Top men’s basketball one-and-done players to watch

There are a ton of talented players entering their first year of college basketball and a handful are already projected as one-and-dones and high draft picks for the 2022 NBA draft.

This is significantly different from last year as NBA scouts and front office executives have already been hitting the road attending practices and getting a first look at some of the top talent coming in.

The G League Ignite team has three potential first-round draft picks in Jaden Hardy, MarJon Beauchamp and Michael Foster, but this list will focus on college players only.

Here’s a look at 10 potential one-and-done players (and a few extra) to keep an eye on this upcoming college basketball season.

Chet Holmgren shoots over a defender during a 2020 high school basketball tournament. Holmgren is projected to be a high pick in the 2022 NBA draft. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga

Ht./Wt.: 7-0, 195 pounds

Position: Center

There are few players like Holmgren. He’s a 7-footer who is the best rim protector in the country, can take almost any defender off the dribble and knock down 3-pointers. The first thing you notice when he steps on the court is his long, slight frame. It’s something he’s heard his entire career, and he’s letting his game speak for itself.

“Most of the people that tell me that are people on Twitter and have never seen me play basketball in person or understand basketball to begin with,” Holmgren told Yahoo Sports last year. “At the end of the day, I’m not too worried about what they’re saying. I’m just going to do me and keep working on my game.”

Gonzaga is loaded again this season after adding guards Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis to the roster. Look for Holmgren to lead the Zags to another dominant season as they try to make another big run in the NCAA tournament.

Paolo Banchero, Duke

Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 250 pounds

Position: Forward

Duke struggled last season and was missing a true superstar who could do a little bit of everything on the court. Banchero is that guy. Banchero moves extremely well for his size and frame and has great vision in the open court.

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His teammate, AJ Griffin, suffered a knee injury earlier this month during practice. There is no timeline for his return. Griffin was another player NBA scouts hoped to watch this season, but if he’s out the first few weeks, that will undoubtedly expand Banchero’s role.

Banchero is definitely in the talks as the potential No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft, along with Holmgren and G League Ignite guard Jaden Hardy. There’s an extra incentive to send off one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, Mike Krzyzewski, with a season he’ll remember.

Duke forward Paolo Banchero looks to pass as forward Bates Jones defends during Duke Countdown to Craziness at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Oct. 15, 2021. (Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Jabari Smith Jr., Auburn

Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 220 pounds

Position: Small forward

Smith Jr. is the son of former professional basketball player Jabari Smith. Smith played professionally in the NBA and overseas for 10 years.

His son is the best wing in this freshmen class. Smith Jr. has tremendous size at 6-foot-10 and is versatile on both ends of the court. He’s an ultra-talented player who can score at all three levels offensively and can guard every position on defense with his length and quickness. 

During his senior year in high school, Smith Jr. went head-to-head with Banchero and more than held his own. Smith has been named to the preseason coaches All-SEC team and could have a breakout season at Auburn.

Jalen Duren, Memphis

Ht./Wt.: 6-11, 250 pounds

Position: Center

Duren was the No. 1 player in high school basketball before reclassifying at the end of the summer and joining Penny Hardaway’s team. Soon after Duren committed, Emoni Bates also reclassified and committed to Memphis, giving the Tigers the No. 1 recruiting class coming in this season. (Because of Bates’ age, he will have to play two years in college before being eligible for the NBA draft.)

In his first exhibition game against LeMoyne-Owen, Duren looked comfortable on the court and wasn’t really challenged around the rim. He finished with 15 points and five rebounds in a blowout win. Duren is a projected top-five pick in the 2022 draft and already has an NBA-ready body. What NBA scouts are looking for this year is if he’s mobile enough off the block and can extend his game outside the 3-point line.

Caleb Houstan, Michigan

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 205 pounds

Position: Small forward

Juwan Howard was one game away from making the Final Four last season and has a strong class coming in led by Houstan, Moussa Diabate, Frankie Collins and Kobe Bufkin. 

Houstan played high school basketball at powerhouse Montverde Academy and is the highest-rated Michigan recruit since Glenn Robinson III in 2012. Houstan is a great rebounder, a reliable 3-point shooter (40% in high school) and averaged 13.2 points per game.

Patrick Baldwin Jr., UW Milwaukee

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 220 pounds

Position: Small forward

Baldwin Jr. chose to stay at home and play for his dad at UW Milwaukee over schools like Duke, Kansas and North Carolina. The small school might not get much TV time, but NBA scouts will be making their way to campus to check out the long, skilled wing. 

Baldwin Jr. passes like a point guard and excels in reading the defense off the pick-and-roll. His mid-range, two-dribble pull-up is hard to defend thanks to his size and high release on his jumper. Baldwin Jr. is no stranger to tough competition and playing alongside highly rated players; he played AAU basketball with former Duke forward and current Atlanta Hawks rookie Jalen Johnson.

Peyton Watson, UCLA

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 200 pounds

Position: Guard/forward

Watson has great size and length with his 6-foot-8 frame and is a dynamic shooting guard who can drop down low in mismatch situations. Defensively, he can guard positions 1-through-4 thanks to his athleticism and 7-foot wingspan. UCLA is the No. 2-ranked team coming into the season, and the Bruins’ offense will be run through Watson and Johnny Juzang, who had a breakout season last year after leading UCLA to the Final Four.

Matthew Cleveland, Florida State

Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 200 pounds

Position: Guard

Leonard Hamilton and his staff have had two one-and-done players go in the NBA draft lottery in back-to-back seasons. Cleveland could keep that streak alive thanks to his size at the shooting guard position, high basketball IQ and how well he finishes in transition. He has a solid all-around game and all the physical tools to be an impactful player for Florida State. Cleveland averaged 22.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.0 steals his senior year in high school at Pace Academy in Georgia.

JD Davison, Alabama

Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 195 pounds

Position: Guard

Davison is a high-flying guard who could win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest down the road. Basketball fans are in for a treat anytime Davison has an open lane in transition. He shows flashes of Sharife Cooper offensively and is one of the highest-rated recruits ever to sign with Alabama. He’s a dynamic scorer and averaged 32.4 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. In the first exhibition game against Louisiana, Davison finished with 19 points, three assists and four steals.

TyTy Washington, Kentucky

Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 197 pounds

Position: Guard

A year ago, Washington was an under-the-radar recruit who was previously committed to Creighton. He rose through the recruiting rankings throughout his senior season and ended up as a top-15 prospect, decommitted from Creighton and chose to play his college career at Kentucky. Washington is one of the fastest guards in this freshman class. He has elite court vision and is a true floor general. Listed at just 6-foot-3, he has a 6-foot-9 wingspan and can defend every position on the wing. His toughness is palpable on the court, and he is the leader who can turn around this Kentucky team after a disappointing season last year.

The Next 5

Daimion Collins, Kentucky

Hunter Sallis, Gonzaga

AJ Griffin, Duke

Kendall Brown, Baylor

Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee


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