Fans of Big Ten basketball have been truly spoiled with a bevy of great post talents in recent years who have been able, if nothing else, to keep the conference’s reputation for tough, hard-nosed basketball intact.
With mega talents like Caleb Swanigan and Thomas Bryant likely headed to the pros after this season–following stars like Deyonta Davis and Diamond Stone last year–let’s take a look at who the conference’s next big men might be.
Big Ten’s Top 2017 Centers:
-Bruno Fernando (Maryland)
There are a number of highly ranked centers headed to Big Ten schools in the class of 2017, as listed by 247Sports.
The highest rated of those is 6’10 Bruno Fernando. The high four-star prospect currently plays at IMG Academy in Bradenton (FL), and has already signed a letter of intent to attend Maryland.
The Angola native was once committed to SMU, but flipped to Maryland following Larry Brown’s resignation. According to scouts, he has a very complete skill set.
Terps fans will be happy with Bruno Fernando next season.Good size, strong, can defend the post , can hit the outside jumper, etc.— Ballboy Hype (@ballboyhype) November 18, 2016
247Sports Josh Stirn wrote this in a piece($) on Fernando:
“Fernando is an athletic big man who will bring much-needed toughness and energy to Maryland. He’s a strong rebounder and is very bouncy for his size. He’s also a fluid athlete, showcasing quick spin moves and solid footwork in the post, which pairs well with his hook shot over his left shoulder. He’ll need to develop counter moves, but he should be effective near the rim and he’s shown lately that he can step out and hit jumpers from mid-range. With time, he could even develop into a long range threat and play some power forward in College Park. He already has the mobility to step away from the basket.”
Based on that, coach Turgeon and look like they’ll have a great piece to work with in Fernando come the 2017 season.
-Kaleb Wesson (Ohio State)
Next in the rankings is Ohio State commit Kaleb Wesson, who is a large human being. At 6’9, 290 pounds, Kaleb is a much different center than current starter Micah Potter.
Freshman Micah Potter, listed at 6-9, has settled in as a starter at center as a freshman. Wesson talked about how the OSU coaches see him fitting in.
“They said I bring something different to the table,” Kaleb said. “As long as I keep my low post scoring up and work on my body, they feel like I should fit in with the program.” - Via Steve Helwagen
Wesson has strong ties to the Ohio State program. His father played at OSU in the 80’s, and his brother, Andre, is currently a Buckeye, having joined the program in the class of 2016.
-Luka Garza (Iowa)
A very skilled offensive player, Garza brings the ability to score inside and out to the table. He is also someone with long arms who will give effort on the glass to secure rebounds.
Scouts also seem to think the Washington (DC) product is your prototypical modern center, who can be a force in the paint, but also move outside to shoot the three.
Garza has the ability to hit the mid-range jumper, and then also he is an excellent three point shooter. When he gets a clean look and his feet are set, Garza can almost be counted on to make the shot, no matter where he is on the court. - Via Scout’s Brian Snow($)
The only knock on Garza appears to be his athleticism, which may account for his lower rating.
The massive concern with Garza is that he struggles with athleticism. He doesn’t run the floor real well, and really struggles to defend in ball screen situations moving laterally.
This brings about the question, that quite honestly no one can answer right now. That is, will Garza be a big enough factor on the offensive end that he will make up for the obvious limitations that he has on the defensive end. - Via Scout’s Brian Snow($)
For now though, Iowa will be happy to get him on campus and start working with him. If he can develop quickly, and if Tyler Cook stays at Iowa as everyone expects him to, they could form a solid front court duo in Iowa City.
-Matt Haarms (Purdue)
The last of the centers currently committed to Big Ten schools is three-star Purdue commit Matt Haarms. He is 7’2, which is significant.
If Isaac Haas’ improvement over his career at Purdue is any indication, Haarms could end up being a really solid contributor for the Boilermakers down the road.
According to Travis Miller of Hammer & Rails:
Haarms previously played for a junior team in Spain, so he has a strong European flavor to his game. He is not the plodding big man like Purdue is used to with A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. He has a good perimeter game, but he will need to rebound and defend at Purdue because, duh, he is 7’2”. - Travis Miller
If you see his highlights, you’ll see that he’s very athletic for his height.
Brian Snow seems to agree with that sentiment:
"Matt is 7-foot-2 with perimeter skills," said Barnwell. "He is able to run well, shoot threes, drive the ball, and is a great passer. Matt is thin, but he is competitive and have a chance to grow into a really good college player and beyond." -Via Brian Snow
These are similar “He’s not as plodding as his height suggests” observations that people made about New York Knick forward Kristaps Porzingis before he entered the NBA. I’m not saying Haarms is going to be Porzingis because no one is Porzingis, but from the little we’ve seen and heard, he is at the very least an intriguing prospect that Purdue fans ought to be excited about.