The reality of contemporary college basketball is that most elite freshmen arrive on campus expecting to be one-and-done en route to the NBA. Whether that expectation becomes reality, though, isn’t always such a given.
One elite prospect who will have a particularly tough decision to make is Arkansas forward Bobby Portis. The 6’9” scoring PF is ready for the NBA in a lot of ways, but he could also stay in school as the linchpin of the Razorbacks’ rebuilding effort.
Read on for a look at Portis’ likely decision, along with the rest of the stay-or-go projections for the freshman campaigns of each of Rivals.com’s 5-star prospects.
Weighing in at a mere 200 pounds, Jermaine Lawrence is going to have a tough time earning minutes at the beginning of his Bearcats career.
Titus Rubles and Justin Jackson have the advantages of both experience and muscle, and Lawrence is likely to spend most or all of 2013-14 coming off the bench.
Even as a stretch 4, Lawrence will need to pack on weight before he makes the jump to the NBA. Despite his impressive jump shot and terrific mobility, he’s not ready for one-and-done consideration.
The demand for true centers in the NBA far outstrips the supply at any given time.
That situation forces teams to draft center prospects before they’re necessarily ready to contribute, and provides a tremendous incentive to players with the size of 6’11”, 230-pound Joel Embiid to jump to the league as fast as possible.
Embiid is a future star who’s already a world-class shot blocker with great athleticism.
Considering the draft success of Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel, who were two defensive specialists with less offensive potential than he has, the Jayhawks’ new center has every reason to make his stay in Lawrence a brief one.
There’s not much doubt that Zak Irvin’s three-point shot is ready for the NBA right now. The rest of the 6’6” SF’s game, though, hasn’t yet caught up.
Irvin has the potential to be a good deal more than a designated three-point specialist, but that’s all he’s equipped to become right now.
Factor in the limited minutes he’ll see while playing behind Nik Stauskas (another top-notch marksman), and Irvin won’t have much to offer the pros after his first year in Ann Arbor.
It’s not impossible to make it as an NBA 2-guard without an effective three-point shot, but it is awfully difficult. Robert Hubbs hasn’t developed one yet, and he won’t have an easy time doing so in his debut season as a Volunteer.
Tennessee’s offense is going to revolve around a different shooting guard, rising senior Jordan McRae. Hubbs, for all his dazzling dunking ability, isn’t going to get enough shots to make himself a serious draft candidate until McRae is gone.
In many ways, Tyler Ennis is an ideal candidate for a one-and-done career.
The heady point guard is walking into a guaranteed starting job in the depleted Syracuse backcourt, he’ll have a wealth of scorers up front to turn his passes into points, and he can showcase his aggressive defense in the Orange's 2-3 zone.
However, Ennis doesn’t have the athleticism that NBA scouts want to see in a point guard, and he’s not a wonderful shooter, either.
Even at 6’2”, he’ll be a borderline candidate for the pros even with experience, and it’s hard to imagine him doing enough as a freshman to erase those doubts.
Few players have more factors working against the possibility of a one-and-done season than Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Perhaps the most obvious of them is his lack of a reliable jump shot, not a trivial concern for a small forward.
Indeed, Hollis-Jefferson’s glue-guy skill set—rebounding, passing, overpowering defense—is far better suited overall to a four-year career like his brother Rahlir’s at Temple.
He’s also unlikely to get all that much playing time this season, when Arizona’s frontcourt will be one of the deepest in the nation.
When point guards have gone the one-and-done route (Derrick Rose, Marquis Teague, etc.), it’s generally been set up by a Final Four run. As much talent as St. John's has, the Red Storm isn’t going to get Rysheed Jordan that far in his debut season.
Jordan has the size (6’3”) and athletic ability to be a serious pro prospect at point guard, and he’s a good bet to shine as a freshman with athletes such as Jakarr Sampson to feed.
Even so, establishing himself as a leader is going to be a significant challenge, and establishing himself as a winner on a national scale will have to wait at least one more season.
If it weren’t for Grant Jerrett, there would be almost no chance of Marcus Lee going pro after his first season as a Wildcat.
The athletic 6’9” Lee is going to be buried on a deep Kentucky bench, and even the departure of Kyle Wiltjer for Gonzaga won’t free up enough minutes to let him put on much of a show.
However, when Jerrett found himself in a similar position at Arizona last year, he declared for the draft despite having played just 17.8 minutes per game.
