NCAAM Teams
Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer 257d

Most exciting player on each team in Way-Too-Early Top 25

Men's College Basketball, Duke Blue Devils, Kentucky Wildcats, Kansas Jayhawks, Villanova Wildcats, Auburn Tigers, Gonzaga Bulldogs, Virginia Cavaliers, Tennessee Volunteers, North Carolina Tar Heels, Nevada Wolf Pack, Michigan St Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, West Virginia Mountaineers, Florida Gators, Syracuse Orange, Virginia Tech Hokies, Loyola (Chi) Ramblers, Clemson Tigers, Kansas St Wildcats, LSU Tigers, TCU Horned Frogs, Butler Bulldogs, Florida St Seminoles, Oregon Ducks, Mississippi St Bulldogs

Last month, dozens of former college stars were selected in the NBA draft. Former standouts whose names were not called, including Malik Newman and Tre Duval, latched onto summer league squads or secured two-way deals that will allow them to use the G League to try to get a roster spot at the next level.

But we're looking ahead. Here are the most exciting players on each team in the Way-Too-Early Top 25: 

1. Kentucky: Immanuel Quickley

Quickley is a smooth, 6-foot-3 guard who is patient enough to wait for the right play. He has a high basketball IQ, but he won't fly through the air for windmill dunks.

Still, he's the flour of this Kentucky cake, a savvy leader and playmaker with a lot of Mike Conley in his game. 


2. Kansas: Dedric Lawson

Coach Bill Self recently told ESPN that the elder Lawson brother is the best passer on the team. The 6-foot-10 stretch forward will push the ball up the floor on fast breaks, drive through traffic and block shots for a Kansas team seeking its 15th consecutive Big 12 title.


3. Duke: Zion Williamson

He's a daily dunk contest that deserves his own list. He's the most exciting player in college basketball, and he might be the most exciting player we've seen since Shaquille O'Neal left LSU.

He's a ferocious, powerful 6-foot-6, 260-pound freshman who can dunk from the free throw line. 


4. Gonzaga: Rui Hachimura

Last week, Hachimura (24 points) was the best player on the floor in leading Japan to a 79-78 victory over Australia, a game that featured NBA players such as Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova, in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers.  

Gonzaga's 6-foot-8 star is developing his midrange game, and his explosive athleticism and sheer talent make him perhaps the most intriguing pro prospect Mark Few has ever had.


5. Tennessee: Grant Williams

The SEC Player of the Year isn't afraid to throw his 6-foot-7, 241-pound frame into the lane and do his best Shawn Kemp impersonation as he tries to rip the rim off its foundation.

He averaged 15.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game last season, and he reportedly has adopted a new diet that could help him cut some of the body fat and grow into a more potent weapon for the Vols.


6. Nevada: Trey Porter

The Old Dominion grad transfer is just here for the dunks. Surrounded by 6-foot-7 wings Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline, the 6-foot-10, 230-pound big man will collect the slams available to a player who will roam the lane as teams scramble to guard the best backcourt in America.

Many highlights ahead for Porter.


7. Virginia: Kyle Guy

The man bun is gone, but Guy is effective anywhere on the floor. He's the poster child for Virginia basketball, a guard who made 39 percent of his 3-pointers and 82 percent of his free throws last season. He can slash, score against contact and penetrate.

He turned the ball over only once every 10 trips up the floor. He's a gem.


8. North Carolina: Cameron Johnson

He had bad luck last season. After winning his battle with Pittsburgh over his decision to transfer -- the Panthers initially blocked him from transferring to an ACC school -- he missed six weeks with a torn meniscus.

Johnson never found a true rhythm, but a full, healthy offseason with the Tar Heels should bring back the exciting player who made 42 percent of his 3-pointers two seasons ago.


9. Michigan State: Cassius Winston

Lost amid the buzz about the departures of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. and the return of Nick Ward is the fact that Winston is back, too.

Look at Michigan State box scores from last season and you'll see a strong correlation between the guard's best nights and the Spartans' best wins. In a shooter's game, few can top his 49.7 percent clip from beyond the arc.


10. Villanova: Jahvon Quinerly

If Quinerly is cleared and eligible to play -- he hired an attorney after he was reportedly tied to former Arizona assistant Book Richardson and the FBI probe -- Jay Wright will add one of the most talented young players in the country.

The 6-foot-1 point guard and McDonald's All American will follow Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart as the on-floor captain of the Wildcats.


11. Auburn: Danjel Purifoy

Mustapha Heron, Auburn's leading scorer last season, has transferred to St. John's, but the presence of Purifoy, who missed 2017-18 due to his alleged connection to the FBI probe, has helped Bruce Pearl's squad preserve a national ranking.

