After coming across some preseason top 25 rankings for 2014-15, I preview the top freshmen for Maryland’s new conference. It was certainly some stiff competition, but these five freshmen will make the biggest impact in their first year.
- D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State): Russell’s athletic ability, as well as his stout defense, will make him a top 10 player in the Big Ten next year. Russell was in the McDonald’s All-American game and was constantly a force on offense. Russell has a good jump shot, but scores best by slashing into the paint. Russell was considered equal in talent with Terrapins commit Dion Wiley, but I think Russell has that special factor that makes him elite. Russell is a guy that makes his teammates better. It certainly won’t be the last time we hear his name.
- James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana): Blackmon is headed to Bloomington as a shooting guard, but has the skills to be a point guard. Blackmon has superb handles and gets in the paint as good as any guard in the country. Blackmon will have a lot of available minutes due to the roster instability for the Hoosiers and he will certainly take advantage of the opportunity.
- Melo Trimble (Maryland): Yeah, he’s pretty good. Trimble plays with the most poise of any Maryland recruit I’ve seen in a long time. Trimble will be asked to play point guard next year, but Maryland fans should a more refined Seth Allen to assume the ball handling duties. Trimble is known for his lethal three-point shot, but his ball-handling skills make him a constant threat. Trimble has the skills to make an impact as a freshman, but with Dez Wells, Charles Mitchell and Seth Allen on the floor, Trimble won’t be asked to do as much.
- Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State): Bates-Diop is a long, athletic wing that thrives in one-on-one matchups. His length and great shot allows him to make tough shots look easy. Last year, Ohio State had a lot of difficulty shooting the ball, but Bates-Diop will eliminate that problem. I imagine Bates-Diop to average around 10 points-per-game, but if an opponent focuses on D’Angelo Russell, Bates-Diop will make his defenders pay big time.
- Leron Black (Illinois): Black is a strong big man that is much better offensively than defensively. Black does a great job using his body down low in order to get some separation. He can back his defender down and shoot the mid-range jump shot, making him a constant threat on offense. Defensively, he is not an ideal shot-blocker at 6’7”, but he forces his opponent into tough shots due to his length. Black will see immediate success in his first year at Illinois and I’m excited to see him matchup against Mitchell.
Among those that were considered but did not make the cut: Kameron Chatman (Michigan), Robert Johnson (Indiana), Dion Wiley (Maryland), Isaac Haas (Purdue), Michal Cekovsky (Maryland)