As a new calendar year dawns in college basketball, a competitive hierarchy is taking shape. Teams like UConn and Purdue are exceeding expectations to look like national title contenders while some others like Kentucky and Creighton have struggled to meet lofty expectations.
Along with revelations from a team perspective, the first two months of the season have also helped introduce us to some new star players. One of college basketball's best attributes is its depth; there are 363 Division I teams and each are allowed to carry up to 13 scholarship players. That means there are thousands of players jockeying for a chance to shine on the stage the sport provides.
As such, stars emerge from all across the nation and at multiple different levels of the game to exceed expectations and help their teams. In this season's first edition of the Star Power Index, we're going to explore who is shining the brightest.
This isn't a ranking of national player of the year candidates, a midseason All-American list or an NBA mock draft. Instead, this is an ode of appreciation of a select few players who have popped in a significant way to maximize their potential impact on the sport. This is the Star Power Index.
Zach Edey, Purdue
Edey registered at No. 8 in our Top 100 And 1 players ranking before the season, so it's not as if he's suddenly burst onto the scene. In many ways, this is a team award for a Boilermakers squad that began the season unranked only to rise all the way to No. 1 with victories over the likes of Marquette, West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke. While freshmen guards Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer have been magnificent, the best player for Purdue -- and maybe the best player in the country -- has been Edey. The 7-foot-4 center is seamlessly taking on additional minutes that were made available by the departure of Trevion Williams and is dominating on both ends of the floor.
🤯 OH MY GOODNESS 🤯@jerseymikes | @BoilerBall | @zach_edey— The Naismith Trophy (@NaismithTrophy) December 4, 2022
Jalen Wilson, Kansas
Kansas has barely missed a beat after winning the national championship, despite losing Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, Remy Martin and David McCormack. Wilson is a big part of the reason why. It was only natural to expect an increase in production from the versatile 6-8 forward this season, but Wilson is taking an ever greater leap than expected for the 12-1 Jayhawks. Averaging 21 points and 8.6 rebounds, he is leading the Big 12 in scoring and proving indispensable for a team that looks increasingly capable of defending its crown.
A little mix of some of the things Jalen Wilson has proven he can do as an initiator in the PnR this season.— On The Clock (@OnThe_ClockBB) December 27, 2022
His improved ability to create offense off the dribble is a considerable part of his evaluation.
My current POTY favorite & a very underrated draft prospect. pic.twitter.com/uOgs63SvxR
Brandon Miller, Alabama
This freshman class is full of players shining on the national stage, but none have been better than Miller. A year after Jabari Smith burst onto the scene at Auburn as a lanky and versatile forward with a silky 3-point stroke, Miller is doing the same for Alabama. Though it's been feast or famine at times from 3-point range for Miller, he's managed to make an impact even on the few nights when his shot has been off. For example, he hit 8 of 9 free throws during an otherwise quiet performance in a win over Houston. Against Jackson State, he pulled down a season-high 14 rebounds despite scoring only 10 points. Miller was expected to be good as the highest-rated player in Alabama's No. 4 ranked recruiting class. But the No. 14 overall player from the 2022 recruiting cycle has been ever better than expected.
Brandon Miller was huge for Bama down the stretch finishing with 19 points with 5 3PT and 11 rebounds 🔥 @brandmillerr pic.twitter.com/EJxT4oIVWm— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) December 29, 2022
KJ Williams, LSU
Williams won Player of the Year for the Ohio Valley Conference while helping lead Murray State to the NCAA Tournament last season. At this rate, he could end up in the running for SEC Player of the Year this season. Williams followed coach Matt McMahon to LSU and has been the Tigers' best player during a strong start. At 6-10, he's a true stretch big who can absolutely explode offensively. Look no further than his 35-point outburst in a December win over Wake Forest on a neutral floor as evidence. Williams sank 7 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc in that game. LSU played a relatively weak non conference schedule, and that will make it difficult for Williams to sustain his offensive numbers over the course of SEC play. But he's already helped recalibrate the expectations for what the Tigers can accomplish this season.
KJ Williams for THREE— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) December 29, 2022
📺 ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/PfZth9z49b
Jordan Hawkins, UConn
After averaging 5.8 points per game on just 35.3% shooting in 14.7 minutes per game last season, Hawkins might be the nation's top breakout star. The 6-5 guard is putting together an elite sophomore season, and his play is one of the top reasons why the Huskies are off to a 14-1 start. He's averaging 14.6 points and shooting 39.8% from 3-point range on 7.5 attempts per game. Big man Adama Sanogo has been the star he was expected to be for UConn. Hawkins was expected to take a significant leap but has evolved into one of the Big East's top stars for a team that looks capable of cutting down nets.
