Send to Kindle
* * *
Not since LeBron James burst onto the national scene in the early 2000s has there been this sort of hype over a basketball player who has yet to play a college game.
It remains to be seen whether Andrew Wiggins will deliver on his tremendous promise during what is likely to be his lone season at Kansas. Wiggins, the 6-foot-8 Canadian phenom, is a preseason Player of the Year candidate according to several media outlets and has appeared on just about every preseason All-American and All-Big 12 team.
Wiggins will step into the spotlight James would have occupied had he ever set foot on a college campus. He went straight to the NBA Draft and was the No. 1 pick, a career path that changed before the 2006 season when the new collective bargaining agreement ushered in an age limit for potential NBA players. At least one year of college became the new norm for elite high school players throughout the country.
James ushered in a change in the way high school players are marketed and promoted. Several of his games with St. Vincent-St. Mary were featured on the ESPN family of networks. Scouting services – including FOX Sports through its Scout.com – began to compile and promote recruiting rankings that have since gone mainstream.
Wiggins, as could be expected, was the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2013.
How have some other top-ranked players fared during their respective freshman seasons? Let’s take a look back, starting with the 2006 class that made their debuts after the NBA rule change. All rankings below are courtesy of Scout.com.
* * *
2006 – Greg Oden, Ohio State
Other notables – Kevin Durant (No. 2)
Verdict – Oden was named First Team All-American by the Associated Press and helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship game, finishing runner-up to the Florida team led by Joakim Noah. Durant turned out to be the better college player and professional, earning consensus First Team All-American honors after averaging 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds at Texas in one season. He currently rivals James among the NBA’s best.
2007 – O.J. Mayo, USC
Other notables – Michael Beasley (No. 2), Kevin Love (No. 3), Derrick Rose (No. 5), Blake Griffin (No. 16), James Harden (No. 23)
Verdict – Mayo’s late commitment to the Trojans – he initially pledged to Kansas State – was shrouded in controversy and later resulted in an NCAA investigation and sanctions. Beasley took Mayo’s place with the Wildcats and earned consensus First Team All-American honors with Love, who starred during his one season at UCLA and led the Bruins to the Final Four.
2008 – Brandon Jennings, no school
Other notables – Samardo Samuels (No. 2), Kemba Walker (No. 12), Kenny Kadji (No. 32), Jeff Withey (No. 35)
Verdict – Jennings reneged on commitments to USC and Arizona in favor of one professional season in Italy, becoming the first American high school player to dodge the NBA’s new early entry guidelines. He was eventually selected No. 10 overall by Milwaukee in the 2009 draft. Walker led Connecticut to the 2011 national championship, where he was named Most Outstanding Player of that season’s Big East and NCAA Tournaments, but no member of this class performed above and beyond as a freshman.
2009 – Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
Other notables – John Wall (No. 2), DeMarcus Cousins (No. 3), Avery Bradley (No. 5), Kawhi Leonard (No. 71)
Verdict – Favors was named ACC Rookie of the Year, but he had little impact nationally. He was chosen No. 3 overall in the NBA Draft after one season with the Yellow Jackets. Wall was a consensus First Team All-American who teamed with Cousins – a consensus Second Team pick – to lead the Wildcats to the Elite Eight. Villanova reeled in three of the top 30 players in this class coming off its 2009 Final Four berth, but Mouphtaou Yarou (No. 9), Dominic Cheek (No. 22) and Maalik Wayns (No. 26) failed to help the Wildcats progress to another Sweet 16 during their careers.
2010 – Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Other notables – Kyrie Irving (No. 2), Jared Sullinger (No. 4), Deshaun Thomas (No. 24)
Verdict – Barnes became the ninth Tar Heel to be named ACC Rookie of the Year, but Irving was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft after being limited to just 11 games at Duke with a toe injury. Sullinger was the breakout star of the class at Ohio State, averaging a double-double at 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds while earning consensus First Team All-American honors. He led the Buckeyes to the Final Four as a sophomore before turning professional.
2011 – Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Other notables – Andre Drummond (No. 2), Austin Rivers (No. 3), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (No. 6), Bradley Beal (No. 7), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (No. 12), Cody Zeller (No. 13), Otto Porter (No. 30), Michael Carter-Williams (No. 35), Ben McLemore (No. 55), Trey Burke (No. 94)
Verdict – Davis is the gold standard in the modern era of recruiting rankings and the player whose example Wiggins will be asked to match. He averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks while leading the Wildcats to a 38-2 record and a national championship. Davis was a consensus First Team All-American and was named National Player of the Year by just about every major media outlet. He went on to become one of six Kentucky players – including five underclassmen – to be selected in the 2012 NBA Draft, going No. 1 overall.
2012 – Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Other notables – Shabazz Muhammad (No. 2), Marcus Smart (No. 13), Glenn Robinson III (No. 29), Mitch McGary (No. 26), Nick Stauskas (No. 86)
Verdict – Noel struggled with the Davis comparisons in the early going before finding his groove, averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks before suffering a torn ACL in his left knee late in his freshman season. The injury ultimately dropped the 6-foot-11 paint presence to No. 6 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. Smart was a consensus Second Team All-American and stunned the college basketball world when he turned his back on a likely top-5 selection in the draft to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. Robinson III, McGary and Stauskas teamed with Trey Burke, the No. 94 player in the Class of 2011, to lead Michigan to a national runner-up finish.
* * *
Related Posts:Big 12 Conference – Cheat SheetWelcome to the Big East Part 1: Meet the freshmenWildcats and Jayhawks clash for titleBig 10 Conference – Cheat SheetA 2013 NBA Draft recap, College Chalktalk style