College Basketball's 10 Most Entertaining Stars in 2013-14
Attributed to Sports Illustrated
This year’s College Basketball season is set to be filled with entertaining, must-see players.
Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker lead one of the most highly touted recruiting classes in years. Marshall Henderson, Russ Smith and Marcus Smart are among the top players set to cause a stir across the country.
For this ranking, the focus is on which players attract the greatest audience and attention.
It is not simply about who is the best.
Several categories are factored into each players ranking including: past performance, style of play, off-court presence, individual potential, and team potential. Other factors that come into play are personal opinion and observation.
The essence of this ranking is: who would you pay to watch this season?
Without further ado, here is a list of the top 10 stars to watch for.
All statistics used come from ESPN, unless stated otherwise.
10. Tyler Haws
School: Brigham Young
Tyler Haws exploded onto the scene last year for the BYU Cougars, following a two-year mission.
Haws was one of the leading scorers in nation for the 2012-13 season, averaging 21.7 points per game during his first year with the team. He finished ranked in the top 10 in nation.
What’s more? Haws shot over 48% from the field and still got to the free throw line to attempt just under six freebies a game.
The relation to BYU may have fans comparing Haws to Cougars’ alum Jimmer Fredette. Haws, however, plays a slightly different style. His game is a bit more controlled, and although he can certainly shoot lights out, his shot selection is a bit wiser.
ESPN Insider projects BYU to finish second in the West Coast Conference behind Gonzaga.
Haws name may not be a household name just yet. However, a couple of things could begin to change that.
With a year of playing at the collegiate level under his belt, he could very well be the nation’s leading scorer. If BYU is to make a run to the NCAA Tournament, expect Haws to be the biggest reason.
Honorable mentions: Montrezl Harrell, Doug McDermott, Jordan Adams, Aaron Craft, Aaron Harrison
9. Andrew Harrison
Andrew Harrison has had pretty good competition close by his whole life; his twin brother Aaron.
Together, the twin duo out of Fort Bend, Texas, help make up one of the best recruiting classes in college basketball history for Kentucky. Another player that certainly helps will still be named on this list.
Andrew is the slightly higher ranked player by most high school player ranking outlets, including ESPN and Rivals.com.
With Kentucky ranked as the No. 1 team in the country, according to ESPN, fans are sure to stay tuned in on the Harrison twins. Many will watch to see if Andrew really is the better player and NBA prospect.
For Head Coach John Calipari, Andrew is another in the long line of extremely talented point guards to join his teams in recent history. In the last few years, Calipari has coached Derrick Rose, John Wall, and Marquis Teague. With Andrew being the next in line, the hype has been building as he assumes the spot of having to be Calipari’s next star PG.
Harrison has all the ability to be an outstanding player. He can create for himself and for others, he has three-point range on his jump shot and he has the size the size and strength to bully opponents. He is a true leader on the court.
As Ian Powers of NBADraft.net puts it, “he is a leader and a floor general who will put his team on his back when necessary”.
Whether or not he fulfills his potential will be an exciting thing to see.
8. Shabazz Napier
Shabazz Napier has dazzled Huskies’ fans for three years already.
He’s not big (he’s listed at 6’1” 180 lbs, and those numbers are probably slightly generous) but has the ability to electrify a crowd with his style of play.
The fourth-year product out of Massachusetts is fearless. He’s not afraid to take and make the big shot. He can mix it up with the giants, as he averaged over 4 rebounds per game last season.
Shabazz is both a terrific scorer and passer. As his role with the team has grown, so has his game.
Through the first two years of his collegiate career, Napier played with NBA quality players in Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb. He’s now the leader of a Huskies’ team in transition.
The Connecticut team has been marred by NCAA sanctions, is adjusting to second-year Head Coach Kevin Ollie and has joined the newly formed American conference.
With all the chaos still surrounding the team, and with just one year left at the college level, expect big a season out of Napier.
7. Russ Smith
Russ Smith has a new role for the defending champion Louisville Cardinals this year. He’s the team’s leader.
Smith is heading into his senior season at Louisville. He led the Cardinals in scoring last season with 18.7 points per game.
Now the senior guard out of Brooklyn will be forced to fill some of the leadership void left behind by the graduation of point guard Peyton Siva.
The Cardinals are once again expected to be one of the best teams in the country. They are ranked third in the nation in ESPN’s preseason poll. Smith will not be alone, as the Cardinals will once again be filled with young talent.
Russ is a high volume shooter who, at times, must drive Head Coach Rick Pitino crazy with his shot selection and decision making.
His style of play can be erratic and cringe-worthy. But it can also be effective and exciting.
6. Aaron Gordon
If you want to see highlight reel dunks and crazy leaping ability, well just look at Wildcats’ freshman Aaron Gordon. Just watch this YouTube highlight reel, for instance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aL-cZTPyX-8.
Sure, the kid has plenty of skills. He is just flat-out extremely talented.
