The men’s collegiate basketball season of 2021-22 has commenced. And so are the best players. With our preseason All-America draft, USA TODAY Sports explores 15 must-see athletes.
Following a COVID-affected 2020-21 season, this year’s veteran-laden lineup of players is heavy on returnees who either avoided the NBA or are making the most of an additional year of eligibility.
There are still one-and-done freshmen on the list, albeit less this year than in past years. Because of the transfer portal, many people on the list have yet to suit up for their respective teams but are ready to make an early impact.
The first team
Kofi C Cockburn, Ill. After receiving a No. 1 seed, Cockburn will be at the centre of this year’s seasoned group, looking to revenge an earlier-than-expected NCAA Tournament loss last March. Despite the departure of first-team All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu, the big man (17.7 ppg, 9.5 RPG) returned, allowing the Fighting Illini to continue a top-10 club.
F Gonzaga’s Drew Timme. Timme (19.0 ppg, 66 per cent FG shooting) is the key returnee from a 31-1 team, and he was maybe the ‘Zags’ finest player in last year’s NCAA Tournament. With his versatility at 6-10, he can spread the floor and is an underappreciated passer. But it’s his drive and energy that will power the ‘Zags in 2021-22.
F Gonzaga’s coach is Chet Holmgren. The long 7-footer has received much attention and is expected to be the first choice in next year’s NBA draught. The good news is that he’ll have plenty of time to rediscover his groove on a talented ‘Zags team. Expect him to have highlight reels early on, but he should be in full stride by February.
G Collin Villanova’s Gillespie. Last season, Gillespie, named Big East co-player of the year, tore his ACL and missed the Wildcats’ tournament. He’ll be back in shape for his final college basketball season in 2021-22. The senior floor general will elevate ‘Nova to national title contention with his ability to improve teammates.
G UCLA’s Johnny Juzang. Juzang, a key member of last year’s surprising Final Four club and the Bruins’ most returning scorer (16.0 ppg), resisted the NBA to stay for another season. Now that the team’s chemistry is better established, he has takeover features that won’t be needed as much. With the ball in his hands, he’s one of the greatest in the country when the game is on the line.
- G Marcus Carr, Texas
- G Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse
- G Remy Martin, Kansas
- C Hunter Dickinson, Michigan
- F Paolo Banchero, Duke
- G Max Abmas, Oral Roberts
- G Jaden Shackelford, Alabama
- F Trevion Williams, Purdue
- F Emoni Bates, Memphis
- F Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana