The best one-and-done college basketball players of all time
Andy Lyon/Getty Images

The best one-and-done college basketball players of all time

The age of the one-and-done in college basketball is still going strong — and probably won't end any time soon regardless of what continues to be reported. The elite college players still seem willing to put in their one season's worth of time before cashing in on the NBA life.

Duke, which has become a major player with the one-and-done philosophy in recent years, had arguably the three best freshmen in the country last season and that trio is now in the NBA. 

Over the years, we've seen exceptional seasons from those one-year college wonders. Some have gone to success in the NBA, while others have not been so fortunate. So here's a look at 25 of the best one-and-done players in college basketball history.

 
1 of 27

Shareef Abdur-Rahim, California (1995-96)

Shareef Abdur-Rahim, California (1995-96)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The former Golden Bear enjoyed a solid 12-year NBA career that began as the third-overall pick of the 1996 draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies. Abdur-Rahim earned that top-three paycheck after he averaged 21.1 points, shot 51.8 percent from the floor and registered 8.4 rebounds per contest during his one season at Cal. He was the first freshman in Pac-10 history to be named its Player of the Year. 

 
2 of 27

Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse (2002-03)

Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse (2002-03)
Bob Leverone/Sporting News via Getty Images

It's hard to top Anthony's one season at Syracuse. Arguably the best player in the nation in 2002-03, 'Melo averaged 22.2 points and 10.0 rebounds while helping Syracuse win its first national championship. During the Final Four and title game that season, Anthony dominated with totals of 53 points and 24 rebounds en route to being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

 
3 of 27

Marvin Bagley III, Duke (2017-18)

Marvin Bagley III, Duke (2017-18)
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

After reclassifying himself as a high school graduate one year early, Bagley enrolled at Duke and took the nation by storm. The 6-foot-11 forward averaged 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds to earn both the 2017-18 ACC Rookie and Player of the Year honors as well as All-American status. Bagley parlayed that one season of dominance into becoming the second-overall pick of last year's draft by the Sacramento Kings.

 
4 of 27

Lonzo Ball, UCLA (2016-17)

Lonzo Ball, UCLA (2016-17)
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports

It's easy to dismiss Ball, mostly because of his attention-needy father. But the guard's one season in Westwood was quite impressive. He averaged a solid 14.6 points but shot 55.1 percent. Ball's 7.6 assist average was the best in the country, and his 274 total assists are second-most in the Pac-12 for a single season. The All-American also averaged 6.0 rebounds per contest. He was drafted second overall by the Lakers in the 2017 draft, after averaging around 10 points a game for two seasons in L.A., he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans.

 
5 of 27

RJ Barrett, Duke (2018-19)

RJ Barrett, Duke (2018-19)
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty of hype surrounding the Canadian's arrival in Durham. Though teammate Zion Williamson ended up turning the nation on its ear with his above-the-rim antics and overall physical dominance, Barrett was as good as advertised while sharing the team lead with 22.6 points per game and averaging 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists. It was more than enough for the New York Knicks to take Barrett with the third overall pick in 2019 NBA Draft.

 
6 of 27

Michael Beasley, Kansas State (2007-08)

Michael Beasley, Kansas State (2007-08)
Jamie Squire/Getty Image

Beasley was a one-and-done prospect even before he stepped on the court in that other Manhattan. His lone season with the Wildcats will go down as one of the best freshman campaigns in NCAA history, with an average of 26.2 points (ranked third nationally) and 12.4 boards (first). A finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year Award, the All-American scored 40 or more points three times and led the country with 28 double-doubles. He was drafted second overall by Miami in 2008 and has played for seven teams, including his last stint with the Lakers.

 
7 of 27

Chris Bosh, Georgia Tech (2002-03)

Chris Bosh, Georgia Tech (2002-03)
Mike Comer/Getty Images

Reportedly Bosh intended to stay at Georgia Tech beyond his freshman season, but a solid rookie campaign led him down another path. Before he became an 11-time NBA All-Star, Bosh averaged 15.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in his one collegiate season. His 56 percent shooting from the field led the ACC that year.

 
8 of 27

DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky (2009-10)

DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky (2009-10)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After decommitting from both UAB and Memphis, "Boogie" landed at Kentucky with John Calipari for a short but successful collegiate stay. Cousins averaged 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds while teaming with fellow freshman John Wall to help the Wildcats reach the regional finals of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. 

