Top 50 Returning College Basketball Players

Top returning college basketball players
Photo via Evan Anderson

College basketball is almost here! Here at Basketball Society we’ll have a bunch of college basketball and 2020 NBA Draft material coming your way as we prepare for the new season. Today, two of our writers Aram Cannuscio and Pat McMahon put together a list of the top 50 returning college basketball players for the 2019-2020 season. 

First, here is the list of the players that just barely missed the list. 

Honorable Mentions:

Joshua Langford (Michigan State), Chris Lykes (Miami), Tristan Clark (Baylor), Nick Rakocevic (USC), Marcus Evans (VCU), CJ Elleby (Washington State), Reggie Perry (Mississippi State), Admon Gilder (Gonzaga), Kyler Edwards (Texas Tech), McKinley Wright IV (Colorado), Savion Flagg (Texas A&M), Isaiah Miller (UNCG), LaQuincy Rideau (USF), Elijah Hughes (Syracuse), Quentin Goodin (Xavier), Obi Toppin (Dayton), Trent Frazier (Illinois), Jon Teske (Michigan), Austin Wiley (Auburn), Dejon Jarreau (Houston), Jalen Pickett (Siena), Jordan Bowden (Tennessee), Brady Manek (Oklahoma), Kira Lewis (Alabama), Bryce Aiken (Harvard)


50. Lamine Diane – Sophomore F, CSU Northridge

It was a historic freshman campaign for Diane who averaged just about 25 points and 11 boards per game. We expect a similar showcase of dominance around the rim from Lamine Diane this year which hopefully will bring more success than the team’s 13-21 record last year.

49. Jeff Dowtin – Senior G, Rhode Island

Dowtin has been one of the smartest, most consistent players in the country since his freshman year at Rhode Island. He’s just one of those guys that will always make the right play and will rarely turn the ball over. He was the heart of the 2017 and 2018 URI tournament teams, and was able to step up his scoring last year to an average of 15.3 points after EC Matthews and Jared Terrell departed.

48. Andrew Nembhard – Sophomore G, Florida

Nembhard was one of the best distributors last year in the SEC. He has proven to be a great leader for the team and should take an even bigger leap forward across the board for Florida this upcoming season.

47. Derek Culver – Sophomore F, West Virginia

Culver is a great athlete that is extremely productive on both ends of the floor. He fits in perfectly in Bob Huggins’ system and will put up huge scoring and rebounding numbers for the Mountaineers this season.

46. Ashton Hagans – Sophomore G, Kentucky

One of the bigger surprise players to decide to return to college was Hagans. He just didn’t showcase the offensive talent we were hoping to see in his first year. What he did show was a certain defensive aggressiveness that can fuel this new Kentucky roster to a deep tournament run.

45. Skylar Mays – Senior G/F, LSU

The inconsistencies from the field for Mays are what have him further down the list than he should be. He’s athletic, a creator, and can get hot quickly. Expect big things from Mays as he takes the mantle as the team leader with Naz Reid and Tre Waters moving onto the NBA.

44. James Akinjo – Sophomore G, Georgetown

Akinjo only shot 36.5% from the field in his freshman year and didn’t show a strong ability to finish around the rim (36.5% as well). Get ready for an exciting year from the improved backcourt of James Akinjo and Mac McClung at Georgetown.

43. Seth Towns – Junior F, Harvard

Seth Towns wasn’t able to play at all last year because of an injury. We were waiting all year for him to get a chance to play and now this next year he will get his chance to fully put together all of the talent we know he has. Look for Seth Towns and Bryce Aiken to lead Harvard back into the NCAA Tournament.

42. Payton Pritchard – Senior G, Oregon

Pritchard is one of those players who seems to have been at Oregon for 10 years. That’s just because of how relevant he has been. This year will be the last year of his collegiate career and we are hoping he can continue his great performance from tournament play instead of his sub-par regular season last year.

41. Quinton Rose – Senior G/F, Temple

Quinton Rose had a very promising sophomore campaign, but the percentages got pretty poor last year. Now, in his senior year, he has a chance to put it all together and be the 3 and D talent that we know he can be.

40. Markell Johnson – Senior G, NC State

Markell’s assist numbers took a deep dive as he had to take a greater scoring role on NC State. Even though he had to take more shots, his percentages went up. Look for Markell Johnson to be one of the best guards in the nation this year.

39. Desmond Bane – Senior G, TCU

Bane plays extremely hard on both ends of the floor. He’s undersized, but is a matchup nightmare because he’s quicker than most bigs and can overpower smaller defenders.

38. Yoeli Childs – Senior F, BYU

Yoeli Childs has been on NBA teams’ radars for quite some time now. Following his averages of 21 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 51% from the field and 32% from deep, we expect even bigger things from Childs in his final year at BYU.

37. John Mooney – Senior F, Notre Dame

After not being a prominent player in the rotation in his first 2 years at ND, John Mooney took a huge step forward and was one of the lone bright spots on the team. He averaged 14 points and 11 boards per game and those numbers should only rise in his senior season.

