No matter how good an NCAA basketball recruit looks in high school, predicting how his freshman season will go is hopeless without knowing how he’ll fit in with his new college teammates. Even Glenn Robinson III, one of the most celebrated recruits in last year’s freshman class, had to adapt on the fly when undersized Michigan needed him to play out of position at power forward.
Similarly, 5-star PG Jordan McLaughlin might have wound up in a pass-first role if he'd joined a team that was loaded with scorers. Instead, he landed at USC, where Andy Enfield’s uptempo offense (and lack of established weapons) will let him be a full-fledged combo guard in the Shabazz Napier mold.
Herein, a closer look at McLaughlin and 19 more of the most promising 2014 recruits who have already committed, with an eye to what their future teams will be asking of them as freshmen.
Huge for a combo guard at 6’5”, 205 lbs, Brandone Francis will play most of his minutes off the ball for the Gators. Even so, Florida’s fast break-heavy offense will certainly benefit from having another legitimate ball-handler on the floor.
Francis isn’t the pure three-point threat that many recent Gator 2-guards have been, so he’ll be more of a slasher (a la Casey Prather) on offense.
As Prather will have just graduated, it’s entirely plausible that Francis will step right into his vacant spot on the wing.
Few teams in the country will have a more obvious job waiting for any player than the Friars will for Jalen Lindsey. Bryce Cotton’s graduation will put a huge dent in Providence’s perimeter offense, and Lindsey will be right there to repair it.
The 6’7” youngster is a swingman type who figures to be one of the Big East’s elite dunkers as soon as he arrives. He’s also a productive outside shooter, which his team will sorely need, as well as a superior defender to the diminutive Cotton.
Although he’s really an undersized power forward, Jae’Sean Tate (at 6’5”) will be playing on the perimeter in college. That puts him into what could be a severely crowded pool of small forward options for the Buckeyes in 2014-15.
Pending early-entry decisions, both Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross could be seniors that season, while another stud freshman—Keita Bates-Diop—arrives in Tate’s class.
On balance, it’s hard to see the hard-working youngster playing anything more than a reserve role in Columbus until the traffic jam ahead of him clears.
Barring the highly implausible event of Tracy Abrams jumping to the NBA early, Quentin Snider will get to spend a year on the bench behind him.
That apprenticeship is hardly an insult to Snider's talent, as Abrams (already a promising floor leader) will be a senior when the newcomer arrives, and coach John Groce is unlikely to pass up experience and leadership at that position.
Unlike Abrams, Snider is already a skilled three-point shooter who will have little trouble keeping defenses honest.
Where he will have trouble, though, is surviving Big Ten lanes at a feathery 160 lbs (on a 6'1" frame), making a year as a reserve a must while he adds muscle.
Unlike most elite programs, Duke has an impressive track record of keeping its star players on campus for three or even four seasons. What's good news to Blue Devils fans, though, will be less helpful to freshman-to-be Grayson Allen.
Allen, a 6'4" shooting guard, can expect very few minutes in his debut season, as he'll be stuck behind the versatile (and durable) Rasheed Sulaimon.
It's also unlikely that Coach K would go to a three-guard look considering that he'll almost certainly have at least one of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood around to play small forward.
Last year's very young Maryland team will show how much it's grown up in 2013-14, and by 2014-15 Mark Turgeon will have a legitimate ACC contender on his hands. What he won't have is much room for freshman Dion Wiley in his rotation.
In all likelihood, Dez Wells, Seth Allen and Nick Faust (not to mention swingman Jake Layman) will all be entrenched in the Terrapins backcourt when Wiley arrives.
The youngster's outstanding jump shot will make him a good instant-offense option off the bench, but he's not going to get many opportunities to show it off.
Unless Arizona suffers even more NBA defections than expected, Craig Victor will be spending his freshman season on the bench.
Either Brandon Ashley (who would be a senior for 2014-15) or Aaron Gordon (a sophomore by that time) is highly likely to be occupying the power forward spot in which Victor naturally fits.
Assuming the youngster can adapt to a reserve role, he’ll provide a serious injection of offense off the bench with his post-up skills. He’ll also give the Wildcats yet another rebounder, a commodity Sean Miller has been stockpiling to great effect lately.
Leron Black is a speedy power forward who loves to finish on the fast break. That’s good news for an Illini team that can always use more weapons for its uptempo offense.
Black has the offensive skills to be Illinois’ first option for interior scoring, a job in which he’ll complement defense-first Nnanna Egwu.
Senior-to-be Egwu will still be the team’s top shot-blocker thanks to his 6’11” height, but the 6’7” Black has shown the instincts to serve as a fine sidekick in that department.
After cleaning up on the Canadian recruiting trail in recent years, Mark Few landed an American as the centerpiece of his 2014 recruiting class.
Josh Perkins is one of the best of a deep class of point guards, but his immediate future is out of his hands thanks to Kevin Pangos.
If Pangos, the Zags' junior floor leader for 2013-14, jumps to the NBA (not an impossibility), Perkins will step right into his starting job when he arrives in Spokane.
However, the likelier prospect is that Pangos will stick around for his senior year and the fleet Perkins will replace the graduating David Stockton at the No. 2 spot on the PG depth chart.
Ohio State's current crop of wing players—much of which will still be around in 2014-15—has plenty of offensive talent but lacks a standout individual defender.
