basketball Edit

Rivals Roundtable: Impact freshmen, rookies, NCAA rules

The basketball recruiting team is back with a roundtable on a variety of topics, including some impressive fast starts by players in both college hoops and the NBA.

REPORT CARDS: Big Ten | Big East | ACC | Big 12 | SEC | Pac-12 | AAC

RANKINGS: Rivals150 | Team

1. If you could change or create one NCAA rule regarding the signing periods, what would it be?

Brian Bowen
Brian Bowen

ERIC BOSSI: Two signing periods is pretty much pointless at this time. If I could, I would just cut it down to one in the spring. It would give players more of a chance to survey the landscape if there are new hirings and firings, and it would also give new coaches a bit more of a chance to find players that they actually want and not just scholarship fillers. Ultimately, it would help cut down on the number of transfers that we see. If we wanted to get radical with things, I think that anytime a school offers a scholarship a player should be able to sign on the spot whether they are a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. Along with that, I'd allow the player the chance to change his mind until that final signing day in the spring of their senior year. I'd love to see colleges have to really be sure about the scholarship offers they are making. But, I think there's too much to work through on that to be too serious yet. But, I don't think cutting from two to one signing period would be that huge of a change.

COREY EVANS: Seeing that there is a lot less drama on basketball signing day, why not give the prospect the chance to commit and sign whenever he might feel? What is the point anymore of committing if you do not plan to sign and attend that respective institution? It would do away with much of the wait for the prospect and the school, and also eradicate some of the garbage that goes on when it comes to other programs attempting to recruit someone that is already committed.

DAN MCDONALD: I've personally never liked how close the signing period is to the start of the high school season. I realize for most kids they have already made their decision before then and signing is just a formality, but I can imagine some kids start to stress about making a decision during the early signing period just to get it out of the way while at the same time worrying about their last season of high school hoops. I'd like to see the signing period move up into October. This would still allow plenty of time after July for prospects to take their official visits.

KRYSTEN PEEK: For hoops, signing day or signing periods isn't nearly as big as the football signing day. I know this is the first year we have two signing days for football and it will be interesting to see if any big news comes out of the early signing day in December. This early signing period for hoops was relatively quiet so easy for us from a coverage standpoint. The only thing I would change is making a cap in the late signing period as to when these players can decide. Last year we were waiting well past the April signing period for a handful of players like Mo Bamba, Trevon Duval and Brian Bowen.

2. Has the immediate impact of any freshman so far surprised you in college hoops?

Marvin Bagley III
Marvin Bagley III (USA TODAY Sports Images)

ERIC BOSSI: We knew coming in that the high school class of 2017 was a potentially special group of big men so it's not a surprise to see the instant impact of Marvin Bagley III at Duke, DeAndre Ayton at Arizona, Jaren Jackson at Michigan State or even Brandon McCoy at UNLV. But, I'd like to go a little bit off the radar and talk about the impact of Sterling Manley at North Carolina. An unranked three-star prospect out of high school who hasn't always been in the best condition or the most fleet of foot, he looked like a potential redshirt candidate as recently as a month ago. Through two games he's averaging an impressive double-double of 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in just 15.5 minutes of action per contest. He's shown touch and skill, and looks much better than expected. Obviously, he'll have to continue that as the Heels play better competition but he's been a pleasant surprise. Sticking in the state of North Carolina, I also have to mention a guard who has been putting up crazy numbers. Former four-star combo guard Kellan Grady is off to an incredible start averaging 23.5 points, 4.5 assists and three rebounds per game while making more than 50 percent of his threes. I think we may have found our next mid-major star in Grady.

COREY EVANS: It is still just the beginning of the Trae Young era at Oklahoma but who saw the assist numbers from the well-known shot-maker? I had picked Young to win Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors thanks to his ability to put 30 points on the scoreboard in the blink of an eye. He struggled a little bit against Omaha in his first collegiate game but followed it with five made threes against Ball State. The points are going to come but a 10-assist game followed by a 13-assist affair, I am not sure anyone saw that coming. His next test comes against Arkansas on Thursday, a matchup worth checking out, but Young’s impact outside of his scoring abilities has been the biggest surprise to me, a good sign for Lon Kruger’s bunch.

