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12 Unheralded Freshmen Who Became College Basketball Stars

Ro ShiellAnalyst IJanuary 20, 2017

12 Unheralded Freshmen Who Became College Basketball Stars

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    Every year, 24 high school boys are chosen to take part in the McDonald's High School All-Star Game. It is presumed that these are the very best of high school basketball.

    But that's not really accurate. Players have proven this time after time.

    Recruiting is so vague. One kid may shoot up the ranks because a school like Duke is recruiting him, another might fall in rank because he preferred spending his summers playing with his friends rather than joining the AAU summer circuit.

    Most players slip through the cracks because they may not be physically ready. Scottie Pippen was 6'1" when he went to college. He had to take a job as a student manager to get close to the basketball team at the University of Central Arkansas.

    Thanks to a growth spurt of seven inches, he became the Scottie Pippen we know today.

    This list is dedicated to the other unknown recruits that eventually became stars in the college game.

Hakim Warrick, Syracuse Orange

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    A 6'8" 200-pound-soaking-wet power forward! That must have been the image of Hakim Warrick as a freshman at Syracuse.

    According to Statsheet.com he was ranked 101st in the 2001 recruiting class.

    His sophomore season he formed a formidable trio with Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara to lead Syracuse to their first championship under Jim Boeheim.

    He stayed all four years at Syracuse with averaging 21 points and 8.6 rebounds his senior year in 2005.

    Warrick never really gained much weight but having a 7'1" wingspan and a 38" vertical more than made up for his shortcomings.

    He was the 19th pick of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2005.

Luke Harangody, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    You don't expect to find 19.2 points and 9.5 rebounds over four years ranked No. 83 in his high school recruiting class.

    That's where Mike Brey found Luke Harangody. At 6'8" 240 pounds, an assumption would be his athleticism was not off the charts. But Harangody's will was mightier than any of his opponents'.

    He became a second-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics in the 2010 draft.

Russell Westbrook, UCLA Bruins

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    Russell Westbrook wasn't highly recruited going into college. He was an athletic 6'3" shooting guard, seen as a more of a defensive player.

    Then during his sophomore season, lead guard Darren Collison got injured. Westbrook replaced him in the starting lineup. That was the start of the Russell Westbrook we know today.

    UCLA made it to the Final Four of 2008.

    After the season, Westbrook declared for the NBA draft and was chosen fourth by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Adam Morrison, Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    It can't be easy being a professional athlete playing with Type 1 diabetes but that's something Adam Morrison came to terms with a long time ago.

    He was diagnosed with this disease as a high school player, however he never allowed it to be a hindrance to his athletic career.

    Hardly recruited out of high school, Morrison took his talents to local Gonzaga, where he had previously been a ball boy as a youngster.

    In three years playing for Mark Few, the 6'8" small forward averaged 19.7 points and 5.1 rebounds a game.

    His last year he narrowly beat Duke' s JJ Redick for the NCAA leading scorer tittle with 28.1 points a game.

    After his junior year he was drafted third overall by the Charlotte Bobcats. However, he never found his place in the NBA and is currently playing in Serbia.



Nick Fazekas, Nevada Wolf Pack

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    According to Statsheet.com, Nick Fazekas was not even ranked in the top 100 coming out of high school in 2003.

    That did not stop Fazekas from being one of the most prolific scorers ever seen in college basketball. He averaged 18 points and 9.6 rebounds in his four years at Nevada.

    Nevada had not been in the NCAA tournament since 1985. With Fazekas on board they made it to the tournament fours years in a row, from 2004 to 2007.

    The Dallas Mavericks took a chance on this 6'11" center with range on his jumper, however he was later waived.

    Fazekas has since played in several European leagues.

Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph's Hawks

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    Jameer Nelson was not a highly touted recruit coming out of high school but he was the National Freshman of the Year at St. Joseph's Red Hawks in 2001.

    During his senior year he teamed up with junior Delonte West to lead St. Joe's to an undefeated regular season, at 27-0.

    He averaged a cool 20 points, handed out 5.1 assists and grabbed 4.7 rebounds.

    He became the consensus National Player of the Year and was subsequently drafted 20th by the Denver Nuggets, then traded to the Orlando Magic in the 2004 draft.

    He is currently the starting point guard of the Magic.

Shelvin Mack, Butler Bulldogs

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    Who is Shelvin Mack? Only a 6'1" guard that led his team to two consecutive Final Fours. If you asked that question a few years ago, you would struggle to get an answer.

    He may have flourished mainly due to Brad Stevens' system—his professional career will determine this—but Mack should be commended no doubt.

    He played with another unheralded recruit, Gordon Hayward, in their sophomore year, but Hayward entered the draft while Mack came back for his junior year.

    Mack will need to prove himself again, in the NBA, as he was taken in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Washington Wizards.

Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Miami drafted this 6'9" forward out of Mississippi State in the second round of the 2010 draft but had no room for him after they signed LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

    Ironically they could have done with his shot-blocking skills in the NBA Finals. No way JJ Barea keeps beating his man for easy layups with Jarvis Varnado in the paint.

    During his time at Mississippi State, Varnado made a name for himself as a shot-blocker. He averaged four blocks a game his four years in college.

    He was the National Defensive Player of the Year his senior year in college. Not bad for a player ranked in the latter part of most 2006 recruiting lists.

Emeka Okafor, Connecticut Huskies

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    Ranked 99th as a high school senior—who could believe that a player of Emeka Okafor's status started at such humble beginnings?

    Not only did he graduate his junior year, he also led UConn to a championship in 2004.

    The 6'9" power forward/center averaged 14 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.3 blocks his career in college.

    After being named an Academic All-American, he became the No. 2 pick of the 2004 draft by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Joakim Noah, Florida Gators

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    Joakim Noah was long and lean but he had no quality offensive moves. That's probably why he wasn't a highly touted recruit as a rising freshman.

    He would lead Florida a championship, twice, his sophomore and junior seasons, with his hustle and shot-blocking ability.

    He broke out his sophomore season averaging 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks as he led Florida to their first championship.

    Widely expected to be a high pick of the 2006 NBA draft, he returned to college, averaging similar stats to win another championship.

    Chicago Bulls took him with the ninth pick of the 2007 draft.

Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young Cougers

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    Jimmer Fredette was a 2-star ranked recruit out of high school. According to AOL News, only these four schools were recruiting him: BYU, Utah, Siena and UMass.

    This 6'2" guard would average 18 points over his four years at BYU and lead the NCAA in scoring for a team that finished in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

    Normally NCAA leading scorers tend to play on unsuccessful teams. Not Fredette—BYU made the NCAA tournament all four years he was enrolled.

    We don't know what kind of NBA player he will be yet as there is a lockout still in place.

    Fredette landed in a good situation when he was drafted 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks then traded to Sacramento Kings.

Stephen Curry, Davidson Wildcats

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    For three seasons, Davidson enjoyed national headlines because of a dynamic guard. Son of a former NBA player, yet he was overlooked as a high school senior.

    For three seasons, Curry's slender 6'3" frame tore up defences on basketball courts all over the country. He led the nation in scoring his junior year with an amazing 28.6 points per game.

    Leaving a trail of records in his wake, Curry was drafted eighth by the Golden State Warriors in 2008.

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