The Big East conference has just 3 recruits in ESPNís 2017 top-50, with the highest-rated player checking in at No. 30 overall. Though few teams out east can regularly compete with the top recruiting classes brought in by the blue bloods, the Big East still typically has a set of freshman that shines each year. Who might be this seasonís Justin Patton, Markus Howard or Shamorie Ponds? Three potential candidates below could be poised to make both a real-life and fantasy impact.
Paul Scruggs -- G -- (6-4, 195)
Scruggs is a top-50 player in the class of 2017, and has impressive length for his position. At 6-foot-4, he has a wingspan of 6-10 and a wide frame, giving him a body type comparable to that of Rockets frontman James Harden. He is part of a top-10 recruiting class put together by head coach Chris Mack that should take the Big East by storm, featuring other top prospects Naji Marshall, Elias Hardin, Kentravious Jones, and Jared Ridder. Per USA Today, Scruggs is the highest rated player to come to Xavier since their recruiting database started in 2007.
While both his shot form and decision-making skills need some work, Scruggs excels at slashing to the bucket, rebounding, and has decent court vision for his age. The combo guard is quite agile for his size and is able to change directions quickly to shake defenders in transition. Scruggís athleticism, build, and speed give him fantastic defensive potential that has intrigued NBA scouts since he arrived on the scene.
Scruggs joins an already scoring-heavy backcourt of NBA prospect Trevon Blueitt (18.5 ppg) and sharp-shooter JP Macura (14.4 ppg), but will be able make an immediate impact as starting point guard. Scruggs will definitely have enough minutes to produce a solid fantasy stat line, competing only with sophomore Quentin Goodin (5.1 ppg, 3.4 apg) for minutes, but his production may be slowed due to the caliber of the other players in the Musketeer starting five. The Indiana product is a good candidate to have breakout performances, especially early in the season, but should only be picked up only after the rest of the Xavier backcourt has been drafted.
Watch Scruggs put in work:
Makai Ashton-Langford -- PG -- (6-2, 185)
As opposed to Scruggs, Ashton-Langford has the more prototypical build of a point guard. He is also a slashing-type, with a mean, forceful crossover that still keeps defenders off balance, even when repeated. Ashton-Langford gets a lot of his work done in the paint and has a diverse range of skills, from in-the-lane floaters to finger rolls, and of course, slam dunks. He finishes on either side of the hoop and shows potential as both an on-the-ball defender and pick-and-roll aficionado.
The Massachusetts native struggles with his outside shot at times and isnít a consistent perimeter shooter. He hasnít shown that heís able to take over and lead a talented team, and instead can get lost in the action. Ashton-Langfordís decision-making skills need serious work, as he has had a tendency in the past to pick up the ball too early when he doesnít know what to do with it instead of kicking to the open man.
Fantasy-wise, Ashton-Langford wonít be a starter his freshman year, which limits the minutes in which he can produce. Instead, heíll likely be back up to the incumbent starter, point guard Kyron Cartwright (11.4 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.5 RPG). Unless he can carve out a more important role and actively compete for minutes in the Friars rotation at other positions, Ashton-Langford is unlikely to make a huge fantasy impact in his freshman year. He should be known however, as heíll likely become much more important after his first season when Cartwright graduates.
Check out Ashton-Langfordís mean crossover:
Jermaine Samuels -- SF -- (6-6, 210)
Samuels has the unique opportunity to play multiple positions for Villanova in 2016-17. With Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart now playing professionally, Samuels will fill a position of need. He has a wingspan of nearly 6-11 and will make an immediate impact in the Wildcatsí backcourt. Samuels will get a solid chunk of minutes as their sixth man in his freshman season, backing up wings Donte DiVincenzo and Mikal Bridges. In high school, Samuels was a double-double machine, averaging 15 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, and four blocks per game.
Samuels is naturally strong at offense, but what he takes pride in the most on the court is defensive prowess. He became very focused in high school on not letting anyone get by him. Heís already put on 15 pounds by working with a personal trainer through his prep career and is a jack-of-all-trades player. Samuels isnít the most explosive athlete, but his effort and skill have made him a strong NBA prospect down the line. The Massachusetts native has big shoes to fill at Villanova, but he could be a strong two-way player right away, which gives him a lot of value as a fantasy prospect. Learning more about how coach Jay Wright plans to use Samuels will be important, but keep him in mind if you find yourself needing an under-the-radar freshman pick.