20 Incredible Facts About the Incoming College Basketball Freshman Stars
As high school graduations are taking place across the country, college basketball offseason coverage continues on at a high level.
This is not a time to take off. This is a time to look ahead to what will be happening in the upcoming season.
The following is a list of 20 incredible statements, details and facts about incoming college basketball freshmen. The list comes from ESPN's Top 100.
20. Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)
One of my favorite quotes says, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” It comes from Chuck Swindoll, an evangelical pastor.
What do top level recruits do when frustrating events take place? Sometimes they turn them into career nights.
Ennis' high school coach, Mark Taylor, said, “We were pissed, our team was pissed. Tyler was upset.”
19. Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington)
Nigel Williams-Goss is respected as an exceptional floor leader with an outstanding hoops IQ. He has not, however, been thought of as a long-distance sharpshooter in his high school playing days.
His ESPN.com scouting report (subscription required) says, “His jump shot is just fair at this stage and he lacks lift on his shot.” It also says, “His pull-up game and range on his jump shot needs to get much more consistent as well.”
Incredible fact: In spite of his status as an average shooter, Williams-Goss stepped up at the McDonald’s All-American game three-point competition. He prevailed, winning it all, beating Duke-commit Matt Jones.
18. Isaiah Hicks (North Carolina)
Great players have big games when championships are on the line.
Isaiah Hicks, future UNC Tar Heel, has had no shortage of highlight reel moments during his high school years.
Incredible Fact: In Hicks’ final high school contest, the North Carolina state championship game, he went berserk. The 6’8” power forward put up 34 points, grabbed 30 rebounds and blocked seven shots.
17. Rysheed Jordan (St. John's)
Sometimes, legendary performances still aren’t enough. Even once-in-a-lifetime games don’t always turn out as expected.
Incredible Fact: Rysheed Jordan did everything he could do for his Vaux H.S. squad in the Philly Public League finals. Redstormsports.com reported that the St. John’s-bound PG put up 46 points with six rebounds, six steals and six assists in a 67-66 loss to Imhotep.
Jordan won’t have to carry that kind of load for SJU head coach Steve Lavin. The Red Storm return almost everyone from their 2012-13 crew.
16. Bobby Portis (Arkansas)
Success begets success.
A tried and true recruiting strategy among college coaches is to go after players who are not only talented but who come from winning teams.
Incredible Fact: Bobby Portis has individually thrived during his high school career, but he has also helped his Little Rock Hall (AR) High School team succeed. This past season, Hall won its fourth consecutive state championship. Can you say “four-peat?”
Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson is banking on Portis bringing both his skills and his successful ways to Fayetteville.
15. Austin Nichols (Memphis)
There are many ways to make an important decision. Most people collect information, talk things over with family and friends and go check things out firsthand.
Five-star PF Austin Nichols did all that and more before he decided where he was going to sign.
Incredible Fact: CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello reported that before Nichols made his final decision, he and his dad put together “a 58-page report on all of the schools.”
After a long, involved recruiting process, Nichols decided to stay home and play hoops at Memphis.
14. Wayne Selden (Kansas)
Tracking college basketball recruiting classes is a roller coaster ride.
13. Noah Vonleh (Indiana)
Reclassifying has become a big trend in college basketball recruiting. Elite-level players in one recruiting class are jumping forward to the next recruiting class more and more often.
Incredible Fact: Noah Vonleh was the No. 1 PF in the 2014 recruiting class until he decided to reclassify. Without missing a beat, Vonleh was still one of the most sought after recruiting targets in this year’s class. He still ended up in the top 15 of the gifted Class of 2013.
Once Vonleh had made his decision to reclassify, Indiana head coach Tom Crean was able to leverage the fact that Vonleh had been a major recruiting focus for a long time.
12. Chris Walker (Florida)
Being a high-flying, slam dunk contest winner is a nice accomplishment.
Being the McDonald’s All-American Dunk Contest winner is even better.
That’s good company to be in, right?
11. Jarrell Martin (LSU)
When Jarrell Martin decided to commit to LSU, he advanced the Tigers’ hoops program significantly and put them in a place of being competitive in what should be a fierce 2013-14 SEC race. The local product is good enough to push this group of incoming freshmen to the No. 9 ranking on ESPN.com’s Insider Class Rankings (subscription required).
Incredible Fact: Martin is already being projected as a possible late first-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft. ESPN’s Chad Ford states (subscription required) that Martin “can play both the 3 and the 4, is a good rebounder, runs the floor well” and is a “strong finisher around the basket.”
What Martin and the Tigers do in the upcoming season will determine whether he is one and done or not.
10. Kasey Hill (Florida)
Kasey Hill is one of the best pure point guards in the country. His game is slashing, gashing and creating. He finishes at the rim as well as just about any other guard in the country, or he can drive and kick to open teammates on the perimeter.
Incredible Fact: As the point guard for Montverde Academy, the nation’s No. 1 team, you would think that Hill would have a good shot at winning the 2013 Florida Mr. Basketball award. However, Hill did not receive that award.
Actually, Joel Berry, a junior from Lake Highlands in Orlando, won the award for the second year in a row. Chris Walker, another UF signee, was runner-up and RaShawn Powell (Memphis) was third.
9. Aaron Harrison (Kentucky)
Aaron Harrison is one half of one of the best college basketball brother tandems in a very long time. He is the No. 1 shooting guard in the 2013 recruiting class.
As he arrives in Lexington with UK’s legendary group of recruits, some might think that they would be a pampered and coddled crew. Maybe not.
