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.
When it comes to junior guards in the NCAA, there are talented players from coast to coast. With so many players, it was nearly impossible to cut the list down to just 10 players without leaving star-calibre players off the list.
Each will have 10 junior guards who will become household names in 2016-17, along with five others to keep a flag on as the season progresses.
Reed Timmer – Drake Bulldogs
2015-16 Stats: 16.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.5 apg; 46.2% FG, 81.3% FT, 40.4% 3PT
Reed Timmer is arguably one of the most consistent scoring guards, not only in the Missouri Valley Conference, but in the NCAA as a whole.
As a sophomore, he increased his points per game average by 5.3, averaging 16.8 points per contest in 2015-16 in comparison to 11.3 as a freshman. Last season, he scored in double-figures in all but three games for the Bulldogs, including 12 straight at one point. Eight of those games he recorded 20+ points, and he topped the 30-point mark once
While he’s known for being a scorer, Timmer brings much more to the table. He isn’t afraid to crash the boards (3.6 rpg), and he has good court vision and passing abilities (2.5 apg) that allow him to find open teammates for good scoring opportunities.
Makai Mason – Yale Bulldogs
2015-16 Stats: 16.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.8 apg; 42.7% FG, 80.6% FT, 35.7% 3PT
When Makai Mason declared for the 2016 NBA Draft after his sophomore season, the future of the Yale Bulldogs was in question for the 2016-17 season. Forward Justin Sears had graduated, meaning the Bulldogs were in danger of losing their top two scorers.
In the end, Mason opted to return to school for his junior season, and the Bulldogs are an instant Ivy League contender because of it. Mason averaged 16.0 points per game as a sophomore, increasing his point production by 9.8 points in comparison to his freshman totals.
Against the Baylor Bears in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Mason exploded for 31 points on 9-of-18 shooting, and the Bulldogs upset the Bears to advance to the Round of 32. Against the Duke Blue Devils, Mason followed up one of his best performances with one of his worst, shooting just 2-of-12 from the floor in Yale’s loss.
Regardless of his up-and-down shooting performances, Mason is a top-tier talent and NBA scouts will be flocking to New Haven, CT to check out the junior guard.
Kahron Ross – Lehigh Mountain Hawks
2015-16 Stats: 11.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 6.1 apg; 44.4% FG, 69.4% FT, 38.2% 3PT
When people talk about the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, the first name that usually comes up is forward Tim Kempton. However, the guards for Lehigh mean just as much to the team, if not more.
Led by junior point guard Kahron Ross, the Mountain Hawks look poised for another deep run in 2016-17.
Ross, a 5’11” point guard, is one of the nation’s premier assist men. He averaged 6.1 assists per game as a sophomore, which was good for the 23rd-best mark in the country, a spot he shared with Dallas Moore. Ross also finished 19th in the nation with a 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, and recorded a school record 194 assists on the year.
After averaging 11.2 points per game to go with his assist totals, he was named to the All-Patriot League First Team in 2015-16. His ball handling skills and passing abilities are second to none in the country, and Ross is on track for bigger things in 2016-17.
Elijah Brown – New Mexico Lobos
2015-16 Stats: 21.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.1 spg; 42.8% FG, 85.1% FT, 39.4% 3PT
After sitting out the 2014-15 season due to transfer regulations, Elijah Brown wasted little time making an impact with the New Mexico Lobos. The former guard for the Butler Bulldogs started from the outset of the season, and put together a record year.
Brown flirted with several records for the Lobos in 2015-16, ranking third all-time in free throws made in a season (217) and tied for fourth in points in a season (694). He finished the season six points shy of becoming just the fourth player in school history to score 700 points in a year.
The Mountain West Newcomer of the Year recorded 18 games of at least 20 points. In six of those games, Brown topped the 30-point mark, and he also eclipsed the 40-point mark once in 2015-16. In the end, Brown averaged 21.7 points per contest, good for second in the conference, trailing only Josh Adams of the Wyoming Cowboys.
Brown does it all for the Lobos. He can score from all areas on the floor, he can rebound on both ends of the court, or he can dish out assists. The redshirt junior won’t be a hidden gem in 2016-17, as he will garner serious attention from the outset of the year.
Tyler Nelson – Fairfield Stags
2015-16 Stats: 16.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.3 spg; 42.9% FG, 88.0% FT, 34.6% 3PT
There’s a new focal point of the offense for the Fairfield Stags in 2016-17, and he goes by the name of Tyler Nelson. The 6’3” guard is more than capable of shouldering the bulk of the offense, as he has proven that over the course of his collegiate career so far.
In 2015-16, Nelson finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.0 points per game and trailing only Marcus Gilbert‘s 16.7 points per contest.
Like Timmer was for the Bulldogs, Nelson was a consistent offensive force for the Stags last season. He scored in double-figures in 15 straight games to close out the season. He topped the 20-point mark 11 times, en route to being named to the All-MAAC Second Team.
