Though Bill Self and the Jayhawks once again enter as heavy Big 12 favorites, several other teams are retooling with 5-star prospects to contend with Kansasí talent/experience mix. Even the last-place unit in 2016-17, the Texas Longhorns, will get a boost from 5-star center Mohamed Bamba, who was profiled in our inaugural Best in Class column. Bamba aside, the following three players stand to affect the Big 12 title picture as well, in addition to making an impact on fantasy rosters.
Billy Preston -- PF -- (6-10, 235)
Preston is Kansasí only five-star recruit in the class of 2017, though coach Bill Self has shown time and time again that he doesnít need a big-name recruiting class to win Big 12 championships. The Oak Hill Academy product certainly wonít hurt the Jayhawksí chances, however, as Preston has already showed potential as a stretch four who can play effectively both inside and out. As ESPNís No. 4-ranked power forward, Preston shoots the ball well outside and while his post moves still need a little work, he consistently shows he can out-muscle opponents down low to either get the shot in or to get to the line.
Prestonís size will prove to be an asset at the collegiate level, as he boasts a wingspan of 7-feet on his 6-10 frame. If he improves his decision making, Preston could see plenty of touches in the post, where heíll be expected to work as a facilitator, sort of like Josh Jackson, who averaged 3.0 assists per game in his only collegiate season. That said, decision making in the post is one possible weakness that stands out from his developmental years, as he mustered just a career 0.5 assist-to-turnover ratio in high school. Preston was also known to be a defensive liability at times, something that simply will not stand under Coach Bill Self (see Cheick Diallo). In order to make an immediate impact in fantasy terms, heíll need to improve defensively to ensure he sees enough minutes to produce counting stats.
Itís possible Preston gets some time at the three, four, and five spots, and heíll compete with a variety of players at different positions for playing time, including Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Mitch Lightfoot, and William & Mary transfer Jack Whitman. Heís an excellent candidate to replace the contributions of the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Josh Jackson, but there remains a risk his playing time could get swallowed up by older and more experienced players. Bill Self has been reluctant to trust freshman over the years, but if Preston can earn that trust early, thereís certainly potential to be a useful fantasy asset at a low draft-day price.
Check out Prestonís senior year mixtape here:
Trae Young -- PG -- (6-2, 175)
Young signed his letter of intent with the Sooners in April, and is Oklahomaís only 5-star recruit in the class of 2017. He may be a bit undersized at 6-2 (I cringe saying this a 5-6 person), and has a smaller frame with a wingspan of 6-foot-4, but Young is a crafty ball handler, commendable passer and has shown potential to drop long-range three-pointers. One of his favorite moves seems to be an in-and-out fake crossover dribble that he can really sell to make defenders lose him. The point guard is able to make a variety of accurate passes inside to open cutters, and with his range, Young could benefit from pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop situations.
Although Young wonít be asked to be a primary scorer in college like he was in high school, he will still need to improve his shot selection. For example, he isnít shy about taking deep, seemingly unnecessary shots, many of which he can make. His highlight reels only show the makes, but his inefficient tendencies in high school suggest that he was shooting a lot more than what is shown -- and not making as many as a coach would like. During the U-18 Americas Championship, for example, he shot just 20.8 percent from the field across five games.
Defensively, heíll need to develop and use his speed to his advantage in order to get steals and defensive stops. Despite his weaknesses in the shooting department, Young looks to me to be one of the best passing point guards in his class and could overtake sophomore Jordan Shepard as starting point guard for Oklahoma if he makes meaningful strides this summer. Prospective fantasy owners should definitely be watching this player, but with his starting status up in the air, he is a bit of a risky draft pick.
View highlights from one of his best games here:
Check out his mixtape from when he played on the same team with Mizzou commit Michael Porter Jr.:
Lindell Wigginton -- SG -- (6-10, 235)
Wigginton is next in line to take over Iowa Stateís backcourt after the graduation of Deonte Burton, Naz Mitrou-Long, and all-time Cyclone leading scorer Monte Morris. While the Canadian prospect has average size for a point guard at 6-2 with a 6-3 wingspan, he demonstrates sneaky athleticism and an ability to create space and finish at the rim. It seems in high school he was able to get wherever he wanted on the court, and if that translates to the college game, he will be a big problem for opposing defenses. He may be of average size but plays above the rim off of both feet with ease. Wigginton is also a decent shooter and has a polished shooting stroke to accompany his range and accuracy.
Defensively heís not as talented, but his will to win and competitive spirit helps mitigate that. Due to his smaller stature, questionable defense and lack of court vision, he doesnít project well as a professional point guard prospect just yet, but will certainly be able to produce early and often for the Cyclones, and fantasy owners. At Iowa State, heíll need to develop as a facilitator instead of his usual ďscore firstĒ mentality. Wigginton could be a sneaky pick after the big name freshman prospects are taken. Heíll compete with Donovan Jackson and Jakolby Long for a starting role in either the one or two spot, but even if he doesnít end up starting, Wigginton will still affect the box score as a sixth man.
Check out Wiggintonís highlights from his junior season: