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College Basketball: Juniors Who Can Take The Next Step Part 1

These juniors are looking to take the next step in their games. They will go from being good players to top-level players. The following is a breakdown on each player’s skill set and the areas they need to make improvements on to take their game to that next level. Here are some juniors looking to take that next step:

Cassius Winston, Guard, Michigan State

Cassius Winston is the best point guard in the country, as everything Michigan State runs is through him. The ability to shoot perimeter jumpers off the bounce is very good. His distribution skills are very good being able to give his teammates great scoring opportunities. He plays with great poise and body control, even if he’s not the quickest, but he uses his high IQ and takes good angles to get the necessary separation. Winston is a pretty good driver finishes around the rim effectively and is very good in ball screen action. His lateral quickness is not very good and he can get caught off guard by cutters. His on-ball defense is solid as his technique is there so he stays in a good position. Winston will be a player of the year candidate and will be looking to lead Michigan State a National Championship.

2018-19 Averages 18.8 points 3.0 rebounds 7.5 assists 46.0 FG% 39.8 3pt%

Zavier Simpson, Guard, Michigan

Simpson is one of the best overall defenders in the country. His activity and technique are as good as it gets. He is able to stick with guards off the ball. Also, his active hands can force many bad decisions by opposing guards. The ability to play defense with the lower half of his body is exceptional. The lateral movement is so good with his feet always at the exact angle needed. His running hook shot is the most unique shot in all of college basketball and is very effective. His very strong with balls does a great job of getting in gaps and finding teammates. He rebounds very well especially for a guard and initiates the offense in transition. The area of improvement he needs is his perimeter jump shot to have a complete offensive skill set. Simpson is one of the most complete guards in the country.

2018-19 Averages 8.8 points 5.0 rebounds 6.6 assists 43.8 FG% 30.8 3pt%

Markus Howard, Guard, Marquette

Image result for markus howardThe ability to score for Howard is exceptional. He moves without the ball really well along with his ability to pull up off the dribble in the mid-range and for three. He’s always shot ready and will shoot a volume of shots. He can also get downhill and finish around the basket pretty well. The offense for Marquette will entirely run through Howard and he has a great chance to lead the country in scoring. He’s a decent defender who does an okay job of staying in front. Off the ball, he gets caught out of position and will be late or closeouts. Marquette will be very dependent on the production of Howard after losing the Hauser brothers to transferring.

2018-19 Averages 25.0 points 4.0 rebounds 3.9 assists 42.0 FG% 40.3 3pt%

 

Anthony Cowan Jr., Guard, Maryland

Cowan is a very good all-around point guard. His effort is solid defensively. He could be a more productive defender against dribble penetration. The active hands defensively are very solid as well. He can improve on becoming a more efficient shooter with better shot selection. Also, he could be an even better distributor than he already is. His ability to hit perimeter jumpers is very good on the catch and dribble. He plays with really good composure and awareness. His off-ball movement is good. He’s a pretty effective driver also with good touch around the basket. Cowan is looking to lead Maryland to a deep NCAA tournament run.

2018-19 Averages 15.6 points 3.7 rebounds 4.4 assists 39.3 FG% 33.7 3pt%

Amir Coffey, Guard, Minnesota

Coffey is a Swiss Army Knife who can do a little bit of everything. His ability to score at all three levels is good. His perimeter jump shot needs to improve to become a really well-rounded scorer. He does a very good job of attacking the basket and really likes to utilize his left hand. He must develop his right hand to become a complete driver. He’s an active rebounder and can push it well in transition. He brings really good size and length on the perimeter. He could be a better on-ball defender with better lateral quickness, but his length can be effective against smaller guards. Coffey is a very solid all-around player looking to have his best season yet this upcoming season.

2018-19 Averages 16.6 points 3.6 rebounds 3.2 assists 43.6 FG% 30.4 3pt%

Myles Powell, Guard, Seton Hall

The entire Seton Hall offense revolves around Powell. His shot-making ability is at an extremely high level. He moves without the ball well and he can hit perimeter jumpers on the move or with spot ups. He’s very physical and strong with the ball and creates really good separation for shot creation and drives. His mid-range game is very good as well he’s a pure scorer and can lead the country in scoring next year. He’s an average defender who does a solid job of sticking with his man. The lateral movement could improve along with playing with more activity defensively. Powell is looking to lead Seton Hall who has a great chance to win the Big East with the majority of rotation players returning.

2018-19 Averages 23.1 points 4.0 rebounds 2.9 assists 44.7 FG% 36.3 3pt%

Payton Pritchard, Guard, Oregon

Pritchard brings good energy defensively with active hands. He’s always in a really good defensive stance and is willing to do the extra work on defense. He always closes out strong on shooters. The ability to distribute is there, as he gets good driving lanes off of ball screen action. He is a good perimeter shooter, although he must improve his efficiency to become a really good shooter. He pushes the ball very well in transition with the ability to finish around the basket. He’s not the most athletic guard, but he uses his craftiness to get shots off in isolation situations.

