From dominant players on Final Four-worthy teams to uncommitted high schoolers primed to make a splash at the next level, here are seven players you should be watching as the college basketball season heats up in 2019.
Ja Morant, Murray State
Ascending into a ball-dominant role as a sophomore, Morant has passed his early-season tests with flying colors and has the Racers set up to roll through the Ohio Valley Conference and earn back-to-back NCAA tournament berths. The 6’3” guard—once an unranked high school recruit—is anonymous no longer, putting up big point totals and evolving into a nightly triple-double threat. The situation suggests we’ll get to see him lead Murray State on a big stage in March, and that a lottery selection in the NBA draft is well within reach.
Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan
The Wolverines enter 2019 as one of college basketball’s most menacing teams, and Brazdeikis, their standout freshman, isn’t far from becoming a household name. He’s been remarkably consistent and effectively replaced Mo Wagner’s scoring production, leading Michigan to an undefeated start that includes stunning beatdowns of North Carolina and Villanova. Brazdeikis is a threat from outside, comfortable attacking the basket, and comes tailor-made for John Beilein’s system. Michigan may well return to the Final Four, and he’ll be a major key.
Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
Stepping in comfortably for the departed Keenan Evans, Culver has engineered an undefeated run to begin the season for the Red Raiders, who continue to prove their success is sustainable under Chris Beard. His smooth, crafty game and hot shooting have been the catalyst, and he’s gone from role-playing wing to standout combo guard in no time. Texas Tech can lean on its fearsome defense during conference play, but when thrust into big moments, expect the ball to find Culver’s hands. His play will be the key to another deep March run.
Kevin Porter Jr., USC
With USC off to an uneven start, it’s hard to say exactly where their season heads during conference play, but it’s also difficult to see Andy Enfield bringing Porter off the bench much longer. The 6’5” guard is one of college basketball’s most exciting talents and a likely NBA lottery pick, regardless of what happens next. Porter has missed time with injury and has yet to be fully unleashed, but the hype has built up nonetheless. If the Trojans are to make the tournament, they’ll have to get him going. If he does, it’ll be must-see TV.
Anthony Edwards (uncommitted)
After reclassifying to graduate in 2019 (his original class), Edwards has become an instant priority for college basketball’s blue blood programs, with Florida State heavily in the mix, but Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina and home-state Georgia also among the schools on his trail. The powerful two-guard—widely considered the top guard recruit in the country—is both skilled and physically dominant, and should be a major factor wherever he plays next season.
Chris Clemons, Campbell
Clemons is the latest college player to seriously flirt with the 30 point-per-game mark, putting together a remarkable start to his senior year for the Campbell Camels. He hung 45 impressive points on Georgetown in a road loss and could conceivably roll through the Big South unharried. The last player to average 30 was LIU-Brooklyn’s Charles Jones in 1996-97, with Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene falling just short two seasons ago at 29.97 points per game and Oklahoma’s Trae Young managing 27.3 last year. The 5’9” Clemons would be the smallest player ever to accomplish the feat.
Antoine Davis, Detroit
The son of Detroit head coach Mike Davis has started his college career in stunning fashion, averaging 27.4 points through his first 10 games and shooting 44% from three-point range. While the Titans are not an expressly good team, Davis’ early-season performances are begging for your attention, and come in spite of the fact he stands just 6’1”, 170. Perhaps he’s due for regression…but perhaps not.