With over 5,200 players slated to play collegiate basketball in Division I this season, there are talented players from coast to coast. Some of them are household names, while there are plenty of players who people haven’t heard of, but are demanding of your attention.
The majority of fans tend to focus on the power five conferences, turning a blind eye to the smaller programs. When you dig deeper, you’ll see that the non-power five schools have players who could just as easily play for a power conference program.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at non-power five players who are on the brink of becoming household names, as early as the 2016-2017 season. We’ve separated the lists between guards and forwards, and then again based on their year of eligibility.
Here are 10 non-power five sophomore guards who will be household names in the very near future, plus 10 extras at the bottom to keep a flag on as their careers progress.
Marcus Evans – Rice Owls
2015-16 Stats: 21.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.8 apg; 47.0% FG, 30.6% 3PT
In terms of top-scoring freshmen from the 2015-16 season, many would assume that the likes of Ben Simmons or Jamal Murray led the newcomers in scoring. However, the title of top scoring freshman in the NCAA belongs to Marcus Evans of the Rice Owls.
The scoring guard averaged 21.4 points per contest, and asserted himself as one of the brightest stars in the country. Evans scored in double-figures in all but one game for the Owls, and was a consistent force on the offensive end. He put together three games of 30+ points over the year, while shooting 47% from the floor over the season. Evans does more than just score, as he’s not afraid to crash the glass (4.0 rebounds per game), and he has the court vision to spread the ball around and find open teammates (2.8 assists per game).
As Rice continues their rise in the Conference USA, Evans is a front-runner for Conference USA Player of the Year as a sophomore.
Fletcher Magee – Wofford Terriers
2015-16 Stats: 13.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.5 apg; 47.2% FG, 92.5% FT
It didn’t take long for Fletcher Magee to become a fan favourite amongst Wofford fans. Magee finished his freshman campaign with the top free throw percentage in the country, connecting on 92.5% (86-of-93) of his attempts from the line. He opened his collegiate career by going a perfect 16-of-16 from the line over the team’s first eight games. His first miss from the free throw line came over a month into the season, on December 14th.
However, he showed that he’s much more than just a strong free throw shooter. Magee finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game, trailing only Spencer Collins (14.8 ppg). He asserted himself as a strong three point shooter, hitting on 47.9% of his attempts from long distance. Magee set a career-high with 34 points in the Terriers’ win over the VMI Keydets on February 2nd, a game where Magee hit 9-of-10 three pointers.
To cap things off, he was named the CCR Mid-Major Freshman of the Year for his efforts.
Matt Morgan – Cornell Big Red
2015-16 Stats: 18.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg; 41.5% FG, 80.8% FT
Matt Morgan, the 95th-ranked player on our list of the Top 100 Players in College Basketball for 2016-17, is the biggest rising star in the Ivy League. As a freshman, he wasted little time asserting himself as one of the brightest up-and-coming stars in the NCAA. Morgan started his career with five straight games scoring in double-figures, including a 20-point effort on the road to open the year.
His 18.9 points per game a year ago make him the highest returning scorer in the Ivy League. Morgan will look to lead the Big Red back into contention in the conference after finishing tied for 7th in 2015-16. Amidst the recent struggles of the team, Morgan gives fans a bright light at the end of the tunnel, and signals that big things are on the horizon.
With guards Robert Hatter and Darryl Smith back in the fold for another year, Morgan won’t have to do things alone. With a strong support system, Morgan could be in store for an even bigger season as a sophomore.
Chris Clemons – Campbell Camels
2015-16 Stats: 18.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.5 spg; 42.4% FG, 84.4% FT
Chris Clemons is the reigning Big South Freshman of the Year, and for good reason. He made quite the first impression in his first year at Campbell, and is ready for an encore performance in 2016-17.
He was one of the more consistent scorers in the country, scoring in double-figures in all but one game. Clemons opened his career with 14 straight games in double-figures, and he scores from all over the floor. Whether its a mid-range jumper or a drive to the paint, he can create his own opportunities inside the arc. Then, when you add in his ability to shoot the long ball with consistency, his game goes to a whole new level. Clemons recorded nine games where he shot 50% or better from three point range.
He can affect the game in so many different ways. If you take away one method, he will find another way to hurt you, whether it’s with him shooting or finding his teammates for open looks
If you haven’t heard of Chris Clemons before now, you’re missing out. Take notice of this guy before it’s too late.
Tookie Brown – Georgia Southern Eagles
2015-16 Stats: 17.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 apg; 37.3% 3PT, 81.2% FT
The Georgia Southern Eagles struggled in 2015-16, enduring a rebuilding year with their fair share of younger talents on the roster. Despite being a younger team, guard Tookie Brown put together a freshman season to remember in the Sun Belt Conference. He led the team in scoring, with 17.8 points per contest, and like Morgan has done for fans of Cornell, Brown has given Eagles’ fans something to be excited about for the future of the program.
As a freshman, Brown earned a spot on the Sun Belt First Team after his stellar campaign. He showed potential to become an elite-level scorer, as he recorded seven games of at least 25 points.
