Do you feel that? It’s the cool breeze of hope at AnyCampus, USA. Programs across the nation are gearing up for the summer and lads from far and wide are pushing themselves day after day to become the next face of mid-major basketball. Here are some players you will want to keep an eye on.
F Lamine Diane, Cal State Northridge, Sophomore
As a Southern California native I can honestly tell you that until 2018 the words “Wow, I want to go see a Cal State Northridge game” never came out of my mouth. Then CSUN hired Mark Gottfried, and I’ll admit it drew some interest, then I see that in the season opener a redshirt freshman by the name of Lamine Diane scored 34 points as CSUN fell at the buzzer to New Mexico. My interest had been peaked and suddenly I wanted to watch the Matadors. Northridge has some fascinating players on their roster like sharpshooter Terrell Gomez, Gottfried’s son Cameron Gottfried, and also Ron Artest III who looks just like his father. But none of them compare to the 6’7 double-double machine from Senegal. Diane is strong, nimble and quick with magnificent touch around the rim. It’s exciting to imagine what the sophomore — and our Freshman of the Year — will have in store for next season after leading all of Division I in made field goals while averaging 24.8 points per game, 11.2 rebounds per game and 2.2 blocks per game.
G Keaton Wallace, UTSA, Sophomore and G Jhivvan Jackson, UTSA, Junior
I’ll tell you this right now, San Antonio will be the home of a must-watch college squad in 2019-2020. The backcourt duo of Keaton Wallace and Jhivvan Jackson has been dubbed college’s “Splash Brothers”, which is fitting considering they combine for 21.2 three-point attempts per game. Wallace is a lefty sharpshooter who can also wreak havoc with his ability to get to the rim with ease, while his teammate Jackson works as a perimeter and mid-range assassin. Each averaged over 20 points per game in 2018-2019, and provided a ton of ridiculous action on the court that included a combined 75 points in a win against Marshall, and leading a 17-point comeback in four minutes against Old Dominion which you can check out in the video below.
F Grant Golden, Richmond, Junior
Grant Golden has all the tools to be a star in the Atlantic 10 in the upcoming season. He’s an excellent passer from the high post and perimeter where he can also knock down the occasional jumper. His post moves and ability to finish at the rim leave defenders frustrated, and most importantly his magnificent, flowing hair leaves every man envious. In all seriousness, Golden has a lethal post spin that can leave just about any defender in the dust and is solid on the boards averaging just over seven rebounds per game. The Spiders have their three leading scorers returning at the start of the season and will hopefully get their fourth leading scorer Nick Sherod back at some point in the season as he recovers from a torn ACL. With so much talent coming back, expect an exceptional playmaker like Golden to shine.
F Malik Fitts, St. Mary’s, Junior
The defending WCC Tournament champions will have the conference’s leading scorer Jordan Ford back for next year, however, make sure to also keep an eye on All-WCC second-teamer Malik Fitts. The 6’8 Forward handles the ball exceptionally well for someone his size, plus his impressive body control and strength make him a dangerous scoring threat in the post. Fitts tops his game off with a magnificent stroke from the perimeter. The Gael made 40.6 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and had two games where he hit five three-pointers.
G Bryce Aiken, Harvard, Senior
The Crimson’s leader will look to seize his final season in Cambridge after missing the postseason his sophomore year and non-conference play as a junior due to a knee injury. Aiken averaged 22.2 points per game last season and went off with 38 points in the Ivy League Conference Championship against Yale. Unfortunately for Aiken and the Crimson, the Bulldogs took the game and the conference’s March Madness bid. Aiken’s handle and relentlessness allow him to drive and draw fouls with ease. Last season, Aiken had double-digit free throw attempts in five of his eighteen games, and only went one game without a trip to the charity stripe. Expect Aiken to play with a chip on his shoulder in 2019-2020 as he looks to take Harvard to the tournament for the first time in his career.
G Kai Toews, UNC Willmington, Sophomore
The UNC Wilmington point guard hails from Tokyo, Japan and is the NCAA’s craftiest passer. It is a thing of beauty to watch Toews hit his defender with an in-and-out crossover while driving to the basket and then whip it out to the perimeter with one hand to another Seahawk for an open three pointer. Toews was second in the nation with 7.7 assists per game last season and in conference play brought that up to 8.4, along with 10 points per game. His turnovers were on the higher side, 3.4 per game, and his field goal percentage leaves something to be desired at 40.5 percent and 24.3 percent from three. However, Toews is still a young buck and will have summer to iron down his offensive efficiency and become one of the premier mid-major point guards.
G Antoine Davis, Detroit Mercy, Sophomore
It’s safe to say with the exception of Antoine Davis, none of us will remember the Titans from last season. Detroit Mercy wound up finishing 11-20 as their star point guard finished third in the nation with 26.1 points per game and broke the freshman record for made three-pointers in a season with 132, a record held by mid-major legend, Steph Curry. Davis is part of the new breed of point guards where his range starts as soon as he crosses the half-court line and attempts enough step-back fadeaway three’s to give every coach across America a heart attack. That being said, Davis was a competent passer as a freshman leading his team in assists with 3.8 per game. It will be exciting to see if Davis takes the summer to improve other aspects of his game, after all he was a defensive liability with a negative 5.4 defensive box score plus/minus. Nevertheless, expect to hear Davis’s name on multiple occasions this upcoming season as he puts up some ridiculous show from behind the three-point line.