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Top Latinos in NCAA Men’s Basketball

Santiago Vescovi holding the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats in a game during the 2019-20 season. (📸Photo Credit: Mark Zerof - USA Today Sports)

With the 2022-2023 NCAA college basketball season right around the corner, a lot of speculation has arisen over the biggest questions for the upcoming year: Who are the top contenders? Which teams will make the biggest jumps and declines? Who are the top players in the country now? With a growing abundance of Latino players entering the ranks of college basketball over the past decade, many of these same players are now entering the ‘big question’ conversations. As a preview of the upcoming season for these players, my ranking of the top Latinos in men’s college basketball is below. 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Nick Guadarrama – FIU

Info: Year – Senior, HT – 6’5″, WT – 250 lbs., POS – Power Forward, BRN – Newington, CT

2021-22 Stats: 12.7 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 2.7 assists per game, 43% field goal, 30% 3-point shooting

Now a 5th-year senior, Guadarrama finished his career with a solid senior season at New Hampshire, contributing as the secondary scorer on a solid Wildcats squad that finished fourth in the America East. Despite being just 6’5″ at the forward position, he is a tank at 250 lbs and a beast in the paint, averaging an impressive 5.2 rebounds per game. Now, the big man is due for an even bigger role on Florida International as a ‘supersenior,’ a team looking to rebound from a lowly 15-17 record this past season.  

Geronimo Rubio de la Rosa – Columbia

Info: Year – Sophomore, HT – 6’2″, WT – 170 lbs., POS – Point Guard, BRN – Santiago, DR

2021-22 Stats: 12.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 39% fg, 32% 3pt

Rubio de la Rosa likely has the most promising career ahead of any player on this list. Despite not having the most eye-popping stats, the Ivy League guard is only a freshman and has clear potential in his future. He quickly rose in the ranks within the conference, earning a starting spot on the Lions and an Ivy League Freshman of the Week award. Though progress can be made, the Dominican product has shown plenty of promise in his highlight performances, including four 20+ point performances, and an exciting season awaits him. 

 

10. Daniel Ortiz – North Alabama

Info: Year – Sophomore, HT – 6’0″, WT – 180 lbs., POS – Point Guard, BRN – Shreveport, LA

2021-22 Stats: 14.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 39% fg, 34% 3pt

Although North Alabama had an abysmal season (9-21, 2-14), freshman sensation Daniel Ortiz was one of the bright spots for the disappointing Lions squad. Ortiz was far and away the highest scorer on the team (despite only starting 16 of 30 games) and quickly established his role as a leader for the squad, appearing in all 3o games of the season and averaging the 3rd most minutes per game on the team. Ortiz’s impressive freshman showing will hopefully continue into year two as the Lions look to improve on their lowly season and jump back into the conversation in the ASUN conference. 

9. Noah Fernandes – UMass

Info: Year – Senior, HT – 5’11”, WT – 175 lbs., POS – Point Guard, BRN – Mattapoisett, MA

2021-22 Stats: 14.9 ppg, 2.8 rbs, 5.3 apg, 44% fg, 36% 3-pt

Ever since transferring from Wichita State to home state UMass, Fernandes has gotten the opportunity to shine. After averaging just 1.4 points per game in his freshman year with the Shockers, the experienced guard has made tremendous leaps in just two years and is now the top scorer for the Minutemen. Going into his final potential season, Fernandes will look to improve on his already solid stat lines and take the gritty UMass squad into a plus-.500 territory after a mediocre 15-17 season. 

8. Xavier Castañeda – Akron

Info: Year – Senior, HT – 6’0″, WT – 188 lbs., POS – Point Guard, BRN – Chicago, IL

2021-22 Stats: 13.6 ppg, 3.6 rbs, 2.3 apg, 41% fg, 37% 3-pt

Castañeda may be the most underrated player on this entire list. Despite having consistently solid numbers, the rising senior has yet to receive national attention for his skill and impressive feats. As a junior, he led the Zips to a MAC Tournament Championship and March Madness bid before a near upset win over the UCLA Bruins in the first round. Although Akron is a non-Power five school, they are loaded with talent, and headlining this coming year will be Castañeda, who hopes to lead Akron back to a postseason bid. 