Brown will be joined by several key players from a season ago, as all the starters return in 2016-17. Georgia Southern won 9 of their last 15 conference games, and Brown will be looking to help the team pick up right where they left off to open the new season.
Brian Parker – Marist Red Foxes
2015-16 Stats: 15.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.9 apg; 51.4% FG, 72.4% FT
One of the more underrated guards in the MAAC, and across the country, puts on a Marist jersey each time he steps on the floor. The Red Foxes have themselves a hidden gem in Brian Parker, and it’s about time that the rest of the nation takes notice of his talents. In just his third collegiate game, he put up 30 points on the road against the Kent State Golden Flashes.
Parker wreaked havoc on the rest of the MAAC all season long. He scored in double-figures in 16 of 20 regular season games in conference play, and averaged 15.9 points per game across the entire year. Parker also put up eight double-doubles, and scored 20 or more points in nine contests.
He doesn’t shoot from long distance on a regular basis (26 attempts), but he is highly effective from the floor (51.4% FG). He finds different ways to score, and his mid range jumper is terrific. Alongside Khallid Hart, Parker gives the Red Foxes one of the most underrated guard tandems in the country.
Nick Emery – BYU Cougars
2015-16 Stats: 16.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg; 42.5% FG, 85.4% FT
Even with playing alongside Kyle Collinsworth, also known as ‘Mr. Triple Double’, and Chase Fischer, Nick Emery played an integral role with the Cougars in 2015-16 as a freshman. He finished second on the team in scoring, trailing only Collinsworth, and will look to increase his production as his minutes increase in 2016-17.
Down the stretch, Emery became a consistent force on offense for the Cougars. He scored in double-figures in the team’s last 13 games, and put up back-to-back 30+ point games in February. Emery torched the San Francisco Dons for 37 points on February 11th, then poured in 31 against the Santa Clara Broncs two nights later.
In BYU’s run to the NIT semi-finals, Emery upped his production from the regular season. He averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game over the four games. In 2016-17, Emery will be joined by some of his former high school teammates who are returning from their Mormon missions, meaning that BYU will be in god hands once again.
Ronshad Shabazz – Appalachian State Mountaineers
2015-16 Stats: 11.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.5 apg; 39.7% FG, 36.7% 3PT
While he may have the lowest points per game average of any other player on this list, Ronshad Shabazz may be the most athletic of them all. The 6’5” guard has a ton of potential, and will look to take another big step to stardom as a sophomore in 2016-17.
Shabazz averaged 11.9 points per game as a freshman, while only averaging 25.4 minutes per contest. In Sun Belt play, he upped his production to almost 13 points per game, and he scored in double-figures seven times against conference opponents. His career-high 29 point performance against Georgia Southern showed that he has the potential to be the top option on offense as his career progresses.
However, it’s his athletic ability that will set him apart from the rest. If this dunk is any indication, we’ll see Ronshad Shabazz on the national stage more frequently as a sophomore.
John Konchar – Fort Wayne Mastodons
2015-16 Stats: 13.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.1 spg; 58.4% FG, 43.9% 3PT
You’d be hard-pressed to find a non-power five freshman who did more for their team than John Konchar for the Fort Wayne Mastodons. He finished third of the team in both scoring (13.0 ppg) and assists (2.7 apg), while leading the team in rebounding (9.2 rpg), steals (2.1 spg), and field goal percentage (58.4%).
His ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor is something that sets him apart from the rest in his class. Konchar recorded 14 double-doubles over the course of the season, and pulled down a season-high 19 rebounds against the North Dakota State Bison on January 21st.
On offense, Konchar can make shots from all over the floor. He had 17 games where he shot 60% or better from the floor. Konchar can spread the floor and shoot the three, but can also battle in the paint and finish near the basket.
Nisre Zouzoua – Bryant Bulldogs
2015-16 Stats: 12.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.4 apg; 40.8% FG, 84.3% FT
As a freshman, Nisre Zouzoua went through some transition stages, which is expected for first-year players as they get accustomed to playing at the Division I level.
In his first collegiate game, he wasn’t intimidated by playing against the Duke Blue Devils inside Cameron Indoor Stadium, as the 6’2” guard put up 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting. He followed that up with a 23-point performance in the Bulldogs’ home opener. Following that, he went six straight games without scoring in double figures.
Zouzoua found his groove in conference play, scoring in double-figures in the team’s last eight games, and he scored at least 20 points in the final three games of the year. If he can pick up where he left off, Zouzoua will be a contender for Northeast Conference Player of the Year within two years.
Ten More to Keep an Eye On:
Nico Clareth – Siena Saints
Joe Rosga – Denver Pioneers
Jaylen Franklin – Abilene Christian Wildcats
Eli Pepper – Lipscomb Bisons
Rob Edwards – Cleveland State Vikings
Michael Warren – Cal State Northridge Matadors
Jon Davis – Charlotte 49ers
Geno Crandall – North Dakota Fighting Hawks
Armel Potter – Charleston Southern Buccaneers
Devin Morgan, Jr. – Delaware State Hornets
– T. Bennett