36. Alpha Diallo – Senior F/G, Providence

Diallo was finally able to showcase an average three point shot last year, but there’s still so much for him to improve on. He’s one of the top returning players in the Big East without a doubt.

35. AJ Lawson – Sophomore G, South Carolina

AJ Lawson has all of the tools to be a 1st round draft pick in the NBA and like many players on this list already, he has yet to fully embrace his talent. We see him as a prominent player this season and one of the best young talents around the nation.

34. Killian Tillie – Senior F, Gonzaga

Injuries, injuries, injuries. That’s been the whole story unfortunately for Killian Tillie during his collegiate career. He has one of the best shots in the country and hopefully he can show people that and finally stay healthy.

33. Davide Moretti – Junior G, Texas Tech

Davide Moretti is one of the most consistent shooters in all of college hoops. The team is his and Kyler Edwards’s this year with Culver, Mooney, and others gone. Expect more great things from the Texas Tech backcourt.

32. Devon Dotson – Sophomore G, Kansas

Quentin Grimes wasn’t a huge success at Kansas to say the least. Devon Dotson didn’t live up to all of the hype, but we know what he’s capable of. It’s a revenge season for Devon Dotson coming. Big 12 teams beware.

31. Kellan Grady – Junior G, Davidson

Grady is one of the most efficient players in the Atlantic 10 having a 50/37/80 split in his freshman year. He took a bit of a dip last year, but expect that number to rise once again in his 3rd year at Davidson as Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson aim to lead the team back to the NCAA Tournament.

30. Xavier Tillman – Junior F, Michigan State

Michigan State is not only bringing back Cassius Winston, but also a plethora of impactful players including Xavier Tillman. Xavier made a huge leap last year and will need to take an even bigger one this next season with Nick Ward having moved on to professional ball.

29. Udoka Azubuike – Senior C, Kansas

An injury ended Azubuike’s season early, but before that he was absolutely dominating the NCAA. He may not have the all around game to succeed in the NBA, but look for him to tear through people in the post all year.

28. Naji Marshall – Junior F, Xavier

The percentages fell across the board for Naji Marshall last year, but that was because he was asked to do just about everything for that Xavier team. With a more experienced Xavier team and another year under his belt, Naji should be able to be a steady leader for an underrated Big East squad.

27. Joe Wieskamp – Sophomore G, Iowa

With Jordan Bohannon likely done for the season, Joe Wieskamp will have to step forward and attempt more than 7 shots per game. His splits were nice (49/42/77), and if he can sustain those numbers then watch out for Iowa to surprise teams again this year.

26. Ty-Shon Alexander – Junior G, Creighton

Another Big East member on this list. Ty-Shon Alexander is electric and can heat up in a HURRY. Consistency is the key for Ty-Shon, but expect him to average over 20 points per game and be one of the best three point shooters in the nation.

25. Antoine Davis – Sophomore G, Detroit

Antoine Davis should be a household name after his historic freshman season. He averaged 26.1 points per game and showcased one of the quickest first steps we’ve seen in a while from a college athlete. The reason why he is a little further down the list is because he still hasn’t fully been able to play to his speed. He shot 38% from deep which is sufficient, but inside the arc is where he has to be more patient. We’re ready to see these problems fixed though.

24. Neemias Queta – Sophomore C, Utah State

We were VERY surprised that Neemias Queta returned to Utah State. There’s work to be done on his game, but he’s someone that puts much fear into the opposition on a nightly basis. His freshman averages of 11.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game we bet will continue to improve this year.

23. Kamar Baldwin – Senior G, Butler

We have a lot of Big East guards on this list and Kamar Baldwin is no slouch. His defensive game is appealing and he continues to show glimpses on offense. Butler’s success this season will largely rely on Baldwin’s play.

22. Jon Axel Gudmundsson – Senior G, Davidson

We’ve mentioned his counterpart before, but now we discuss Jon Axel Gudmundsson. He’s an all around star for Davidson, a team that will be so fun to watch. He averaged just about 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game last year.

21. Tyler Bey – Junior G, Colorado

You might be surprised to see Tyler Bey’s name this high up on the list, but we just love his potential. He was the Pac 12 Most Improved Player last year and we believe that he’ll turn into a star this next year.

20. Charles Bassey – Sophomore F, Western Kentucky

14.6 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks were the averages for Charles Bassey in his freshman year. We expect it to be one more year until he heads off to the NBA and he’s definitely going to make this count.

19. Aaron Henry – Sophomore G, Michigan State

This might be our boldest position of all. Aaron Henry didn’t nearly have the season that we were all suspecting, but what he did show was promise. There is so much potential in his game and we believe he’ll start showing a better scoring ability than Joshua Langford very soon.

18. Tre Jones – Sophomore G, Duke

Man, the defense was there in full force from Tre Jones, his problem was just developing a consistent shot. We’re confident that he’ll bring one this year along with his incredible defensive ability. The only reason he isn’t higher on this list is because of that shot. Time for Tre to come in and prove doubters wrong.

