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Power Ranking the Top 25 Incoming College Basketball Freshmen

Thad NovakCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2013

Power Ranking the Top 25 Incoming College Basketball Freshmen

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    In the fast-changing environment of college basketball, one superstar freshman can turn an also-ran into a Final Four contender. The incoming 2013 recruiting class has plenty of potential difference-makers, but which ones will shine the brightest next season?

    One arriving freshman who looks ready to dominate is Kentucky-bound guard Aaron Harrison. The shooting guard half of the Harrison twins has the shooting touch to score over a defense and the toughness to slice through it and get to the rim.

    Herein, a closer look at the Wildcats’ new 2-guard and the rest of the 25 most impressive freshman joining next season’s rosters. In addition to evaluating the future stars for on-court skill and raw athletic ability, these rankings favor players who will have a chance to make an immediate impact over those who will be scrambling for minutes in the early going.

25. Marcus Lee, Kentucky

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    Athleticism: A-

    Even at 220 pounds on a 6’9” frame, Marcus Lee needs more muscle, but he runs the floor wonderfully for a post player and has good leaping ability.

    Skill: B-

    His offensive skill set doesn’t go much beyond dunking, but he does have good shot-blocking instincts.

    Opportunity: D-

    In Kentucky’s ludicrously talented frontcourt, Lee is a third-stringer.

     

24. Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

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    Athleticism: A

    Demetrius Jackson is stronger than his 6’1” build suggests, and he has the quickness to match all but a very few elite point guards.

    Skill: B+

    His shooting range needs work, but as a penetrator and playmaker he’s terrific.

    Opportunity: C-

    There won’t be many minutes behind Jerian Grant, and with Eric Atkins able to handle the ball as well, Jackson’s chances go down even further.

23. Robert Hubbs, Tennessee

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    Athleticism: A

    Robert Hubbs has the length (6’5”) and leaping ability to be a top-notch finisher, and he’s got great toughness for a wing player.

    Skill: C+

    His jump shot is moving in the right direction but still needs a good deal of work.

    Opportunity: B-

    Jordan McRae will be the main man for the Vols, but Hubbs should be able to pick up some of the backcourt minutes created by Trae Golden’s transfer.

22. Dakari Johnson, Kentucky

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    Athleticism: B

    Strength isn’t an issue for hulking Dakari Johnson, but the 6’10”, 250-lb center is short on agility and speed.

    Skill: A

    He knows how to use his size as a rebounder, and he’s got one of the best low-post offensive games of any 2013 freshman.

    Opportunity: C

    Being a true center will help him carve out a niche on the overcrowded Wildcats, but he’s stuck behind Willie Cauley-Stein either way.

21. Zak Irvin, Michigan

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    Athleticism: B

    Although he has respectable size as a 6’6” small forward, Zak Irvin is nothing special as an athlete.

    Skill: A+

    Irvin’s three-point shot is the best in the recruiting class, and he knows how to get open.

    Opportunity: C

    He’s such a good fit in Michigan’s system that John Beilein will have to find playing time for him, but he’s battling for minutes against similarly-skilled, more-experienced Nik Stauskas.

20. Isaiah Hicks, North Carolina

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    Athleticism: A-

    He can outrun most other power forwards with ease, but Isaiah Hicks will need to put on quite a bit of muscle to compete in the ACC.

    Skill: B-

    He’s a promising shot blocker, but offensively he hasn’t developed much in the way of shooting touch or low-post moves.

    Opportunity: A-

    There should be enough minutes alongside James Michael McAdoo that both Hicks and fellow freshman Kennedy Meeks get their shares.

19. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona

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    Athleticism: A+

    There won’t be a more physical small forward in the country than Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who also has outstanding quickness.

    Skill: B+

    He’s a phenomenal defender and a good passer, but his jump shot needs a lot of work.

    Opportunity: C+

    Arizona’s frontcourt is extremely deep, and the presence of low-post beasts such as Kaleb Tarczewski will make it tough for Hollis-Jefferson to do much scoring even when he does get on the floor.

