Monday, June 27

Sporting News’ 2021-22 Pre-Season College Basketball All-Americans

One of the quirks of the modern basketball scene is that, in a sense, there are more high-profile centers in college basketball than in the NBA.

That’s weird, right?

The league that was once patrolled by Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal selected a young man who could be described as a true center in the first round of their most recent player draft, and that guy, Evan Mobley, of course, is playing power forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

MORE: SN Preseason Top 25

This was wonderful news for the college game, even better for those teams that had a special big man on their 2020-21 teams. Of the 15 players on the 2020-21 Sporting News All-America team, only four returned for next season. Three were traditional centers. A fourth was a power forward who operated primarily at the low post.

It wasn’t difficult to get them on the All-America preseason squad for 2021-22. Because they are still here, it displaced some very capable players who could have been easily selected as well.

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First team

Kofi Cockburn, C, Illinois

Last year’s statistics: 17.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 65.4 FG

Why are you here: Cockburn could replicate his sophomore season and be guaranteed to find a spot on this list of honored players. You know what? That’s not good enough. He did not return to Champaign to stagnate. He came back to improve. That means building stamina and avoiding foul problems so you can play more than 27 minutes per game. It means improving your footwork so you can defend on the perimeter and improve your arsenal of offensive moves. If he does his best, he could become the best college basketball player this winter.

MORE: Cockburn to sit three games to start the year

Johnny Juzang, SG, UCLA

Last year’s statistics: 16.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 44.1 FG

Why are you here: He’s a long way from being a regular contributor to being the first open star in college basketball. Juzang got there in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, but was it permanent or just a quick stopover? Juzang actually surpassed 25 more points in the NCAA (three in six games) than in the regular season (two in 24). So he’s done it in the biggest games, but he’ll belong here if he can do it night after night, with the glamor of March far off and defenses relentlessly nailing him. Juzang is more of a scorer than a marksman, but if he can become someone comfortably described as a marksman, the Bruins will be hard to stop.

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Max Abmas, G, Oral Roberts

Last year’s statistics: 24.5 ppg, 3.8 apg, 47.7 FG, 42.9 3-PT.

Why are you here: Abmas led Division I in scoring last season, which seemed like a cute story until ORU entered the NCAA and began burning better-funded opponents. And Abmas was responsible for a lot of that, going the distance in every March elimination he played (three in the Summit League, three in the NCAA) and never scored less than 25 in March Madness. So unlike others, we don’t downgrade him to second or third team status simply because he plays in a major league middle league. We will say that he will have to score some important numbers to be here at the end of the season, but he has shown that he can be that player.

Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke

Last year’s statistics: First year student

Why are you here: Banchero is probably the most talented player in college basketball. There are two or three freshmen elsewhere, in Gonzaga or Memphis, who can prove otherwise. But Banchero offers an ideal combination of size, strength, grace, and skill. He has the body of a power forward, the agility of a small forward and the shooting of, of course, a shooting guard. A really good escort. Banchero needs to show that he can play against the physical, because he will certainly see a lot in the ACC. Duke will need everything he has to offer to present Mike Krzyzewski with an excellent final season.

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Drew Timme, C, Gonzaga

Last year’s statistics: 19.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 65.5 FG

Why are you here: On a team that didn’t lose a game until the NCAA championship, Timme was the player through whom the entire offense flowed. Maybe he should have been flattered that Baylor spent so much energy and attention getting him to fight in the final, but it was probably hard to see him that way right now. Now you will have more help up front, which may alter your role in the attack, but it can also make your job easier. Like many of the centers that are regular visitors here, you also need to show that your game is about more than owning the lane. But you don’t need to show us. It is a problem for future employers. He’s already a great college player.

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Second team

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Trayce Jackson-Davis, PF, Indiana

Last year’s statistics: 19.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.4 apg, 51.7 FG

Why are you here: Jackson-Davis was so good in his sophomore year that he made our third All-America team even though the Hoosiers had a losing record. Trust us, that doesn’t happen often. He did most of his damage last season as a low-post scorer, which is one of the reasons he’s back in college. The NBA needs to see more of him operating offense away from the basket, leading to the question of whether he can make those adjustments while still dominating on behalf of the Hoosiers. He now has an NBA-trained coach, Mike Woodson, to help him.

Collin Gillespie, PG, Villanova

Last year’s statistics: 14.0 ppg, 4.6 apg, 42.8 FG, 37.6 3-PT

Why are you here: Let’s be honest about it: so far in his career, Gillespie has stood out as someone in command of his team, taking charge of defense and lately putting defenders in the mode of his predecessor, Jalen Brunson. But you don’t become one of the top 10 college basketball players by the numbers you scored last year. There was nothing to criticize, but neither to celebrate. You will have to do better to accompany this group; you’ll need to score more, hit more often from deep, or pass more prolifically. Here’s the thing: we think it will do all three.

Chet Holmgren, PF, Gonzaga

Last year’s statistics: First year student

Why are you here: There has never really been anyone like Holmgren in college basketball. The closest comparison we’ve been able to conjure up is Kevin Durant, but Durant entered Texas doing normal shooting guard / forward stuff, he just did it almost 7 feet up. Holmgren does a lot of those things, maybe a little less soft, but also an inch or two more in height and length than Durant. In his college season, KD blocked 69 shots. That is an impressive number. It would not be surprising if Holmgren were close to 100. Other analysts have expressed some concern about how he and Timme will mix, but they are completely different players. Of course, as we said, we are all different from Holmgren.

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Hunter Dickinson, C, Michigan

Last year’s statistics: 14.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 59.8 FG

Why are you here: Dickinson was so good in the first months of last season that he made it to our second team even after struggling down the stretch. He was a transformative player for the Wolverines, helping them clinch a Big Ten championship, and will now be the foundation as much of the roster shifts, albeit in a talented direction. He needs to have more and better counterattacks to the exorbitant defensive attention thrown at him, particularly passing talented teammates who will be able to use the freedom available to them due to the double-teaming against Dickinson.

MORE: Big Ten loaded with traditional greats

Emoni Bates, single, Memphis

Last year’s statistics: First year student

Why are you here: Someone on a team with this talent is likely to stand out, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if it were rookie center Jalen Duren or veteran guard Landers Nolley. Logic says that the player most likely to become the star is the most talented, and that is Bates. His use as the team’s main point guard has been debated, because there is a vacancy there, but Bates’ versatility as a scorer and distributor could be better utilized in an attacking position where his combination of size and speed will give him an advantage over most. of defenders and his versatility will unsettle most of those who oppose him.

Third team

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Jaden Ivey, SG, Purdue

Last year’s statistics: 11.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 apg

Ken Lofton Jr., PF, Louisiana Technology

Last year’s statistics: 12.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 56.7 FG

Buddy Boeheim, SG, Syracuse

Last year’s statistics: 17.8 ppg, 2.6 apg, 38.3 3-PT

Julian Champagnie, SF, St. John’s

Last year’s statistics: 19.8 ppg, 7.4 apg, 38.0 3-PT

Jabari Smith, PF, Auburn

Last year’s statistics: First year student

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