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Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer 98d

The 'other' freshmen to know in college hoops

Men's College Basketball, UCLA Bruins

Like most seasons, the elite freshmen will dominate the headlines entering 2017-18.

But this year features a quartet of unique talents who elevated projections about their respective programs the day they committed.

Mohamed Bamba is the perfect big man for Shaka Smart because he can run the floor and dominate in transition.

DeAndre Ayton is a 7-foot-1, 260-pound prodigy whom Arizona coach Sean Miller has hailed as the greatest prospect he's ever signed.

Michael Porter Jr. turned an eight-win Missouri team and SEC afterthought into a squad that could secure a top-25 preseason ranking behind one of the nation's best incoming classes. The Tigers could finish in the league's top tier and return to the NCAA tournament.

Porter enjoyed his status as America's top prospect until Marvin Bagley III reclassified and committed to Duke. Bagley's decision made the Blue Devils the preseason favorites to win the national title.

But they aren't the only gems in this class. The following players will also make a significant impact in 2017-18. You should know these names:

Lonnie Walker, Miami Hurricanes
The athletic five-star wing suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee in his team's first offseason practice. But Jim Larranaga expects the young star to recover in time to play in the team's season opener. He's must-see TV on fast breaks. A dominant 6-foot-4 guard who loves the spotlight. With Bruce Brown and Ja'Quan Newton, the trio comprises the most explosive backcourt in the country. Walker lacks the hype backing the collection of freshman bigs the world can't wait to see. But he's a special player who could help the Hurricanes compete for an ACC crown.

Troy Brown Jr., Oregon Ducks
Dana Altman lost the nucleus of a squad that reached the Final Four last season. But he'll start the rebuild next season with this 6-foot-7, five-star wing in his backcourt. Brown is a combo guard with the size and athleticism to play and defend multiple positions. That's an important addition for a team that lost Dillon Brooks after last season's run. Yes, he's only a freshman but some believe he and New Mexico transfer Elijah Brown will help Oregon avoid a major collapse after its first appearance in the national semifinals -- where the Ducks were a rebound from sealing a win over North Carolina -- since 1939.

Collin Sexton, Alabama Crimson Tide
Throughout the grassroots tournaments he attended in Las Vegas to scout recruits, Avery Johnson never stopped smiling. He praised Sexton, a 6-foot-3 point guard, for his maturity and leadership. He said the freshman is already a "great teammate" at Alabama. And that's what any program wants from a point guard. And Johnson, a former NBA point guard, knows the position as well as any coach in college basketball. It's the perfect pairing. Sexton is a lottery prospect capable of leading Alabama back to the NCAA tournament with a backcourt that also features John Petty, another five-star wing.

Brian Bowen, Louisville Cardinals
Louisville hasn't made more than 37 percent of its 3-point attempts since the 2004-05 season. But last year, the Cardinals connected on 38.1 percent of their 3-point attempts in league play. Donovan Mitchell, who made 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc in ACC play, turned pro after last season, though. That's why the arrival of Bowen, a 6-foot-7 shooter, helps Rick Pitino's squad. The late commit added another shooter to a team that's expected to maintain its place as one of the nation's premier defensive squads. But the Cards need shooters. In Louisville's second-round loss to Michigan in the NCAA tournament, the Cardinals finished 5-for-20 from the 3-point line. With his size and intellect, Bowen can create his own shot. And that's what Louisville needs from him this season.

Jaylen Hands, UCLA Bruins
Hands, a 6-foot-3 freshman point guard, will struggle to escape the vast shadow of the Ball family. Lonzo Ball restored UCLA's name last season and could do the same with the Los Angeles Lakers this year. And Bruins fans hope LaMelo Ball maintains his commitment and joins the program in 2019. Plus, Hands will play with LiAngelo Ball, a freshman this season. Hands is not Lonzo. Who is? But he's a high-level point guard with the skills to make noise in the Pac-12. And he'll have Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh's pick-and-pop savvy to ease the transition. But he's the man who is following the man. He can handle the pressure.

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