With Aaron Craft graduating, the Buckeyes will look to SF Keita Bates-Diop as a spiritual successor to their defensive ringleader.
Bates-Diop is a productive scorer, too, though Sam Thompson and/or LaQuinton Ross will be the focus of the offense.
Even if both of those stars are still around, though, the 6'7" youngster will earn some minutes off the bench with his shot-blocking prowess on the outside.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. is heading into his third and final season as a starter in Columbus. The vacant SG spot he'll leave behind won't stay open long, as D'Angelo Russell is well equipped to step in early on.
The versatile Russell is a 6'4" scorer who will be the Buckeyes' best three-point threat from the get-go.
Even better, as far as Thad Matta is concerned, is Russell's ability to take on a playmaking role when needed, which will ease the pressure on Shannon Scott (or whoever replaces Aaron Craft at PG).
Andy Enfield scored his first big recruiting coup at USC by keeping Jordan McLaughlin close to home. The Southern California native probably didn't take much convincing, as few point guards would turn down a chance to run Enfield's highlight-reel offense.
McLaughlin will battle Julian Jacobs (who'll be a sophomore) for the right to replace Pe'Shon Howard in the Trojans' starting lineup.
McLaughlin's explosiveness and shooting touch should give him the edge in that contest, and he'll be a terrific complement to likely top scorer Katin Reinhardt in the backcourt, setting up the UNLV transfer and scoring points himself in equal measures.
Anthony Bennett’s departure leaves UNLV without an established interior scorer for next season. Unless defensive ace Khem Birch improves his offense dramatically, that void will still be around for Dwayne Morgan to fill in 2014-15.
The 6’7” Morgan doesn’t have a world-class back-to-the-basket game, but he can face up and knock down jumpers or attack the rim with abandon.
Starting alongside Birch (who will be a senior when he arrives), the youngster will also give the Rebels one of the nation’s toughest shot-blocking combos.
Next year's UConn squad will get the huge bulk of its scoring from a three-guard backcourt. The same can be said of the 2014-15 Huskies, who will insert Daniel Hamilton to their backcourt trio just in time to replace star Shabazz Napier in the starting lineup.
With Napier gone, Ryan Boatright will take over the PG duties full-time, with Hamilton and Omar Calhoun serving as a matched pair of shooting guards.
Look for Hamilton to become the primary long-range option, as he's a better three-point shooter than either of his two future backcourt partners.
Of North Carolina's trio of 2014 5-stars, Joel Berry faces the toughest fight for minutes as a freshman. Berry is a true point guard who will only get on the floor at the expense of Marcus Paige, by then a two-year starter.
Paige, who's unlikely to jump to the pros unless his production increases drastically, is a solid floor leader but doesn't have Berry's explosive scoring potential.
The experience factor probably gives the job to Paige—with Berry as a frequently-used backup—but it's not impossible that the younger PG could win the starting nod as a freshman.
Roy Williams is bringing in a pair of very similar small forwards in 2014 recruits Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson.
With athletic J.P. Tokoto already in the fold at that position, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Williams slide one of the two freshmen over to SG, and Pinson (the stronger of the duo) would be a better bet to stay at SF.
In that event, Pinson would edge out the less polished Tokoto for the starting job. In Williams' high-speed attack, he'll score points in bunches on primary and secondary fast breaks.
Theo Pinson is the more athletic of North Carolina's incoming small forwards, but Justin Jackson has the better shot. Whether he stays at SF or (more likely) moves to the less crowded SG spot, that shooting stroke will earn him major minutes as a freshman.
UNC is rarely shy about hoisting three-pointers, and none of the Tar Heels' 2014 recruits will hit more of them than Jackson.
Even if he comes off the bench—if, say, Pinson and J.P. Tokoto earn the starting wing spots—he'll be a key offensive contributor in his first season in Chapel Hill.
Last season, six players who could reasonably be classified as forwards averaged at least 12.7 minutes per game for Syracuse.
Even by 2014-15, three of those players—Rakeem Christmas, Jerami Grant and DaJuan Coleman—will still be around, barring unlikely departures for the pros.
As such, it wouldn't be any surprise to see Jim Boeheim employ a similar rotation approach to his frontcourt during Chris McCullough's freshman year.
The 6'10" McCullough isn't a great jump shooter, but he'll get his points in transition and guarantee his share of minutes with defensive talents that are well suited to the Orange's 2-3 zone.
Projecting which members of Kentucky's roster will still be in college a year from now is a job for a Ouija board. However, it's a reasonable guess to posit that Dakari Johnson (likely backup to Willie Cauley-Stein next season) will be back to start at center.
Given that scenario, Karl Towns Jr. would start off his Wildcats career as a reserve, albeit one who would see plenty of playing time.
The 7'1" Towns is a lethal three-point shooter (better even than Aaron Harrison, UK's current sniper du jour) who would force opponents to adjust on the fly after grappling with the hulking Johnson in the post.
The early favorite for surprise signing of the class of 2014, Emmanuel Mudiay is (at a minimum) one of the two best point guards in a loaded position group.
The 6'5" scoring PG is a consensus top-five recruit who can take over games as a scorer or passer.
With that combination of hype and skill, Mudiay would be a good bet to start on most collegiate rosters, but doubly so at SMU.
2013 recruit Keith Frazier—the Mustangs' first-ever McDonald's All-American—will be around to welcome a new backcourt partner, and no one else on the SMU roster has the talent to tie Mudiay's sneakers.