By Conor Gereg
Sequels can be difficult. Trilogies? Unprecedented. Following up a remarkable season at the college level has become a rarified accomplishment, both due to the early entries into the professional ranks and player movement within the sport.
Those not only continue to compile gaudy numbers but also accumulate statistics year after year deserve some recognition. With the hope that we’re treated to a college season still very much in the air, here are a handful of returning stars who, should they get the opportunity, will certainly post statistics that jump off the stat sheet.
Jhivvan Jackson – UTSA – Senior – A two-time C-USA team recognition, Jackson can fill it up and will enter this season having already broken the 2,000 point plateau. The Puerto Rico native averaged 26.2 PPG for the Roadrunners though at just 6’0”, Jackson reeled in 5.6 rebounds. Comparisons to Lou Williams come to mind when fans see Jackson’s natural scoring ability and innate skill in getting a shot off in even the most challenging of situations, evinced by topping the league in field goal attempts, free throws, and offensive plus/minus. 2019-2020 saw Jackson break UTSA’s single-season scoring record; a full 2020-2021 slate would allow Jackson the rare chance at breaking his own remarkable mark of 856 points. College hoops needs to happen simply so we can witness Jackson’s scoring prowess once more.
Kevin Marfo – Texas Tech – Senior – Marfo will call Lubbock his third campus as his college tenure has been an interesting one. Beginning his career at George Washington, Marfo played sparingly though the 6’8” 250 lb. goliath’s metrics would suggest he was worthy more minutes (12.1 PPG & 12.5 PRG per 40 minutes played). The New Jersey native did however compile numbers during his sophomore and junior campaigns at Quinnipiac, leading the nation in rebounds per game last year with 13.3 boards per contest. Marfo will see added competition with the Red Raiders this winter though a career 24.6 rebounding percentage suggests that Marfo has the transferable skills that can impact the game at a high-major level.
Benjamin Stanley – Undecided – Junior – A 6’6” swing man who started just two games as a red-shirt freshman, Stanley saw his minutes more than triple this past season, going from 10.5 MPG as a rookie to 35.1 this past year. With the added playing time came immediate production, leading the Hampton Pirates of the Big South in minutes played, field goals (led the entire NCAA), points, and finishing 2nd in win shares. A dominant rebounder, 7.2 RPG, Stanley will enter this season with an eye on upping his free throw shooting, converting a mere 64% of his attempts at the charity stripe. Hampton will lose senior guard Jermaine Marrow (24.8 PPG) so it seemed ideal that Stanley would carry the Pirates next year but instead he’ll add his name to the transfer portal where rumblings of Maryland or Georgetown seem to be growing louder. Stanley will apply for an immediate eligibility waiver citing his desire for in-person academics this fall. Regardless of when or where Stanley suits up, he’ll be sure to author another year of eye-popping statistics.
Hayden Koval – UNC Greensboro – Senior – A 3-time Southland All-Defensive Team Selection, this 7’0” anchor can block shots at an elite level, and now playing up a level in the Southern Conference, Koval will have a chance to display his shot blocking prowess for the Spartans following his transfer from Central Arkansas. Koval finished 4th in the nation last season, rejecting 3.1 shots per game, and in just three seasons at UCA Koval found his 272 career blocks 10th all-time in conference history. Wes Miller and company will also get an opportunity to extend Koval’s skillset at the offensive end, developing the big man’s shooting range after showing he could convert from distance (31 three-pointers in 2019-2020). Koval checks all the boxes of a modern big man whose impact is felt all over the court.
C.J. Walker – UCF – Sophomore – Clearly Walker doesn’t deserve to be on this list for anything he’s accomplished thus far. Instead, Walker’s name is here because of what he can do this season. Walker, the Oregon transfer, will make his way to Orlando this fall to be closer to family during the pandemic. With his arrival the UCF program will welcome its highest ever rated recruit. A five-star talent out of high school, the 6’8” forward totaled a paltry 4.0 PPG and 2.5 RPG through 28 games in Eugene though he’ll see immediate minutes under Johnny Dawkins. The Knights finished a disappointing 16-14 (124th in the NET) last season following the departures of stalwarts like B.J. Taylor, Aubrey Dawkins, and Tacko Fall. Walker’s impact in Orlando will be immediate.