The freshman that gets the most attention at Marquette is Henry Ellenson, and there is no doubt that he will have a big impact, but don’t overlook the No. 93 player either in Haanif Cheatham. Cheatham has a ton of versatility and brings a high IQ and impressive skill set to Milwaukee. Though Marquette has a lot of their key pieces back, one area where there is a major opening for minutes is on the wing, and that is where Cheatham should step right in. He has the ability to make shots, is solid off the dribble, and also is a pretty good passer. While Cheatham isn’t a tremendous athlete, he does know how to play and that allows him to be solid on both ends of the floor. At Marquette that is needed, and he should get a chance to prove himself right away. With Ellenson likely next to him at power forward and scorers in Jajuan Johnson and Duane Wilson in the backcourt, look for Cheatham to have plenty of room to work, and make a big impact from day one.
There is almost no way to imagine that Glynn Watson, the No. 80 player in the class, doesn’t get huge minutes for Nebraska next season. Senior Benny Parker might get the start on day one for the Huskers, but Watson very likely takes over the reigns as point guard by the end of the season. Nebraska needs a consummate floor general to run the show, and that is exactly what Watson is. Watson is a good athlete, a solid scorer, and a very good decision maker. He has a pedigree of winning both at the high school and AAU levels, and just is the type of player that coaches love to have leading their team. That skillset combined with the opportunity based on roster, and it is easy to see where Watson is going to be one of the more impactful freshman point guards in the country. Nebraska is looking to have a bounce back season after a disappointing 2014-15 campaign. For them to be able to do that, Watson is going to have to step up and play like an upperclassman and not a freshman. While that is never easy to do, it wouldn’t be surprising if Watson is able to pull that off.
There aren’t many guys who fit a coach’s personality better than Chris Clarke does with Buzz Williams. The 6-foot-6 and 195 pound Clarke is one of the highest motor players in the country and he checks in at No. 76 in the country. Clarke is someone who probably starts from day one for Virginia Tech. His versatility is what will get him on the court given that he likely will be able to play on the wing as a small forward or as a matchup problem power forward. Clarke has an incredible ability to rebound the ball at his size, and with his athleticism and length, he plays taller than his listed height. Williams absolutely loves tough and high energy kids to play his system of defense, and Clarke is just that. Even though Virginia Tech has some good young talent, especially wing Justin Bibbs, Clarke’s toughness and versatility should get him on the court right away. Even in the meat grinder that is the ACC, it wouldn’t surprise to see Clarke as one of the top newcomers in the league following the year. Virginia Tech needs an infusion of talent, and Clarke is a big piece to the puzzle. It will likely be another re-building year for the Hokies, but a season after looking back with promise at a freshman like Bibbs, Virginia Tech fans will likely be doing the same with Clarke a year later.
Five outside top 50 who could have big impact
Jimmy Whitt is viewed as the No. 68 prospect overall, but with Arkansas losing starters Rashad Madden to graduation and Michael Qualls to the NBA Draft, Whitt should be in line to probably start, and at the very least get extremely big minutes from day one. Whitt’s long arms and athleticism really fit the Arkansas up tempo style, and on top of that he really has the ability to score, especially in the mid-range. Beyond that, Whitt is someone who can play a multitude of positions. He is best on the wing as a scorer, but he also will likely spell Anton Beard at the point guard position as well. With the opportunity for early playing time there, and a good system fit for his skills, it would be no surprise if Whitt is one of the top producing freshmen in the SEC, even with a loaded class coming in to the league. Whitt won’t get all the headlines coming in like some of his peers, but it is fair to expect him to have a huge freshman season.
In the class of 2015 one of the themes has been a lack of dominant talent at top. However while this class lacks the true star power 1-5, it does have a lot of depth. Here is a look at five players ranked outside the top 50 who could have a big impact right away in college.Checking in at No. 53 is Daniel Giddens, and let’s be honest there isn’t a ton in front of him when it comes to minutes. The Ohio State Buckeyes have struggled mightily at the center position the past few seasons, and they lost their top three options at the spot from a year ago. Because of this it is very reasonable to expect Giddens to have a major impact from day one. The only player with any experience above him on the depth chart is Virginia Tech transfer Trevor Thompson, and Giddens should be able to at least compete for a minute share, if not beat him out right away. Giddens is one of the best shot blockers and rebounders in the entire class, and that should translate immediately. Also Giddens has had a college ready body for two years now. When you combine all of that together, it is easy to see where Giddens should impact the Buckeyes right away, and do so in a positive manner. Ohio State has been looking for a physical presence who will rebound and play hard on the post for years, and now it looks like they have that guy in Giddens.