By now we know which freshmen should be difference-makers in college basketball this upcoming season. But there are many more first-year players who can impress and impact their respective teams.
Every season, freshmen emerge on the scene as the season unfolds. The adjustment from high school to college, changes in such things as the physicality and speed of the game, and learning how to play with a high basketball IQ, takes time for a newcomer.
1. Kameron Chatman, Michigan: No. 38 in ESPN 100
Michigan has a little bit of a void to fill this season when it comes to scoring and Chatman has the talent to fill that void. He is a multi-skilled player and could cause matchup problems at power forward. He's an underrated athlete as a small forward. Chatman has excellent basketball instincts which, combined with his versatility, makes him a perfect fit in John Beilein’s system. There’s a good chance he starts at power forward. As the season goes on, and he continues to get stronger, expect to hear more about Chatman.
2. Robert Johnson, Indiana: No. 47 in ESPN 100
The best way to describe Johnson is that he is solid and consistent in every aspect of his game. He is a model of consistency in his approach and he is diligent in his desire to improve and learn the game. His game is advanced in terms of his maturity and poise. He has a high basketball IQ and great anticipation of what will happen next within a possession, both offensively and defensively. His contributions will come with his scoring, facilitating and his fearlessness of the moment. Look for Johnson to play some point guard when Yogi Ferrell is out or to be right beside him as part of a three-guard attack with James Blackmon. If Johnson figures it out quickly, he will play big minutes even if he doesn’t earn a starting spot.
3. Kaleb Joseph, Syracuse: No. 50 in ESPN 100
Jim Boeheim will hand the keys to the car to Joseph. There’s a lot of responsibility on his shoulders as he will be replacing Tyler Ennis, who had a spectacular freshman year before moving on to the NBA. Joseph will have an opportunity to produce some major results as a starting point guard for a gifted team. His impact will be on the Syracuse running game as he pushes the ball with speed with an emphasis on advancing the ball. Syracuse has athletes who can score and post players to get points in the paint, so Joseph’s ability to create opportunities will be vital to the Orange’s success.
4. Alex Robinson, Texas A&M: No. 63 in ESPN 100
Robinson will have a major chance to shine on this Texas A&M team and he owns the swagger, instincts and point guard skills to do so. He has had a really good summer and his body is noticeably stronger -- his weight is now up to 175 pounds and he is a ball hawk of a defender. Offensively, this lefty is all about finding and facilitating, but he needs to look to score more when the opportunity presents itself. Coach Billy Kennedy will entrust Robinson with the ball and to take the pressure off of Alex Caruso, who had an outstanding freshman year. Look for those two to complement each other well in the backcourt. He plays with a flair and a personality that can drive a coach crazy, but he has the ability to handle whatever an opponent throws at him.
5. Trey Kell, San Diego State: No. 81 in ESPN 100
Kell joins a loaded San Diego State roster and will have an immediate influence as an accurate long-range shooter, as well as with his ability to score inside the arc. What most don’t realize is Kell’s ability to impact the game with his basketball knowledge by making reads and cuts to get open for his jumper, which will make him stand out as an offensive weapon. With excellent size at 6-4 and a strong frame, contact and physicality won’t be a problem. When it comes to being productive and dangerous from the perimeter, Kell could be the answer for the Aztecs.