Ashton Hagans, G, Kentucky
Hagans’ announcement that he will return to Kentucky locks in an experienced lead guard for the Wildcats. Kentucky needed a player at the point who can shepherd along another high-level recruiting class. Hagans took over the position and excelled. He had close to a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and will be counted on by John Calipari to be a leader.
His standout game came against Kansas when he scored a dozen points and dished out eight assists. He handed out 12 assists and scored 10 points in a four-point SEC tournament semifinal loss to Tennessee. Hagans hasn’t shied away from the big moment. He’ll have plenty of those next season.
Aaron Henry, G, Michigan State.
Henry’s potential is soaring. He should flourish next to Cassius Winston and a healthy Joshua Langford next season. He showed plenty during the NCAA tournament, scoring 20 in the win over LSU in the Sweet 16. His defense will continue to improve but his ceiling will be shattered by his ability to make shots, get to the rim and elevate above the defense in the open floor.
Kihei Clark, G, Virginia
Clark owns one of the greatest passes/decisions in NCAA history when he looked off Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy and delivered a spot-on pass to Mamadi Diakite for a game-tying, end of regulation bucket to send the Elite Eight game against Purdue into overtime.
Clark was a terrific find by the Cavaliers staff who was able to quickly pick up the Cavaliers defense and offensive sets. The mass departures after the title puts even more responsibility on Clark. He’ll embrace it and likely shine. He still needs to become a better and more efficient shooter, but his floor game and defensive prowess are top notch.
Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga
Kispert was one of the most important players for the Zags down the stretch. Now, he’ll stand out with more shot opportunities. Kispert doesn’t shy away from taking and making the big shot, let alone diving for loose balls in his area. Kispert averaged eight points but his production should skyrocket this season. His 16 points against Baylor in the second round was an indication of what he can do on a regular basis for the Zags.
McKinley Wright IV, G, Colorado
Wright is now well-known in the Pac-12, but needs to get the national platform. He should finally realize it in 2020 when the Buffaloes make the NCAA tournament. Wright is one of the quickest point guards in the country. He can make and will take the big shot.
The Buffaloes were a few wins away from mounting a serious claim to a bid. The hope in Boulder is that won’t be as much a struggle next season. Wright’s breakout game this past season came against Arizona State when Wright put up 24 points, dished out eight assists and had only four turnovers.
Kyler Edwards, G, Texas Tech
We are now conditioned to select a Texas Tech player as a rising star. Edwards could be next. He played 23 minutes in the national title game against Virginia, scoring a dozen.
The departures of Jarrett Culver and Matt Mooney means Edwards will get even more opportunities. His minutes continued to rise in the NCAA tournament — a sign that he was ready to help and a preview of what’s to come next season.
David Collins, G, South Florida
Collins flew under the radar this season. He shouldn’t next as the Bulls are a legit contender to win the American. USF beat DePaul to claim the CBI title and Collins was a main reason why. Collins dropped 19 in the win over the Blue Demons in the title game. Collins scored 20 in one of the Bulls’ bigger wins of the season over Memphis in early February. The 6-3 guard shot 40 percent and averaged 15 a game.
Jermaine Samuels, F, Villanova
The Wildcats have another stellar recruiting class, but the bedrock of Nova has been its experience. Samuels will enter into that role next season as a junior. He made his mark in a thrilling victory over Marquette with 29 points and nine boards. Samuels only averaged six points and five boards last season. Expect those numbers to take a big jump as his importance increases.
Kyle Lofton, G, St. Bonaventure
Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt continues to find hidden gems on the perimeter. Lofton is the latest. He scored 20 and 23, respectively, against George Mason and URI in the Bonnies’ surprising run to the A-10 tournament title game. Lofton averaged 14 a game and shot 44 percent. The Bonnies won’t be a sleeper next season, assuming their spot as a A-10 contender in the preseason.
Bryce Aiken, G, Harvard
Aiken may have had a national name if the Crimson beat Yale in the Ivy League title game. But alas the Crimson fell short, even though Aiken scored 38 in New Haven. Aiken’s point production jumped from 14 to 22 for a number of reasons. He improved, but an injury to Seth Towns also put the ball in his hands more often in the Ivy and postseason. Tommy Amaker has a star in Aiken who can lead the Crimson to an automatic berth and a possible NCAA tournament win.
Stef Smith, G, Vermont
The Catamounts are the consistent team to beat in the America East, and the next star to come through Burlington could be Smith. The 6-foot-1 guard fouled out in the loss to Florida State in the NCAA tournament after posting 15 points. But he was critical in the wins over Binghamton and UMBC to earn the bid, scoring 28 and 17 points, respectively. Anthony Lamb, the player of the year in the America East, declared for the draft. If Smith stays, he will be the go-to player. If he comes back, then Smith’s role as a counter to Lamb increases even more.