We're currently enjoying an exciting era of college basketball. An era in which 18 and 19-year-old freshmen, many of whom are just months removed from attending prom and counting basket weaving as a course credit, can become the face of the sport in a matter of months. Last year, it was Duke freshmen Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett making their respective marks as superstar teenagers. Before them, it was Trae Young at Oklahoma, Lonzo Ball at UCLA, Anthony Davis at Kentucky and ... well, you get the picture. The list of successful one-and-done players is a lengthy one.
While having one-and-done-caliber players doesn't guarantee titles (neither does having multiple on your roster; looking at you, 2018 Duke!), it does in many cases guarantee entertainment. Ben Simmons' LSU team in 2015-16 was an unmitigated disaster, but Simmons himself was a delight. Ditto for Markelle Fultz at Washington in 2016-17. Because there's so much anticipation as to how these phenoms perform in college and, later, in the NBA. There's a buzz that follows no matter how good (or bad) their teams turn out in a given season.
So who might this year's crop include? I'm glad you asked. We've crunched the numbers, examined the rosters, and behold: the exclusive 10-man preseason freshman list has arrived.
1. Cole Anthony, North Carolina
Five-star 2019 prospect; No. 4 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
Two top-end point guards in consecutive years for North Carolina. Last season, it was Coby White, a score-first point guard with a brilliant head of hair who was drafted in the lottery by the Chicago Bulls this summer. This year, it's Anthony, a do-it-all guard primed to keep the trend of great hairdos flowing in Chapel Hill. And he might be drafted higher.
"Cole can score, but he's more of a quarterback back there trying to get other people the ball," coach Roy Williams said of Anthony recently when contrasting him to White. "They're different. He's very athletic as a point guard."
UNC is replacing its top-five scorers from last season, which should provide plenty of opportunity for Anthony to showcase his talents as a scorer and facilitator. He begins the season No. 1 in our freshmen rankings and our pick to come away this season as the best freshman in the country.
2. Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky
Five-star 2019 prospect; No. 10 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
Kentucky gets five-star prospects to sign every year, but let Maxey be your annual reminder that not every five-star is created equal. Some are long-term projects with potential. Others are a blend of potential and production. Maxey is the latter. He joins a UK team looking to replace its top four scorers, and hey -- scoring is Maxey's forte.
"I love Tyrese's basketball savvy," said coach John Calipari this summer. "He has an elite ability to score the ball, yet he creates shots for his teammates, he defends and he rebounds. In all the time I've watched him play, rarely does he make the wrong play. He may not make every shot, but he almost always make the right play."
Maxey was the No. 10 overall recruit in the Class of 2019 and the third-ranked prospect at his position, behind No. 1 on this list and RJ Hampton, who plays in the NBL for the New Zealand Breakers.
3. James Wiseman, Memphis
Five-star 2019 prospect; No. 1 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
I'm going to regret starting Wiseman at No. 3 here, aren't I? He was the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2019, and by many outlets, he's projected to be the frontrunner to go No. 1 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. Memphis' success this season hinges upon how Wiseman will perform, and more than that, Penny Hardaway's recruiting success with blue-chip talent moving forward is loosely tied to how well he does. If he's the star all-around big man that we expect he'll be, then Penny's going to keep reeling in top-flight recruits like it's the Calipari era all over again.
4. Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Five-star 2019 prospect; No. 2 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
Me, in the offseason: Never overreact to preseason exhibition results. It's a trap.
Also me, after watching Anthony Edwards highlights from a single preseason exhibition: ARE WE SURE THIS GUY ISN'T GOING TO BE THE NO. 1 PICK NEXT SUMMER?
Anthony Edwards' debut at Georgia (exhibition) was a showcase of perimeter skill in terms of both shot creation and shot-making. Looks like it comes so easily. pic.twitter.com/fuFVTvpEgY— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) October 21, 2019
OK, so it was an exhibition. And fine, it was Valdosta State. I get it. But how can you not be impressed? Edwards glides all over the court with calm confidence. He can shoot it off the dribble, on the run, stepping back, attacking the rim -- you name it.
