NCAA: Biggest Impact Freshmen
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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The 2011 recruiting class is projected to be one of the best in recent memory. It possesses plenty of star power and has no shortage of impact players. A few of them have straight-to-the-NBA talent, but the NBA has required a prospect to be at least a year removed from high school since 2005. In fact, that requirement could be increased as a part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that is currently being negotiated.
The players want the restriction removed all together, but it is very possible that they could end up conceding that demand for the sake of a bigger one. That means that this incoming freshman class could end up sticking around for more than one year, and what a reward that would be for college basketball fans. With that being a distinct possibility, we take a look at the top ten incoming freshman who are set to shake up the game in 2011-2012:
Austin Rivers (Duke) - 6’4, 189 lbs. Point Guard/Shooting Guard
After going a few years without being hurt by underclassmen declaring early for the draft, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s luck finally ran out as freshman point guard Kyrie Irving left this year to become the top overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. However, he was well prepared for his inevitable departure thanks to the recruitment of Rivers, who also has aspirations of becoming a top overall pick in the future.
Already equipped with a pro’s game thanks to his upbringing, Rivers will immediately provide help at both guard positions. He’s not the natural playmaker that Irving was, but he can run the point if that’s what Coach K asks of him. If he does, he’ll have to improve on his shot selection and turnover ratio. Along with Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Quinn Cook he’ll help form one of the nation’s most unstoppable backcourts.
Anthony Davis (Kentucky) - 6’10, 200 lbs. Power Forward/Center
The big question after a surprisingly successful 2010-2011 season in Lexington was over how good that team would have been if they had one more capable big man. Even without their heralded center recruit Enes Kanter, who was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA then drafted third overall in the NBA Draft, Kentucky still managed to come within a shot of the national championship game.
There will be no such questions this year because in Davis Kentucky has quite possibly the best big man in the country. His combination of size, athleticism and skill make him impossible to guard offensively and Coach Cal is going to make sure he gets the most out of him defensively too. It will only take a few minutes of watching him on the court to realize why he’s projected as the number one pick in 2012.
Michael Gilchrest (Kentucky) – 6’6, 210 lbs. Small Forward
As if the combination of Davis and sophomore forward Terrence Jones wasn’t going to be lethal enough at Kentucky, they’ll be joined by Gilchrest on the frontline. As a trio it’s hard to imagine anyone outside of North Carolina being able to guard them man-to-man without there being a serious mismatch for one of them to take advantage of.
Gilchrest is not a shooter, not yet at least. He’s got a ways to go in that department. Everywhere else, though, he’s a stud. He’s prideful on the defensive end with the ability to completely take an opposing perimeter player out of the game. Expect Coach Cal to use him against several different positions like he did Orlando Magic draft pick DeAndre Liggens last year.
Bradley Beal (Florida) – 6’4, 205 lbs. Shooting Guard
A lot of the players on this list will amaze you with their quickness or explosiveness. Beal will do so with his jump shot, which is picture perfect and much like that of Boston Celtics sharpshooter Ray Allen. His stroke is simply pure, and he’s not lacking in the athleticism department either.
Beal is collected in the way that he plays the game. He handles himself well and gets the job done very efficiently. At first glance he appears a bit undersized for the shooting guard position, but he’s got a very long wingspan that should make up for the inch or two that he lacks in comparison to a prototypical NBA shooting guard.
James McAdoo (North Carolina) – 6’8, 216 lbs. Power Forward
The Tar Heels have so much talent and experience coming back in Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Jon Henson. Who could potentially put them over the top in the race for the national championship, though, is the freshman McAdoo. McAdoo, the nephew of NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, is good enough to start for most programs but will likely be the first man off of the bench at UNC.
McAdoo knows how to play the game the right way and that will go a long way in the eye’s of his head coach Roy Williams. Although McAdoo probably won’t be a starter, he’ll play as many minutes as Williams can find for him and be just as vital as Marvin Williams was back in 2004-2005.
Quincy Miller (Baylor) - 6’9, 210 lbs. Small Forward
North Carolina and Kentucky aren’t going to be the only programs this year with frontlines that cause headaches for the opposition to match up with. Baylor is going to be quite formidable too with the addition of Miller alongside projected lottery pick Perry Jones, who would have been a top five pick in the 2011 draft had he decided to declare.
Miller, who is coming off of a torn ACL that robbed him of his senior season in high school, has an inside-outside game that should compliment Jones well. With Miller’s explosive scoring abilities and defensive potential, Baylor should live up to expectations this upcoming year unlike the last.
Marquis Teague (Kentucky) – 6’2, 175 lbs. Point Guard
Following in the footsteps of Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Brandon Knight is no easy task. They’ve set high standards for what should be expected from a point guard under John Calipari. Few guards are equipped to live up to such hype, but Teague is definitely one of them.
Like his predecessors, Teague is a standout athlete who is extremely creative with the basketball. He’s unpredictable as a ball-handler and always looking for a teammate. While he can also fill it up himself, he needs to keep playmaking as his top priority because UK has plenty of scorers. What they need from Teague is leadership. He has to make sure the ball gets where it needs to be every possession.
Adonis Thomas (Memphis) – 6’6, 210 lbs. Small Forward
In a class full of spectacular athletes, none of them may get off the floor quicker than Thomas. Thomas shoots off of the ground in a manner very similar to former Memphis Tigers star Rodney Carney. While terrifying in transition, Thomas isn’t much easier to stop in the halfcourt. He’s got nice footwork on the block and doesn’t hesitate to go to work there if the opportunity presents itself.
As a perimeter player his game is still developing. His jump shot has made strides recently and will need to continue to do so if he’s going to take the Tigers back to the top of Conference USA. He joins a very talented Memphis team that now has the experience they were lacking last season.
LeBryan Nash (Oklahoma State) – 6’7, 230 lbs. Small Forward
Physically Nash is just a man, a man who has been ahead of his classmates in terms of development for years. While some kids were stepping into the weight room for the first time as a sophomore, Nash was already chiseled and overpowering. Wisely, Nash hasn’t relied solely on that. He’s evolved as a basketball player and is developing the game of a true small forward.
In Stillwater Nash is going to have to play hard to satisfy head coach Travis Ford, who undoubtedly sees superstar potential in him. Ford will demand more out of Nash than any coach of his ever has and how he responds to it will determine how long he stays. If Ford brings out the best in him, it won’t be long.
Myck Kabongo (Texas) – 6’2, 170 lbs. Point Guard
Everyone outside of Texas in the Big XII is extremely thankful that Cory Joseph, Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson all decided to go pro because with Kabongo things would have been one sided in the favor of UT. Kabongo is the type of pass-first point guard that Longhorns head coach Rick Barnes has desperately needed since the departure of now Charlotte Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin.
With the aforementioned trio gone, Kabongo will have the green light to run the show as he sees fit in Austin. He’s coming in with a talented recruiting class and although they lack experience, they should aim for the same goals that they would have had everyone stayed.
Honorable Mention: Khem Birch (Pittsburgh), P.J. Hairston (North Carolina), Josiah Turner (Arizona), Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse) and DeAndre Daniels (UConn).
Yannis Koutroupis is a senior NCAA and NBA analyst for HOOPSWORLD. You can follow him on twitter.