The college basketball season is upon us, and with a new season comes new stars around the country. With so much movement across the nation, whether it’s players heading to the NBA, the G-League, overseas, or simply transferring around with the yearly game of “100% kind of committed”, others need to step up. The typical rule of thumb is that the largest jump in production happens during a player’s sophomore season. This list includes those players, along with a couple of others that had a slow-burning fuse.
Jordan Hawkins, Connecticut
A member of the All-Big East freshman team last season, Hawkins averaged 5.8 points and 2.0 rebounds last season. The 6’5 guard started four games and averaged 8.3 points per game, and shot 37.5% from behind the arc in those contests. In the six games that Jordan played 20 or more minutes, the Huskies logged a 5-1 record. Unsurprisingly, UConn lost in the first round of the NCAA college basketball tournament when Jordan was unavailable due to a concussion.
Trey Alexander, Creighton
Alexander enters the season as a pivotal part of a Creighton team that is expected to win the Big East title. Another member of the All-Big East freshman team last season, Alexander averaged 7.4 points, 3.7 rips, and 2.5 helpers last season. The 6 ‘4 former top 75 recruit started the final thirteen games of the season for Greg McDermott and bumped his production up to 10.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game while shooting roughly 41% from the field. He was the only freshman in the Big East to shoot 40% on more than 200 field goal attempts while shooting 80% or better from the free throw line.
Nolan Hickman, Gonzaga
A former top 30 recruit, Hickman played behind 2021-22 All-Conference point guard Andrew Nembhard. Now that the WCC Tournament MVP has moved along, it’s the Hickman show. As has become typical with Gonzaga, the potential lottery pick has plenty of weapons around him, along with the talent to go get a bucket when and if he needs to. It will be an interesting dynamic with Chattanooga transfer Malachi Smith in the rotation, but it may ultimately make both players even better.
Good and Going to Get Better
Zakai Zeigler, Tennessee
Zeigler is one of my favorite players heading into the 2022-23 season. The 5 ‘9 point guard wasn’t an overly celebrated player heading into his freshman campaign but quickly made his mark averaging 8.8 points and 2.7 assists per game off of the bench for Rick Barnes. Zakai also broke one of my golden rules last season, which is: Freshmen do not play defense. Well, he was able to lead the conference in steal percentage at 4.5% on his way to an All-SEC defensive team selection.
Wade Taylor IV, Texas A&M
Staying in the SEC, Wade Taylor IV may be an obvious selection, but the Aggies program doesn’t receive a whole lot of attention nationwide. Taylor averaged 8.0 points per game as a freshman for Buzz Williams and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup at the end of the season. He struggles from deep (28%) but is cash from the stripe (87%) so he is going to be on the court during crunch time. A&M also went 11-3 in games he started in 2021-22.
Tyson Degenhart, Boise State
You could consider this to be a bit of a cop-out, but Degenhart needs to receive a mention here. The Mountain West college basketball Rookie of the Year should explode onto the scene this season. A 6’8 power forward, Degenhart averaged roughly 10 points and four rebounds last season while shooting 50% from the field and 42.5% from behind the arc. With Derrick Alston Jr. moving on, Tyson becomes the next man up to lead the Broncos (along with senior point guard Marcus Shaver) to another NCAA Tournament berth.
Digging a Little Deeper
Darius Maddox, Virginia Tech
Maddox received his opportunity last season and made the most of it for Coach Mike Young. Some pundits were skeptical regarding his 43% success rate from deep as a freshman, given the sample size but Maddox showed out in 2021-22. The 6’5 guard connected on over 50% of his triple attempts as a sophomore while attempting 79 deep balls on the season. In fact, Darius was the only power six players in the nation to attempt more than 75 triples and connect on over 50% of them. Look for him to slide into the starting lineup and get an even bigger share of the offense this season.
Nimari Burnett, Alabama
A former five-star college basketball recruit, Burnett has had a rough go of it during his college career. Burnett was originally a Red Raider at Texas Tech before moving on to Alabama. He then tore his ACL last October and missed the entire campaign. The one-time McDonald’s All-American has the ability to knock down the triple and is considered to be an elite defender. Freshman Brandon Miller is receiving all of the attention, but there is a ton of talent on the Tide wings, and Burnett is looking to finally live up to his once sky-high potential.
Dallan “Deebo” Coleman, Georgia Tech
Raise your hand if you live outside the state of Georgia and have heard of this guy. Coleman is likely the least-known name on this list due to the school he plays for, but he is crazy talented. At 6’6, “Deebo” is capable of playing multiple positions for Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner and possesses a nice touch from beyond the arc. Coleman shot 41% from deep last season and 36% in conference play. With Jordan Usher and Mike Devoe no longer in the picture, this sophomore likely becomes the face of the program from a player’s standpoint.
Kowacie Reeves, Florida
Possibly the most likely college basketball breakout player of this last group, Reeves is a 6’6 wing and former top 50 ranked talent. He now also has a young coach in Todd Golden, that will play at least a little faster than former coach Mike White. Reeves, a coach’s son, came alive at the very end of last season, averaging 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game over the Gators final three contests. With Kyle Lofton transferring into the program and taking over the point guard spot, look for Reeves to be the beneficiary of a true point guard getting him the ball in positions to succeed.
Join our Discord to leave a question or comment regarding this article. We have sports fans talking betting all day — every day! JOIN THE DISCORD NOW AND QUALIFY FOR PRIZES & BETTING SWAG!