"He's got athletic ability and overall ability that he doesn't even really have an idea of how fast and good he can be," said coach Tom Crean at SEC Media Days. "It's our job to get that out of him."
5. Nico Mannion, Arizona
Five-star 2019 prospect; No. 9 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
Point guards tend to do well in Sean Miller's system, but he's never had a point guard as talented as Nico Mannion. It's going to be a delight. He signed with the Wildcats as the No. 1 player at his position out of high school, and should be in line to inherit the keys to the kingdom right away. With the way he relentlessly attacks and sees the floor, Arizona should be regarded as a real threat to win the Pac-12. He makes everyone around him better.
6. Isaiah Stewart, Washington
Five-star 2019 prospect; No. 3 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
Frontcourt minutes are available for the reigning Pac-12 regular season champions, and the better part of them should go to Stewart. The burly 6-foot-9 big man plays well above his size, using those broad shoulders to carve out -- and dominate -- space in the paint. If that doesn't give you enough, here's a visual of UW essentially treating him like a middle linebacker to prepare him. My bet is the guy with the body pad was more sore than Stewart after this.
Isaiah Stewart preparing for inevitable double teams. (Related: he’s very, very strong) pic.twitter.com/aPADR83yVy— Sean Quinton (@Quinton_Sean) October 23, 2019
7. Josiah-Jordan James, Tennessee
Five-star 2019 prospect; No. 22 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
A minor hip injury has kept Tennessee's prized incoming recruit from preseason practices over the last month. Assuming good health and a speedy return, he should be one of the most impactful newcomers in the SEC this season. James is not only a former McDonald's All-American with a five-star pedigree, but also a guard with opportunity to make an impact early. Last season's 31-win Vols team was gutted by departures from their top three scorers, including point guard Jordan Bone.
8. Vernon Carey, Duke
Five-star 2019 prospect; No. 6 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
This list wouldn't be complete without at least one Duke player, and Carey gets the early nod. He's the highest-rated incoming freshman in Duke's class, and figures to feature in a role down low with both Zion Williamson and Marques Bolden gone.
9. Jahmius Ramsey, Texas Tech
Four-star 2019 prospect; No. 32 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
Have you seen the looped GIF that shows a man calmly walking while engulfed in a mountain of flames? That's basically Chris Beard right now. Since taking over in Lubbock in 2016, he's turned Texas Tech into a national power, evidenced by its program-best finish last season as the national runner-up. And Beard's built it by scouting and recruiting overlooked talent, with Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver being the best examples. Now that Tech's star power is on the rise, he's gone out and grabbed a star in Ramsey, a 6-foot-4, two-way guard who became the highest-rated hoops signee ever for the Red Raiders when he put pen to paper in the early signing period last year.
10. Oscar Tshiebwe, West Virginia
Four-star 2019 prospect; No. 31 overall in 247Sports Composite Rankings
West Virginia's volleyball-swatting big man Sagaba Konate has moved on, and yet wily Bob Huggins has managed to put together one of the Big 12's most talented frontcourts. Tshiebwe, a big, broad-shouldered forward, teams up with returning big man Derek Culver as the league's most talented 1-2 post punch. Tshiebwe isn't a modern day big -- he's pretty limited in what he can do outside the paint -- but in the paint is where he's going to cause tons of problems for Big 12 foes.
Honorable mentions: Scottie Lewis, Florida; Josh Green, Arizona; Trendon Watford, LSU; Precious Achiuwa, Memphis; Samuell Williamson, Louisville; Tre Mann, Florida; Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana; DJ Carton, Ohio State; Jaden McDaniels, Washington; Kahlil Whitney, Kentucky; Matthew Hurt, Duke; Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova; Boogie Ellis, Memphis; Isaac Okoro, Auburn; De'Vion Harmon, Oklahoma; Kofi Cockburn, Illinois