To top things off, the durable guard was the only player for Fairfield to start all 33 games a season ago.
Nelson is in store for a record year of his own in 2016-17, as he enters the season just 164 points shy of 1,000 for his collegiate career.
Christen Cunningham – Samford Bulldogs
2015-16 Stats: 14.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.0 spg; 45.1% FG, 82.7% FT, 27.1% 3PT
On a team loaded with senior talent, it was sophomore Christen Cunningham who stood out for the Samford Bulldogs in 2015-16, providing a bright light for the future of the program over the next two seasons.
Cunningham was one of three Bulldogs to start all 33 games in 2015-16. Over his career, he has started every single game for Samford (65). He finished second on the team in scoring a year ago, averaging 14.4 points per contest to go along with 2.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
While he is a strong mid-range shooter, Cunningham is lacking a consistent three point jumper. He shoots well from the floor (45.1%), but struggles at times from long distance (27.1%).
With the likes of Jamal Shabazz, Iman Johnson, and Darius Jones-Gibson having graduated, Cunningham will be the leader of the team, and will see plenty of opportunities to score for Samford in 2016-17.
Matt Scott – Niagara Purple Eagles
2015-16 Stats: 15.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg; 40.8% FG, 76.7% FT, 28.8% 3PT
Matt Scott saw his minutes skyrocket in 2015-16, in comparison to the year before. He saw his court time increase to an average of 33.1 minutes per game a year ago.
Scott didn’t let the extra playing time go to waste.
He led the team in scoring, averaging 15.4 points per game to go along with 7.1 rebounds. He tripled his point per game production as a sophomore, as he averaged just 5.0 points per game as a freshman.
Scott excels in the mid-range jumper department, but struggles from long distance, much like Cunningham. Scott went a combined 34-of-118 (28.8%) from three point range in 2015-16. However, what he lacks in long range shooting ability, he makes up for with his versatility.
He has the ball handling skills, court vision and passing abilities that allow him to line up at either guard spot on the floor for the Purple Eagles.
Cedric Hankerson – Boston U. Terriers
2015-16 Stats: 10.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 spg; 28.6% FG, 100.0% FT, 40.0% 3PT (1 Game)
Cedric Hankerson originally missed the first six games of the 2015-16 season due to a knee injury that he suffered in April. After just one game, he re-injured the same knee in practice, and missed the remainder of the season due to surgery.
He received a medical redshirt last season, making the 2016-17 season his junior season. Against the Massachusetts Minutemen, Hankerson recorded 10 points and 3 rebounds while going 2-of-7 from the floor in his only action of 2015-16.
Back in 2014-15, he averaged 15.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game as a sophomore, en route to being named to the All-Patriot League Second Team.
The hope is that Hankerson can regain the form he had as a sophomore. At 6’5”, he brings size to the back court for the Terriers, and he has the shooting ability that allows him to spread the floor and keep his opponents honest. His quickness may take a hit due to the recurring injuries, but he has other tools that will allow him to bounce back just fine.
In 2014-15, Hankerson shot 39.8% from three point range.
A healthy Hankerson could be the difference for Boston, who is looking to contend in the Patriot League this season.
Paul Miller – North Dakota State Bison
2015-16 Stats: 15.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 apg; 41.0% FG, 77.6% FT, 41.4% 3PT
One can interchange Paul Miller and AJ Jacobson here for the North Dakota State Bison. We went with Miller, who lines up as a guard on a regular basis, whereas Jacobson is listed as both a guard and forward.
Despite missing six games in February due to a knee injury, Miller led the Bison in scoring with an average of 15.3 points per contest. He recorded six games of 20+ points, and scored in double figures in all but four games that he appeared in.
Miller makes his presence known from beyond the three point line. In the 10 Summit League games that Miller played in, he hit at least three trifectas in six of the 10 contests, and he finished the year with a 41.4 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
Giddy Potts – Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
2015-16 Stats: 14.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 spg; 49.3% FG, 76.3% FT, 50.6% 3PT
Giddy Potts and the rest of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders took everyone by surprise in the 2016 NCAA Tournament when they knocked off the Michigan State Spartans as a 15-seed in the Round of 64. In that game, Potts recorded 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor.
Over the course of the season, Potts showcased his shooting abilities from all over the floor. He finished the year shooting 49.3% from the floor, and 50.6% from three point range. Potts was the only player in the NCAA to finish the season with a three point shooting percentage above 50%.
While excelling at long distance shooting, Potts isn’t afraid to drive the lane to try and draw contact, or to crash the boards on both ends of the floor. He averaged 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per contest.
Alongside Reggie Upshaw, Potts and the rest of the Blue Raiders are ready to shock the basketball world once again in 2016-17.
Five More to Keep an Eye On:
Thomas Wilder – Western Michigan Broncos
Wesley Person – Troy Trojans
Devonte Hall – Northwestern State Demons
Steve Rogers – Alabama State Hornets
Ryan Andino – Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks
– T. Bennett