By Kevin Sweeney
First off, I’d like to thank everyone for their support of the series so far. This week is always one of the biggest weeks for my site but this has been even better than I had hoped for.
With that, let’s get into the small forwards. If you are just joining us, these include players from every conference except the Power 7 and Gonzaga. Players are ranked based on stats, contribution to winning, and the eye test, and are sorted into positions based on a combination of where they played last season and where I expect them to play this season.
#1. Andrew Kostecka (Loyola Maryland)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-4, 184 pounds
- Stats: 21.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, .523/.381/.813
If you had told me at this time last year that Andrew Kostecka was going to be my top mid-major SF for the 2019-20 season, I probably would have laughed at you. Kostecka was a nice role player for two years under G.G. Smith, a capable shot-maker who seemed like a really solid 3rd-best player. The jump he took under Tavaras Hardy was MASSIVE– becoming one of the most efficient wing scorers in the nation while also being a big-time defensive playmaker. With a good returning group and a nice recruiting class coming in, the Greyhounds could surprise in the Patriot League this season.
#2. Justin Turner (Bowling Green)
- Vitals: Redshirt Junior, 6-4, 205 pounds
- Stats: 18.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, .468/.372/.709
After scoring over 1,100 points in his first two seasons at BGSU, expectations are high for Turner in his third season playing for Michael Huger. Becoming a more efficient player at the rim was huge for Turner’s all-around game from year one to year two, and continuing to improve as a decision-maker and outside shooter will make him even more unstoppable.
#3. Jose Perez (Gardner-Webb)
- Vitals: Sophomore, 6-5, 200 pounds
- Stats: 15.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, .448/.381.702
Perez was one of the bigger recruiting heists of the 2018 class, landing at Gardner-Webb from elite prep program Putnam Science Academy. His presence lifted the Runnin’ Bulldogs from the middle of the Big South to the top, helping GWU earn its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. In that NCAA Tournament game against Virginia, Perez wowed with his poise and ability to make shots, and certainly didn’t look like a freshman. I can’t wait to see his development into year three.
#4. Justin Kier (George Mason)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-4, 190 pounds
- Stats: 14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.6 apg, .471/.371/.769
Kier went from role player to star in 2018-19, thanks mostly to improvement in his outside shooting ability that had hindered his all-around offensive game in previous seasons. Now he’s back for his senior campaign with an even bigger load on offense likely with the graduation of point guard Otis Livingston. Kier is also a versatile defender and is excellent in transition thanks to his physical frame.
#5. Keaton Wallace (UTSA)
- Vitals: Junior, 6-3, 185 Pounds
- Stats: 20.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 apg, .422/.382/.856
On most teams, Wallace would be the shooting guard. But in UTSA’s shot-happy offense, Wallace plays the 3 next to Jhivvan Jackson and Giovanni De Nicolao to create one of the more dynamic backcourts in the country (at least offensively). Wallace is a certified gunner who takes almost 10 threes per game– he made nine in a game three times this season. If he continues at his current pace, he’ll finish his career among the nation’s all-time leaders in made threes in the college game.
#6. Jalen Harris (Nevada)
- Vitals: Redshirt Junior, 6-5, 195 pounds
- Stats (2017-18 at LA Tech): 15.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, .478/.444/.830
While losing Jordan Brown was a tough blow to start the Steve Alford era in Reno, Pack fans should be thrilled to retain Harris, a transfer from Louisiana Tech who reportedly starred in practice last season running scout team against a loaded Nevada roster. Harris is a high-level shooter with major athleticism, and profiles as the likely leading scorer for the Pack in year one under Alford. Pairing him with Lindsey Drew and Jazz Johnson should keep Nevada in the thick of things in the Mountain West this season.
#7. Sayeed Pridgett (Montana)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-5, 195 pounds
- Stats: 15.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, .605/.463/.570
I projected a breakout 2017-18 from Pridgett after a strong freshman campaign, and that never quite materialized. However, the breakout did come in 2018-19, when Pridgett became the leading scorer in a Montana backcourt that featured two stars in Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine. Now, with Rorie and Oguine graduating, Pridgett will take on an even larger role in the offense. He’s an elite slasher who finishes at the rim as well as any guard in the country (73.4% at the rim on six attempts per game) but will need to continue to develop as an outside shooter to compensate for the lack of Rorie and Oguine.
#8. Keith Braxton (St Francis PA)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-5, 208 Pounds
- Stats: 16.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, .457/.339/.769
Just one other player put up Braxton’s stat line last season: Ethan Happ. While the two are very different players, it goes to show how unique a player Braxton truly is. He can initiate offense, defend every position on the floor, and be a primary scorer all at once. Now, the defending NEC POY will look to check one final goal off his checklist during his senior season: get St Francis to the NCAA Tournament.
#9. Raiquan Clark (LIU Brooklyn)
- Vitals: Redshirt Senior, 6-6, 195 pounds
- Stats: 18.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, .503/.244/.699
I’ve been critical of the NCAA in the past and will certainly be critical in the future, but it got at least one thing right this offseason: granting Clark a 5th year of eligibility after playing just 2 minutes as a freshman. Clark’s ascent from walk-on to scrappy role player to potential 2,000-point scorer is one of the better ones in all of college basketball, and you can tell when watching Clark play that the chip on his shoulder is still there despite the accolades.
#10. Trevelin Queen (New Mexico State)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-6, 190 Pounds
- Stats: 7.8 rpg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, .475/.350/.615
Queen’s numbers don’t jump off the page until you realize he put those up in just 15 minutes per contest. Double those, and you’ll get stats that look as good and likely better than the many players in this list. Queen is a high-level defender and is excellent at getting his own shot, taking over the WAC Championship game against Grand Canyon with 27 points in 23 minutes.
Christian Lutete (UMass Lowell), Eli Pemberton (Hofstra), Darius Banks (James Madison), Anthony Tarke (UTEP), Camron Justice (Western Kentucky), Charles Williams (Howard), Sam Cunliffe (Evansville), Justinian Jessup (Boise State), Kevon Harris (Stephen F. Austin), Ian Dubose (Houston Baptist), Nijal Pearson (Texas State), Carlos Johnson (Grand Canyon), Charles Minlend (San Francisco)