March is the time of year when the NCAA’s best players burst onto the national scene. While dedicated college hoops fans have watched Ballislife videos of the players since their high school days and followed them through the recruiting process, the casual fan gets familiar with the big names during the NCAA Tournament.
Last year, a handful of top freshmen—including UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, and Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen—helped their teams make tourney runs, and in the process solidified their status as prized NBA prospects. Less than three months later, they walked to the podium to shake Adam Silver’s hand.
Though only freshmen were selected in the top 11 of the 2017 draft, it’s not always first-year players who make a big leap in March. In 2016, Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield cemented his status as a top pick with a strong tournament that ended in the Final Four. In 2015, Kentucky junior Willie Cauley-Stein did the same while holding down the post during the Wildcats’ Final Four run.
Some of the NCAA’s best players have been mainstays in the national media this year. It’s not like you’re about to hear about Trae Young or DeAndre Ayton for the first time. But, real talk: how much do you know about Khyri Thomas?
Though Thomas is a projected top-20 pick, he remains a relative unknown because he plays ball at Creighton. There are plenty of others like him: future NBA players just waiting for their opportunity to show the world they can hang with the big names like Young and Ayton. It’s time for these players to show the world what they’ve got.
Even if your bracket goes to shit in the first round, you can still have some fun; here are 25 future NBA stars to watch in the NCAA Tournament.