18. Chris Walker, Florida

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    Athleticism: A

    Chris Walker has astonishing quickness and leaping ability, but 205 pounds is awfully, awfully skinny for a 6’10” power forward.

    Skill: B

    His sensational timing as a shot blocker helps balance out an offensive game that's almost nonexistent.

    Opportunity: B

    He’ll need to beat out a solid veteran in Will Yeguete before he can earn a starting job, though that’s a battle he’s entirely capable of winning.

     

17. James Young, Kentucky

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    Athleticism: A+

    The best pure athlete in the recruiting class, James Young is a 6’6” small forward who’s stronger than some of the power forwards on this list.

    Skill: A

    He’s a first-class scorer with a solid jump shot, and his ballhandling gives him an edge over most wing players.

    Opportunity: C-

    John Calipari spent all of last season trying to make Alex Poythress a go-to scorer, so the starting job will be Poythress’ to lose even with a star of Young’s caliber waiting in the wings.

16. Jarell Martin, LSU

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    Athleticism: B

    He’s a fine leaper, but 6’8” Jarell Martin isn’t all that big or strong by SEC power forward standards.

    Skill: A-

    Very good shooting range for the power forward spot, all the more so by comparison to other freshmen.

    Opportunity: A-

    He’s good enough to outshine Johnny O’Bryant III as LSU’s top offensive weapon, especially with veteran point guard Anthony Hickey to set him up.

15. Aaron Gordon, Arizona

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    Athleticism: A+

    A rare freshman power forward who brings actual power, Aaron Gordon also features great speed and can jump out of the gym.

    Skill: A-

    He handles the ball well and dunks at an NBA level, but he’s not a top-tier shooter.

    Opportunity: C+

    Gordon’s a natural power forward who wants to dominate from the low block, but Brandon Ashley will be starting at the 4 and Kaleb Tarczewski is the Wildcats’ best post option.

14. Bobby Portis, Arkansas

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    Athleticism: B+

    Like so many freshmen at the power forward spot, Bobby Portis needs more bulk, and his mobility is merely good rather than exceptional.

    Skill: B+

    He’s got a very slick mid-range game, though both his three-point shot and his post moves have plenty of room for improvement.

    Opportunity: A

    Portis will be the Razorbacks’ best offensive player by a wide margin, but a lack of point guard help will make his job tougher.

13. Austin Nichols, Memphis

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    Athleticism: B-

    Austin Nichols will need to carry a lot more than 205 pounds on his 6’9” body to compete in the AAC, especially in the absence of extraordinary mobility.

    Skill: A+

    Not only does he have plenty of scoring moves, but he’s a first-rate passer out of the post.

    Opportunity: A-

    Tarik Black’s transfer opens up minutes for the youngster, but there aren’t a lot of shots to go around in a deep Tigers lineup.

     

12. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse

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    Athleticism: B-

    By point guard standards, Tyler Ennis is just barely quick enough to get by, and his 6’2”, 180-pound frame doesn’t translate into a lot of power.

    Skill: A

    One of the class’ best ballhandlers, Ennis is also an excellent passer who knows how to read a defense.

    Opportunity: A+

    Syracuse is in dire need of backcourt help, and Michael Carter-Williams’ vacant point guard spot is tailor-made for Ennis.

     

11. Wayne Selden, Kansas

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    Athleticism: B+

    Wayne Selden is a runaway train at 6’5” and 220 pounds, but he doesn’t have the leaping ability of many top shooting guards.

    Skill: A

    He has legitimate three-point range, though his shot is merely very good rather than great.

    Opportunity: A-

    Andrew Wiggins is going to make it tough for any other Jayhawk to make a big impression, but Selden does have a starting job waiting for him.

     

10. Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s

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    Athleticism: A

    Rysheed Jordan has the quickness to compete at point guard, but he makes a much bigger impression with the power he gets out of his 6’4”, 180-pound body.

    Skill: B

    He’s a solid passer, but neither his jumper nor his decision-making skills are at the same level as the class’ best point guards.