 
9 of 27

Anthony Davis, Kentucky (2011-12)

Anthony Davis, Kentucky (2011-12)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Arguably the best one-and-done season in the history of college basketball belonged to Davis. The "browed one" was the best player on the nation's best team, averaging 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and a national-leading 4.7 blocks. His 186 blocks were a freshman single-season record. One of only two freshmen to win both the Naismith Player of Year and Wooden Awards, Davis helped the Wildcats claim their most recent national title while earning tournament Most Outstanding Player honors.

 
10 of 27

Luol Deng, Duke (2003-04)

Luol Deng, Duke (2003-04)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Never flashy during a solid NBA career that's reached 15 seasons and one freshman campaign at Duke, Deng simply delivered. He ranked second in both scoring (15.1 points per game) and rebounding (6.9 rpg) for a Blue Devils squad that won the ACC regular-season title and reached the Final Four in 2004. 

 
11 of 27

Kevin Durant, Texas (2006-07)

Kevin Durant, Texas (2006-07)
Larry Smith/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

If there's another player to rival Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis for the best freshman season in the history of the game, it's Durant. Like Davis, Durant was named both Naismith Player of the Year and the Wooden Award winner for averaging 25.8 points on 47.3 percent shooting and 11.1 rebounds for the Longhorns. He was the first freshman to take home both honors at the time.

 
12 of 27

Markelle Fultz, Washington (2016-17)

Markelle Fultz, Washington (2016-17)
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY Sports

Though he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Fultz's pro career has yet to take off, mostly because of an injury-plagued rookie season. But Fultz's only year at Washington was a good one, with averages of 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 boards. He shot 47.6 percent that season, a touch that's yet to translate into the pro ranks. But perhaps the potential is still there.

 
13 of 27

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky (2011-12)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky (2011-12)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's easy to be overshadowed on a team that included Anthony Davis, but Kidd-Gilchrist was an integral part of Kentucky's run to the national championship in 2011-12. He averaged a decent 11.9 points but was second on the team with 7.4 rebounds per game and made 49.1 percent of his shot attempts. He had 24 points — 10 of 10 from the free-throw line — and 10 rebounds in a regional semifinal victory over Indiana.

 
14 of 27

Kevin Love, UCLA (2007-08)

Kevin Love, UCLA (2007-08)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Though he went to high school in Oregon and his father was a Duck, Love spent his one college season in Los Angeles. It proved to be a good move for Love, who helped the Bruins reach the Final Four for a second consecutive season. Love earned All-American honors after he averaged 17.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He averaged 19.8 points in the NCAA Tournament.

 
15 of 27

Stephon Marbury, Georgia Tech (1995-96)

Stephon Marbury, Georgia Tech (1995-96)
Doug Pensinger/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

It would have been fun to see how dominant a college player Marbury could have been had he stayed at Georgia Tech for more than one season. In that year, the McDonald's All-American from Brooklyn averaged a team-high 18.9 points, 4.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds to earn third-team All-American honors and help the Yellow Jackets reach the Sweet 16.

 
16 of 27

O.J. Mayo, USC (2007-08)

O.J. Mayo, USC (2007-08)
Jay Drowns/Sporting News via Getty Images

An All-Pac-10 first-team pick, Mayo ranked second in the conference at 20.7 points per contest for the Trojans. Over the final nine games of his college career, Mayo averaged 23.9 points and went 31-of-57 (54.4 percent) from beyond the three-point arc. For that season, Mayo also averaged 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

 
17 of 27

Greg Oden, Ohio State (2006-07)

Greg Oden, Ohio State (2006-07)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It's easy to call Oden the biggest bust in NBA draft history, but many believe he wasn't one at all. Injuries limited the Ohio State big man to just three partial NBA seasons. He earned the right to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft because of an All-American freshman season with the Buckeyes. On the way to leading Ohio State to a national runner-up finish, Oden averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.  

 
18 of 27

Jahlil Okafor, Duke (2014-15)

Jahlil Okafor, Duke (2014-15)
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

Okafor's one season might not have looked overly special from a statistical standpoint, but his value amid Duke's run to its most recent national championship was vital. He averaged team highs of 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds, but he struggled a bit later in the NCAA Tournament. Still, he was the first freshman to win ACC Player of the Year and was the runner-up for the Wooden Award.