Incredible Fact: Actually, John Calipari is already raising the bar for the freshmen phenoms. In a WKYT interview, Calipari let his expectations for Aaron Harrison be known: "Big guard, can score the ball, should be and will be and is expected to be, and will be demanded to be a lock-down defender."
The message is clear: Offense is not going to be enough.
8. James Young (Kentucky)
James Young is a dynamic small forward on his way to being a member of one of the most anticipated teams in recent memory: the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats.
Incredible Fact: ESPN recruiting director Paul Biancardi recently discussed what Young can do besides simply scoring points:
He can contribute in other ways. He rebounds. He keeps the ball moving on offense. He’s not just looking for his shots. He does things within the flow of the offense. He does things to be productive and executes the offense well. He has a good feel for the game and great instincts. He realizes when he’s open and when he’s not. He does not take many bad shots.
With all of the elite-level talent on this one team, players like Young will have to look to impact the games in multiple ways.
7. Dakari Johnson (Kentucky)
There aren’t nearly as many centers in college basketball as there used to be. Most teams play with a forward or two down low. But players who actually fit the role as center are becoming fewer and far between.
In four seasons at Kentucky, John Calipari has never had a center. He's had some big guys, sure, but none of them have ever had a "C" next to their name on the UK roster. Calipari's list of post players includes DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, Nerlens Noel and several others. They were forwards all.
It will be interesting to see how Johnson’s presence will alter the Cats offensive patterns and sets.
6. Joel Embiid (Kansas)
It wasn’t long ago when Joel Embiid was considered an unknown on the national recruiting scene. He has made quite a jump from being unranked to a middle-of-the-pack player to a Top Ten star.
Incredible Fact: Embiid is not just a top ranked player in the Class of 2013; he is now being thought of as a big-time NBA prospect for the 2014 draft. Chad Ford has him listed at No. 7 on his Top 100 Draft Prospects of 2014 list and said this about him (subscription required):
It might be a bit of a stretch to slot Embiid with the players mentioned before him. Maybe. He's a legit 7-footer with a 7-5 wingspan who is a great athlete and has a frame that should really fill out. It's rare to find players of his size with the athletic ability he possesses. He also happens to be quite skilled and has a soft touch around the basket, and he even can step out and shoot 3s.
5. Andrew Harrison (Kentucky)
Andrew Harrison is listed as the No. 1 PG in the 2013 recruiting class. He has the size and skills to be amazing right off the bat.
Part of what makes Harrison an exceptional floor leader is his well-established confidence. He is sure of his abilities and poised under pressure.
But there is a point where confidence turns into brashness and presumption
Incredible fact: USA Today’s Jason Jordan asked eight Jordan Brand Classic All- Americans (including Harrison) how they would fare in a one-on-one matchup against Michael Jordan.
Harrison is quoted as saying that he would beat Jordan 11-7, and that, “I think he’d (Jordan) get a couple buckets here and there, but then I’d start to lock him down and give him buckets. Yeah, I think I’d get him.”
Could this be anything other than blatant sarcasm?
4. Aaron Gordon (Arizona)
Aaron Gordon is a multi-talented, super-athletic player who upgraded Arizona’s chances of making a deep run in the 2014 NCAA tournament by choosing this spring to play for the Wildcats.
Gordon demonstrated his superior skills when he was selected as the 2013 McDonald's All-American game MVP. In that game, the 6’8” forward scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Incredible Fact: During interviews following the announcement of his decision to attend the U of A, Gordon let it be known that he would like to play on the perimeter. NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster suggested that the Wildcats would be better off with Gordon playing PF.
However, because of the versatility of Arizona’s frontcourt talent, which also includes Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the label that is attached to where Gordon plays may not be significant.
3. Julius Randle (Kentucky)
More and more incoming freshmen are being slated as preseason All-Americans before they ever play a game at the collegiate level.
On a yearly basis, at least a handful of players are projected by a variety of national media outlets to be the best players for the upcoming college basketball season.
Incredible Fact: Kentucky’s Julius Randle was named to ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan's 2013-14 pre-offseason All-Americans list. He was placed on the third team, along with Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon (also a freshman) and Louisville’s Chane Behanan.
While Randle may perform at a higher level than this in the upcoming season, it is, by no means, an overestimation to place him on this list.
2. Jabari Parker (Duke)
Jabari Parker is, without a doubt, the kind of player that does not come around every year or even every couple of years. His talent and basketball IQ elevate him to another level of consideration than simply identifying him as the No. 2 player in the 2013 recruiting class.
Incredible Fact: Much has been said in comparing Parker with Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 player among this year’s incoming freshmen. In most cases, Wiggins has been designated as the superior athlete, and therefore, the superior player.
ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan looks at it differently. He said, “Parker might be more skilled, more cerebral, more of an inside-out offensive clinician and ultimately a perfect fit for a Duke team that needs to replace both Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly in its frontcourt.”
1. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)
If you are rated higher than the guy who was, just a short time ago, slated as the "best high school player since LeBron James," you must be pretty good.
Incredible Fact: Andrew Wiggins was the No. 1 player in the 2013 recruiting class and no one is disputing that ranking. Actually, many college basketball analysts want to go further.
ESPN’s NBA Draft analyst reported that an unnamed NBA GM said, "Wiggins is one of the three or four best prospects in the last decade. He has the ability to completely turn around a franchise. All 30 teams would take him with the No. 1 pick if they could."
That’s quite a statement for a player who started out last season in the 2014 recruiting class before deciding to reclassify.