But fans will tune in to him mostly to see what spectacular play he makes next. Will he throw down a vicious slam, or make the spectacular block to stop a layup or dunk?
Gordon has the ability to make himself a mainstay in SportsCenter’s Top 10 list.
Plus, the Wildcats are expected to be a national championship contender.
Expect the young high-riser out of California to make himself a household name by the end of the season.
5. Marshall Henderson
If you watched the NCAA tournament last season, you definitely heard Marshall Henderson’s name a lot. Sometimes for good reasons, and other times for not so good reasons.
Henderson can be about as captivating a player in college basketball as there is.
If you are a fan of the Rebels, having Henderson on your team can take you through a roller coaster of emotions, both with what he does on the court and off.
Henderson’s play can be wildly inconsistent. He will have games where he shoots over 40% and plays at a controlled pace that helps the Rebels win. Then he will follow that up with games where he shoots at 30% or even worse and the Rebels lose. As he goes, so do the Rebels.
He averaged 20 points per game last season, and was one of the leading scorers in the country.
The Texas product attempted 10.9 three’s per game.
Henderson frequently celebrates on the court and talks trash to opposing players.
He’s also run into a myriad of problems off the court, which has led to him transferring several times for school, and being on probation.
Henderson is fearless and wild. That’s exactly the type of person that keeps people interested.
4. Jabari Parker
Photo: US Presswire
Jabari Parker might just be flying slightly under the radar.
Andrew Wiggins is the headliner of the freshmen class, and some rankings also rated Julius Randle just after Wiggins as the top recruits. But in practically any other year, Parker would be unanimously rated as the top recruit.
Jabari reigns from Simeon High School, a school rich with basketball history that has produced the likes of Derrick Rose and early ‘80s star Ben Wilson. Parker has added his name to the book.
He’s won numerous awards in the past.
In the 2012-13 season, Parker led Simeon to its first city championship since Rose did so in 2007.
As Bryan Toporek wrote in his article on Parker, “He's not a point forward like (LeBron) James or Magic Johnson, but he's a willing passer who should thrive both in college and the NBA because of his basketball IQ…Parker touts a more well-rounded game. He's got enough mass to bully opponents in the post, but he also possesses a nice shooting stroke all the way out to the three-point line.”
Now, the Chicago-bred star will be coached by one of the all-time greats in the coaching ranks—Mike Krzyzewski.
Blue Devils fans have a lot to look forward to with this star on their hands.
3. Marcus Smart
School: Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart is coming off a stellar freshman season with the Cowboys. He averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
Many considered Smart to be the No. 1 pick had he decided to leave for the NBA last season.
He’s a unique point guard due to his size and skill. He’s big, strong and athletic, and his game is somewhat comparable to that of Deron Williams when he was with Illinois.
Smart created more of a buzz when he declared in the offseason that this will be his final year with Oklahoma State, putting pressure on the team to succeed as much as possible with their best player in recent history staying just one more year.
Oklahoma State is expected to be highly competitive in the difficult Big 12 conference. ESPN ranked the Cowboys 12th in the nation.
Smart is still expected to be a top 5 pick in next year’s NBA draft, as long as he plays up to his ability.
It is certainly going to be interesting to see how far he can take the Cowboys this season with the pressure on.
2. Julius Randle
Photo: Kentucky Sports Radio
In Kentucky’s highly regarded recruiting class, Julius Randle is considered the best player.
Like Parker, Randle’s name has been slightly overshadowed by Wiggins. Well, if you haven’t heard of Randle, you will hear plenty about him before season’s end. People will surely watch Kentucky basketball games this season.
The freshman power forward is big at 6’9” 250 lbs. He’s strong and has great leaping ability.
He’s extremely versatile; he can stretch the floor with his jumper, take opponents to the basket or play with his back to the hoop.
Randle certainly has his weaknesses, as do all young prospects. However, the sky is the limit with this kid and his ability.
Kentucky is yet again a national championship contender. Whether or not they win it all could very well weigh heavily on the shoulders of Randle.
1. Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins has been a star for a few years now. He’s a celebrity and hasn’t even played a college basketball game yet.
He’s won numerous awards; He was last year’s Gatorade National Athlete of the Year.
Simply put, Wiggins is the most hyped high school prospect since LeBron James (I think you’ve heard a thing or two about him).
NBA teams would take him now if they could. They just have to wait until, most likely, June when he officially joins the league. But only one team will be lucky enough to call him theirs.
Wiggins can do it all. He can score, pass, rebound, shoot and dribble at a high level.
His most valuable attribute, though, is his supreme athleticism. Wiggins is not a great shot creator, but his ability to sky over defenders makes his shot difficult to defend.
The Ontario product also has to fill a bit more. ESPN lists Wiggins at 6’8”, but just 200 lbs.
For now, he belongs to the Jayhawks. Kansas is projected as one of the top teams going into the season. Wiggins has the potential to be one of college basketball’s best players this season.
If nothing more, even the average fans are sure to watch and see if the hype is for real.