Three Wildcats make ESPN’s list of the top-25 players in college hoops
Duke, Duke and more Duke.
ESPN Insider’s John Gasaway starts his list of the 25 best players in college basketball with freshman Blue Devil Marvin Bagley and follows with Duke senior Grayson Allen. Two more of coach Mike Krzyzewski’s players — forward Wendell Carter and point guard Trevon Duval — make Gasaway’s top-25, but the Arizona Wildcats are giving the four Blue Devils decent company on the list.
Big man DeAndre Ayton, shooting guard Allonzo Trier and swingman Rawle Alkins all made the top-25 ranking with Ayton leading the way ranked eighth.
There promises to be a robust preseason discussion over whether Duke or Arizona should be ranked the No. 1 team in the nation, and Ayton might be the first bullet point in the Wildcats’ favor. The 7-foot freshman has been singled out by Sean Miller for being unlike any other player he has ever signed. Ayton’s wingspan and offensive skills already have NBA scouts grouping him with Bagley and Porter at the very top of the 2018 draft.
Two spots behind Ayton in the ranking is Trier, who is not only hoping to bolster his draft stock after two incomplete seasons but help Arizona reach the Final Four for the first time under head coach Sean Miller — judging by the opinion of college coaches, the Wildcats have as good a shot as ever.
A hand injury held back Trier midway through his freshman season, and a positive PED test cut out a chunk of games to start his 2016-17 campaign.
Nonetheless, he averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game as a sophomore last year while shooting 46 percent overall and 39 percent from three.
Trier could form a potent perimeter duo with Alkins, who also returned despite sniffing out his NBA Draft stock. As a freshman last season, the 6-foot-5 guard averaged 10.9 points, 4.9 boards and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 37 percent from three-point range.
The No. 22-ranked player does head into the season with an injury concern.
Last season, Alkins played on occasion with a taped left shoulder, and during the Wildcats’ tour of Spain this month he was held out for a game because of a strain in that very spot. Assuming everything checks out health-wise, however, the sophomore projects to again hit shots from both sides of the arc and help out on the glass. Even on a loaded Arizona team, Alkins could see more possessions and shots come his way now that Lauri Markkanen has moved on to the NBA.
Arizona’s been called the best team in the country based on its depth and experience. But it’s the talent among the top three players that puts the Wildcats on a level playing field with the likes of Duke, which with the exception of Allen will be running out quite the young squad this year.