College: Notre Dame
Key stats: 16.8 PPG, 52 FG%, 3.0 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.8, BPG, 0.6 SPG
Draft projection: Mid first-round pick
Notre Dame will rise and fall with Jerian Grant’s play. He’s perhaps the most important player in the country to his team. Ranked fourth in the entire nation with 7.1 total win shares, Grant’s status as 100 percent indispensable was proven last season, but only because of a mishap. In 2013, Grant was having a banner junior campaign but was suspended halfway through for academic reasons. Without their juice, Notre Dame bombed to a 15-17 record.
This season, Grant’s been exceptional. He’s kept himself on the floor, taking the newly crowned ACC Champions to a 29-5 record thus far. According to his father, he’s too focused to let off-the-court nonsense hurt the team again. He’s Notre Dame’s leading scorer by a full four points per game, and for the second year in a row, his usage rate is above 24 percent. The Fighting Irish run their offense through his hyper-athletic, unselfish, slash-and-kick guard play. Come next NBA season, a professional team may depend on him to become a Reggie Jackson (the Thunder version, of course) type of spark off the bench. Looking at this month though, he’ll finally be able to show off in the tournament and fully redeem himself for his failings during his junior year.