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NCAA Basketball Players to Watch in 2014


North Carolina point guard Marcus Paige strives to take the tar heels to the next level in 2014. Jerome Carpenter/Flickr

The College Basketball season tips off on Nov. 14, and students are prepared to see their peers represent their school. Even though basketball is a team sport, it also lends itself to individual stardom.There are always star players that are closely monitored throughout the season, especially with the way the NBA Draft process has exploded. Last season, we had Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins, Duke forward Jabari Parker, Kansas center Joel Embiid, and Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, to name a few. This season there is a whole new line of stars ready to put themselves on the map during the 2014-2015 campaign.

College basketball has always had its schools that are in the limelight every year. These are programs like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville and Kansas. These teams have an edge on the recruiting trail to secure the nation’s top prospects. When a school gets one of those five star prospects, the expectations start out through the roof from the moment they step foot on that campus. The Freshman Frenzy happens every year, and it is no different last year. Wiggins, Parker and Julius Randle led last year’s freshman class. This year’s class features Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, Kentucky’s Karl Towns Jr. and Arizona’s Stanley Johnson.

Okafor comes in as the nation’s number one recruit. Okafor features an impressive six foot eleven inch build with a good basketball IQ. Okafor has already developed a great post presence and is only going to get better. This is one toy the Duke head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, will have in his arsenal this season for his fourth ranked Blue Devils. Okafor may be the most advanced big man to come out of high school in recent history.

Towns Jr. is another towering specimen in this year’s rookie class, standing at over seven feet.Towns joins three other McDonalds All-Americans incoming to Kentucky (shooting guard Devin Booker, forward Trey Lyles and point guard Tyler Ulis). Like Okafor, Towns is a talented post scorer. Towns will join returnees Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson in the front court, who together, can make for a nearly unstoppable two way team up front.

Johnson of Arizona could give Okafor a run for his money when it comes to freshman of the year. Johnson comes into Tucson filling the void from the departure of last year’s freshman phenom, Aaron Gordon. Johnson is a powerful six foot seven inch wing that can play on the perimeter but possess a powerful driving game. He has a great all-around game and joins guard T.J. McConnell, forward Brandon Ashley, and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to make up the nation’s number two ranked team.

Overall, it is difficult to find great college basketball players that stay in school past their freshman year. This year, a few stars decided to return to school. It is intriguing to see what the season holds for these players. Many of them have the prospect of foregoing the rest of their eligibility for a chance to cash in with the NBA.
One player that shocked the college basketball landscape by returning to school is forward Montrezl Harrell of Louisville. Harrell is one of the most athletic young men in the nation. After winning the National Championship as a freshman, Harrell has improved each season to make himself more than just a dunker. Harrell has become the king of dunking after dunking 98 times in 37 games last season, which shattered the Louisville record. Harrell has an athletic NBA ready frame, which should help him dominate this year as he rounds out his game.

Guard Aaron Harrison of Kentucky was a surprising player to return for his sophomore year. Harrison single-handedly carried Kentucky to the championship game with his late game heroics. Andrew Harrison averaged 13.7 points per game last season. Some say that it is hard to see Harrison improved from last season, but he is primed to make a run at the Naismith Award and should be on everyone’s watch list.

Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin may have the best nickname in college basketball, “Big Daddy Fupps.” The man that is often referred to as “Big Frank,” has been on some kind of journey over the past year. Kaminsky went from being a virtual unknown last preseason to being considered the frontrunner for Big 12 player of the year. The seven foot senior has a great presence from behind the three point line, along with the skills and body to be able to finish inside. Look for Kaminsky to put up double digits every night and continue with the consistency that has been linked to his name.

Marcus Paige was one of the breakout stars of last season for North Carolina. In a down year for Roy Williams’ Tar Heels, Paige earned first-team All-ACC honors. With that said The tar heels still played well even with the lack of talent they had last season. Paige should have no problem playing with the incoming talent of three top 50 recruits. More good from Paige should come this year in Chapel Hill.

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