The 2018-19 college basketball season begins tonight with a full slate of games filled with the top young players in the country. With changes to draft rules on the horizon, the era of one-and-done in college basketball may be drawing to a close. But for this season at least, the college game will again be dominated by freshmen making brief cameos in college towns across America. Here are the top 10 one-and-done players you’ll be watching in college basketball … briefly.
1, 2, 3. R.J. Barrett F, Zion Williamson F, Cameron Reddish F, Duke
ESPN rated them 1-2-3 in this season’s recruiting class. NBAdraft.net forecasts them to go 1-2-4 in next year’s draft (with Sekou Doumbouya of France at No. 3). And yeah, of course they’re all going to Duke.
Barrett is 6 feet 6 inches tall but quick enough to play shooting guard. Williamson is one of the best jumpers the game has seen. Reddish can score and pass. The three begin their college careers on Tuesday against No. 2 Kentucky.
Who’s the best of them? Pick any order. These freshman should give Duke an incredible season (it is ranked No. 4 in the preseason A.P. poll after a 29-8 season). Then they will all vanish to the N.B.A.
4. Bol Bol C, Oregon
What’s not to like about Bol Bol? He’s the son of beloved ex-N.B.A. player Manute Bol, sharing his spindly frame but having even more skills. He’s also a sneakerhead, writing on The Player’s Tribune that a key to his choice of Oregon was the athletic gear available: “Shoes lined up on chairs. Custom Oregon colorway Jordans. Like 13 different jersey combinations. Nike stuff that hasn’t come out yet. Those Jordan 4 Oregon retros that LeBron was wearing recently — they had those in there.”
ESPN rated Bol the No. 4 high school recruit, and NBADraft.net forecasts him to go 14th in the N.B.A. draft.
5. Nassir Little F, North Carolina
If North Carolina is going to match Duke and its freshman triumvirate in the A.C.C., it will need a great season from Little, a do-it-all kind of player. The Athletic compared him to Kawhi Leonard.
ESPN rated Little the No. 6 high school recruit, and NBADraft.net forecasts him to go fifth in the N.B.A. draft.
6. Romeo Langford G, Indiana
It’s hard to believe that the storied Indiana program has not made the N.C.A.A. tournament in four seasons or the Final Four in 18. Langford probably won’t be able to turn things around by himself, but he could return the team (16-15 last season) to respectability. Scouts praise his ability to create his own shot.
ESPN rated Langford the No. 5 high school recruit, and NBADraft.net forecasts him to go seventh in the N.B.A. draft.
7. Charles Bassey C, Western Kentucky
You read that right. It’s not Kentucky, but Western Kentucky that has the elite freshman this season. Western made the NIT Final Four last year and gets a huge upgrade with Bassey. A soccer player in his native Nigeria, Bassey has thrived in his new sport, and, if anything, is expected to be a better pro than a collegian.
ESPN rated Bassey the No. 18 high school recruit, and NBADraft.net forecasts him to go sixth in the N.B.A. draft.
8. Jalen Smith F, Maryland
Maryland brought in a strong recruiting class, and Smith is at the top of it, a rare five-star player for the program. A skinny player who scores and plays defense, he joins a team that missed the tournament last season.
ESPN rated Smith the No. 10 high school recruit, and NBADraft.net forecasts him to go 16th in the N.B.A. draft.
9. Quentin Grimes G, Kansas
What one-and-done list would be complete without a player from Kansas? A versatile guard, Grimes joins a strong returning squad that comes into the season ranked No. 1. As a Kansas one-and-done player with N.B.A. star potential, he joins Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid five years ago and Josh Jackson two years back.
ESPN rated Grimes the No. 9 high school recruit, and NBADraft.net forecasts him to go 18th in the N.B.A. draft.
10. Jaylen Hoard F, Wake Forest
Wake Forest was 14th in the A.C.C. last season, and despite some good seasons here and there has never escaped the shadow of the conference’s superteams. Wake lost several key players in the off season leaving a tall order for Jaylen Hoard of France, an inside-outside player. Don’t expect Wake to compete with Duke and its three superfreshmen.
ESPN rated Hoard the No. 22 high school recruit, and NBADraft.net forecasts him to go ninth in the N.B.A. draft.