2018-19 Averages 12.9 points 3.9 rebounds 4.6 assists 41.7 FG% 32.8 3pt%

Killian Tille, Forward, Gonzaga

His ability to score at all levels is really good his shot is very smooth. He moves extremely well without the ball as a big and his ability to spread the floor is great. He’s very effective off-ball screen action being able to pop for a perimeter shot or diving to the basket as a roller. Health is the only thing against Tille as he missed the end of the 2017-2018 season and the majority of the 2018-2019 season. He moves his feet very well defensively and is great in helping and recovering. The ability to guard in the interior and the perimeter is very solid. Tille will look to stay healthy and sulfide himself a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

2018-19 Averages 6.2 points 3.9 rebounds 1.5 assists 50.0 FG% 43.8 3pt%

Trent Forrest, Guard, Florida State

He brings really solid length and activity on the perimeter. His technique defensively is very solid with really good body control and awareness. He rebounds very well and always sticks with his player he’s guarding. The physicality he brings allows him to post up guards and attack the basket effectively. He must become a better perimeter shooter. The transition game is effective for him as can attack off of disadvantages for the defense. Forrest is a solid all-around player looking to grow into a go-to guy for Florida State.

2018-19 Averages 9.3 points 4.5 rebounds 3.7 assists 43.9 FG% 23.3 3pt%

Braxton Key, Forward, Virginia

Key has the ability to do a little bit of everything on both ends. He plays extremely well in the role he is assigned. The ability to screen and dive to the basket is good with his ability to finish. He’s a good ball handler who can attack bigs in mismatches. His mid-range and perimeter jump shot is effective, but it could take that next step. The capability to move without the ball and create space is good. He’s a good defender with the ability to guard bigs and perimeter players. He moves his feet extremely well and his hands are active. Key will have an increased load offensively with major departures off of the defending national champions roster.

2018-19 Averages 5.7 points 5.3 rebounds 1.0 assists 43.3 FG% 30.5 3pt%

De’Ron Davis, Forward, Indiana

He has very good touch around the basket and is very efficient. Davis is very active around the basket and gets in a good position to make plays happen. He’s strong in the post and has a very solid spin move. On the defensive end, he moves his feet well and his interior defense is good. The overall activity he brings on both ends is good, but his health is the biggest concern for Davis. If he can stay healthy he could be a dominant force in the Big Ten.

2018-19 Averages 5.4 points 2.5 rebounds 0.9 assists 60.0 FG%

Udoka Azubuike, Center, Kansas

Image result for udoka azubuikeAzubuike is a force in the paint and is one of the most efficient players in the country. He has difficulty in help and recovers situations in ball-screen actions. His interior defense is really good as he doesn’t give up a room for post players to operate. The rim protection he brings is good as he has the ability to alter shots. Health is the major concern for Azubuike to be the dominant force he can be. He’s very good on the boards and once he gets good position on offense in the post he will score. His physicality and spin move to his right shoulder are dominant. Azubuike is looking to lead Kansas back to being the Big 12 champions.

2018-19 Averages 13.4 points 6.8 rebounds 0.6 assists 70.5 FG%

 

De’Riante Jenkins, Guard, VCU

He has a great explosion on his first step and gets downhill really well. His ability to finish around the basket is very effective. He rebounds pretty well for a guard and goes in transition well. He has a good ability to spot up from three and has an effective jumper. His activity and length defensively are really good, as he contests jumpers and makes it difficult to shoot over the top of him. He also moves really good laterally. His defense is very solid and he has the capability to get even better. Jenkins will look to be apart a veteran-laden VCU team looking to get back to the NCAA tournament.

2018-19 Averages 11.3 points 3.9 rebounds 2.0 assists 40.5 FG% 34.1 3pt%

Sam Merrill, Forward, Utah State

Merrill is the best player in Mountain West Conference. He brings good activity and size defensively. He’s not the quickest on ball defender and can get beat off the bounce. He does a good job to contest all jumpers and does a solid job of sticking to his man. He has the ability to score at all three levels and there is a great composure with a smoothness to his offensive skills. Size and length can give Merrill problems with his lack of athleticism. When he has the separation and space he’s one of the most complete scores in the country. Merrill is looking to lead Utah State back to the NCAA tournament.

2018-19 Averages 20.9 points 3.9 rebounds 4.2 assists 46.1 FG% 37.6 3pt%

Nick Ward, Forward, Michigan State

His overall shape needs to improve so he can be productive for longer durations on the court. Ward brings good physicality and crashes the boards extremely hard. He fights for position and has a very effective jump hook with his left hand along with a good drop step. Ward can be a liability in ball screen action as he does not move his feet well on defense. The inability to stay in front of bigs that face up can get exposed with Ward. His interior defense is solid as he’ll play hard but lacks great explosion to be a great interior defender.

2018-19 Averages 12.9 points 6.1 rebounds 0.7 assists 58.0 FG%

 

Images Courtesy of, Heavy.com, Kansan.com, The Only Colors

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