As Jerrett was rewarded with the 40th overall spot on the draft board (courtesy of the Trail Blazers), it’s entirely plausible that Lee will go pro just to escape the logjam in Lexington.
SMU coach Larry Brown is notorious for leaving an existing job as soon as a better offer comes along.
The well-traveled bench boss will likely be getting a taste of his own medicine next spring, when freshman guard Keith Frazier decides whether to ditch the Mustangs in favor of NBA riches.
Frazier has the length (6’5”), athleticism and shooting ability to hold his own as an NBA 2-guard.
He’s going to put up monster numbers in the otherwise-iffy SMU offense, and it’s hard to see the Mustangs playing well enough in the postseason to convince him to stick around for another year.
Austin Nichols is a power forward with iffy size (6’8”, 200 lbs) and more skill than athleticism. That’s rarely going to be an NBA-bound package in the first place, and Nichols has other factors working against his chances of a one-and-done season.
Memphis has perhaps the deepest backcourt in college basketball, and even the point guards (Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford) are serious scoring threats.
Nichols’ best asset is his own scoring punch, and he’ll get precious few touches to demonstrate it in this lineup.
Like so many college power forwards, Isaiah Hicks’ biggest issue as a pro prospect is his height (6’8”). He’s barely tall enough to be considered as a potential 4 at the next level, but he doesn’t have the skill set to play the small forward spot.
On top of those issues, Hicks’ biggest contributions to North Carolina next season are likely to come in transition, and fast-break dunks aren’t what NBA scouts come to see.
He needs to develop a serious jump shot or the bulk to bang with bigger post players, and he’s not close enough to either goal to be ready to leave Chapel Hill after one season.
Bobby Portis is right on the borderline of being a smart one-and-done decision.
The 6’9” PF has NBA athleticism and better strength than most freshmen, but he’s probably not ready to excel against the constant double-teams he’ll face as Arkansas’ only offensive weapon.
It’s entirely possible that Portis’ decision will come down to whether he thinks the Razorbacks of the future will have a better chance to win than next year’s undermanned squad.
Considering that coach Mike Anderson has already reeled in verbal commitments from two ESPN100 recruits for 2014, the chances are good that he’ll be able to convince his PF that the team’s best years are ahead of it.
Predicting what Isaac Hamilton will do after the 2013-14 season is highly premature, considering that no one knows where he’s going to play this season.
Hamilton has asked to be released from his commitment to UTEP so that he can play closer to his Los Angeles home, but Miners coach Tim Floyd has denied the request.
Assuming Hamilton plays somewhere next season, he’s an excellent candidate to go pro afterwards thanks to a silky jump shot and an athletic 6’5” frame.
Unless he winds up at UCLA (where he’d be fighting for touches with Jordan Adams), expect him to join older brother Jordan in the NBA next summer.
Jarell Martin is all but guaranteed to be a star at LSU. He’s a scorer on a team that needs offense, a mobile complement to burly Johnny O’Bryant III in the low post and the biggest recruiting coup of Johnny Jones’ young career as the Tigers head coach.
He’s also a 6’7” power forward, and no amount of college success is going to change that math.
Unless he develops a substantial perimeter game—unlikely to happen at all and virtually impossible in his college debut—he won’t be heading to the NBA at all, let alone after his freshman year.
For every strong point in Wayne Selden’s pro portfolio, there’s a corresponding negative to undermine it.
He has NBA strength but not NBA quickness, he has great shooting touch but not elite range, and he gets to the free-throw line but doesn’t make enough of his shots there.
Just for good measure, his first year in college is going to see him get scoring chances, but not enough of them. With Andrew Wiggins commanding the spotlight in Lawrence, Selden will be a sidekick, and that’s not a role that leads to much NBA draft buzz.
From the standpoint of his physical tools, James Young is ready for the NBA. The best all-around athlete in the freshman class would be a great addition to an All-Star Weekend dunk contest, and he’ll have his chance sooner rather than later.
Even if Young doesn’t get much playing time in the crowded Kentucky frontcourt, he’ll show enough ballhandling and shooting ability to get some pro team to snap him up as a 6’6” swingman.
He’s a scorer without being selfish, an asset which will become clear on the deep Wildcats and should endear him to the NBA.
Scottie Wilbekin’s loss may well be Kasey Hill’s gain. With senior Wilbekin suspended indefinitely, freshman Hill has a good chance to snatch the Gators’ starting PG job before the veteran returns.
