With the Baylor Bears defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs 86-70 to win the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament and to earn the club’s first ever title, attention now switches to July’s NBA draft and which college players could potentially make the step-up as NBA stars of the future.
Cade Cunningham, formerly of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, is declared for the 2021 NBA draft and is the projected No. 1 pick at odds of -275 with Bovada*. The 19-year-old point guard is the leading prospect going into the draft.
The 6 ft 8 in Cunningham won the Wayman Tisdale Award as the top freshman in college basketball. He also led the Big 12 in scoring with 20.1 points per game, which was the fourth-highest mark by a freshman in league history.
He also ranked in the top 10 in rebounding (6.2, ninth), field goal percentage (.438, eighth) and free throw percentage (.846, third).
Evan Mobley is a 19-year-old, 7 ft 0 in center who played for the USC Trojans alongside his older brother Isaiah.
At the close of the regular season, Mobley was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. in doing so, he became the second player from a major conference to win the trio of awards, following Anthony Davis of the Southeastern Conference in 2012.
Jalen Suggs has already etched his name into the NCAA history books following a buzzer-beating 3 points in OT, after three dribbles and a great shot from about 40 feet to give the Gonzaga Bulldogs a 93-90 victory over UCLA in the Final Four.
The athletic 19-year-old, 6 ft 4 in point guard or shooting guard was a key man in the Bulldogs run to the championship final with his leadership and playmaking skills and ability to make aggressive drives to the paint.
Keon Johnson is a 19-year-old, 6 ft 5 in shooting guard who played for the Tennessee Volunteers. Johnson was named to the SEC’s all-rookie team after averaging 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 25 minutes per game.
Johnson was regarded as one of the most explosive players in the college basketball game, with his ability to accelerate from a standstill and get off his feet for dunks and blocks. There were also increasing signs of his ability as a ball-handler in pick and roll situation and creativity as a passer.
Davion Mitchell is a 22-year-old, 6 ft 2 in point guard who played for the Baylor Bears.
Mitchell paired with Jared Butler for the Bears to form what was regarded by many observers as the best backcourt in the country.
Mitchell evolved into a more complete player as the season progressed, as he took on a bigger offensive role and he was a significant factor in Baylor’s championship success.
Jalen Johnson, the 19-years-old with the Duke Blue Devils opted out of the latter weeks of the college season to declare himself for the NBA draft in mid-February after an injury-hit campaign.
The 6 feet 9 inch small forward suffered a foot injury early in the season and only returned to play three games off the bench.
In 13 games for Duke, Johnson averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
Corey Kispert is a 22-year-old, 6 ft 7 in small forward who played for the Gonzago Bulldogs.
He didn’t have his best game of the season in the recent NCAA championship game against the Baylor Bears, where he only scored 12 points on 12 field goal attempts and struggled defensively.
Despite that, he was the best three-point shooter in the NCAA, averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 45% from beyond the arc.
Kispert has proven decision-making abilities with the ball and he’s also a very capable finisher around the basket with either hand, hitting 63% of his 2-point attempts.
Franz Wagner is a 19-year-old, 6 ft 9 in shooting guard who played for the Michigan Wolverines.
The Berlin native is the younger brother of Moritz Wagner, a former Michigan standout who now plays in the NBA for the Boston Celtics. He has played for the German youth national teams, including winning a gold medal at the 2018 Albert Schweitzer Tournament.
He proved to be the most vital cog on the Wolverines’ roster, excelling as both a playmaker and versatile defender.
Ayo Dosunmu is a 21-year-old, 6 ft 5 in point guard who played for the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Dosunmu, born in Chicago to Nigerian immigrant parents, was a consensus first team All-American and the winner of the Bob Cousy Award, presented to the nation’s top point guard.
Dosunmu averaged 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, while shooting 39% from 3-point range and led the Fighting Illini to the Big Ten Conference tournament title.
During his time at Illinois, he became renowned for his late-game heroics, including making 50% of his field goal attempts in the final five minutes of regulation or overtime last season.
Jared Butler is a 20-year-old, 6 ft 3 in point guard who played for the Baylor Bears.
Butler was the team’s leader at Baylor in their national championship success and was their most creative and reliable player with his excellent all-around game.
He averaged 16.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game over the season.
As a junior in 2021, he was named a consensus first-team All-American and was also named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player (MOP).
Luka Garza is a 22-year-old, 6 ft 11 in center who played for the Iowa Hawkeye.
Garza averaged 24.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in the 2020-21 season, at the end of which he was again named Sporting News Player of the Year. In doing so, he became the first repeat winner since Michael Jordan in 1983 and 1984.
Although a great college basketball player, Garza’s lack of mobility is expected to mean that he is likely to be a second-round pick in the draft.
All of these players will be chasing the dream of winning the NBA Championship one day.