NCAA Men: Top 5 Freshmen 2019/20
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The 2019/20 incoming Aussie freshmen class in NCAA Division I college hoops is loaded, with six Emus who stepped out at the 2019 FIBA Under 19 World Cup set to make their collegiate debuts and another three who have previously pulled on the green and gold. Throw in a projected 2020 first round NBA Draft pick and there is a lot to get excited about this coming season.
With so much talent and high expectations, it is impossible to fit everyone into a preseason top 5 list, with multiple Australian representatives just missing out. One thing is for sure, the next generation of Australian stars is set to showcase their wares in US college this season.
5 | Tre ARMSTRONG | G | Cal Baptist
Cal Baptist snared one of the best young shooters in Australia when they gained the commitment of Tasmanian guard Tre Armstrong.
Suiting up for North West Tasmania in the NBL1 competition before heading to the US to embark on his college career, the 6’5 sharpshooting guard was an offensive weapon despite his youth. He was second in scoring behind only import Nick Banyard, providing 16.2 points per game while shooting 41% from beyond the arc on almost 9 attempts per game. Throw in 4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, and Armstrong is a player on the rise.
Armstrong is a savvy player, and needs very little time or space to get off his quick release shot, with a recent comparison to Australian 2019 FIBA World Cup representative Cameron Gliddon an apt comparison as explored by Jordan McCallum.
Like Gliddon, Armstrong has represented Australia on the world stage, helping his country win gold at the 2018 FIBA Under 18 Asia Cup. He narrowly missed inclusion in the final team of twelve for the 2019 FIBA Under 19 World Cup, and could consider himself unlucky.
Cal Bapist has a young roster this season, and the opportunity for Armstrong to secure a large role with the Lancers in his freshman campaign is there for the taking.
4 | Anyang GARANG | F | Oklahoma
You may not have heard too much about him yet, but Anyang Garang (pronounced on-YUNG guh-RANG) is one of the most exciting freshman Aussie prospects this season and he is playing with the Sooners in the Big 12 Conference.
A 6-8, 190-pound forward out of Adelaide, Garang came to Australia as a refugee, from his home country of Uganda at a time of civil war. Moving to Australia at a young age for a safer life, Garang quickly picked up basketball and most recently has been attending the NBA Global Academy in Canberra since 2017.
The athletic Garang has participated in multiple international camps and showcases around the United States and the world. In 2018, he participated in Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in Los Angeles during NBA All-Star Weekend, and also attended the NBA Global Camp in Treviso that same year, and also the NCAA’s first Next Generation Sunday event at the 2018 Final Four.
Described as a multi-dimensional wing who can stretch the floor and guard across positions, his athleticism and skill set should see him make an impact at Oklahoma at some stage across his first two years.
3 | Isaiah LEE | G | UC Irvine
Isaiah Lee is one half of an impressive freshmen Aussie duo to turn out for UC Irvine this year, with the 6’2 point guard following in his father’s footsteps with the Anteaters after he played there 30 years earlier.
Playing with a high IQ and level of composure rare for a player of his age, Lee helped Australia qualify for the 2019 FIBA Under 19 World Cup where he played a key role in the back court playing alongside Saint Mary’s duo Alex Ducas and Kyle Bowen, but also Virginia’s Kody Stattmann and Illawarra Hawks rookie Sam Froling.
A terrific ball handler and defender, he also helped Australia win the 2018 Asia Cup Under 18 gold medal while being named New South Wales State Player of the Year. At last year’s NBA Global Academy Games in Canberra, Lee was one of the standouts also.
He played among men for the Basketball Centre of Excellence in NBL1 throughout 2019, averaging 10.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists in playing 21 minutes across 12 games before heading to college. With a level head and experience beyond his years, he could make a real impact for the Anteaters this coming season.
2 | Alex DUCAS | G/F | Saint Mary’s
Over the past 12 months, Alex Ducas has evolved from being more than just a deadly spot-up three-point shooter.
The Gael’s freshman wing played in the NBL1 competition with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence, Ducas showed he had become a more composed all-round scorer that can pick apart a defense in a number of ways as was explored by Jordan McCallum during the season. He would go on to be named NBL1 Youth Player of the Year.
Standing at 6’6, Ducas played the first 12 games of the season before heading to Moraga, averaging a then team-best 19.1 points while shooting 44% from three-point territory against teams boasting professional players. That shooting clip came while attempting 7.4 shots from long range per game. When combined with the fact that Ducas best work is done in the half court, he is a perfect fit for the style of play employed by Gaels head coach Randy Bennett.
Ducas has also shone on the international stage, helping Australia secure ninth place at the 2019 FIBA Under 19 World Cup in Greece. He averaged 9.2 points in that campaign, shooting the three-ball at 50% to once again demonstrate how deadly he is from deep.
Selected as one of only 43 prospects under 18 from across 36 countries, Ducas took part in the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp at the NBA All-Star Weekend in February. Last year he took part in the 2018 NBA Global Camp in Treviso after earning silver at the 2018 Albert Schweitzer Cup for Australia. At that event, he poured in 18 points in the gold medal game against Germany.
If given the opportunity by Bennett to see genuine minutes on court this season, expect Ducas to fit right in and deliver.
1 | Josh GREEN | G | Arizona
Josh Green is the most highly anticipated Australian to make his college debut since Ben Simmons stepped out for his one and only season for LSU in the 2015/16 season. While Green does not have the same level of hyperbole surrounding his debut for Arizona, he is still widely projected by a number of respected mock drafts to be a ‘one and done’ player and a first round selection in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Green was one of the most dominant players in US high school basketball throughout the 2018/19 season. He was named MVP after scoring 19 points for IMG Academy in winning a first ever national championship.
The 2019 McDonalds All-American also suited up for the World Team at the Nike Hoop Summit where he later revealed he played with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He would go on to dislocate the same shoulder in the early stages of the event, in which he suited up as a starter for the World Team. Green played through the injury before his side succumbed to Team USA 93-87 in a closely fought encounter.
The shoulder injury derailed any aspirations that Green held for an unlikely berth in the Australian national team that finished fourth at the 2019 FIBA World Cup and saw his standing in mock drafts slide somewhat. However Green reportedly used the injury to add some size and strength to his 6’6 frame, gaining 5.4kg on the back of a strict workout routine and accompanying meal plan that has him set to be able to deliver on court for Arizona from day one.
Playing alongside fellow 2020 NBA Draft first round prospect Nico Mannion, the pair may form arguably the most exciting back court in the nation. They also have existing chemistry too after playing together on the 2018 West Coast Elite 17U Under Armour All-America roster and on the same McDonald’s All-American team earlier this year.
Already named to the Julius Erving Award preseason watch list, make no mistake, Josh Green is not only the best Australian freshman stepping out on the US college hardwood this season, but he is set to be the best of them all.