Bronny James tops list of highly anticipated college basketball debuts

ByKalan Hooks ESPN logo
Sunday, December 10, 2023

Less than five months after suffering cardiac arrest, Bronny James is set to make his debut for the USC Trojans against Long Beach State Beachon Sunday.

James, a top-20 recruit in the class of 2023, committed to USC over the Ohio State Buckeyes, Oregon Ducks, Kentucky Wildcats, Memphis Tigers and Michigan Wolverines. He bolstered one of coach Andy Enfield's most anticipated recruiting classes, which included the top player in James' class, Isaiah Collier.

James, son of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, has collected a massive social media following since elementary school with more than 7 million Instagram followers. James and his younger brother, Bryce, became YouTube sensations while playing AAU basketball with the North Coast Blue Chips.

He developed into a four-star recruit while playing for one of California's premier programs, Sierra Canyon High School.

There's no shortage of hype surrounding James' first collegiate game. Here are some other highly anticipated debuts from the past decade:

JuJu Watkins, USC Trojans

Like James, Watkins built her legacy at Sierra Canyon, taking high school basketball by storm. Watkins became the first woman to sign with Rich Paul's Klutch Sports agency.

She committed to USC in summer 2022 before being awarded Naismith Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year. On her senior night, Watkins scored a career-high 60 points.

In her USC debut, Watkins recorded 32 points in 31 minutes with an 83-74 win over No. 7 Ohio State.

Paige Bueckers, UConn Huskies

Bueckers began to go viral on social media with her ability to keep the ball on a string, leaving defenders clueless about her next move. She crowded the gyms at AAU tournaments and sold out her high school games at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Bueckers committed to UConn after winning a state championship in 2019, leading to an invitation to Stephen Curry's "SC Select" basketball camp for the top high school basketball prospects in the country.

When the top-ranked guard arrived on the collegiate basketball scene, she had a solid debut in a 79-23 win over the UMass Lowell River Hawks. She tallied 17 points, nine rebounds and five steals and assists each.

Zion Williamson, Duke Blue Devils

Williamson became a human highlight reel for Spartanburg Day School and the South Carolina Supreme AAU program, his thunderous slams going viral on social media. Layup lines included a dunk showcase from Williamson, drawing comparisons to LeBron James.

He was a five-star recruit and in the top 10 of his class when he committed to Duke in January 2018.

In his Duke debut, Williamson had 28 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes in a 118-84 win over then-No. 2 Kentucky.

Lonzo Ball, UCLA Bruins

The Ball brothers became a hot story during the 2015-16 high school season -- Lonzo Ball was the main character.

Ball led Chino Hills High School to a 35-0 record and averaged a triple double en route to a state title. He was a five-star recruit and among the top ranked players in the country for his class.

In his UCLA debut, Ball put up 19 points and 11 assists -- more than the opposing team total -- in a 119-80 win against the Pacific Tigers.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas Jayhawks

Wiggins, a native of Thornhill, Ontario, caught fans' attention at 13 years old when a highlight reel from the ScoutsFocus Elite 80 camp dropped on YouTube, gaining over five million views.

The hype started to rise around the forward when he dropped 28 points in a 81-80 win overtop-ranked Julius Randle and the Texas Titans at the Nike Peach Jam.

Videos on YouTube added even more attention. Wiggins' highlight reel from his senior year at Huntington Prep School generated 7.5 million views on YouTube.

When he arrived in Lawrence, Kansas, Wiggins put his hops on display during the Jayhawks' midnight madness dunk contest, increasing the anticipation of his debut against the UL Monroe Warhawks.

He dropped 16 points and three steals in the 80-63 win.

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