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. 19 recruit, Wake Forest's Jaylen Hoard. You can view all of the profiles to date here.
What he means for Wake Forest’s recruiting class
Jaylen Hoard is just the third five-star recruit in program history for the Demon Deacons after Chris Paul and Al-Farouq Aminu played in Winston-Salem. The consensus top-25 player was named to the North Carolina All-State team while at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point—just 30 minutes from Wake Forest—where he played two seasons of high school basketball. A native of France, Hoard played on French national teams with Demon Deacon teammate Olivier Sarr, the sophomore seven-footer, and averaged 22.4 points at the 2016 FIBA U-17 World Championships, including a 41-point outburst against South Korea. He joins four-star wing Isaiah Mucius and three-star guards Jamie Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr., in Wake’s 2018 recruiting class. Hoard headlines a solid but not stellar recruiting class for the Demon Deacons, putting added pressure on the French forward to produce results for a program desperately in need of them. His five-star status significantly elevates the team’s outlook for future recruiting.
How he fits
Hoard will play an important role this season after Wake Forest lost its top three scorers from 2017–18 when guard Bryant Crawford and big man Doral Moore left early for the NBA draft and Keyshawn Woods transferred from the program. The three combined for 52% of Wake’s scoring and were the only players to average double figures. Even with their top scorers on the court, the Demon Deacons still ranked 183rd in the nation in points per contest last season, meaning that they need significantly more buckets in 2018 if they want to contend in the ACC. With the team’s losses and its lack of depth on the scoring front, Hoard should see serious minutes for coach Danny Manning’s team from the start as the Deacons try to reach just their second NCAA tournament since 2010. His ability to be a scorer, a passer and a playmaker all in one almost guarantees a starting slot for the lengthy and versatile small forward.
At 6’8,’ the talented wing will likely team up with sophomore guard Chaundee Brown, a former four-star recruit who saw 29 starts as a freshman, as the foundation of Manning’s lineup. With a soft outside shooting touch and the height to play inside, Hoard can make plays from anywhere on the floor. He has a natural gift for getting to the basket and finding the open shot, partially because his laid-back style of play masks his potential potency. He’s started to show flashes of assertiveness, which make him an even bigger threat in the paint and add to his offensive abilities. He’s strong in transitions and will be an asset for the Demon Deacons defensively as a result. Wake will need Hoard’s contributions across the board to improve on last year’s disappointing 11–20 season.
Importance to Wake Forest's success/team outlook
The Demon Deacons have struggled in the fiercely competitive ACC, picking up just four conference wins in 14 ACC contests last season. Wake struggled on both ends of the court, failing to find any substantial success shooting and finishing 259th in the nation in defensive rebounds. The Deacons will need all-around improvement to see a stronger 2018–19 season, and Hoard’s versatility offers them a player who can help. If Manning can construct a stronger backcourt with more consistent playmaking, Hoard should have plenty of opportunities to help the new-look Demon Deacons improve from last season.