Basketball

Rising NCAA Stars

Originally published 8/13/18 on SeanLeBeauf.net

Duke’s Marques Bolden, Kentucky’s Quade Green among NCAA stars set for impact seasons.

The college basketball season is quickly approaching and some teams will be trying to fill the voids created after top players left to play pro ball. For example, the Duke Blue Devils lost a number of talented players including Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter. The Texas Longhorns lost Mo Bamba, while Kentucky lost guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to the NBA. The good news, however, is that several of these teams have players ready to step into those vacant spots.

At Duke, Marques Bolden found himself riding the bench as a freshman. Last season, Bagley and Carter were the top guys for the Blue Devils, so Bolden didn’t see much spotlight. That should change this season. He’ll look to improve upon his 12 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks per game averages. Based on his athletic ability, he could very well have a stellar season as Duke tries to contend for another title.

The Kentucky Wildcats have several talented freshmen coming in at the guard position. However, Quade Green will be a player to keep an eye on. He was alongside Gilgeous-Alexander last season, who surpassed expectations and become a legitimate pro prospect. Green had averages of 9.3 points, 2.7 assists, and 45.1 field goal percentage last season. He will have some experience in his favor, but could easily boast a 15 points per game average alongside the new freshmen talents.

Big man Mohamed Bamba grabbed all of the attention last season at Texas, but Jericho Sims may get the headlines this season. He played limited minutes and averaged five points per game with a 61 percent field goal rate. He’s got the size at 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, as well as the strength and agility to guard multiple positions. Sims may not be quite the defender at the rim that Bamba was, but he’ll have a chance to show off rebounding skills and could help the offense move more effectively.

Kansas’ Charlie Moore will help fill the void left by guard Devonte’ Graham. Moore spent a season with California and it was a lackluster year with 12.2 points and 3.5 assists a game. However, he’ll have two returning Final Four players on the starting lineup and a few other highly-regarded transfers. He could become a top role player for the Jayhawks as they look to once again march into the tournament.

A few other college basketball players will be worth watching this coming season. At Purdue, Matt Haams will get more playing time next season as he attempts to fill the space left by rim protector and scorer Isaac Haas. Haams may become one of the top defenders in all of the Big Ten. Over at USC, Derryck Thornton was playing behind Jordan McLaughlin. Now that McLaughlin’s out, Thornton is going to get more chances to shine. As a guard, he has issues with decision-making and confidence. That could change as he develops more of his game this coming season.

One final player that college basketball enthusiasts shouldn’t sleep on is West Virginia’s James Bolden. He averaged 8.7 points and hit over 41 percent of the three-point shots he took last season. He’s also a tough defender who works well in Bob Huggins’ system. It’s possible that Bolden will emerge into a player capable of scoring 15 or more points per game as he replaces Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles.

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