 
19 of 27

Jabari Parker, Duke (2013-14)

Jabari Parker, Duke (2013-14)
Lance King/Getty Images

There was plenty of hype surrounding Parker's arrival at Duke, and he didn't disappoint, even though his team did in the end. Parker averaged a team-high 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds. He scored 30 in the regular-season finale against North Carolina but could not help the Blue Devils from being upset by the 14th-seed Mercer in the NCAA Tournament.

 
20 of 27

Julius Randle, Kentucky (2013-14)

Julius Randle, Kentucky (2013-14)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

A finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award, Randle started all 40 games as the Wildcats reached the national championship game. He averaged 15.0 points, 10.4 boards and set a Kentucky freshman record with 24 double-doubles. Had Randle stayed, he might have been enough to keep the Wildcats undefeated and help them to win a national title the next season.

 
21 of 27

Derrick Rose, Memphis (2007-08)

Derrick Rose, Memphis (2007-08)
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Rose's only season at Memphis was not without controversy, as we'd find out later. The program would eventually have to forfeit its 38 wins and trip to the NCAA Tournament (which included a runner-up finish) after Rose was deemed ineligible after the fact. Unofficially, the eventual No. 1 overall pick in 2008 by his hometown Chicago Bulls averaged 14.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds that season. 

 
22 of 27

D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State (2014-15)

D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State (2014-15)
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

Russell could certainly score during his brief stint as a Buckeye; however, he didn't have much offensive support around him. He was second in the Big Ten, averaging 19.3 points, but only one other Ohio State player scored 10 or more per game. The current Brooklyn Net shot a solid 44.9 percent and also averaged 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists. 

 
23 of 27

Ben Simmons, LSU (2015-16)

Ben Simmons, LSU (2015-16)
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

Another obvious one-and-done, the Australian was a preseason All-American and lived up to the hype for the most part. Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals. However, the Tigers went 19-14 during the regular season and failed to make the NCAA Tournament after opening the campaign in the Top 25. Simmons still ended up being the top overall pick in the 2016 draft.

 
24 of 27

John Wall, Kentucky (2009-10)

John Wall, Kentucky (2009-10)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Not many athletes have a rap song named after them, but Wall's skills on the court and dance moves were honed during his one season at Kentucky. With DeMarcus Cousins at his side, Wall averaged team highs of 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. That paved the way for him to become the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 by the Washington Wizards and a five-time NBA All-Star.

 
25 of 27

Trae Young, Oklahoma (2017-18)

Trae Young, Oklahoma (2017-18)
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

Young was pretty much all offense all the time during his one season with the Sooners. He led the nation in scoring (27.4 ppg) and assists (8.7 apg) but also turnovers (5.2). He shot just 42.2 percent but ranked second nationally in average attempts (19.3) and scored at least 43 points four times. All that made Young this year's fifth-overall pick by Atlanta. So far this season, he leads the team in scoring and was second in scoring for the Hawks last season.

 
26 of 27

Zion Williamson, Duke (2018-19)

Zion Williamson, Duke (2018-19)
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

Not since LeBron James, who did not even attend college, has there been such a coveted player to take with the overall No. 1 pick in the draft. The New Orleans Pelicans were lucky enough to be in position to grab the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson, who averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 boards, 2.1 assists 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks for the Blue Devils. And we haven't even mentioned his thunderous dunks that were must-see viewing. Williamson (who shot 68 percent) capped his lone collegiate season by being named The Associated Press Player of the Year. A knee injury is holding him back from his regular-season NBA debut, but he could be back on the court by late December.

 
27 of 27

Skip Wise, Clemson (1974-75)

Skip Wise, Clemson (1974-75)
Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Wise is perhaps the first cautionary one-and-done tale. In his only season at Clemson in the mid-1970s, the talented point guard averaged 18.5 points and shot 49 percent to become the first freshman to earn All-Conference honors in the ACC. However, Wise left school after that strong season to play with the ABA's Baltimore Claws. Unfortunately, his brief pro career was hindered by drug use. Wise never played in the NBA.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

More must-reads:

Customize Your Newsletter

+

Get the latest news and rumors, customized to your favorite sports and teams. Emailed daily. Always free!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.