There are a lot of freshman in college basketball with the talent to be All-American level players by season's end.
North Carolina's Harrison Barnes will certainly make headlines. Brandon Knight is off to a terrific start at Kentucky (so is Terrence Jones for that matter). C.J. Leslie could make North Carolina State relevant again. Jared Sullinger is a man-child who will put up monster numbers all season long.
While any of those guys could make a case for being the best freshman in the country, they could have their work cut out for them trying to take that distinction away from Duke's Kyrie Irving.
Irving is the high-octane point guard with tremendous scoring abilities and an extremely mature feel for the game to whom Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has given the keys to the Blue Devils' new fast-paced offense. He's the first player Coach K has ever allowed to wear No. 1 on his jersey, and it's for a good reason—he's that good.
While he plays alongside two senior stars in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, he is without doubt the best player on Duke's team.
Irving made that apparent in Duke's man-handling of Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday evening.
After a stunning 17-point, nine-assist debut against Princeton, Irving picked up two quick fouls against the RedHawks, forcing him to sit out most of the first half. Smith slid over to the point and Duke brought in sharpshooters Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry and went into halftime with a commanding 21-point lead. Still, it looked like something was missing.
That something was Irving.
His presence on the court in the second half made Duke a completely different team. His speed, court awareness, passing ability, shooting touch, and ability to create his own shot and draw fouls elevated the Blue Devils' to an entirely different level. It didn't take long for Duke's offense to start clicking with Irving at the point, and he personally put seven points on the board in less than one minute of game time early in the second half.
Irving's hype isn't intended to take anything away from Duke's other stars. Smith and Singler are fist-team All-American caliber players. Curry and Dawkins are two of the best shooters in the ACC.
But Irving is truly special.
Sure, he's a freshman. Yes, it's extremely early in the season.
Irving will make mistakes and have some off nights from time to time. Even John Wall and Derrick Rose had some bumps on their way to stardom as they adjusted to the college game.
He is certainly as talented as the aforementioned former one-and-done point guards, and he is further along in his ability to run an offense efficiently. Honestly, it's been a while since a point guard with Irving's mix of raw ability and polish came into college basketball.
Guys like Sullinger and Barnes might average a few more points per game than Irving, but don't expect any freshman in the country to have a bigger impact on the court than Irving.
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