By Kevin Sweeney
We are halfway through our rankings, and that means it’s time to rank college basketball’s best swingmen, the small forwards. While I found the small forward spot to be a bit weaker than the point guards and shooting guards, there is as much NBA talent at the top of these rankings as there are any position in college basketball.
The Top Ten:
- Milik Yarbrough (Illinois State)
- Vitals: 6-6, 230 pounds, Redshirt Senior
- Stats: 16.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.8 apg, .453/.290/.804
One of college basketball’s best transfers a season ago, Yarbrough headed to Normal after 2 years at Saint Louis and did not disappoint. In the college game, he can switch 1-5 defensively, create offense for others, and is an absolute load in transition. His passing ability meshes perfectly with Illinois State PG Keyshawn Evans, who is more of a natural scorer, making Illinois State extremely hard to guard. If he can straighten out his act off the floor, he has a chance to be a very good NBA player.
2. Cody Martin (Nevada)
- Vitals: 6-7, 205 pounds, Redshirt Senior
- Stats: 14.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, .516/.294/.701
Cody comes in at #2 among small forwards after his twin brother Caleb topped my list of shooting guards. And while Caleb will likely earn most of the headlines preseason, in my opinion Cody is the most important player on this Nevada club. With Lindsey Drew’s health in question as he recovers from a torn achilles, Cody Martin will have a lot on his plate in terms of creating offense. Cody will have to distribute well and keep the ball moving to make sure the multitude of Nevada’s offensive options get touches.
3. Justin James (Wyoming)
- Vitals: 6-7, 180 pounds, Senior
- Stats: 18.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.1 apg, .472/.308/.726
Another Mountain West standout, James has improved every season of his collegiate career. A long, athletic slasher who thrives as a secondary ballhandler, James will see an increased workload with Hayden Dalton, Louis Adams, and Alan Herndon all graduating. He’ll need an even bigger senior season if the Cowboys have hopes of a top-half Mountain West club.
4. Dylan Windler (Belmont)
- Vitals: 6-7, 195 pounds, Senior
- Stats: 17.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, .559/.426/.718
It’s safe to say Dylan Windler flies under the radar. He can walk down the streets of Nashville and not have anyone recognize him:
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the nation’s best small forwards. Windler is absurdly efficient, an elite shooter, and cleans the glass with the best of them. If not for Ja Morant’s high-flying presence in the OVC, Windler would be getting a lot more preseason love for OVC Player of the Year.
5. Cameron Young (Quinnipiac)
- Vitals: 6-6, 205 pounds, Redshirt Senior
- Stats: 18.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.8 apg, .422/.303/.754
There have been few breakout seasons more stunning than what Young put together last year. In 2016-17, Young played a grand total of 8 minutes over 6 games and didn’t make a field. Last season, under new head coach Baker Dunleavy, Young exploded into one of the MAAC’s best players. Then, Young surprisingly received a 5th year of eligibility from the NCAA, allowing him to return for one more year at Quinnipiac. His presence makes the Bobcats a MAAC title contender, and his experience should be valuable in the development of Quinnipiac’s elite incoming recruiting class.
6. Garrison Matthews (Lipscomb)
- Vitals: 6-5, 210 pounds, Senior
- Stats: 21.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, .465/.381/.799
The best way to describe Matthews’ game is polished. The senior wing scores at all 3 levels, and when he heats up from outside, he can’t miss (see: A-Sun title game vs FGCU). Coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance and the winningest season in program history, the Bisons bring back all 5 starters and have a chance to be one of the better mid-majors in college basketball this season. With Matthews, they have a scorer who can keep them in games against any level of competition.
7. Vance Jackson (New Mexico)
- Vitals: 6-9, 235 pounds, redshirt sophomore
- Stats (2016-17 at UConn): 8.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, .409/.397/.676
Jackson could be listed anywhere from the 2 to the 4, and while he’ll see time at all 3 at New Mexico, I listed him at the 3 for the purposes of these rankings. Jackson left me wanting more at times in his freshman season at UConn, settling for long-range jumpers rather than using his size to attacking the rim. In Paul Weir’s up-and-down system, Jackson’s length will be valuable on defense and he should get lots of chances to play downhill in transition. We know he can shoot the ball, but developing the rest of his game will be what determines Jackson’s NBA future.
8. Miye Oni (Yale)
- Vitals: 6-6, 210 pounds, Junior
- Stats: 15.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.6 apg, .405/.310/.750
I’ve been a fan of Oni’s game since I saw him light up Markelle Fultz’s Washington team in his collegiate opener. He’s done little to change my mind since, showcasing his skills as an intriguing 3 & D NBA prospect. Key in those chances will be his jump shot returning to form, after the California native shot just 31% from 3 after knocking down 40% of his triples as a freshman.
9. Dimencio Vaughn (Rider)
- Vitals: 6-5, 210 pounds, Redshirt Sophomore
- Stats: 16.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, .508/.351/.764
Vaughn is a matchup nightmare in the MAAC. He’s extremely strong, and nearly impossible to guard in one-on-one matchups. Rider’s roster is loaded with versatile combo forwards that can shoot & drive, surrounded by a talented distributor in Stevie Jordan. This is the perfect system for Vaughn to thrive in, as he gets to operate in plenty of space and attack closeouts to get to the rim at ease. He has a chance to set all kinds of records if he remains at Rider for all four years.
10. Jeremy Harris (Buffalo)
- Vitals: 6-7, 176 pounds, Senior
- Stats: 15.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, .471/.418/.787
Harris has a great chance to become the latest player to go from junior college to the NBA. One of the top JUCO recruits in the nation a season ago, Harris chose Buffalo and couldn’t have found a more perfect fit. An elite shooter and versatile defender, Harris’s 23-point outburst against Arizona led the Bulls to a stunning upset victory this past March, and he is positioned to help Buffalo strike fear into high-major programs this year as well.
Courtney Stockard (Saint Bonaventure), Eric Williams (Duquesne), Javon Bess (Saint Louis), BJ Stith (Old Dominion), Sandy Cohen (Green Bay), Myles Stephens (Princeton), Daniel Utomi (Princeton), Marques Townes (Loyola-Chicago), Terry Taylor (Austin Peay), Kevon Harris (Stephen F. Austin), Zach Jackson (Nebraska-Omaha), Matej Kavas (Seattle)