DAN MCDONALD: I watched a little bit of North Carolina's game against Bucknell and couldn't help but be impressed with Sterling Manley. He's somebody I never saw in high school, but had heard he was more of a project and probably not a guy who would make an immediate impact. I know the Tar Heels will face tougher competition this year, but he looks like an ACC-ready big man in my opinion. He's big, strong, athletic and has good hands. He has a ton of upside as well. Pairing him with Garrison Brooks will give Roy Williams a really strong frontcourt to lean on the next few years.

KRYSTEN PEEK: I was a little lukewarm on Jaren Jackson last year as a high school prospect just because I thought he took games off and that frustrates me when I see so much potential and talent in a player. Fast forward to this November and I was so surprised to see how Tom Izzo has molded him at Michigan State. In the game against Duke, his shot-block timing was insane and he's arguably the best shooter the Spartans have this year, knocking down three three-pointers in the loss. It will be interesting to see what happens to his draft stock as the season continues. I'll be watching him closely this year and I'm so happy to see him get over that lackluster effort that I occasionally saw from him in high school.

Sterling Manley
Sterling Manley (USA TODAY Sports Images)

3. Same question as No. 2, but for NBA rookies.

Kyle Kuzma (right)
Kyle Kuzma (right) (USA TODAY Sports Images)

ERIC BOSSI: The guy that immediately stands out to me is Kyle Kuzma. It wasn't that long ago that he was emailing and asking to have a profile made for him and now he looks like a future NBA All-Star. A year or so after we gave him his profile, Kuzma was very intriguing because of his size and skill and we were set to move him into the Rivals150, but he elected to enroll at Utah rather than attend prep school so he never ended up getting ranked in the 150. However, even had we had the chance to plug him in we wouldn't have ranked him high enough to look particularly smart. He's a great case of continued skill work, evolution as a player and opportunity all coming together at the right time to allow him to average 15.5 points and nearly seven rebounds per contest through his first 15 games with the Lakers. The other guy who really stands out to me as a pleasant surprise is Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. The product of Louisville has had a couple of rotten shooting nights, but he's also exploded for 22 points or more five times in his first 15 games. If you ask me, Mitchell is looking like a young Dwyane Wade.

COREY EVANS: This one is rather easy where Kyle Kuzma, who, at this time last year, was far from being on NBA Draft boards, is a top-three rookie scorer this season while also playing more than 30 minutes per game for the jumpstart Los Angeles Lakers. He found the perfect up-and-coming group in LA and a staff that has finally bought into multi-positional players that fit the current trend in the league. Outside of Kuzma, no one is paying much attention to what John Collins has done in Atlanta. The Hawks are abysmal but it seems as if Atlanta found its replacement for Al Horford in the post. He was a three-star big man out of high school, made many critics believers in two years at Wake Forest, and is again disproving his naysayers with 10 points and seven rebounds per game.

DAN MCDONALD: For me, it's definitely been Kyle Kuzma for the Lakers. I watched the Lakers in Summer League, like everyone else, because I wanted to see Lonzo Ball, but I left thinking Kuzma might be the star of their rookie class. He's been terrific so far. Take this for an example of how well he's playing. During his senior year at Utah, he averaged 16.4 points per game. In eight games so far in November, he's at 16.9 points per game. I don't think anybody saw that coming when the Lakers picked him.

KRYSTEN PEEK: Dennis Smith Jr., Dennis Smith Jr., Dennis Smith Jr.! Make no mistake we all saw how great he was as a high school player. He was the No. 1 point guard in the class until he went down with his ACL injury. I can remember Smith going one-on-one against Michael Porter at Steph Curry's camp with Steph watching. Porter was up 4-1 and Smith came back with so much fire and won 6-4. To this day it's one of my favorite memories covering grassroots basketball. There's zero sign of any residual impact from ACL injury and he's using his rookie platform to sort of reintroduce himself since not a lot of people got to see him play at NC State with the disappointing season it had last year. Ben Simmons will run away with the Rookie of the Year but I know the Knicks have to be kicking themselves for passing on him for the No. 8 pick.