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Basketball

Some of the nation's most underrated freshmen prospects

November 6, 2023
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It isn’t a secret coming into a college season that the five-star freshmen or the highly-ranked freshmen are going to be the newcomers that people look at the most. 

Over the years, it’s been proven that you don’t have to be a Top-10 recruit or a five-star prospect to produce at the college level. I’ve realized that fit is everything, if you enter a program as a three-star or unranked but fit the system and the culture at the respective school, you can produce, no matter the ranking.

With college hoops back and in full effect, we know who the preseason all-Americans and rising top freshmen are, but who are the guys that are lying under the radar or are in the unknown?

Here’s a look at several underrated freshmen, in no specific order, that can produce in their first collegiate seasons.

Myles Colvin, Purdue

Position: G/W, Height: 6’5, Weight: 205, High School: Heritage Christian, Hometown: Indianapolis, IN

Colvin committed to the Boilermakers early on in the recruiting process and didn’t look back. He pledged to Matt Painter when he was ranked as a three-star recruit due to fit and he told Stockrisers.com in 2021 that he and his father laid down all the options in his recruitment and that Purdue was just the best overall option.

He’s a bigger guard who is dynamic and athletic and can score on all levels. He excels in transition which will be huge for his production in year one. He will do a lot of the dirty work such as crashing the boards, drawing a foul on the offensive end, or even nabbing a few blocks defensively.

On defense, he can guard multiple positions, usually 1-4, and has become very disciplined defensively and will surprise people on that end this season. Look for heavy minutes and production out of Colvin from day one.

Kachi Nzeh, Xavier

Position: Center, Height: 6’8, Weight: 230, High School: The George School, Hometown: Upper Darby, PA

Nzeh is viewed as a three-star recruit on almost every single platform, shockingly. He’s a high-upside forward who got better every single time I watched him in-person. 

He brings tons of versatility and a unique skill set to an already talented Xavier roster led by Sean Miller. He was a double-double machine at the high school level due to his ability to learn, be coached, and progress every single day. He can score both inside and out and his mid-range game impressed me a lot during his junior and senior campaigns.

Nzeh runs the floor extremely well for his size and the combination of versatility and IQ at his position will be vital even in year one for XU. He impressed in two games in the Bahamas for the Musketeers, averaging nearly 11 points and six boards. Look for immediate production.

Brandon Rechsteiner, Virginia Tech

Position: Guard, Height: 6’1, Weight: 185, High School: Etowah, Hometown: Acworth, GA

Between Catoor and Pedulla, you’ve seen the success at the guard position for the Hokies and you can get a good sense of what Mike Young looks for in his guards. Rechsteiner fits the mold perfectly and you’ll see that from day one.

Another guy who benefited late from camps, events, and late in his AAU career. He’s a very fluid ball handler which is always a plus, especially for your point guard. His most known attribute is his three-point ability, but, he has never been one to shy away from getting his teammates involved or getting to the rim.

Rechsteiner is the son of a former WWE superstar and has that toughness in his blood, he’s also a vocal leader who has the mindset of a four-year starter. I fully expect him to produce this season and will be a freshman to watch in the ACC.

Owen Freeman, Iowa

Position: F/C, Height: 6’10, Weight: 230, High School: Moline, Hometown: Moline, IL

Freeman was a diamond in the rough get for Fran McCaffery. A rim-runner and a guy who will be active and give you tons of problems in the post, Freeman has the ability to be the guy for Iowa this season even as a frosh.

He’s hard to stop around the rim and is extremely versatile for his size. Even early in Iowa’s exhibition play it was real clear that he will be an impactful player in the Iowa rotation this year and has the potential to be yet another talented big to come out of the Big Ten.

I think he’s a guy that if you watched him at the high school level, you will learn quickly that his game will translate to the college level on both ends of the floor.

Dai Dai Ames, Kansas State

Position: Guard, Height: 6’1, Weight: 185, High School: Kenwood Academy, Hometown: Chicago, IL

It’s not a secret that Ames was one of the best scorers in high school basketball last year. It isn’t every day that you get to see a guy score 65 points effortlessly, but Ames did just that. 

Looking at the system of K-State, the culture, and not to mention the success of Marquis Nowell last year who is a similar build of Ames, you can see why I’d picture a lot of production for the Chicago native from day one.

Jerome Tang has mentioned that he loves his freshmen class, but ultimately they are just freshmen. But, with an injury to Ques Glover and production during summer play and recent exhibitions, you could expect some minutes from Ames early on this season.

Zayden High, North Carolina

Position: Forward, Height: 6’9, Weight: 225, High School: AZ Compass Prep, Hometown: San Antonio, TX

This is a guy I viewed as a five-star so he might not be hidden from the world, but, it’s hard not to have him on the list due to a lot of the attention Elliot Cadeau is receiving (deservingly so) as ‘the freshman’ coming into the UNC program.

I think High is already an NBA prospect. He has all the intangibles to be great this season and plays like he’s a four-year starter. He can score on multiple levels and causes tons of matchup nightmares for opposing defenders, he’s also a high-IQ player who will have an impact both on and off the ball offensively.

On the defensive end, the combination of size and versatility is unmatched and he will have a major effect on that end as well. Expect production from day one.

Finley Bizjack, Butler

Position: Guard, Height: 6’4, Weight: 195, High School: Byron Nelson, Hometown: Trophy Club, TX

With a guy who has the scoring ability that Bizjack does, you have to think that he could have a major impact on a Butler team that lost a lot of scorers during this offseason. Bizjack nearly notched 3,000 high school points and averaged over 25.5 points during his final high school season.

