10 College Basketball Freshmen Who Should Stay in School Another Year
For college basketball freshmen today, there’s no bigger status symbol than securing the “one-and-done” label. Jumping to the NBA after one season is a perfectly reasonable option for those stars who are ready for the pro game, but there are plenty of talented first-year collegians who would be better off becoming talented second-year collegians instead of languishing on benches in the pros.
Kentucky's Aaron Harrison, for one, obviously did wonders for his draft prospects by hitting two game-winning treys in the NCAA tournament. However, pro scouts are still going to have plenty of questions about a 2-guard who shot just .356 from the college three-point arc over the course of the season.
Herein, a closer look at Harrison and nine more freshmen who would do well to stick around for their sophomore seasons. Note that only freshmen who have not announced their decisions (in either direction) were considered for this list.
Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina
Even in the NBA, there are plenty of power forwards who won’t want any part of battling down low with 6’9”, 290-pound Kennedy Meeks.
After starting the season on the bench, Meeks forced his way into the starting lineup with his fast-improving scoring and predictably strong rebounding (6.1 boards per game).
As impressive as Meeks was in a season-ending loss to Iowa State—in which he recorded his second career double-double—that was also the first game in which he managed to stay on the floor for as long as 30 minutes.
Another year in Chapel Hill, likely as an opening-day starter on a potential Final Four team, will let him build up his endurance so that NBA foes won’t be able to run him off the floor.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
Classmate Aaron Gordon is already gone, and any number of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s Arizona teammates may yet make the jump to the NBA.
Even if he’s left in a minority of returners, though, the Wildcats’ toughest defender should stick around to build his game on the other end of the floor.
Hollis-Jefferson spent 2013-14 proving that, at 6’7”, he can guard four positions (at least in college) at an elite level.
However, as a player whose NBA future lies on the perimeter, his 9.1 points per game matter far less than the nonexistent three-point shot (2-of-10 for the entire season) that he could hone with another year as a Wildcat.
Mamadou Ndiaye, UC-Irvine
It’s far from uncommon for a center with an NBA body to decide (as Pitt’s Steven Adams did in becoming a lottery pick last year) that his size and potential will trump concerns about immediate production.
As such, 7’6”, 290-pound Mamadou Ndiaye is one of the more obvious, if less famous, one-and-done candidates.
Every so often in his first year with the Anteaters, Ndiaye put up numbers in the box score to match his implausible dimensions: Witness an 18-point, eight-rebound, nine-block explosion against Washington.
However, another year in school will let him gain some reliability on offense after finishing the season with five straight single-digit scoring nights.
James Young, Kentucky
Of all of Kentucky’s one-and-done hopefuls, none improved more over the course of 2013-14 than James Young. The small forward’s jump shot gained consistency, his decision-making tightened up, and his ball-handling got sharper.
Young is a phenomenal athlete, but right now, he doesn’t have any one asset that he’ll be able to lean on in the NBA. He needs to establish an identity, whether that’s slasher or shooter or even defensive stopper (all jobs for which he has the tools).
That way, NBA scouts can project him filling a need rather than just being a player, because he’s not quite good enough to cut it in the latter (non)role.
Isaiah Taylor, Texas
Point guard Isaiah Taylor, who spearheaded Texas’ turnaround from 16-18 to 24-11, has gone a long way toward demonstrating his leadership ability, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to take on the pros just yet.
At 6’1” and 170 pounds, Taylor is far from the kind of physical specimen NBA scouts are looking for at the PG spot these days, nor is he a Russell Westbrook-level athlete.
As such, he needs to maximize the polish on those skills he can control. His little-used three-point shot (.263 on just 19 attempts) and regrettable assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6) are both strong candidates for improvement as a sophomore.
The fact that Texas is likely to return virtually everyone on its roster makes for a nice bonus, too.
Bobby Portis, Arkansas
Unlike many of the players on this list, Bobby Portis has the athleticism to challenge NBA forwards right now. The 6’10”, 242-pound Razorback knows how to use his length and leaping ability, too, as evidenced especially by his 1.6 blocks per game.
Portis closed the season with back-to-back double-doubles in the NIT, and he’s shown all of the skills to succeed as a pro in the Chris Bosh mold.
What he hasn’t shown, and needs badly, is the consistency to avoid disappearing on offense.
Back-to-back showings such as six combined points (against Ole Miss and Georgia in March) or 10 (against the Bulldogs and Tennessee in January) don't say much for his ability to break out of a slump quickly.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
There’s very little that Nigel Williams-Goss didn’t do in leading undermanned Washington to a surprising 9-9 Pac-12 record.
His season stat line is about as comprehensive as you could ask for from a point guard: 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game, along with .356 long-range shooting.
The catch is that those averages fail to reflect the wild ups and downs of a chaotic season. His defense, for instance, faded badly after a brilliant start (nine steals in his first three games), while his three-point shot improved dramatically in Pac-12 play.
In addition to putting his assorted skills into a more consistent package, Williams-Goss also needs to cut down on his mistakes after posting a weak assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5.
Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Aaron Harrison would barely have been noticed during Kentucky’s run to the NCAA final if it hadn’t been for his exploits in the final minute of games.
Though Harrison nailed game-winning treys to beat both Michigan and Wisconsin, his total scoring output for those two games plus the final against UConn (an aggregate 27 points) was still less than his career best for a single contest (28 against Robert Morris in mid-November).
The bigger concern about Harrison from an NBA standpoint is that he never established much in the way of a secondary skill set beyond his shooting.
Even at 6’6”, he wasn’t a particularly strong rebounder (3.0 boards per game), his passing was only effective in the context of one of the worst assist teams in the country, and even his defense (1.1 steals a night) was good rather than great.
Marcus Foster, Kansas State
Entering the season, Marcus Foster wasn’t even considered an impressive enough recruit to crack ESPN’s national top 100.
When the games tipped off, though, the unheralded shooting guard established himself as the top scoring threat on a K-State team that fought through one of the strongest conferences in the country to earn a No. 9 seed in March.
Foster impressed as both a scorer (15.5 points per game) and a shooter (.395 from deep), but he’s simply too short (at 6’2”) to defend NBA 2-guards.
As such, he’ll need to establish himself as a point guard to get on the pros’ radars, and that means demonstrating both better passing ability than his 2.5 assists a night and better defense than his 0.6 steals per contest.
Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
Andrew Harrison’s floor general resume got an immeasurable boost from Kentucky’s run to the NCAA final, especially because Harrison dished out an enviable 5.0 assists per game in the Big Dance.
Even with those numbers and his impressive size (6’6”, 215 pounds) in his favor, though, there are still huge holes in his NBA portfolio, including his .367 field-goal shooting.
Foremost among his problems, though, is his inability to stop opposing ball-handlers, an issue highlighted by the end of Big Blue’s Final Four win over Wisconsin.
In a tie game with less than half a minute to play, Harrison fouled Traevon Jackson on a three-pointer (nearly costing his team the game), then got pulled for the decisive defensive stand (on which his brother Aaron drew the assignment on Jackson).
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