In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. Just look at the 2018 draft, where it took 10 picks before Mikal Bridges became the first non-freshman (or international) to be selected. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. We move to the No. 24 overall recruit, UCLA's Moses Brown.
What he means for the Bruins' recruiting class:
The 7’1” center from Queens, N.Y., is a five-star recruit for the Bruins and ranked third at his position in the 2018 class. All signs point toward him having a massive impact from the moment he arrives at UCLA, which raises expectations for the 2018–19 season. Following in the footsteps of former Bruins like Lonzo Ball and Kevin Love, Brown will likely be another one-and-done player for UCLA, but his arrival still boosts the team’s outlook for at least the short-term. The big man boasts a valuable combination of above-average athletic ability and awareness below the basket, especially for a seven-footer. Joining Brown in Los Angeles are four-star recruits Shareef O’Neal (No. 38), Jules Bernard (No. 45 in the RSCI rankings), David Singleton (No. 83), Tyger Campbell, and three-star forward Kenneth Nwuba. The six make up Steve Alford’s second straight top-10 recruiting class.
How he fits
Brown fits as an immediate replacement for senior center Thomas Welsh and should help UCLA return to contention in the Pac-12 after an underwhelming 2017 season. Welsh, a skilled big man who brought a wealth of experience, was averaging 12.9 points per game in his senior year. While Brown needs some development on the offensive end to match Welsh’s production, he’s a skilled shot blocker and will make a definite impact at the post. He’ll give the Bruins a different dimension in terms of athleticism and length, but his size remains an issue. At over seven-feet tall, it’s not his height that’s the concern: it’s his weight. Welsh has Brown's listed weight of 235 beat by 20 pounds, and the freshman will need to add some muscle mass going into the season to keep up with more physical Division I opponents and add some bulk under the basket. He’s a talented rim-runner in the pick-and-roll and a great rebounder on both sides of the court. If UCLA can add a little more strength to the center, Brown will be a big help below the basket for whoever fills the void left by Aaron Holiday at point guard.
Importance to UCLA's success/outlook
Alford has a fair amount of talent returning to the floor for a team used to constant turnover. But with the early departure of Holiday and the graduation of Welsh, at least a few new faces will work their way into the Bruins' starting lineup. Brown, the team’s most talented recruit, will certainly be one of those two, even in a recruiting class of multiple big men. The basketball powerhouse has had a tough few seasons failing to live up to the program’s prestigious name, going 21–12 last season before losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. UCLA hadn’t made a run past the Sweet 16 since 2008, but the influx of talent in this year’s recruiting class coupled with the remaining talent from last season should mean progress in L.A.