There's a ton of things to be excited about this time of year. For some it's the Thanksgiving combination of family and food. For others it's the holiday shopping deals and the gifts under the tree. But for us that are wrapped up in this game of basketball, today marks the start of the college basketball season. If there's one thing we've become accustomed to over the course of time it's that prospects out of Georgia have a tendency to make an immediate impact. Today I look at five freshmen that you should watch this season.
The signing of Chris Youngblood truly marked a new era for Kennesaw State as coach Amir Abdur-Rahim landed one of the state's hottest prospects at the time. Youngblood was highly regarded for good reason as he impressed with both his size, shooting, and defense. That combination could land him in the mix a lot sooner than later as he came through the door with a sound foundation to build on. There's a few things to watch as Youngblood goes forward. Could he out play his senior ranking as the 11th best prospect? I wouldn't argue it. Could he be a substantial rotation prospect and crack the starting lineup? I can see that. If all things go as projected, Youngblood could be a viable option for the ASUN all-freshman team.
Playing next to Phlandrous Fleming(another Georgia prospect) has its benefits as Fleming will draw the eyes of every player and coach that they face. I expect JaQuavian Florence to feed off of Fleming's attention and become a quality scoring option for the Buccaneers. Looking back on Florence's senior campaign, he played himself on to Justin Young's list of the best available prospects. The significance of that list is found in the grouping as he's bunched in with a few prospects that will soon debut at the high major level.
It's easy to project that good things are ahead for players like Sion James. Of course him being a 6 foot 5 guard helps. Obviously his gift for passing and competitive nature will guide him along the way. But sometimes it's the intangibles that make you bet on a player. It took just a few possessions and a post game interview to see that James was wired in a different way then some of his peers. As Tulane coach Ron Hunter looks to bring his winning ways to Louisiana, James was the perfect piece to help create a new foundation. I would expect for James to become a fan favorite as they watch him contribute in a number of ways.
If you can shoot and defend then I like a player's chances of creating an opportunity for themselves. That's two boxes that Alabama A&M checked off with their pick up of former Discovery guard London Riley. Throughout his high school career, Riley was often referred to as one of the best shooters in his class. As time went on, Riley improved his athleticism and became a stout rebounder and defender. As those things tend to translate well to the collegiate game, I can see a niche being created for a player of his capabilities. Riley could see some action throughout the season and become a noticeable shooter in the conference.
I still think back to Gaines senior debut where he made us all aware that it was going to be a season to remember. In our post game interview, Gaines wasn't bashful about his expectations of leaving a legacy when he left Lithonia. He did exactly that as he created one of the most memorable seasons in recent memory. A leg injury cut short his success in the EYBL and he entered his senior season with a quiet buzz. Fast forward through the season and Gaines had played himself into receiving national headlines. In a nutshell, that's who the LSU faithful are getting in their new freshman guard. Things could grow from a low buzz at first, and turn to a roar in a short period of time. The reports out of Louisiana point towards Gaines having a chance at creating an early name for himself.