NCAA Men: The Aussie class of 2018 could be the best ever

Australia has seen some outstanding talent emerge through the US college ranks over the years. Unbelievably, the standout Aussies to grace NCAA Division I ranks over the years includes two number one NBA Draft picks in Andrew Bogut (2005) and Ben Simmons (2016)-- and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The 2017-18 season boasts almost 70 Australian men playing Division I basketball in the US system, and with 26 incoming freshman this season, that number is set to increase even further over coming years.

Yet for all the Aussie talent and potential pounding the hardwood in North America, promise and potential does not always translate to a professional career. However with a large band of seniors starring this season, the graduating class of 2018 could be the best from down under ever.

Up until know, it could be argued that the graduating class of 2013 has to date been Australia's finest. That group realised three Australian Boomers, including one who plays in the NBA and another two who are starring in Europe and on the cusp of breaking through. A further four players have gone on to become NBL regulars, making it seven players translating their potential in professional careers.

However the class of 2018 is turning out to be something special, and could well end up as the best class Australia has seen graduate.

2013: Seven professionals

So who were the standouts from the class of 2013?

Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary's), Brock Motum (Washington State) and Ryan Broekhoff (Valparaiso) were the cream of the crop in 2013. To date, Dellavedova is the only one to make it to the NBA, but Motum, and more recently Broekhoff, have been on the radar for some time as they continue to excel in the top intercontinental leagues in Europe. All three of these guys were college stars in their respective conferences, and went on to rack up a number of collegiate awards, none more that Dellavedova. And all three have gone on to pull on the green and gold for their country at both FIBA World Cup's and Olympic Games.

Those standout three were joined by Mitchell Young (Saint Mary's), Cody Ellis (Saint Louis), Mathiang Muo (Charleston Southern) and Damon Heuir (Southern Utah). While anyone would be hard pressed to consider them to be stars, they have all become serviceable role players in the NBL.

Name School G MP FG% 2P% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS PER Brock MOTUM WSU 32 35.3 45.6% 50.3% 33.6% 74.1% 6.3 1.1 0.6 0.8 18.7 26.4 Matthew DELLAVEDOVA SMC 35 36.4 40.4% 42.9% 38.2% 85.2% 3.4 6.4 1.1 0.1 15.8 20.8 Ryan BROEKHOFF VAL 33 32.2 44.8% 48.7% 41.7% 88.1% 7.3 2.3 1.0 0.8 15.7 22.3 Mathiang MUO CSU 30 31.1 37.0% 40.4% 32.8% 76.7% 4.0 3.2 0.8 0.2 15.5 15.0 Damon HEUIR SUU 30 31.1 37.0% 40.4% 32.8% 76.7% 4.0 3.2 0.8 0.2 15.5 15.3 Cody ELLIS SLU 28 29.8 38.5% 34.0% 41.2% 76.4% 5.1 0.7 0.7 0.1 11.2 16.4 Mitchell YOUNG SMC 35 20.4 51.0% 52.7% 33.3% 73.4% 5.6 0.9 0.7 0.3 7.7 19.7 Matthew Dellavedova | Saint Mary's

Dellavedova’s college career over four years with Saint Mary’s College is almost unrivaled by any other Australian. As a first year player he started every game and was named All-WCC Freshman Player of the Year and All-WCC Honourable Mention. What impressed everyone was his leadership and his ability to improve his game every season as was evidenced through being named to the All-WCC First Team three straight times, earning the WCC Player of the Year in 2012.

As a senior, Dellavedova possibly enjoyed his best individual season. He logged career-high averages in points (15.8), assists (6.1), steals (1.1) and three-point shooting percentage (38.2%), yet was controversially overlooked for back-to-back Player of the Year honours in favour of Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk. His list of awards is almost too long to outline, but can be found here. Dellavedova ended his time with the Gael’s as the school’s all-time leader in career points (1,933), assists (778), three-pointers made (288) and attempts (761), free throw percentage (86%), starts (133) and games played (136).

Ryan Broekhoff | Valparaiso

Broekhoff increased his scoring output to a career-high of 15.7 points per game whilst leading the Crusaders to the Horizon League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in his senior year. He will be fondly remembered by the Crusader faithful for his miraculous fall-away triple game-winner at the buzzer in the Horizon League tournament semi-final. Despite his amazing season he was overlooked for conference player of the year honours, instead named to the All-Horizon League First Team, while also gaining selection to the 2013 Lou Henson All-American Team and an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational before signing his first pro deal with Besiktas in Turkey.

Brock Motum | Washington State

In his senior year, Motum led the Pac-12 in scoring (18.7ppg) for a second straight year, posting at least 11 points in all 32 games played and recording 5 double-doubles. He again earned due recognition by being named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team, and if he had a better supporting cast around him, one could argue he would have been named to the First Team. He moved into fifth on the all-time school career scoring list (1,530 points), with his 597 points as a senior placing him sixth all-time. And to top off his stellar collegiate career, he became just the 12th Cougar to score 1,000 points and pull down 500 rebounds (539), also taking part in the Portsmouth Invitational.