17. Kaleb Wesson – Junior F/C, Ohio State

Kaleb Wesson is a big body and supremely skilled on offense. He developed a nice set three point shot last year and should continue to expand his game. Ohio State had a lot of young talent this previous season and should take an even bigger step forward in the 2019-2020 season.

16. Anthony Cowan – Senior G, Maryland

There were no seniors on the roster last year and Bruno Fernando was the only one to leave for the NBA. Maryland will be a force in the Big Ten led by their senior Anthony Cowan. Last year he averaged just about 16 points, 4 boards, and 4 assists per game. Those numbers should certainly move up.

15. Tyrese Haliburton – Sophomore G, Iowa State

Marial Shayok, Talen Horton-Tucker, Lindell Wigginton, and Nick Weiler-Babb are all gone. Iowa State is now Tyrese Haliburton’s team. He proved last year how consistent he can be and during this summer for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup U19 team he was stellar. You can bet this will be Haliburton’s last year at Iowa State before moving onto the NBA if he plays the way we expect him to play.

14. Lamar Stevens – Senior F, Penn State

If Lamar Stevens had a consistent three point shot, he would easily be in the top 10. That is his one fault. He’s strong, athletic, a good finisher, and has good defensive instincts. Lamar Stevens will be such a fun watch in his final year with Penn State.

13. Ayo Dosunmu – Sophomore G, Illinois

Ayo is one of the quickest players in the NCAA and is only beginning to harness his talent. He shot 35.2% from deep in his first year and showcased an all around game. In transition is where he thrives so expect Illinois to run a lot this season.

12. Tres Tinkle – Senior F, Oregon State

Tres Tinkle has been around for a while and has delivered each year for Oregon State. Ethan Thompson and Tinkle should be one of the best guard-forward pairs in the Pac 12, maybe even the nation.

11. Zavier Simpson – Senior G, Michigan

By now, you should know about Zavier Simpson’s running hook. Still not sure if we’ve seen him miss it. He’s one of the best playmakers in the nation as well and will need to expand his scoring with Iggy Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole, and Charles Matthews gone.

10. Jordan Ford – Senior G, Saint Mary’s

Right next to guys like Antoine Davis, Myles Powell, and Markus Howard, Jordan Ford is one of the best scorers in the nation. Ford averaged 21.1 points per game on 49/41/80 splits. He’s shifty, elusive, and has started to show the ability as a pick and roll distributor.

9. Jordan Nwora – Junior F, Louisville

Another decision to stay in college that surprised us was Jordan Nwora’s. He averaged 17 points and almost 8 rebounds per game. There’s no doubt that one of the best players in the ACC would be one of our top returning college basketball players.

8. Jalen Smith – Sophomore F, Maryland

Jalen Smith is one of the most talented power forwards in the NCAA. Two things we are looking for from him this year is rim protecting and outside shooting. With Bruno Fernando gone, Jalen Smith will fully control this front-court.

7. Sam Merrill – Senior G, Utah State

Sam Merrill is a pure shooter and has been tasked with doing just about everything for Utah State. While his percentages dropped last year, his scoring output and leadership quality rose. Utah State will have another fantastic year with Merrill and Queta still there.

6. Kerry Blackshear – Senior F/C, Florida

After 3 years at Virginia Tech (4 technically), Blackshear moves onto Florida where he should bring them tons of success in the SEC. We can’t wait to see Nembhard and Blackshear run some P&R action.

5. Jarron Cumberland – Senior G/F, Cincinnati

Cincinnati loses 2 of their veteran guards going into this season, but their best player, Jarron Cumberland, returns. He is one of the best iso players in the country and is no doubt a top 5 player in the NCAA.

4. Anthony Lamb – Senior F, Vermont

Anthony Lamb has to be one of the most underrated players in the nation. He has developed an outside game, has one of the best spin moves you’ll see, and can rebound very well for his size. He has the whole package and will look to carry Vermont back to the Tournament.

3. Myles Powell – Senior G, Seton Hall

It was tough to decide whether Myles Powell should be 3rd or 2nd on this list, but there was no argument for a later position. Powell is electric and nearly unstoppable once he gets going. Seton Hall is poised for a big year with Myles Powell leading the way.

2. Markus Howard – Senior G, Marquette

And here’s the final Big East guard on the list! Markus Howard is dynamic, elusive, and one of the most clutch guards we’ve seen at this level. You can bet that he wants another chance after Ja Morant and Murray State cleaned out Howard and Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

1. Cassius Winston – Senior G, Michigan State

This was the easiest ranking to make on this entire list. Cassius Winston made a bold decision to return his final year and now he aims to take Michigan State deep into the NCAA Tournament once again. Last year he averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists per game on roughly 46/40/84 splits. He can do it all, and that should continue this next season.


Thank you for reading our rankings! Let us know what you think by following us on Instagram @basketballsociety_ or on Twitter @bbsociety_. 


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