As I mentioned, Butler lost a lot of its scoring and didn’t see much production from the bench last year. Despite my thinking, that he will find his way into the lineup during this season, I believe he will be a major spark to a bench that didn’t have much production last season.

Thad Matta found himself a guy that can score on every level at a high rate, but that will also grow on the defensive end all season long.

Michael Nwoko, Miami

Position: Center, Height: 6’10, Weight: 245, Hometown: Toronto, ON, High School: Prolific Prep

Probably one of the biggest takeaways from Miami’s offseason and early exhibition play was Nwoko. A perfect backup for Norchad Omeir, Nwoko is a big-time paint presence on both ends and is a versatile big that spaces well and is a good option at center both on and off the ball.

You look at a Miami team that went deep into the NCAA tournament last year, they relied on plenty of guys. You could be a bench piece like Nwoko and your presence and impact will be felt all season long, especially if it contributes to winning and success.

The ACC has plenty of talent at the center position, but when we look at the end of the season which is months from now, I bet we will look at the production of Nwoko whether it’s in a high-bench role or even if he sees some starting minutes at some point this season.

Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn, Illinois

Position: Guard, Height: 6’1, Weight: 185, High School: Word Of God, Hometown: Lafayette, Ind

Gibbs-Lawhorn was an MVP on the EYBL circuit during his junior year and was a former Purdue commit. Don’t let his size fool you. Gibbs-Lawhorn is lightning quick and can get to the rim with ease, in addition, he can shoot the mid-range and shoot from behind the arc and is also a terrific playmaker.

We saw him get action in Illinois’ exhibition games and I think we could see more of him early on during the regular season. Two things he doesn’t lack are confidence and effort, he had a sequence where he had a block on one end and ran out in transition and immediately found his teammate Amani Hansbury.

I think he plays beyond his years and could be a guy that the Illini use as a spark plug off the bench early this season. Massive potential.

Brady Dunlap, St. John’s

Position: Forward, Height: 6’7, Weight: 190, High School: Harvard-Westlake, Hometown: Newhall, CA

If Dunlap can play his true position on the wing and be able to shoot the rock when he pleases despite being a newcomer, he can see a lot of early success under the legendary Rick Pitino this year.

One area he excelled at in high school that I appreciated was his shot-taking. He didn’t force, he shot at a 47% clip would take smart shots, and was extremely disciplined. I think if they keep him on the wing and moving off the ball, he will be able to find those shots and score at a high clip.

St. John’s opens its season on Tuesday and I believe we could see some good minutes from the California native.

Curtis Williams, Louisville

Position: Guard, Height: 6’6, Weight: 205, High School: Brother Rice, Hometown, Detroit, Mich

One of the top-rated players in the talented state of Michigan, Williams is a guy who went under the radar even as a high school recruit. Talk about long-athletic shooters, Williams is just that. 

I’d say Williams was one of the standouts in Louisville’s exhibition play. He shot the ball well and also showed promise on the defensive end. In a year where they don’t have the highest of expectations, I think Kenny Payne will give minutes to the guys who earn it despite what class they’re in.

I think Williams will be used for spacing and scoring contributions off the bench and could find himself getting useful minutes.

Carl Cherenfant, Memphis

Position: Guard, Height: 6’6, Weight: 195, High School: Calvary Christian, Hometown: Pompano Beach, FL

I think committing last year with a class of Mikey Williams, JJ Taylor, and others, not many expected Cherenfant to be likely the guy for Memphis this season. Coming away with Co-ROTY honors alongside Taylor, I think Cherenfant is in a position to be one of the AAC’s top players.

A high-flying shooting guard who’s an excellent scorer, Cherenfant brings a toughness and versatility that will be perfect in a Penny Hardaway system. I think he will have an instant impact both offensively and defensively.

With a long list of guards and wings on the Tigers roster, I think Cherenfant will earn his minutes and work his way into the starting lineup for Penny Hardway’s squad.

Taylor Bol Bowen, Florida State

Position: Forward, Height: 6’10, Weight: 195, High School: Brewster Academy, Hometown: Jericho, VT

Vermont hasn’t had an NBA player yet and Taylor Bol Bowen dreams of changing that. I think he and Leonard Hamilton were a match made in heaven. Long and athletic is Bowen’s M.O. and I think he will eventually find himself in a position to impact this Seminoles squad this season.

He’s a terrific offensive player. Excels in the post but can score on any level. Where did he fit the Noles the most? His elite defensive ability. His length and his motor will keep him on the court and he can guard multiple positions which is another plus.

In exhibition play, he came off the bench and had an immediate impact, you can expect the same during the regular season.

George Washington III, Michigan

Position: Guard, Height: 6’2, Weight: 170, High School: Chaminade-Julienne, Hometown: Austin, TX

One thing Michigan doesn’t lack is scoring. In multiple exhibitions, they scored 100+ points and I think Washington III’s scoring ability fits that mold pretty well. 

Ohio’s Gatorade Player of the Year last year, Washington III is a proven scorer and scores at an efficient rate. During his senior year, he scored 697 points and nearly hit 70 three-pointers. An area of his game I appreciate is his rebounding. At 6’2 he doesn’t shy away from crashing the boards, which is a trait that will keep you on the floor at the college level.

I think Washington III will find his way into key minutes for a Wolverine squad this year that values his scoring ability.

 
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