2018: Unlimited potential and depth

The class of 2018 is blessed with talent and a seemingly unlimited amount of potential. While there are up to eight players who appear to have the capability to translate to professional ranks, the depth of that talent is arguably the best ever. Throw in sophomore wing Deng Adel who may yet declare early for the 2018 NBA Draft, and you have yourself one exceptional group. Season School G MP FG% 2P% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS PER Jock LANDALE SMC 22 33.5 65.9% 66.4% 25.0% 73.5% 10.4 2.0 0.3 1.0 22.9 35.5 Chima MONEKE UCD 19 31.0 49.8% 51.2% 36.4% 71.5% 10.0 1.0 1.1 1.2 18.5 26.1 Xavier COOKS WIN 19 28.8 49.8% 54.3% 21.2% 70.0% 9.1 3.7 0.9 1.6 16.7 26.0 Sam MCDANIEL ULM 19 30.7 46.0% 44.4% 48.4% 88.1% 5.2 2.5 0.8 0.2 15.8 21.2 Deng ADEL LOU 20 34.0 47.3% 54.5% 33.7% 76.9% 4.9 2.7 0.8 0.6 15.7 18.8 Jo LUAL-ACUIL JR BAY 19 31.5 51.3% 52.8% 28.6% 68.8% 9.4 0.7 0.5 1.9 15.3 22.0 Duop REATH LSU 19 24.9 57.5% 58.1% 52.6% 62.9% 5.7 0.7 0.4 1.1 13.8 24.5 Emmett NAAR SMC 22 37.5 50.6% 53.1% 38.7% 85.2% 3.0 9.3 0.8 0.2 11.0 19.1 Jock Landale | Saint Mary's

Jock Landale leads a growing list of Aussie big men who have excelled in college basketball. Not since the likes of Andrew Bogut, and more recently Cameron Bairstow, has an Aussie big man been so dominant. Possessing arguably the best low-post game in the nation, his hook shot has become automatic. Landale has led the Gaels to the top of the West Coast Conference standings after two wins against BYU and a win against then #15 Gonzaga, and they have won 16 straight games.

The senior centre is averaging almost 23 points and more than 10 rebounds per game, having earned now earned the West Coast Conference Player of the Week honours four times, and recently named both NBC Sports and Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week. Landale has also been named to the Wooden Award Top 25, Lou Henson, Lute Olson, and Oscar Robertson Award mid-season watch lists. He is poised to scoop the WCC Player of the Year Award, and a serious contender for All-American honours.

Chima Moneke | UC Davis

Chima Moneke is the heart and soul of UC Davis and has been outstanding yet again this season. The versatile forward is averaging a double-double and plays well above his size. With 18.5 points and 10 rebounds per game, he is the barometer of the Aggies success. He fires, UC Davis usually wins. Having picked up a Big West Player of the Week award already this season, he is another Aussie who is a genuine contender to win conference player of the year. Plus, he is really fun to watch!

Xavier Cooks | Winthrop

Like Lual-Acuil Jr, Xavier Cooks is almost averaging a double-double in providing 16.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. With an all-round game, Cooks can do it all. He is also delivering 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per outing, and has even registered a triple-double this season in a win against Reinhardt and went close to doing it again in a win over Gardner-Webb. So far he has collected four Big South Player of the Week awards in 2017/18, and is one of the favourites to win conference player of the year.

Sam McDaniel | Louisiana Monroe

While he plays for the unfashionable Warhawks, there is no disputing the capability and quality of senior guard Sam McDaniel. He is shooting almost 50% from downtown while posting 15.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. His name will be in the All-Conference awards lists come the end of the season, so make sure you pay attention.

Jo Lual-Acuil Jr | Baylor

Landale may be the best centre of college basketball this season, but Jo Lual-Acuil Jr is not too far behind him. The 7-footer is almost averaging a double-double with 15.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, but also blocking 1.9 shots per game. With an ability to knock down the three-ball and stretch opposition defences, Lual-Acuil Jr is widely being discussed as a possible second round NBA Draft pick give his high ceiling.

Duop Reath | LSU

With NBA-level athleticism, size and strength, Duop Reath has an extremely high ceiling. His 13.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game don't do justice to his talent and ability. He posted a new career-high of 31 points and 13 rebound against Vanderbilt to highlights just what he is capable of. His body is tailor made for the best pro leagues in the world, just how far he can go is entirely up to him.

Emmett Naar | Saint Mary's

While Jock Landale may the centerpiece of the Saint Mary's offense, Emmett Naar is the undisputed floor general. The point guard is second in the nation for assist with 9.2 per game, while also averaging 11 points and 3 rebounds per game. He is on track to break Matthew Dellavedova's school record for assists which is no mean feat, and will likely make the All-WCC First Team alongside Landale when the season is done. Don't sleep on Naar.

Deng Adel | Louisville

While Deng Adel is not a senior, there is a high possibility he declares early for the 2018 NBA Draft so we have put him in the mix for the class of 2018.

The Louisville wing is leading his team in scoring with 15.7 points per game, is second in assists with 2.7, and averaging a team high 34 minutes per game. The Cardinals is Adel's team right now, and if he can help his team contend in the ACC and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, this NBA-level talent will not return for his senior year.

The Verdict

History has proven that the Australian Class of 2013 turned out well with three Australian Boomers and a host of NBL-level role players. This current group of professional prospects has the potential to be just as good and produce just as many Australian National Team members--if not more. Only time will reveal just how good this current crop of players will be. Australian basketball fans should get excited however, as the talent is real and the future is extremely bright.