    Opportunity: A+

    St. John's is desperate for help at the point, and Jordan will have the benefit of feeding experienced, high-powered scorers such as D'Angelo Harrison.

9. Noah Vonleh, Indiana

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    Athleticism: A-

    One of Noah Vonleh’s biggest assets is his leaping ability, but the 6’8” power forward doesn’t have Big Ten bulk yet.

    Skill: A

    His shooting touch and ballhandling are both well ahead of most big men, freshman or otherwise.

    Opportunity: A-

    There’s no established star in front of him, but returnees such as Hanner Mosquera-Perea will provide lots of competition for minutes.

8. Kasey Hill, Florida

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    Athleticism: A

    Kasey Hill is vulnerable to being outmuscled even by other point guards, but his speed and quickness are second to none.

    Skill: A

    A wonderful ballhandler and passer, Hill is also a respectable jump shooter.

    Opportunity: B+

    Scottie Wilbekin’s suspension may let Hill get a foot in the door as a starter, but even if he comes off the bench, he’s got a solid team around him.

7. Joel Embiid, Kansas

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    Athleticism: A+

    It’s rare to see a true seven-footer who can run or jump like Joel Embiid, and he’s got decent power as well.

    Skill: B+

    He’s such an aggressive shot blocker that he can be caught out of position despite his good instincts, and his post moves need a lot of improvement.

    Opportunity: A

    He’ll step right into Jeff Withey’s starting job in Lawrence, and should do for the Jayhawk defense what Andrew Wiggins will do on the other end of the floor.

     

6. Julius Randle, Kentucky

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    Athleticism: A

    Julius Randle is a true power forward with great strength and enviable leaping ability, but he doesn’t run the floor quite as well as some of this class’ big men.

    Skill: A

    He’s not the best defender out there, but his polish and versatility as a scorer is second to none among freshmen.

    Opportunity: A-

    Randle is so good that he’ll carve out a major role for himself even in the crowd at Kentucky, but there are a lot of great players fighting for touches on that roster.

     

5. Jabari Bird, California

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    Athleticism: A

    Jabari Bird is a high flyer at shooting guard with big-time dunking ability and impressive quickness.

    Skill: A-

    Basketball IQ isn’t his strong suit, but he has a terrific shooting touch.

    Opportunity: A+

    Allen Crabbe’s graduation leaves a starting spot ripe for the taking alongside standout distributor Justin Cobbs.

     

4. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky

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    Athleticism: A

    Like his more celebrated twin brother, Aaron Harrison packs both power and quickness on his 6’5” frame.

    Skill: A+

    Not only is he a fantastic shooter with three-point range, but he’s also got very good defensive instincts.

    Opportunity: A+

    Kentucky’s backcourt is bare after last season, so both Harrison twins will be starting and getting enormous numbers of minutes and touches.

3. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky

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    Athleticism: A

    Andrew Harrison is going to be one of the strongest point guards in the country, and he’s got big-time quickness even at 6’5”.

    Skill: A+

    There isn’t a better freshman floor leader out there, and only a couple of upperclassmen who are anywhere near his league.

    Opportunity: A+

    Point guard went from being Kentucky’s biggest weakness to a major strength as soon as Harrison signed.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke

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    Athleticism: A+

    Built like a power forward at 6’8”, 220 lbs, Jabari Parker has the fluidity of a wing player to go with his toughness.

    Skill: A+

    Parker can defend multiple positions, shoot the three or beat opponents off the dribble.

    Opportunity: A+

    Duke needs a new leader after losing a slew of seniors, and point guard Quinn Cook will make sure Parker has every opportunity to excel.

1. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas

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    Athleticism: A+

    Andrew Wiggins has the explosiveness of a dunk-contest favorite, but he’s also strong enough to handle bigger forwards.

    Skill: A+

    There isn’t a more complete player in the class of 2013.

    Opportunity: A+

    A Kansas team that lost five starters gets a plug-and-play superstar, supported by a promising distributor in Naadir Tharpe.

     

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