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Five freshmen to watch in 2015

Every year, there are standout freshmen in Men’s college basketball. In the past, we have seen megastars such as Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, John Wall, Jabari Parker and Anthony Davis play a single collegiate season before turning to the money and fame of the National Basketball Association. This year is not expected to be any different, with plenty of first-year players looking like one-and-done candidates.

Let’s take a glance at five guys to keep your eyes on over the next three months:

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke Blue Devils

Okafor might very well be the No. 1 overall pick in the NB Entry Draft this June. At 6’11, Okafor is a mismatch in the post for anybody in college basketball thanks to his size and quickness. The Blue Devils are a threat to win another national title in 2014-15 and Okafor is the main reason why, averaging 18.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. The Chicago native has also been the model of consistency, scoring in double-figures every game this season. Against overmatched Elon, Okafor posted 25 points and 20 rebounds.

2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky Wildcats

Towns is another candidate for the top selection in June. Choosing a school well-versed in freshman sensations, Towns has found a terrific fit and team in the Wildcats. Under the watchful eye of John Calipari, Towns has blossomed into the interior presence most expected him to be out of New Jersey. Towns’ stats don’t blow you away on the surface, scoring 8.2 points with 6.8 rebounds/game. However, Towns is only playing 19.8 minutes per night for a Kentucky team which rotates two platoons of five. For Towns, the lesser work load will benefit him long-term.

3. Rashad Vaughn, UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

Vaughn does not get the national attention that Okafor and Towns receive. For starters, Vaughn plays out on the West Coast while half the country sleeps. Add in that UNLV is in a mid-major conference and has a 9-4 record, and it is not a recipe for major headlines. However, Vaughn is playing lights out for the Runnin’ Rebels, leading the team with 17.9 points/game and contributing 4.3 rebounds. At 6’6 and 210 pounds, Vaughn is a lanky guard who could fill out a bit more. His 3-point shooting could also improve (34.4 percent), but the upside is through the roof.

4. Stanley Johnson, Arizona Wildcats

Johnson is the best player on a very good Wildcats team. The forward out of Fullerton, Calif. is averaging 14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds/game, leading Sean Miller’s Arizona squad to the status of PAC-12 favorite. Johnson has posted a pair of double-doubles including 13 points and 13 rebounds on Dec. 23 against UNLV. Johnson is an excellent outside shooter, knocking down 43.2 percent of 3-pointers.

5. Cliff Alexander, Kansas Jayhawks

Alexander was expected to come in and take the Big 12 by storm. While Alexander has not been a dominant force, he has shown signs of why coach Bill Self and Jayhawk Nation are so high on him. At 6’8 and 240 pounds, Alexander is a nice interior player alongside veteran Perry Ellis. Alexander is averaging 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds/game, including a double-double against the Florida Gators with 12 and 10, respectively. Look for Alexander to emerge in the second half of the season.

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