Now more than ever, point guards are having an increased impact on the game of basketball at both the NBA and collegiate levels. After all, no other position has the ball in their possession more often than the point guard, who is often also the smartest and quickest player on the floor at all times.
Three of the last five No.1 overall picks in the NBA draft were highly-touted freshman point guards, with the most recent being Duke’s Kyrie Irving, who claimed the top spot despite playing in just 11 games due to an early season toe injury (Memphis’ Derrick Rose and Kentucky’s John Wall were the other two).
The fact that Irving was still considered the top overall prospect with such a small body of work speaks volumes of how highly coveted an elite point guard is in today’s game. With the NBA season in serious jeopardy, fans will have to look to college basketball to find the next crop of young and talented floor generals.
That being said, here are the top freshman point guards to watch in 2012.
The 5’10” Boatright first made national headlines after then head coach Tim Floyd offered him a scholarship to USC as an eighth grader. Since then, the electric guard has de-committed to both USC and West Virginia, only to land at defending national champion UConn.
With the departure of former UConn great Kemba Walker to the NBA, Boatright will have to compete for minutes with incumbent point guard Shabazz Napier, who played an integral role in the Huskies’ championship run.
With his combination of blinding speed, superb ball-handling and prolific scoring ability, don’t expect Boatright to be sitting on the sidelines for too long. When it’s all said and done, Boatright could begin evoking genuine comparisons to another legendary diminutive guard from the Big East: Allen Iverson.
Wroten opted to stay close to home when he chose Washington over the likes of traditional East Coast powerhouses such as Syracuse, UConn and Louisville. This is excellent news for a veteran team that reached the Sweet 16 last season but also lost starting point guard Isaiah Thomas to the NBA.
In Wroten, the Huskies get a versatile player (he is also left-handed) who is big enough to play shooting guard at 6’4” 210 pounds while also possessing uncanny court vision.
With his physical presence and flair for the game, expect Wroten to lead the Huskies back into the NCAA tournament while following in the footsteps of former Seattle guards that have made their mark in the NBA (Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford, and Brandon Roy more recently).
Turner is easily the most talented prep guard to come from the Sacramento area since Kevin Johnson, and it is easy to see why. At 6’3” 185 pounds, Turner is a smooth scoring point guard with a yo-yo handle. Turner uses an array of hesitation moves and crossovers to keep defenders off balance while he looks to attack the basket or make the flashy pass.
With the unexpected departure of last season’s starting point guard Lamont "Momo" Jones to Iona, Turner will be given the keys to the Wildcat offense in his first year in the desert. Playing alongside fellow freshman guard and AAU teammate Nick Johnson will help ease Turner’s transition into big-time college basketball, where he is expected to uphold Arizona’s tradition of being the next great floor general at “Point Guard U.”
Marquis Teague, the younger brother of Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, is the next in line to take the reigns as the starting point guard at Kentucky. This is no easy task, as Teague will be asked to replace freshman sensation Brandon Knight, who blossomed under the tutelage of head coach John Calipari en route to becoming a top NBA draft pick.
Despite the high expectations, Teague has the athletic ability and NBA pedigree that will allow him to become a star in his first season as a Wildcat. He will also be surrounded by arguably the most talented supporting cast in the nation, highlighted by the nation’s No.1 overall recruiting class and returning leading scorer Terrence Jones.
His game is also tailor-made for Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense, which is predicated on the point guard’s ability to break down defenses and draw fouls, two skills that Teague excels at.
The lightning-quick Kabongo may be the least-dangerous scorer out of this talented freshman group, but he is far and away its most effective passer and leader. The Canadian guard can affect the game in so many ways without having to score, similar to the way NBA star Rajon Rondo does for the Boston Celtics.
Simply put, Kabongo gets everyone on the floor involved at all times and can single-handedly lift his team’s level of play with his extraordinary play-making ability. Kabongo’s ball handling is also in a class of its own, as he combines a street ball flare for the game with a strong fundamental skill set.
Mix in a tenacious competitiveness on the defense end, and Kabongo is the total package at the point guard position. Look for the 6’3” Kabongo to rise to the cream of this year’s freshman crop at Texas, in the process becoming the first point guard taken in the 2012 NBA draft.