10 college basketball players to watch for in 2022-23


New year, new college sensations. 

The last college basketball season was the year of the big men. Paolo Banchero of Duke, Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga and Jabari Smith Jr. of Auburn captivated audiences en route to becoming the top three overall picks in the 2022 NBA Draft.

But which players will burst onto the national scene this time? Some of the biggest names heading towards the 2023 draft – such as Victor Wembanyama (Metropolitans 92) and Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite) – are not part of the NCAA system, but there are still plenty of prospects worth watching when the season begins on Monday, Nov. 7.

Here are 10 college basketball players that should grab your interest in 2022-23:

Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas

Along with Wembanyama and Henderson and Amen and Ausar Thompson, twin brothers who play for the Overtime Elite and are highly regarded in this draft cycle, Nick Smith Jr. is the NCAA player who is an early candidate to be a top-five pick. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound freshman was ranked the top shooting guard prospect by ESPN and is part of the Razorbacks’ highest-rated class in program history. He’s an electric scoring 2 guard who can run an offense and make timely reads on and off the ball. 

Dariq Whitehead, Duke

With Banchero’s departure, 18-year-old Dariq Whitehead could be the next young star coming out of Duke. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound athlete was ranked the top small forward prospect in the country by ESPN and second overall player in 2022. He is coming off a right foot fracture, but he’s expected to be a full-go on the court sometime in the fall. He’s aggressive off the bounce and wants to attack the rim, which should bode well for his college success and could be a rising top-10 selection. 

Dillon Mitchell, Texas

A possible highlight reel throughout the season, Longhorns freshman Dillon Mitchell, 19, could be all over your social media feeds as the year progresses. The 6-foot-8, 195-pound forward has a case as the most athletic wing in this class and isn’t afraid of going up to posterize someone. Adding more muscle to his frame should help with his growing wingspan and increased willingness to attempt shots off the dribble. 

Cam Whitmore, Villanova

Last season, the Wildcats had a strong squad but lacked prospects who would thrive at the NBA level. Sharpshooter Collin Gillespie has some momentum as a rookie with the Denver Nuggets on a two-way contract, but 18-year-old Cam Whitmore could be Villanova’s next big thing. The 6-foot-7, 232-pound forward has the size, speed and strength at the forward spot to flourish immediately, and possesses the intangibles at his position that NBA scouts enamor. 

Dereck Lively II, Duke

After producing Mark Williams, a defensive giant who went No. 15 overall to the Charlotte Hornets in 2022, Dereck Lively II has the tools to go even higher. The 7-foot-1, 230-pound Duke freshman was the top overall prospect by ESPN and the best center. He and Whitehead could form a lethal duo for opponents to deal with. Polishing his overall game will be vital, but Lively is always a threat to block shots down low and optimizes his size to convert shots on offense. 

Amari Bailey, UCLA

UCLA enjoyed a solid run during the 2022 March Madness tournament, but if it wants to improve, Amari Bailey might be key. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound guard is joining the Bruins as the fifth overall prospect by ESPN and is a crafty user of his dominant left hand. Not overly relying on that will raise his ceiling, and refining his shot and dribbling mechanics to incorporate more usage of his right hand could see his stock jump. 

Anthony Black, Arkansas

As aforementioned, Arkansas has a compelling incoming class with multiple players hoping to shine. Smith was one of them, and Anthony Black, a 6-foot-7, 198-pound freshman, will look to dominate opposing backcourts with his size advantage at the 1 spot. He has the speed to go with that alluring height that makes him all the more dangerous. Think Josh Giddey or Dyson Daniels as lengthy playmakers who went in the top 10 the last few years – that could be Black if he has a strong first year.

Brandon Miller, Alabama

When you have offers from Kentucky and Kansas and you don’t go there, there will be eyes on you. That’s the case with Brandon Miller, a 6-foot-9, 200-pound forward who will represent the Roll Tide this year. ESPN had him as the No. 4 small forward in this class, which adds up considering his frame and the way the modern NBA is trending. If he can hunt mismatches and exploit defenses with his propitious mid-range game, look for him to scratch his way into top-10 conversations in 2023. NBA teams want lengthy wings, and he seems to fit the bill on paper.

Terquavion Smith, NC State

A withdrawal from the 2022 draft, Terquavion Smith is entering his sophomore season with NC State hoping to jump into the first round. He was touted as a second-round pick before returning to college, and there’s reason to believe he can enhance his production and have teams calling. The 6-foot-4, 165-pound guard is pretty small strength-wise that could be a concern, but his shotmaking potential – 36.9% from 3-point range on 8.1 attempts – is worthy of a role in the big leagues. If he can show improvements with his passing and man-to-man defense, that one-year wait will certainly be worth it. 

Caleb Love, North Carolina

If there was one breakout star from 2022 March Madness, Tar Heels guard Caleb Love deserves a mention. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound 2 guard will be a junior this year and is another prospect who could elevate his stock following North Carolina’s Cinderella run. He’ll need to cut out the rushed shots in his game and hum to a slower tempo to boost his shooting percentages, but when you consider his ability to hit tough shots and beat opponents off the dribble with imposing speed and strength, the 21-year-old could make for a solid bet in the mid-to-late first-round range.

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