It’s never too early to start looking ahead!
Check below for our list of 20 under-the-radar breakout players for the 2022-23 college basketball season.
*A breakout player cannot average double figure points in the previous season.
In no particular order:
J’Wan Roberts, Houston: Roberts averaged 8.8 rebounds last season in games where he logged 20 minutes or more. This a potential “Glue Guy” to monitor for Houston, who should again be a Final Four caliber team under Kelvin Sampson.
Jordan Longino, Villanova: Jay Wright openly talked about how Villanova missed the 6-6 Longino — who was out with injury — on defense during last season’s NCAA Tournament. He’ll now get a chance to play major minutes under Kyle Neptune. Don’t be shocked if Longino — who averaged just 1.8 points last season — winds up as a starter for the Wildcats at some point in 2022-23.
Malachi Smith, Dayton: The Flyers are expected to be one of the best non power conference teams in college basketball this season. That will only allow Smith’s star to rise nationally. A swiss army knife type of point guard, the 6-foot Smith quietly averaged 9.3 points, 5.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.8 steals a year ago as a freshman. The more Dayton wins, the more Smith will get the type of ink that he so very well deserves.
Julian Reese, Maryland: Kevin Willard is one of the best player development coaches in college basketball. That bodes well for the 6-9 Reese, who averaged 5.7 points and 4.4 rebounds as a freshman. Under Willard, Reese has All-Big Ten caliber potential. Expect a significant jump this season.
Robbie Beran, Northwestern: To say this is a critical season for Northwestern would be an understatement. To say this is a critical season for Beran is another understatement. The former Top-100 recruit has yet to average double figures during his college career and now has to produce as a senior for the Wildcats to have any chance of finishing near the middle of the Big Ten. Don’t be shocked if Chris Collins uses the 6-9 Beran as a stretch five-man this season similar to how Miami used Sam Waardenburg a year ago.
Kadin Shedrick, Virginia: The 6-11 Shedrick had 16 points and six rebounds when Virginia beat Duke in Durham last February. He also averaged 10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and two blocks in games last season where he logged 25 minutes or more. If the Cavaliers are in the mix for an ACC regular season title, Shedrick will be a major reason why.
Darius Maddox, Virginia Tech: Maddox should enter the 2022-23 season on fire after averaging 9.3 points in his final nine games of last year, highlighted by a 20-point performance against North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. Only a sophomore, Maddox has the chops to eventually be an All-ACC caliber guard under Mike Young.
Benny Williams, Syracuse: Jim Boeheim needs mileage out of this former Top-50 recruit if Syracuse is going to finish in the middle of the ACC standings. The 6-8 Williams only averaged 1.9 points and 1.4 rebounds as a freshman, but had a solid 14-point, six-rebound outing late in the season against Duke. Williams’ ability to be a regular producer is a major storyline to watch for the Orange in 2022-23.
Jayden Nunn, VCU: Armed with great size at 6-4, Nunn quietly had a very productive freshman season for VCU, averaging 8.6 points in 29.1 minutes. Can he be an all-conference player as a sophomore? Don’t rule it out of the realm of possibility. Look for Nunn and Ace Baldwin to form one of the top backcourts in the Atlantic 10 in 2022-23.
Tristan da Silva, Colorado: The Buffaloes suffered a blow when Jabari Walker decided to leave school for the NBA, but da Silva should be able fill some of the void. The 6-10 forward really improved his skill level last season as a sophomore and shot an impressive 37.3 percent from three-point range. Expect him to flirt with All-Pac-12 honors as a junior after averaging 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds a year ago.
Payton Sandfort, Iowa: Whatever “it” is, the 6-7 Sandfort possesses. Smooth, skilled, and a big-time shooter, Sandfort averaged 11.7 points last season as a freshman in games where logged 15 minutes or more. A big sophomore season is imminent.
Wade Taylor IV, Texas A&M: Buzz Williams had Junior Cadougan at point guard when he was at Marquette and Justin Robinson at point guard when he was at Virginia Tech. Taylor feels like he’s next in line to take a seat at the table. A lightning quick floor general, the 6-foot Taylor was mightily impressive as a freshman for Texas A&M, averaging 8.2 points and 2.2 assists in just 17.5 minutes. This will be the gas in the Aggies’ engine.
Manny Obaseki, Texas A&M: Obaseki stepped into a bigger role during last season’s Postseason NIT and delivered, averaging 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in five games. A 6-4 guard, he’s in line to be a major piece for what should be one of the better teams in the SEC in 2022-23.
RJ Melendez, Illinois: The 6-7 Melendez averaged 8.3 points last season in games where he logged 10 or more minutes and is a prototype for the type of “positionless” basketball that Brad Underwood wants to implement this season at Illinois. Buy stock now.
Reese Dixon-Waters, USC: Dixon-Waters had 16 points in the Trojans’ NCAA Tournament loss against Miami and averaged 10 points in the final six games of last season. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll be a mainstay in USC’s starting lineup in 2022-23.
Grant Huffman, Davidson: Matt McKillop needs a running mate for Foster Loyer. Huffman appears to be a likely candidate. Davidson’s staff has big hopes for the 6-3 guard, who finished last season by averaging 7.7 points in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Huffman’s progression is a major key to this program remaining atop the Atlantic 10 standings in 2022-23.
Fousseyni Traore, BYU: An undersized beast at 6-6 and 250 pounds, Traore eats glass every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A tenacious rebounder, Traore had four games last season with 13 or more rebounds and averaged 8.5 rebounds each time he took the floor. This kid has a chance to one day lead all of college basketball in rebounding.
Zach Hicks, Temple: Deeply entrenched confidants in North Philadelphia are bullish on the 6-7 Hicks, who has “gifts from God” physically. Long, lanky, and super smooth, Hicks has the potential to emerge into one of the better players in the American Athletic Conference as a sophomore. He was terrific last season as a freshman, averaging 8.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 21.4 minutes.
Tray Jackson, Seton Hall: Shaheen Holloway is bullish on the 6-10 Jackson, who is an underrated member of the Pirates’ returning nucleus. A mismatch threat who can play multiple positions, Jackson should average in double figures after tallying 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds last season.
Steven Crowl, Wisconsin: This 7-footer made a massive jump last season once inserted into the Badgers’ starting lineup. Another jump feels inevitable. With Johnny Davis no longer in Madison, Crowl will likely get a bigger piece of the pie as he continues to extend the defense from the perimeter in Wisconsin’s methodical swing offense. Crowl made 26 three-point shots last season from the center position.
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