With national signing day officially behind us and the start of the 2013-14 college basketball season still months away, we take a look at the incoming freshmen who are primed to have the biggest impact.
Andrew Wiggins- Kansas
The No. 1-overall recruit in the land is so good, he pushed Jabari Parker down to the two-spot when the Jayhawks commitment decided to reclassify for this year’s class. He joins Joel Embiid (No. 1 center) and Wayne Seldon (No. 4 small forward) among others in a very solid class for KU head coach Bill Self. Even with all the talent around him, he is expected to start right away and become a major contributor. The National Gatorade Player of the Year’s versatility (he can play the two through four spots) is a major reason he was so highly coveted. At 6’7” and 205 pounds, he was physically imposing in high school but will have to adjust to a bigger game in college, especially playing in the rough Big 12.
Jabari Parker- Duke
The No. 2-overall recruit is 6’8” with a nice touch from outside. He is considered a small forward, but may play at power forward for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski as well. He has a lot of maturity in his game and he takes academics very seriously. He plays with a win-first mentality, not for individual stats. There will only be one junior starting next year for Duke so Parker has a good chance to make a huge impact on this team and the ACC as a whole.
Aaron Gordon – Arizona
The fourth-highest ranked recruit is headed out west to play for Wildcats head coach Sean Miller with the hopes of getting the program back to its previous glory. He has some of the best bounce in this class and could play the three or four positions, depending on how much weight he puts on. His jump shot is the major weakness in his game, but that can be worked on with the help of the team’s coaches. His relentless ability to secure defensive and offensive rebounds led to his high ranking in this class. He is also quickly becoming a more fluid player. With the right teammates around him he could become very dangerous, especially if he works on his jumper.
Jarrell Martin- LSU
The 11th-ranked prospect is headed to LSU. Not normally a basketball powerhouse, the program pulled off this coup and will be much stronger for it. He didn’t start playing basketball until his junior year of high school, making him a bit of a mystery. Still, many in the game are excited for his upside. He is another small forward product with a lot of athleticism that will have to fill out his frame. After taking time to develop a more refined game in Baton Rouge his freshman season, he is more likely to have a bigger impact in his sophomore season (assuming he stays). Regardless, he should still help make LSU competitive in 2013-14 and get them out of the SEC cellar.
Noah Vonleh- Indiana
Hoosier’s head coach Tom Creen is hoping to replace Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller with the signing of Vonleh. He is 6’8” and already weighs 220 pounds. He is still growing into his body and already has a consistent game from 15 feet and in. Like Martin, he has a ton of potential and his best days are still ahead of him. He has a very good handle for a player his size, but will need work on his outside shooting. He will also need Creen’s help to understand defenses and stay out of foul trouble.
Austin Nichols- Memphis
The 15th ranked prospect on the ESPN 100 list is headed to play for the Tigers. He could help them make a splash as they move from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference. He is part of a strong class of small forwards this year, coming in at 6’8” and 200 pounds. He will have to put weight on, but he should see the floor early with his fundamentally sound game. Nichols plays like a smaller Zeller, running the floor and rebounding well. He can also play back-to-the-basket and has a consistent short jump shot.
Bobby Portis- Arkansas
This seems like a stretch for a player going to Arkansas, but he might help get the program back near the top of the SEC and into the NCAA Tournament. He is a solid power forward (a rarity in this class), standing at 6’9” and weighing 225 pounds. He helped Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson reel in the 18th-ranked class this year, despite only signing two players. Portis will have to work a little on his post-game and find his “go-to” move, but his perimeter game is solid and he is becoming a better rebounder. He was also the Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year, averaging a double-double (20.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game) for his AAU team.
Demetrius Jackson- Notre Dame
Jackson is the sixth-best point guard in the class and a great signing for head coach Mike Brey. An under-the-radar player, it seems the only thing he can’t do is shoot three’s consistently. The rest of his game is solid, as he can get to the rim, pull up on the move and find his teammates off the pass. He is a natural-born leader and at 6’1” he still has the confidence to play in the post and take on larger defenders. Along with a high basketball IQ, Jackson showed loyalty by sticking with his small-town AAU team despite offers to play elsewhere. He declined collegiate offers to play for Kansas and Illinois so he could play for Notre Dame.
Rysheed Jordan- St. Johns
The big point guard will also take his talents to the Big East. He gives the Red Storm a good chance to compete in the restructured conference and an edge on the defensive end with his physical ability. He’s 6’3”, 180 pounds, but could put on some more weight during the season to increase his durability against bigger guards in the college game. He’s very good in transition, but will have to prove himself running the show in a slower and more grind out game than he is used to.
Tyler Ennis- Syracuse
The 20th-ranked prospect on the ESPN100 list weighs in at 180 pounds and stands 6’2” at the guard position. Ennis has a very good handle offensively and is deceptively quick. He is good at penetrating and passing when he draws multiple defenders and has a variety of tricks to finish when he’s one-on-one in the paint. He knows how to run an offense, which will help head coach Jim Boeheim recover from the loss of graduated seniors James Southerland and Brandon Triche, as well as the early departure of Michael Carter-Williams to the NBA. Boeheim will have to teach Ennis how to shoot consistently from beyond the arc, but looks to be in good shape otherwise.
NOTE: There were no Kentucky players on this list as John Calipari was able to secure so many recruits that he has essentially guaranteed that no single one of them will have a greater impact than the other. Still, this will surely prove to be a very dominant haul for the Wildcats. Many players from last year’s recruiting class could have headed to the NBA after their freshman year, but only two left (Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin). Now Calipari has a bunch of players who thought they would be guaranteed time, but will have to share court time more than planned. However, if history has taught us anything, it’s that Calipari will find a way to make this team a contender right away.