Predicting the Biggest Struggle for College Basketball's Top Freshmen in 2013-14
The 2013-14 college basketball season is just around the corner.
We are just weeks away from what could be one of the most exciting displays of collegiate hoops action in a long time.
This year’s freshman class is an impressive collection of elite-level talent.
Even though their impact on the upcoming season will be undeniable, the cream of the crop still has areas of development and places where they will need to strive to overcome.
Here is a list predicting the biggest struggles for college basketball's top freshmen in 2013-14.
Kasey Hill (Florida): Uncertainty with Scottie Wilbekin's Status
Florida’s Kasey Hill is a multi-talented point guard who has an extremely bright future ahead of him.
Hill is lethal in the open court. He is a skilled passer and has no trouble finishing at the rim.
The 6’1” McDonald’s All-American is the kind of floor general that almost always excels in Gators’ head coach Billy Donovan’s up-tempo system.
There has been no public statement about Wilbekin’s reinstatement to the 2013-14 Gators’ team.
How Donovan handles this important situation will have a huge impact on UF’s pre-conference games.
Aaron Harrison (Kentucky): Contributing in Other Ways Than Just Scoring
Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison is a fantastic shooting guard with great length (6’6”).
In high school, he and his twin brother, Andrew, were accustomed to dominating opponents with their ability to score at will.
Aaron is an outstanding shooter who has a nice mid-range game and can knock shots down from beyond the arc.
At UK, Aaron will continue to be able to utilize his shooting ability, but will need to find other ways to contribute to the Wildcats’ success.
He will not get anywhere near the number of shots that he was able to launch in high school.
The amount of talent that head coach John Calipari will be able to put on the floor at any time will be outrageous. Aaron will need to be comfortable, at times, setting teammates up and not just looking for his own shots.
He will have the opportunity to show that he is more than a scorer.
James Young (Kentucky): Finding His Rhythm Coming off the Bench
Kentucky’s James Young is another member of what may be considered the greatest college basketball recruiting class of all time.
Young was not only an elite-level scorer in high school. He averaged over 27 points per game his senior year, but he also averaged 16 rebounds per game.
With Alex Poythress returning at the small forward position, head coach John Calipari will have to evaluate who to start on the wing.
Because Poythress has a year in the system, he may go into the season with a slight advantage in terms of starting.
If that is the case, Young will need to adjust his outlook and approach from high school “Go-to-guy” to “Coming-off-the-bench-dude” in college.
Some players find it difficult to enter a game already in progress. It is challenging for them to find their rhythm and their place.
Make no mistake about it. Young will get minutes. It is just not clear when those minutes will begin.
Dakari Johnson (Kentucky): Learn to Operate from the Weak-Side Block
Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson is a huge (7’0” 265 lbs.) pivot player.
He is a classic low-post load, more than capable of handling himself well on the block.
Like the rest of UK’s incoming freshman, Johnson will need to compete for his playing time.
He will go up against returning sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein.
WCS is an athletic post who runs the floor well and is a shot-blocking monster (2.1 BPG).
Head coach John Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense features spreading the floor and dribble penetration from the wings.
Because of that, Johnson’s conventional, ball-side, post-up skills will be less utilized than they would in other offensive schemes.
He will need to learn to primarily operate from the weak-side block.
Johnson will have to look for lobs, or dump passes from penetrating perimeter players, and clean up inside with offensive rebounding.
Joel Embiid (Kansas): Develop His Low-Post Offensive Moves
Every recruiting class has a player like Kansas’ Joel Embiid.
The seven-footer from Cameroon went from being an unranked recruit as a high school junior to being the top-rated center in the 2013 recruiting class.
Embiid’s ESPN scouting report says that he:
Has all the physical tools but that's not why he's going to make it big. In addition to the tools, size and athleticism he has coordination, explosion and an uncommon agility and feel. For a big he's got super touch to mid-range. He eats rebounds and collects blocks.
His biggest struggle will be finding his place in a high-octane Jayhawk offense.
One of Embiid’s biggest areas of development is genuine offensive moves. He will get his share of lobs, put-backs and drop-offs.
