Who is the next mid-major star?

Elfrid Payton could emerge as a star this season. Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports

No one could have predicted Damian Lillard being chosen sixth overall in the NBA draft prior to the start of his final season at Weber State. When C.J. McCollum entered Lehigh as a freshman, he wasn’t considered an overseas prospect, never mind someone who would be selected in the NBA lottery. Gordon Hayward was a mid-major guy who came out of virtually nowhere to be selected ninth in the draft a few years ago, and Paul George was hardly a household name when he was taken 10th out of Fresno in 2010.

Who will be this year’s Lillard or McCollum? We’re not sure there is one, but here are 20 or so candidates (below in alphabetical order) that A) you should keep an eye on this college basketball season and B) have the potential to come out of nowhere to become an NBA prospect.

We obviously aren’t including the high-profile leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, Big East, American, Mountain West) and decided not to include anyone from the A-10 or WCC, either. But I will make one exception. I’m going to allow a pair from Utah State on the list, since the Aggies are a legit mid-major and enter their first season in the Mountain West.

Adjehi Baru, 6-foot-9, 230, PF, Soph., College of Charleston Cougars -- The native of the Ivory Coast is big, athletic and can rebound at a high level. Imagine a poor man’s Kenneth Faried. He averaged 9.8 points and 8.3 rebounds last season and his skill level should continue to improve.