Purifoy is a versatile wing who made 37 percent of his 3-pointers as a freshman in 2016-17 and threw down a series of impressive dunks. He's back for more highlights next year.


12. Kansas State: Barry Brown

Brown is one of those 6-foot-3 players who thinks he's 7-foot-2. He was the heart of a program that reached the Elite Eight without injured all-Big 12 first-teamer Dean Wade.

Brown must improve as a 3-point shooter to achieve his NBA dreams. But he's a must-see performer whenever he's on the floor.


13. West Virginia: Sagaba Konate

One of the funniest sights in college basketball is when players challenge Konate at the rim. You wonder what they're thinking.

They'll keep trying next season, and Konate (3.2 BPG) will continue to block dreams and embarrass grown men too ambitious to know any better.


14. Virginia Tech: Chris Clarke

The most exciting person on Virginia Tech's roster is head coach Buzz Williams, the program's sixth defender who often slides onto the court to demonstrate the proper stance.

But Chris Clarke (8.2 PPG) is the energetic X factor for this program, a player who will come through the lane unannounced and turn a missed shot into a putback dunk. He's fun to watch.


15. Oregon: Bol Bol

We make assumptions about players who are 7-foot-2. But the stereotypical lumbering big man of a past generation has been replaced by players like Bol, son of former NBA center Manute Bol.

He's comfortable in space, he moves with ease and he has finesse, three things we never said about players that size 20 years ago.


16. Syracuse: Tyus Battle

Battle nearly took the Orange to the Elite Eight. Two games in the tournament -- 17 points in a win over Michigan State in the second round; 19 points in a loss to Duke in the Sweet 16 -- made the NBA a serious option for the 6-foot-6 wing.

When Battle enters "takeover" mode, he's a force for any opponent.


17. Michigan: Charles Matthews

When Loyola-Chicago faced Michigan in the Final Four, it was clear early that the Ramblers would struggle to contain Matthews, a 6-foot-6 wing. He's athletic and strong, a player who can score anywhere.

He's also a perplexing defender who can guard any position on a college court. His seven steals in the NCAA tournament highlighted his versatility.


18. Florida State: M.J. Walker

Next season, the former five-star recruit will have the opportunity to earn more minutes and a bigger role as he showcases his full arsenal. We saw some of it last year. We'll see much more in 2018-19.


19. Loyola-Chicago: Clayton Custer

He's a 6-foot-1 underdog who powered a Missouri Valley Conference program to the Final Four with his aggressive defense, sharpshooting (45 percent from the 3-point line) and playmaking. Next month, he'll participate in the Chris Paul Elite Guard camp.


20. Clemson: Marcquise Reed

The 6-foot-3 wing spent the bulk of Clemson's 84-53 victory over SEC champ Auburn in the second round of the NCAA tournament rushing down the floor on fast breaks, splitting two defenders to make plays and scoring off screens.

He has a diverse game and he's a key cog for a good Clemson team that's a sleeper in the ACC.


21. LSU: Tremont Waters

Against UNC-Wilmington on Dec. 10, he fell one rebound short of a triple-double (20 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds). The 5-11 catalyst finished with 25 points or more in six games last season.

He's not the first person mentioned in conversations about the country's best players. But he's a thrilling guard who could lead LSU back to the NCAA tournament.


22. Mississippi State: Reggie Perry

College basketball continues to imitate the NBA with its newfound love for small ball. Perry, a 6-foot-8 freshman, will allow coach Ben Howland to play smaller lineups when favorable because the top-30 recruit is a capable 3-point shooter who has a 6-foot-11 wingspan that allows him to excel against bigger players.


23. TCU: Desmond Bane

The junior made 46.1 percent of his 128 3-point attempts in 2017-18. He's a capable shooter, but he's also a 6-5 athlete who can drive through the lane and score. He's a talented player. 


24. Butler: Jordan Tucker

Tucker just didn't fit with Duke last season. In high school, however, he was a coveted marksman known for his ability to stretch the floor with his shooting ability.

Check the highlight reels from the 6-foot-7 wing's time at Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia. He has the potential to be the real deal for Butler once he's eligible in December.


25. Purdue: Carsen Edwards

Last season, Edwards played with a sturdy, senior nucleus. But now he'll have the ball even more as he tries to elevate Purdue and help the Boilermakers return to the NCAA tournament.

It's hard to imagine him improving upon his 18.5 PPG and 41 percent clip from the 3-point line. But the fiery guard will have more possessions and opportunities next season.

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