To keep his meteoric rise going, he will need to pick up some post moves and some counter moves. Learning to face and hit the jumper out to 15 feet would be icing on the cake.
If he can get all of this together by the time March rolls around, pencil in KU for the Final Four.
Andrew Harrison (Kentucky): Sharpening His Shooting Skills
Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison will have the ball in his hands when the Wildcats open the season this November.
He was the No. 1 ranked point guard in the 2013 recruiting class for good reason.
Harrison has great court vision and he uses his length to deliver precision passes to his teammates in scoring position.
ESPN.com's Dave Telep says that "Harrison's game at the point is predicated on two things: size and a wrecking ball-mentality."
Because this UK squad has so many scorers, it may not matter so much that Harrison still needs to become a more consistent shooter.
In high school, he relied largely on his ability to get to the lane and finish. To become the outstanding collegiate PG that many predict, Harrison needs to sharpen his mid-range and beyond-the-arc shooting.
Aaron Gordon (Arizona): Adding Outside Shooting to His Arsenal
There may not be a more athletic player in the 2013 recruiting class than Arizona’s Aaron Gordon.
The 6’8” combo forward from San Jose has a motor that does not stop and runs the floor like few other players his size.
Over the last several months, Gordon has proved that he can play with the best players in the country and beyond. He was named the McDonald’s All American game MVP and the U19 tournament MVP in Prague.
Much of Gordon’s offensive prowess has been based on his ability to get to the rim and throw down thunderous dunks.
Getting ready for the 2013-14 season, Gordon wants to transition to the wing to play SF.
His biggest hurdle to get over is to improve on his outside shooting.
If he can add decent mid-range and beyond-the-arc shots, Gordon’s game will be overwhelming.
Julius Randle (Kentucky): Back-to-the-Basket Skills
Randle is an accomplished scorer and rebounder, who has no trouble getting his own shots or cleaning the glass on either end of the court.
Because he can put the ball on the deck, Randle can work from the wing or baseline with no trouble.
One area that Randle still needs to work on is his back-to-the-basket skills.
Libertyballers.com's Roy Burton suggests that:
Randle's low-post game could benefit from a few sessions with Hakeem Olajuwon, understandable since he wasn't forced to play with his back to the basket all that much.
UK head coach John Calipari may not put Randle on the block very often, but polishing those skills would allow for the Cats to clear out and allow Randle to be free to go one-on-one down low during crunch time.
Jabari Parker (Duke): Post Defense
We are just a few months away from finally getting to see Duke’s Jabari Parker in action at the collegiate level.
Parker is one of the most versatile recruits in several years.
Not many players his size can do what the 6’8” forward from Chicago can do.
Because he has so many weapons in his arsenal, it is difficult for opponents to match up with him.
Put a big on him, and he will step outside and operate. Put someone his size or smaller on him, and Parker can go down low and beat up on his defenders.
Because of the lack of front court talent on this year’s Duke roster, Parker may be forced to play out of position a high percentage of the time.
He already is likely to play a hybrid PF instead of his natural small forward position.
In some possible lineups, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski could even position Parker at the 5.
He can effectively handle any of this on the offensive end of the court. Where he might run into some trouble playing on the block is on the defensive end.
Post defense against opponents' power forwards and centers starts to put Parker into a challenging situation. He has good size for a SF, but he is slightly undersized in terms of having to regularly check opponents down low.
Andrew Wiggins (Kansas): Consistently Playing with a High Intensity Level
Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins makes the Jayhawks a national contender in 2013-14.
He has off-the-chart skills that will allow him to immediately take over games in the upcoming season.
Wiggins’ talent, versatility and explosiveness will elevate him above most of the players that he will see in his freshman year at KU.
The game comes so easy for Wiggins that staying focused and consistently playing with a high intensity level can be a challenge.
Not many players can hit the cruise control and still dominate while playing at less than 100 percent.
Wiggins is that good.
However, KU’s March Madness success will require peak performance from Wiggins and his Jayhawk teammates.