That opportunity would be just the break the fleet-footed Hill needs to overcome his 6’0”, 170-lb size and dash into the NBA.
He’s got great quickness and passing ability, a respectable shot and (with enough minutes next year) a chance to lead a terrific Gators team deep into the NCAA tournament.
Even an NBA power forward would have his work cut out for him trying to move 6’10”, 250-pound Dakari Johnson off the low block.
Just as important to Johnson’s pro hopes is the impressive repertoire of scoring moves he has to draw on once he gets the ball in the post.
However, Johnson doesn’t run the floor especially well, and his game is very much played below the rim. Unless he drastically improves his mobility next year, he’ll be staying in Lexington for his sophomore season.
A combo forward at this stage of his development, Noah Vonleh has definite potential to slide outside to the SF spot as a pro. He’s already got a solid jump shot and good ballhandling ability, and he’s an imposing scoring force from the mid-range and in.
However, he’s still learning how to play away from the paint, and he isn’t a playmaker on defense even on the inside. Until he gets more adept at staying in front of opposing scorers, he’s not going to have enough to offer an NBA team.
Aaron Harrison has a singular opportunity to impress NBA scouts next season.
As the best pure shot-maker (and the only true shooting guard) on a likely Final Four team, he’s going to get to show what he can do in the clutch as well as putting up high-end numbers overall.
At 6’5”, 205-pounds, Harrison has respectable size for a pro SG to go with his outstanding jump shot and strong finishing ability.
If Kentucky fails to win a title this year, both Harrison twins might opt to stay in Lexington, but the bet here is that they’ll both choose to go pro (as champions or otherwise).
As a power forward who can jump out of the gym and dunk anything he can catch, Chris Walker warrants comparison to Clippers star Blake Griffin. Both are 6’10” shot-blocking threats, but there’s one glaringly obvious difference between them.
Griffin weighs in at a massive 251 pounds, where Walker carries just 205 pounds on his slender frame. The Gators freshman will need to close that gap substantially to shine at the next level, and that’s more than a one-year project.
Like twin brother Aaron, Andrew Harrison is the only real option at his spot (PG) in the Kentucky backcourt.
With the absurd quantity of talent he has around him, Andrew Harrison has an exceptionally good chance to lead a Final Four run, and maybe even a national championship team, as a freshman.
Harrison is also a daunting physical specimen for a point guard, standing 6’5”, 210-pounds and still boasting elite quickness and speed.
The only thing likely to keep him in school is the desire to win a title—should UK fall short next season—but the odds are that he’ll head to the pros with the 2014 draft class.
Not only is Jabari Parker one of the best players in the 2013 freshman class, he’s also one of the most versatile. The 6’8”, 220-pound SF can knock down the trey, play impenetrable defense or grab rebounds as needed.
He’s also going to get an opportunity to show off his leadership ability on a Duke team that was stripped of most of its scoring by graduation losses.
Unlike similarly talented former Blue Devil Shane Battier, don’t expect Parker to stick around for four years (or even two) in Durham.
Aaron Gordon’s MVP performance at the McDonald’s All-America Game showed how effective he is at igniting a crowd with his thunderous dunks.
It didn’t, however, show much else from his offensive game, because there really isn’t much else to see at this stage.
Gordon has great mobility, but he’s undersized for a pro PF at 6’8” and doesn’t have anything like an NBA-ready jump shot.
Look for him to be a key factor on this season’s loaded Wildcats, then stick around to polish his game as Arizona’s No. 1 star before moving on to the pros.
Plenty of power forwards who already have NBA jobs don’t have Julius Randle’s scoring ability on the low block. The 6’9” Wildcat is a tremendous rebounder, but it’s his offensive potential that will have NBA scouts salivating.
They’ll have plenty of chances to see it, too, as Randle is a good bet to lead high-powered, high-profile Kentucky in scoring (and maybe the entire SEC, too). It’s tough to envision a scenario in which he isn’t ready for the pros by the end of the year.
It’s saying something to be the best of Kansas’ incoming freshmen this season, but Andrew Wiggins is the best of anyone’s incoming freshmen. The 6’7” SF can do it all, and on the revamped Jayhawks he’ll get ample opportunity to prove it.
Wiggins will lead a very talented KU squad in scoring, though he’s a good enough passer that he’ll get more than a few assists setting up Wayne Selden and Naadir Tharpe (when they’re not setting him up).
He knows what he’s getting into in the NBA—his dad Mitchell played six seasons there—and the NBA is more than ready to give him a job.