7. Jayden Martinez – North Texas

Info: Year – Senior, HT – 6’7″, WT – 215 lbs., POS – Power Forward, BRN – Cibolo, TX

2021-22 Stats: 14.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 47% fg, 42% 3-pt

Jayden Martinez made steady progress over the course of his four years at New Hampshire and now boasts the highest point and rebound average on the team, with very impressive shooting splits to go along with it. His great numbers have led him to one final college year in home state North Texas, where Martinez will try to push the Mean Green back into a March Madness berth after an NIT appearance last year. 

6. Jose Perez – Manhattan

Info: Year – Senior, HT – 6’5″, WT – 220 lbs., POS – Small Forward, BRN – Bronx, NY

2021-22 Stats: 18.9 ppg, 3.2 rbs, 4.5 apg, 40% fg, 26% 3-pt

Perez possesses the highest season scoring average of any Latino player from the past season, with nearly 19 points per game for the Manhattan Jaspers (good for top 50 in the nation). After a great start to his career at Gardner-Webb, Perez transferred to Power 5 Marquette for his junior year but saw very little time, leading him back to the smaller Manhattan, where he once again got the opportunity to shine. With a final year ahead of him, the sky is the limit for Perez, before he likely joins the professional level.

5. Aaron Estrada – Hofstra

Info: Year – Senior, HT – 6’3″, WT – 190 lbs., POS – Shooting Guard, BRN – Woodbury, NJ

2021-22 Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rbs, 5.0 apg, 48% fg, 33% 3-pt

Estrada has bounced from school to school since entering the college ranks, having been a part of three teams (Saint Peter’s, Oregon, Hofstra) in three years. However, Estrada has looked far and away most comfortable with the Pride, now averaging over 18 points and shooting near 50% from the field in a starting role as he led Hofstra to a 21-11 record last year, good for third in the Colonial, although Estrada will seek for more this season.

4. Hunter Maldonado – Wyoming

Info: Year – Senior, HT – 6’7″, WT – 203 lbs., POS – Point Guard, BRN – Colorado Springs, CO

2021-22 Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rbs, 6.3 apg, 50% fg, 25% 3-pt

Maldonado finally unleashed his full potential this past year as a 5th-year senior, with career-highs in points, assists, field goal percentage, and minutes. He was also part of a one-two combo with Graham Ike (19.5 ppg) and is running it back with Ike for a final 6th season as they look to rebound from a First Four loss to Indiana.

3. Andre Curbelo – St. John’s

Info: Year – Junior, HT – 6’1″, WT – 175 lbs., POS – Point Guard, BRN – Vega Baja, Puerto Rico

2021-22 Stats: 7.5 ppg, 3.1 rbs, 3.2 apg, 33% fg, 18% 3-pt

Much of the promise shown from Curbelo during his two college years at Illinois has been due to his freshman season, where, despite playing alongside big names like Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, he stepped into a leading role and averaged 9, 4, and 4 while shooting 50% from the field. After a sophomore slump season where nearly every major stat category dropped for Curbelo, he decided to transfer to a different environment and will look to return to his best form at St. John’s.

2. Santiago Vescovi – Tennessee

Info: Year – Senior, HT – 6’3″, WT – 191 lbs., POS – Point Guard, BRN – Montevideo, Uruguay

2021-22 Stats: 13.3 ppg, 4.4 rbs, 3.2 apg, 41% fg, 40% 3-pt

Vescovi has been an anchor for Tennessee for all three seasons he has been there, with steady numbers each year and holding it down from the guard position for the Volunteers (he started 77 of 81 games in his career). Despite leading Tennessee to a 27-8 record and No. 3 seed in the tournament, the team’s dreams were cut short in an upset loss to No. 11 Michigan, where Vescovi only had 5 points. Going into next season, the Uruguayan guard will, without a doubt, be the top leader of the squad as they look to return better than before. 

1. Jaime Jaquez Jr. – UCLA

Info: Year – Senior, HT – 6’7″, WT – 225 lbs., POS – Shooting Guard, BRN – Camarillo, CA

2021-22 Stats: 13.9 ppg, 5.7 rbs, 2.3 apg, 47% fg, 28% 3-pt

Jaquez is one of the most talented players in the country going into next year. With fellow guard Johnny Juzang, Jaquez did plenty of damage in his first three years, including a Final Four appearance in 2021. As UCLA looks to rebound from a Sweet 16 loss in the 2022 tournament, Jaquez will need to be the one who will step up as the best player on the Bruins while upholding his high bar of being one of the best players in the nation. With a great mix of pure skill and solid experience, he will surely do all he can to lead UCLA as close as they can to a championship. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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