College basketball is being invaded by freaks.
Their wingspans seem to stretch from sideline to sideline. Their vertical jumps seem capable of clearing the hoop. They’ll torment you with their stifling defense and embarrass you with their unlimited offense. It’s like the Monstars from Space Jam came to life. The current crop of players includes some of the most spectacularly athletic ballers the sport has ever seen. If you happen to come across a game featuring one of these seven freakish stars, put down the remote and get ready for a show.
1. Hamidou Diallo Can Out-Athlete Anyone
Hamidou Diallo enrolled at the University of Kentucky during the middle of the 2016-2017 season. He practiced and trained with the team but did not participate in any games. Yet by enrolling early, Diallo technically made himself available for the 2017 NBA Draft. Since draft-eligible players can attend the NBA Draft Combine and still return to school, Diallo elected to do exactly that.
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He subsequently wowed NBA scouts with a superhuman performance that included a 44.5-inch Max Vertical Jump (second-highest in NBA Combine history), a 3.11 Three Quarter Sprint (third-best among 2017 Combine participants) and a 2.79 Shuttle Run (second-best among 2017 Combine participants):
The performance was enough for NBA experts to dub Diallo “the best athlete available in the draft” and project him as a first-round pick. But Diallo elected to return to UK, and Wildcats fans should be rejoicing he did. The 6-foot-5, 198-pound guard was a consensus five-star recruit coming out of high school thanks to his ability to turn elite athleticism into eye-popping production. UK head coach John Calipari is well known for helping UK players develop a style that makes the most of their athletic gifts, and Diallo is no different. He recently posted 23 points in an exhibition win over Morehead State, yet Calipari was disappointed that his young star took some ill-advised long-range shots.
“Hami shot 3s, and I took him out,” Calipari told Kentucky.com. “From that point on he drove the ball. He drove, he drove, he drove and then he got one 3 late in the game. That’s who he is. He will play that way, folks, and I love him to death, or he won’t play. But he will play that way.” If his high school highlights are any indication, Hamidou should be a human highlight reel for the Wildcats this season.
2. DeAndre Ayton Is 7-foot-1 With a 43.5-Inch Max Vert
The prospect of guarding DeAndre Ayton, a 19-year-old freshman center at the University of Arizona, is simply terrifying. He’s freakishly large, measuring in at 7-foot-1 and 260-plus pounds with a wingspan that stretches to nearly 7-foot-6. He’s impressively powerful, as he recently hit 19 reps on the 185-pound Bench Press test (the NBA Combine record is 27 reps). He also possesses jaw-dropping athleticism for his size, as he recently recorded a 43.5-Inch Max Vertical Jump. To top it all off, he can shoot and distribute the ball like a guard.
It’s like someone created a player in NBA 2K and turned every slider all the way up. Lord have mercy on any defender tasked with guarding Ayton this season.
3. Michael Porter Jr. is a Mix of KD and KG
Michael Porter Jr. is a really, really good basketball player. A 19-year-old freshman at the University of Missouri, Porter was ranked the No. 1 small forward in his class by ESPN. Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin recently described him as a combination of “Kevin Durant and Kevin Garnett.”
What makes Porter such a special player is his unbelievable combination of size and athleticism. While he measures in at 6-foot-10 (and is likely still growing), he has the ball-handling skills of a point guard. He also has a buttery jumper, as he shot 47 percent from 3 during his senior year of high school. Porter’s dad (now an assistant basketball coach at Missouri) is largely to thank for Jr.’s dazzling game.
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“Every night after we got done with dinner, we’d go out on the half court that we had. (My dad) put me along with my two sisters and brother through workouts every single night. I remember he had us only shoot from short ranges. He didn’t let me shoot 3’s until I was in fourth or fifth grade. He wanted my mechanics to be perfect,” Porter told STACK. “Starting that young and working on (my) ball-handling as a little kid—I grew taller and taller but I still had that ball-handling.” As the NBA continues to trend towards freakishly large players with unlimited athleticism (think Giannis Antetokounmpo or Ben Simmons), Porter has the look of a future star.
4. Mo Bamba Has the Wingspan of a 747
Mohamed Bamba, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Texas, has a 7-foot-9 wingspan. How big is that? Rudy Gobert, who’s believed to have the largest wingspan of any active NBA player, recorded a 7’8 ½” wingspan at the 2013 NBA Combine. Bomba also has a monstrous 9-foot-6 standing reach, which is just six inches shorter than the standard rim height. But Bamba is no plodding big man. He possesses extraordinary quickness and balance to go along with his freakish length. While he’ll make an immediate impact as a stifling rim protector, he can also initiate the offense and drain jumpers.
Bamba has added 15 pounds of muscle since arriving at UT and he now measures in at 6-foot-11, 225 pounds. His strength is catching up to his length, as he recently completed a Weighted Chin-Up with an additional 90 pounds (quite the feat when you consider how far he has to pull himself).
5. Marvin Bagley III Lives Above The Rim
Marvin Bagley III was once considered the top prospect in the class of 2018. Yet he reclassified earlier this summer, allowing him to become a member of the class of 2017 and making him eligible to play college basketball this season. He’s now a true freshman at Duke. Despite being just 18 years old, Bagley is expected to be a top-three pick in next year’s NBA Draft. He’s a 6-foot-11, 220-pound specimen who can occupy rare airspace on the basketball court. We’re talking about a kid who was throwing down in-game 360 dunks in eighth grade:
Bagley’s incredible hops give him a sort of gravitational pull, as any lob or rebound in his vicinity gets vacuumed up. Bagley’s got basketball in his blood, as his grandpa, Joe “Pogo Joe” Caldwell, was the second overall pick in the 1964 NBA Draft and reportedly had a 50-inch Vertical. Bagley might not be quite the shooter Porter is, but he’s plenty capable of taking over a game himself. His ceiling could be a more athletic version of Chris Bosh.
6. Collin Sexton is Bama’s Superhero Point Guard
Collin Sexton might be the single most electric player in college basketball. To make matters more intriguing, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound freshman point guard plays for an underdog program—Alabama. The Crimson Tide have made just one NCAA Tournament appearance in the past 11 seasons, but Sexton has the skills to change that. For starters, he’s fast as lightning. Alabama head coach Avery Johnson says Sexton is as fast as any player he’s seen at any level.
Sexton also has kangaroo-like hops, as he won the 2017 Powerade Jam Fest despite being the contest’s shortest participant. Past winners include Blake Griffin, Vince Carter and LeBron James. Sexton can really fly:
Sexton also has an awesome work ethic and a killer mentality. He’s capable of making Crimson Tide basketball must-watch TV for the first time in a long time.
7. Miles Bridges Can Dunk on Anyone
Miles Bridges made our list of freaks last year, and there’s no reason for the 6-foot-7, 225-pound sophomore forward from Michigan State to lose his spot. Bridges averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season en route to Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. It seems that Bridges hammers down at least one thunderous dunk every time he plays. Just how explosive is he? How many players do you know that can conquer the entire Vertec pole?
But Bridges isn’t just a one-dimensional dunking machine. He also shot 39 percent from three last season while averaging 1.5 blocks per game. While Bridges spent much of last season playing the four, he’s expected to start at the three this year. He’s dropped 15 pounds since last season by cutting out sugar and integrating more conditioning into his training. Those changes should help him fly even higher.
Photo Credit: Rebecca Sasnett for Arizona Athletics