An impressive 22-point flamethrowing display by Jordan Hawkins tonight in UConn’s 74-66 win vs. Villanova. The 6-foot-5 sophomore is a dangerous weapon running off screens. Savvy with tremendous elevation and a quick trigger. Exudes pure confidence. Also added 7 REB & 2 STL. pic.twitter.com/H4Q2gAdwEE— League Him (@League_Him) December 29, 2022
Souley Boum, Xavier
Boum looked like a nice transfer pickup for Xavier after averaging 19.8 points per game for UTEP last season, but it was hard to see this coming. In three seasons for the Miners, he shot an effective but not elite 34.5% from 3-point range while averaging a pedestrian 2.5 assists per game. For the Musketeers, he's hitting 46.9% of his 3-point attempts and dishing out 4.6 assists per game. Boum is averaging 16.9 points and has reached double figures in all but one game for a Xavier team that is off to a 12-3 (4-0 Big East) start in the first season of coach Sean Miller's second stint. Boum has easily been one of the nation's top transfers.
Boum. Literally. pic.twitter.com/dBJhwrAxVC— Xavier Basketball (@XavierMBB) December 17, 2022
Keyontae Johnson, Kansas State
It has been a long time since Johnson played through the grind of a college basketball season. He served as a coaching assistant of sorts at Florida in 2021-22 while held out for medical reasons following a scary collapse he suffered in the fifth game of the 2020-21 season. In essence, the 2019-20 season was the last time we regularly saw Johnson on the court. That was three seasons ago, and while he was spectacular for the Gators that year and earned all-SEC honors, it was fair to wonder how good he would be at Kansas State this season. Well, he's been nothing short of spectacular while averaging 17.7 points for first-year coach Jerome Tang. The Wildcats are off to a 12-1 (1-0 Big 12) start, largely due to Johnson. He leads the team in scoring and is averaging 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals while making 56.9% of his shots.
🚨 NEVER A DOUBT 🚨#KStateMBB x @Keyontae pic.twitter.com/zNwXO1e7gu— K-State Men's Basketball (@KStateMBB) November 24, 2022
D'Moi Hodge, Missouri
Hodge is averaging more points, rebounds, assists and steals while shooting a higher percentage from the floor for Missouri than he did for Cleveland State last season. His spectacular start is a large part of the reason why the Tigers are off to a 12-1 start under first-year coach Dennis Gates. The Tigers' schedule was understandably light considering the circumstances of a new coaching regime and overhauled roster, but Hodge's performance so far suggests they will be competitive in the SEC. In wins over Illinois and Kentucky to close December, he made 14 of 25 shots from the floor and totaled 35 points with six steals. He is one of several players who have stepped their games up this season under Gates to reinvigorate the Mizzou program.
.@Dmoi_VI forces the turnover on one end and finishes with the 👌 on the other!— Mizzou Hoops (@MizzouHoops) December 29, 2022
Timeout Kentucky! #MIZ 🐯 pic.twitter.com/8sJf97DgE1
Jaelen House, New Mexico
House burst onto the scene as an All-Mountain West performer last season after transferring in from Arizona State. Through 14 games this season, he's taken his name to even greater heights while helping to key the Lobos' 14-0 start. House is averaging 17.1 points, 5.3 assists and 2.9 steals while shooting 48.6% from the floor and 47.5% from 3-point range. He leads the Mountain West in steals, is third in scoring and second in assists. The Lobos have already won more games this season under second-year coach Richard Pitino than they did last season. Plenty of others, including Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Morris Udeze, have been spectacular for New Mexico so far this season. But House has been the best.
Jaelen House doing Jaelen House things. #GoLobos— Lobo Basketball (@UNMLoboMBB) December 31, 2022
Watch on @FS1 pic.twitter.com/ScbmjGbged
Steven Ashworth, Utah State
There is absolutely no way that Ashworth can keep shooting this well, right? The junior is hitting 53.5% of his 3-point attempts and averaging 17.1 points per game for a 12-2 Aggies team that appears much-improved. Ashworth has nearly doubled his scoring average from last season and has hit at least one 3-pointer in every game. Among players attempting at least 2.5 3-pointers per game, Ashworth's percentage leads the country. And he is tied for fourth nationally in total 3-pointers made with 54.
STEVEHIM.— USU Men's Hoops (@USUBasketball) December 31, 2022
📺 @CBSSportsNet @stevenAsh_15 | #AggiesAllTheWay pic.twitter.com/nCQOnjbEVo