Potential Surprise One-and-Done Freshmen from 2014 NBA Draft Class
Not every one-and-done freshman is obvious.
Nobody had Anthony Bennett leaving after a year in the summer of 2013. Ben McLemore wasn't a lock to bounce early either.
Sometimes, when the NBA comes calling, it's tough to turn your back.
In other cases, a prospect might know his opportunity to impress scouts just isn't going to get any better. With Arizona's core frontcourt returning in 2013-14, and highly-touted forward Aaron Gordon on the way in, Grant Jerrett decided to leave after a year, presumably because he knew his role and minutes wouldn't increase.
While each individual could have his own personal reason to leave, these are the freshmen who might surprise later in the year and declare for the draft after just one season.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'9'', PF
Noah Vonleh was Indiana's big recruiting prize, but he might not be staying very long. Not if he continues to flash his NBA potential.
He put on muscle in the offseason and now looks the part of a next-level power forward.
To start the year, Vonleh has gone for two consecutive double-doubles, which included a 17-point game against Long Island and a 14-rebound game against Chicago State.
Though still raw, Vonleh has a good idea of what he's doing in the post, where he uses his body to get position and a feel for the rim to score. He's also shown the confidence to face his man up on the perimeter, but that's really just the long-term potential flashing.
Vonleh isn't an NBA-ready prospect, but the upside he possesses might make it tough to keep the buzz from spreading amongst scouts.
A physical defender with loads of offensive promise, Vonleh is a under-the-radar candidate to make a late move into lottery conversations. Keep your eyes on No. 1 in Indiana.
James Young, Kentucky, 6'6'', SF
With Julius Randle and the Harrison twins getting most of the exposure, few thought of James Young as a can't-miss, one-and-done prospect.
But that really might change soon if it hasn't already.
Young actually has a few NBA-ready attributes and skills, including 6'6'' size, athleticism and a lethal long-range jumper.
If you're a scout or general manager, you have to love Young's two-way potential as a scorer and defender.
Right now, Young is in a perfect situation to maximize his draft stock as a freshman. With Randle attracting so much attention in the half-court, Young is bound to get plenty of good looks this year and scoring chances to shine.
At this point, he looks like a potential lottery pick if he can maintain consistent production.
Chris Walker, Florida (Ineligible), 6'9'', PF
Florida's big-time recruit for the 2013-14 season, Chris Walker, had been ruled academically ineligible to start the year.
It's still unclear whether he'll be ruled eligible for the second semester, but either way, Walker is a good bet to go.
If he comes back and struggles as a sophomore, his draft stock could take a catastrophic hit. But if he declares after this year, Walker can sell teams on his potential without giving them a chance to find something wrong.
And when you're currently 6'9'' and only 205 pounds, you might not want to take any chances.
Scouts are already aware of his skill set, athleticism and potential, given he's a former McDonald's All-American. By leaving after the season, Walker can eliminate the possibility of disappointing and potentially delaying the NBA for a second straight year.
If Walker can't get on the court this year, I'm not sure the risk of returning will be worth the reward to his stock.
Dakari Johnson, Kentucky, 7'0'', C
Dakari Johnson isn't ready for the NBA, considering he's currently coming off the bench in college.
But have you seen what Kentucky's recruiting class is shaping up to look like next year? The doors just continue to rotate, with Julius Randle on the way out and big men Karl Towns Jr. and Trey Lyles coming in.
And if you're not aware, Towns Jr. is a 7'0'' center and Lyles is a 6'10'' power forward—and both are potential top-10 picks who play Johnson's position.
Depending on what Willie Cauley-Stein does, who's no lock to leave, minutes in Kentucky's frontcourt could be tough to come by once again.
Johnson is a huge body, and if you take a look at the projected 2014 field, there aren't too many available big men. He's got strength, a willingness to bang and extra soft hands around the rim.
A top-two center recruit in the 2013 class, Johnson has first-round potential, whether he leaves now or next year. If a patient team is willing to wait for results and Johnson gets anxious with his limited role, he could be a candidate to make a quick, sneaky exit.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6'2'', PG
NBA teams are going to find out just exactly what Tyler Ennis is capable of this year. That's because he's expected to play over 30 minutes a night as Syracuse's lone true ball-handler.
One of the top Canadian talents around, Ennis is as mature and poised as any freshman point guard you'll find. He actually led the entire Under-19 FIBA World Championships in scoring this summer in Prague.
A former AAU teammate of Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, scouts are familiar with Ennis and Ennis is familiar with NBA-caliber competition.
Though not overly explosive, he's deceptively quick and cunning. Ennis maintains a pass-first approach as a natural facilitator, yet can also score opportunistically.
He could probably use two years in school, but a few breakout performances in the ACC could generate immediate NBA buzz. Plus, there aren't many can't-miss natural point guards in the field.
Ennis could be this year's Cory Joseph, a fellow Canadian who surprised in 2011 by declaring after his freshman season, and was ultimately taken late in Round 1. For what it's worth, Ennis coincidentally reminds me a little of Joseph.
Marcus Lee, Kentucky, 6'9'', PF
Marcus Lee is in a similar situation as teammate Dakari Johnson, with minutes likely tough to come by now and in the future.
Lee, a 6'9'' power forward, has Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein in front of him this year and recruits Towns Jr and Lyles coming in next season—two more frontcourt big men.
In Kentucky's first two games this season, Lee actually played quite well, even scoring 17 points in 15 minutes against UNC-Asheville.
But then he barely saw the floor against Michigan State the following game.
Based on Lee's style of play, he's the type of guy who can turn heads in limited action. When he's on the floor, you know he's out there. Lee plays with energy and athleticism, showing solid defensive activity and finishing ability around the rim.
He's clearly not NBA ready, but Lee might be a guy who makes scouts fall in love with his potential. Though a long shot to bolt early, I've seen crazier things happen.