College basketball’s top 10 super seniors: Villanova’s Collin Gillespie lead group back for bonus season


More than a year and a half after the arrival of COVID-19 forced the cancelation of the 2020 college basketball postseason, the fallout from relaxed eligibility rules due to the pandemic will finally be felt in the season ahead. With the pandemic lingering into the 2020-21 season, those who played last year could choose not to count the season against their four seasons of eligibility. That means 2021-22 rosters are dotted with so-called “super seniors,” who were technically seniors last season but were eligible to return for another year of college basketball. 

Not all seniors took advantage of the relaxed eligibility rules, as many decided to move on with their lives after completing their undergraduate degrees. But many programs are poised to benefit from the expanded eligibility rule in the season ahead as they welcome back players who they had once planned on losing by now. Other programs are capitalizing in a different way by welcoming transfers who are using their bonus season of eligibility at new schools.

With the 2021-22 season rapidly approaching, let’s take a look at the 10 super seniors poised to make the biggest impact on the sport.

Villanova reached the Sweet 16 even after losing Gillespie late in the regular season to a torn MCL. With their veteran floor general back for a bonus season, the Wildcats are tied for the second-best national title odds in the nation at 12-1, per Caesars Sportsbook. Gillespie was a freshman on the 2018 national title team, has played in 118 games over his college career and will be in the running for All-American honors. He could prove to be the nation’s top point guard, so long as he stays healthy.

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After scoring 1,754 points in 118 games over four seasons at Arizona State, Martin spurned professional options to play a final season of college basketball at Kansas. The Jayhawks have one of the nation’s deepest rosters, but the 6-foot guard figures to play a prominent role in KU’s effort to reclaim Big 12 supremacy from Baylor. He may not average 19.1 points per game like he did for the Sun Devils, but Martin will no doubt have the basketball in his hands at crucial times in big games.

The former junior college transfer took a major step last season as a senior and is set to take another one during his super-senior season as the Mountaineers replace leading scorers Miles McBride and Derek Culver. Sherman averaged 13.4 points per game in just 24.3 minutes per game while making only six starts. He earned All-Big 12 honorable mention status, despite the relatively limited role, and will be even more productive as a full-time starter this season.

Grady earned first-team All-Atlantic 10 honors as a senior at Davidson as he surpassed 2,000 career points in his fourth season with the Wildcats. The 6-5 guard is a proven outside shooter who can reach scoring spots inside the arc as well. He should add a desperately needed offensive prowess to a Kentucky team that struggled to shoot well last season and could end up being a prominent figure in the NCAA Tournament.

Bohannon already holds the Iowa record for 3-pointers made, assists and games played at 143, yet he is coming back for more.  After receiving a medical redshirt for the 2019-20 season due to an injury that limited him to 10 games, the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 10.6 and 4.4 assists on 39% 3-point shooting in 2020-21. He is the leading returning scorer on a team losing Naismith Player of the Year Luka Garza and sidekick Joe Wieskamp. That means Bohannon will be shouldering a major offensive load.

With first-team All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu and fellow back court starter Adam Miler departed, Frazier is set to take on a greater offensive role in his fifth season with the program. The 6-foot-2 guard made the Big Ten All-Defensive team last season and has demonstrated offensive firepower throughout his career. He could flirt with reaching 2,000 career points if he stays healthy and the Illini make an NCAA Tournament run.

Brooks’ productivity took a hit last season as opposing defenses focused their efforts on the 6-foot-10 forward following his breakout junior year. Perhaps a change of scenery will benefit the former second-team All-ACC performer. Brooks’ father, George Brooks, is an assistant for Mississippi State and Garrison figures to be a key cog for a program that needs to show progression under sixth-year head coach Ben Howland.

Getting Brooks back for a fifth season was a huge boost to the outlook of a talented but transitioning Wolverines roster. The 6-foot-1 guard can play on or off the ball and is a solid outside shooter and defender. Having a veteran guard on the floor who knows what coach Juwan Howard wants should help immensely as Michigan gets the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class up and running.

The versatile 6-foot-7 forward played the best basketball of his college career down the stretch last season as the Yellow Jackets mounted a late charge to reach their first NCAA Tournament since 2010. If Georgia Tech goes back to the Big Dance, Usher will inevitably be a major reason why. With leading scorers Jose Alvarado and Moses Wright moving on, Usher assumes the role of elder statesman and could be in line for an All-ACC type of season.

Watson enjoyed a breakout 2020-21 season, averaging 16.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in his first season as a full-time starter. The 6-foot-10 center figures to be the focal point of Providence’s offense again this season as the Friars try to make it back to the NCAA Tournament.

Honorable mentions

Brady Manek (North Carolina), Darius Perry (UCF), Marcus Santos-Silva (Texas Tech), Alfonso Plummer (Illinois), Alonzo Verge (Nebraska), Fatts Russell (Maryland), Jermaine Samuels (Villanova), John Fulkerson (Tennessee), Jacob Young (Oregon), Bryce Nze (Butler)

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