable, national analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald have lots on their minds. They discuss Coach of the Year, under-publicized freshmen performers and their personal top fives regardless of class.

MORE: Seven players to watch from 2023 | UNC bounces back nicely

2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

2022 Rankings: Top 75


1. Who is your Coach of the Year?

Scott Drew
Scott Drew (Associated Press)

Bossi: There can only be two options here, right? Brian Dutcher has guided San Diego State to an undefeated record and a No. 4 national ranking while Baylor’s Scott Drew has the Bears ranked No. 1 in the country.

It’s a tough call but I’m going to go with Drew. Nobody expected much out of the Bears this year and it’s not like they are loaded with big-name talent. Still, Drew has developed a stud in sophomore guard Jared Butler, has maybe the nation’s best glue guy in tough man Mark Vital and has worked wonders with a group of transfers including Freddie Gillespie, who began his career at Division III Carleton College before turning into one of the best big men in the Big 12.

The truth is Drew has worked wonders at Baylor for a while now and he’s finally getting credit he’s long been due as a coach.

Evans: All due respect to Scott Drew and everything that he has done with Baylor.. However, how can you not say Dutcher?

San Diego State is undefeated, sits as one of the most staunch defensive units in America and has a go-to piece in Malachi Flynn. For someone that had never been a head coach until two years ago to be leading a National Championship contender from outside of the usual power structure is big time and deserves Coach of the Year honors.

McDonald: There are several really good options this year like Leonard Hamilton, Brad Underwood, Dutcher, Anthony Grant and LaVall Jordan, but I have to go with Drew with the job he's done to get his team up to No. 1. He's been one of the better coaches in college basketball for a while and he's finally starting to get the respect he deserves with this team. They are very consistent and a very complete team.

2. Which freshmen should be getting more national recognition?

Bossi: How about the rookie campaign that combo forward Trendon Watford is having at LSU? Quietly, the Tigers have built a 16-4 record and they enter the weekend undefeated in SEC play. Watford is an awfully big part of this. The former five-star has been a stud, averaging 13.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. During SEC play he’s moved those numbers to double double territory at 13.6 and 9.3 per game.

Sure, big things were expected of him but his excellence has been under publicized. LSU is looking like a team with a legit shot of making at least the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament and Watford is a major cog.

Evans: We liked Terrence Shannon quite a bit during high school and he's already had some big outings at Texas Tech. While his role and usage has changed throughout the season depending on the health of fellow star freshman Jahm'ius Ramsey, Shannon seems to have hit his stride as a consistent producer. Since the new year, Shannon has averaged close to 12 points and four rebounds, showed the capacity to guard three different positions in the half-court, and the willingness to take the big shot. Shannon is already squarely on NBA scouting boards and while a return for his sophomore season should be in the cards, don’t sleep on what Shannon can achieve the rest of the way under the tutelage of a guy like Chris Beard.

McDonald: I've been really impressed with Tyrell Terry in the few times I've seen Stanford play. He's been much better this year than I would have expected, but I did like him as a prospect coming up. He's currently averaging 15.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in his first year in Palo Alto and he's been Stanford's best player in games I've seen.

3. Now that we've updated our rankings for 2020, 2021 and 2022, who are your top 5 players, regardless of class?

Emoni Bates
Emoni Bates (Brian Neubert/GoldandBlack.com)

Bossi: I’m betting that each of our lists is going to include pretty close to the same group of players but perhaps in different orders. At No. 1, I have to go with Emoni Bates. The 6-foot-8 sophomore from Michigan is still living up to considerable hype and I love the energy and ferocity he plays with to go along with his skill.

At No. 2, give me our current No. 1 in 2020 Cade Cunningham, who signed with Oklahoma State. The more I watch him, he looks like a bit of a modern day Scottie Pippen.

In the third spot I’ll go with the current No. 2 in 2020, undecided shooting guard Jalen Green. Simply put, he’s the best scorer in high school basketball.

In the fourth spot I’ll take seven-footer Evan Mobley, who ranks No. 3 overall in 2020. He’s still working to be more consistently dominant, but the USC signee’s ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor is second to none.

Finally, at No. 5 I’ll go with 2021’s No. 1 player Jonathan Kuminga who just edges out 2022’s No. 2 player Jalen Duren. Kuminga is big, he’s explosive and he basically toys with his competition.

Evans: I might take Jalen Green as the number-one overall guy, regardless of class. I am not sure there is an elite player who has improved as much as he has and still has so much more room for growth. Emoni Bates is right on Green’s heels at number two. Then comes our top-ranked senior Cade Cunningham third, he might be the most surefire high school guy to ‘make it’ at the next level. Following him is junior Jonanthan Kuminga at number four. Then at five I have Jalen Duren. Someone that, whenever he brings ‘it’, is as good as there is in the sport.

McDonald: I'd go Bates, Kuminga, Cunningham, Green and Duren in that order.