It is Big Ten week here at On3, and we keep the content rolling with the 2023-24 basketball season previews. Freshmen can be an interesting thing to predict. There are a lot of variables that take place when transitioning from high school to college basketball. Everything from the speed and physicality to the processing; taking time to adjust.
Here I take a look at the freshmen in the Big Ten Conference this season. This list is not of the best player or the highest upside player; it is based on the potential impact of the player. Opportunity is a big factor here, but so is talent.
Let’s take a look at the ten impact freshmen in the Big Ten for the upcoming season.
1. G Deshawn Harris-Smith (Maryland)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No. 35
The Buzz: Deshawn Harris-Smith brings positional versatility to the table. The capability of fitting into multiple roles in a lineup and becoming a two-way threat. On this 2023-24 Maryland team, Harris-Smith should find his minutes alongside Jahmir Young. Harris-Smith is capable of initiating the offense, which would allow Young, a fifth-year senior who has scored 1,974 collegiate points, to look more toward scoring. Harris-Smith is also a versatile defender, able to use his athleticism and length to guard up or down a lineup. Minutes are available for him, and the fit makes a lot of sense.
2. F Mackenzie Mgbako (Indiana)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No. 12
The Buzz: It was a big deal when Mackenzie Mgbako chose Indiana after decommitting from Duke. Mgbako was a McDonald’s All-American and an industry five-star prospect. He also slides in nicely with the need the Hoosiers had at the three/four. Mgbako has a smooth shooting stroke with excellent length and a strong frame. Playing with Mike Woodson should help Mgbako continue to develop as a true wing with a featured role on this team.
3. F Gavin Griffiths (Rutgers)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No. 43
The Buzz: This Rutgers team needs consistent scoring. At his best, Gavin Griffiths is one of the best shooters in the 2023 class. The 6-foot-8 wing can get to his spots off the bounce, has good length, and carries more pop than you would expect. He also plays with the utmost confidence. How quickly he can get caught up to the speed and physicality of the game will be the key here, but the opportunity should be there early for Griffiths to play and continue to grow.
4. F Myles Colvin (Purdue)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No. 78
The Buzz: Purdue returns all five starters from a team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With that said, Myles Colvin offers a dynamic that none of those players have, explosive athleticism. Colvin received good experience this summer playing with the U18 USA Basketball team in the FIBA World Championships. While this Purdue team should enter the season as a well-oiled machine, Colvin could quickly crack the rotation.
5. F Coen Carr (Michigan State)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No.32
The Buzz: Michigan State returns the majority of its starting minutes from a team that made a Sweet Sixteen run last season. That team last season also returns all three guards who started beside one another. Coen Carr is a wing; his length, frame, and explosion could also allow him to play the four as well. This season, opportunity might be the only thing that gets in his way of not being higher on this list. Carr is one of the league’s top pro prospects in the freshman class. His explosion can be breathtaking, which leads to game-changing dunks and defensive plays. It would not surprise if he starts. It would also not surprise if he backs up at the three and four spots.
6. F Jamie Kaiser (Maryland)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No. 75
The Buzz: In order for Maryland to reach its full potential this season, they need a shot maker to step up on the wing. Jamie Kaiser, a former D1 football recruit, steps on campus with toughness and a long-range jumper. The Terrapins return its four and five from last season, in Donta Scott and Julian Reese, as well as second-team All-Big Ten guard Jahmir Young. While Kaiser will not need to be featured, the opportunity is present.
7. G Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn (Illinois)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No. 119
The Buzz: Illinois needs a point guard. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn is an explosive guard who is originally from Indiana and finished up at Raleigh (NC) Word of God Academy last season. The opportunity will be there all season for Gibbs-Lawhorn to take hold of the spot. The athleticism is there, and so is the aggressiveness and the three-point range.
8. F Scotty Middleton (Ohio State)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No. 54
The Buzz: The Ohio State lineup will be interesting this year because they do have some depth, so there should be some positional competition within the group. One of those positions will be on the wing, where Scotty Middleton could find himself fighting for minutes with sophomore Evan Mahaffey and freshman Devin Royal. Middleton will need to get stronger and continue to fine-tune the jump shot. He has an intriguing upside and brings a reputation on the defensive end.
9. G Pryce Sandfort (Iowa)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No. 93
The Buzz: It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Pryce Sandfort, the younger brother of junior Payton Sandfort, to push for starter’s minutes this season. Sandfort, who is a 6-foot-6 guard, is able to dribble, pass, or shoot it, and he plays with excellent IQ and toughness. Truly a player who can situationally handle minutes at the one through the four. How quickly Sandfort picks up the pace of play could play a role, but Iowa’s rotation could be fluid through the start of the season.
10. G Cam Christie (Minnesota)
2023 On3 Industry Ranking: No. 120
The Buzz: Cam Christie, the younger brother of LA Lakers guard Max Christie, might have the highest upside of any player on the Minnesota roster. He has excellent positional size and length, with confidence on the ball and range on his jumper. He needs to add weight, which should help him get acclimated to the speed of play. Minnesota brought in Mike Mitchell and Elijah Hawkins, two experienced and talented guards, from the transfer portal. Can Christie push for minutes alongside them?