The 2014-2015 college basketball season tips off today, and there’s plenty of buzz surrounding numerous Latinos nationwide.
Shabazz Napier led Connecticut to a national championship last April, and claimed the No. 1 spot on our list all of last season. This year, a freshman sits atop our list. There are also several returnees from last year’s list and two transfers set to make instant impacts on their new teams.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, Freshman, Center, Dominican
Don’t let Towns’ youth fool you, he is the premier Latino in college basketball this year. It’s not even close. Towns has all the attributes you want out of a 7-footer: excellent length, tenacity on the glass, shot-blocking ability, skill around the basket, the ability to finish with either hand. Heck, Towns can even hit the occasional 3-pointer, too. Kentucky is ranked No.1 to start the season, and Towns is a big reason why. He may not average the most points or rebounds on this list because of Kentucky’s ridiculous depth in the frontcourt, but Towns is No. 1. Enjoy it while it lasts, though, which won’t be very long. Expect Towns to be one-and-done and an NBA lottery pick come June.
2. Daniel Bejarano, Colorado State, Redshirt Senior, Guard, Mexican
2013-2014 stats: 16.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.3 apg
Bejarano, despite being a 6-foot-4 guard, led the Rams in rebounding last season. He had nine double-doubles and four games with 15-plus rebounds. Let that sink in. Colorado State will have a deeper frontcourt in 2014-2015, but Bejarano should still be one of the better, if not best, rebounding guards in the country.
3. J.J. Avila, Colorado State, Redshirt Senior, Forward, Mexican
2013-2014 stats: 16.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.4 apg
Bejarano wasn’t the only Latino excelling for Colorado State, Avila shined as well. The Mexican forward had a memorable season for Colorado State after transferring from Navy. Avila led the Rams in scoring and assists and was second in rebounds. Avila is extremely versatile out of the frontcourt, and looks to lead a talented Colorado State team poised to rebound after a 16-16 season.
4. Angel Rodriguez, Miami, Redshirt Junior, Point Guard, Puerto Rico Native
2012-2013 stats (Kansas State): 11.4 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.5 spg
Rodriguez sat out this past season at Miami after transferring from Kansas State. The Puerto Rican point guard led Kansas State in assists in his two seasons in Manhattan, and gives Miami a seasoned veteran at point guard to facilitate their offense. Miami struggled this past season, going 17-16 a year after making the Sweet 16. Look for Rodriguez to make Miami competitive again.
5. Patricio Garino, George Washington, Junior, Wing, Argentina Native
2013-2014 stats: 12.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.6 spg, 56 fg%
Garino made significant strides as a sophomore after an impressive freshman campaign. Although he dealt with injuries and going from being a reserve to a starter, the Argentinian still impressed. Garino’s field goal percentage improved from 42 as a freshman to 56 as a sophomore and his defensive prowess was still in full effect (1.6 steals per game). George Washington returns four significant juniors, and they have the makings of producing at a high level in 2014-2015.
6. Cezar Guerrero, Fresno State, Redshirt Junior, Point Guard, Mexican
2013-2014 stats: 13.1 ppg, 3.5 apg
Guerrero is another player on this list that produced at a high rate after transferring. Guerrero started his career at Oklahoma State before transferring to Fresno State. Guerrero took advantage of his new surroundings to lead the Bulldogs in assists and steals, while also being third on the team in scoring. Guerrero is one of three double-digit scoring players returning for Fresno State, after going 21-18 this past season.
7. Emmy Andujar, Manhattan, Senior, Forward, Puerto Rican
2013-2014 stats: 8.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.2 apg, 53 fg%
Andujar was Manhattan's key sixth man on a 25-win, NCAA Tournament team. He also played his best basketball during the postseason, a good sign for this season. Andujar, Puerto Rican, averaged 13.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in four games (three in the MAAC Tournament, one in the NCAA Tournament). With several key players graduated (including fellow Puerto Rican Michael Alvarado), Andujar is Manhattan's returning leader in the following categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Andujar is primed for a breakout senior year, and could be utilized as a point-forward.
8. Jon Horford, Florida, Redshirt Senior, Center, Dominican
2013-2014 stats (Michigan): 3.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 56 fg%
Horford followed in the footsteps of his older brother, current Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford, and transferred to Florida. Horford spent the last four years at Michigan, but opted for a change of scenery after being seldomly used during his tenure at Ann Arbor. Horford is expected to patrol the paint for Florida as a starter, a role he’s been itching for. He should see his output increase as a Gator.
9. Michael Perez, Nevada, Redshirt Senior, Guard, Mexican
2013-2014 stats: 11.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.1 apg
Nevada struggled last year, registering a losing record at 15-17. But Perez, a transfer from UTEP, did his best to keep his team afloat. Perez was fourth on the team in scoring and second in assists. Deonte Burton and Jerry Evans Jr. graduated, and Cole Huff transferred, making Perez the only returning player who was a double-digit scorer. Perez will carry a heavy load next year, and should get plenty of opportunities to produce.
10. Jose Rodriguez, Texas Southern, Senior, Forward, Dominican and Puerto Rican
2013-2014 stats: 11.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 49 fg%
Rodriguez burst onto the scene in his first year of D-I basketball after transferring to Texas Southern after two years of junior college basketball at Gulf State College. Rodriguez, Dominican and Puerto Rican, was third on the team in scoring and rebounding on an NCAA Tournament team. Rodriguez played his best against high-major opponents. He averaged 18 points and six rebounds against Miami, Stanford, TCU, Temple and Texas Tech. With Aaric Murray and D.D. Scarver gone, Rodriguez will be the lone returning double-digit scorer for Texas Southern. Look for his role to expand this season.
Others to keep an eye on:
-Devin Booker, Kentucky, Freshman, Wing, Puerto Rican
-Michael Carrera, South Carolina, Junior, Power Forward, Venezuela Native
-Gian Louis Clavell, Colorado State, Junior, Guard, Puerto Rico Native
-Angel Delgado, Seton Hall, Freshman, Power Forward, Dominican Republic Native
-Eric Garcia, Wofford, Sophomore, Guard, Mexican
-Angel Matias, Georgia Southern, Senior, Forward, Puerto Rico Native
-Nehemias Morillo, South Florida, Junior, Guard, Dominican Republic Native
-Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Indiana, Junior, Power Forward, Colombia Native
-Anthony Perez, Ole Miss, Junior, Forward, Venezuela Native
-Chris Reyes, Utah, Redshirt Sophomore, Power Forward, Mexican