10 high-major freshmen who could make an immediate impact

The college basketball season starts in less than a week and while we've have the pleasure of watching a few charity exhibition matchups between marquee programs, it all gets real on Monday evening. 

The new faces always bring the most intrigue and for this article, I'll spotlight 10 high-major freshmen who have a great chance of making an immediate impact for their respective programs.

Justin Edwards | Kentucky

To little surprise, Edwards is one of the first freshmen that come to mind when brainstorming this topic. He has garnered plenty of momentum early on as the potential No. 1 NBA Draft pick depending on where you look. The 6-foot-8 southpaw wing was named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame preseason's watch list for the 2024 Julius Erving award and a preseason first-team All-SEC selection. Edwards is an efficient three-level scoring threat who could enjoy a season similar to Brandon Miller of Alabama in 2022-23. If Edwards proves himself as an improved playmaker or initiator of the offense as the season progresses, those whispers of being a potential top overall pick in the 2024 draft will gain further traction.

Isaiah Collier | USC

Collier enters his collegiate career after being considered the top floor general in the 2023 high school class. Early signs point to him being an extremely productive freshman. For further indicators, Collier was named to the Bob Cousy Award watch list as well as a Pac-12 preseason first-team selection. Collier's impact and production throughout USC's foreign tour in Croatia and Greece gave us confirmation that his elite passing ability combined with his advanced feel as an orchestrator will translate seamlessly to the college level. Collier will have the ball in his hands plenty and be expected to engineer head coach Andy Enfield's offense as the Trojans look to make a run in the tournament.

Elliot Cadeau | North Carolina

If you follow the high school scene closely, you're familiar with Cadeau's name and ability as a crafty, high-IQ point guard. His decision to reclass from 2024 and join the Tar Heels this season will prove extremely valuable as head coach Hubert Davis was in desperate need of a player with Cadeau's skill set. He was another name included on the Bob Cousy Award watch list along with Collier and will be considered as a top point guard prospect on mock drafts. Cadeau is the type of table-setter that others love to play alongside. Whether he'll be operating in ball screens with Armando Bacot or establishing paint touches that result in kick-outs to shooters like RJ Davis, Paxson Wojcik or Cormac Ryan, expect the ball to be in Cadeau's hands more and more as he gains experience.

DeShawn Harris-Smith | Maryland

There has been plenty of Harris-Smith hype coming out of College Park. The 6-foot-5 guard is expected to spend some time on the ball for head coach Kevin Willard this season especially when senior point guard Jahmir Young is out of the game. Harris-Smith showed progression in his aspect throughout his senior season at Paul VI Catholic and while he still has plenty of overall polishing to do, the intangibles that he brings are what separates him from others. He's a physical presence on finishes around the rim, a competitor on the defensive end and a plus rebounder for his position. Playing in the Big Ten is perfect for Harris-Smith's style of play and the Terrapins will need all they can get in order to live up to expectation in Willard's second season as head coach.

Stephon Castle | UConn

Castle found his name among the list of players for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Preseason Watch List. Losing a key component of last year's national championship team in Andre Jackson left a massive hole for head coach Danny Hurley on the wing and Castle fills that void. You could make the argument that he has the opportunity and skill not only to make up for the defensive production left behind by Jackson, but also bring more of a playmaking ability on the ball on the offensive end. He uses his size at 6-foot-6 to expose mismatches and his knack for knocking down midrange jumpers off the bounce will be critical in operating in ball screens or freeing up others for clean looks.

Ja'Kobe Walter | Baylor

Year after year, head coach Scott Drew and his staff utilize their highly-touted freshmen in an effective manner that result in winning games and producing once they move onto the NBA. Walter looks to be next on that list. His versatility and nose for the ball on defense will put him in good graces with many from the start. Drew did an outstanding job in surrounding Walter with savvy veterans that will make his life easier on the offensive end to highlight what he does well and mask his shortcomings. Nevertheless, look for Walter to be one of the more impactful freshmen throughout college basketball in 2023-24.

Mackenzie Mgbako | Indiana

Despite early adversity for Mgbako off the court that resulted in a misdemeanor, he quickly returned to the floor for head coach Mike Woodson and stood out with 14 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two assists in his 25 minutes of action. Over Mgbako's high school career, there was plenty of discussion around whether he will thrive as a wing or more of a stretch four option at the college level. I think it's safe to say that as long as Mgbako can make shots from long distance and use his length to be versatile on the defensive end, he'll have a true argument as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year

Elmarko Jackson | Kansas

I expect plenty of growing pains for Jackson as he adjusts playing in head coach Bill Self's system in a senior-laden rotation, but there's no doubt that his combination of skill and athleticism put him in a position to be an impact. His jumper will be the biggest swing skill in whether or not he shines brightly as a freshman, but if he can show progress in this aspect, Jackson's stock will rise steadily as will the Jayhawks' chances of being national champions. 

Garwey Dual | Providence

The Friars have experienced a tough end to the month of October. First by losing 2024 commit Daquan Davis followed by a loss to East Carolina in a closed scrimmage. In the loss, Dual finished with nine points and four assists, but I'd expect his role and numbers to increase as the season goes on. He's a 6-foot-5 multi-positional defender who should mesh well in the backcourt with Devin Carter.

Rob Dillingham | Kentucky

Dillingham is one of the more electric playmakers in the entire college basketball landscape. His creativity with the ball allows him to create space from his defender whenever necessary. Dillingham followed up his 40-point explosion in the Blue-White game with 16 points and five assists in the exhibition win over Georgetown College. Dillingham will split the ball-handling duties alongside another freshman that could be included on this list in DJ Wagner, but I'm a believer that Dillingham's impact will be more consistent.

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