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Friday, November 09, 2007

Gary Parrish CBS Sports - Young guns already living up to hype

Young guns already living up to hype
Nov. 7, 2007
By Gary Parrish, Senior Writer

College basketball has been on TV the past two nights.

Like many, Dave Telep has tuned in to see the new guys.

Kevin Love is already using his size to toss people around. (AP)
"Derrick Rose was like hitting the (turbo) button in a video game," Telep said. "It was silly"

Yeah, it was.

And the announcers were gushing, too.

But that's kinda the part that befuddled Telep.

"The announcers were like 'This is the best freshman in America,' and he might be," said Telep, a national recruiting analyst who spends years watching prospects before they ever get to college. "But the other guys in the class are pretty darn good, too. You can like Rose because he might be the best. But there are other candidates."

The season is barely underway, limping from the starting box like it always does. But if you've been following box scores at all you know Telep is exactly right, that there are other candidates for Best Freshman in America, candidates who are already proving their worth and making it as clear as Barry Bonds' favorite asterisk-garnering substance that this group of freshmen will impact the NCAA as much or more than any class in recent history.

For proof, let's bounce around the country:

• Rose, a freshman at Memphis, is averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks through two contests. He's already the biggest game-changer on his team, and don't forget this is a team returning all five starters from an Elite Eight representative.

• Michael Beasley, a freshman at Kansas State, had 35 points, 15 rebounds, six steals, four assists and four blocks in an exhibition. Granted, it was all against Fort Hays State, and Fort Hays State isn't Washington State or even Fresno State. But still, those are hard-to-ignore numbers.

• Eric Gordon, a freshman at Indiana, had 24 points in an exhibition while making 10 of 16 shots. If you want to know why Illinois fans were so bothered when the Illini lost his commitment, that's why.

• Kevin Love, a freshman at UCLA, averaged 19.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in a pair of exhibitions. He notched double-doubles both times, and he just might lead the nation in them this season.

• O.J. Mayo, a freshman at Southern California, had 34 points and six steals in the Trojans' annual Cardinal and Gold game. For the sake of context, understand this wasn't some high-scoring affair where everybody had big numbers. The final score was 74-68, and nobody else on either side had more than 18 points or two steals.

• Kyle Singler, a freshman at Duke, averaged 25.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in two exhibitions. In a combined 44 minutes, he made 20 of 23 field goal attempts and nine of 10 free throws.

"All of those guys have legitimate star power," Telep said. "They're good enough and talented enough, and they can flat-out put people in the seats."

Not to mention defenders on their heels.

Which is why I placed all of them among the best at their positions when I ranked college players a few weeks ago, and nevermind that many readers thought it was crazy because they had, as the oft e-mailed line goes, not played a single game yet! Please, these freshmen had played thousands of games, just none in the NCAA. But that never mattered any more than it doesn't matter that Alex Rodriguez has never played a game in the National League, because if he signs with the Cardinals or Dodgers or Cubs, I'll immediately label him the best player on that side, and I'll be right to do it.

Some things just aren't hard to predict.

Like that Pacman Jones will end up arrested again.

Or that Pete Doherty will end up relapsing on heroin again.

Or that lottery picks who are in college only because the NBA is forcing them there for a year will be among the best players in the nation again -- fully capable of carrying teams and collecting accolades just like Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Mike Conley did last season as long as the ones handing out the accolades aren't stubborn to the point of being stupid, the kind of people who still believe four-year players are the heart and soul of every college program. News flash: With few exceptions, four-year players are four-year players because they weren't gifted enough to jump to the NBA after one or two or three years, and they aren't what wins championships anymore.

Talent wins championships, silly.

If it's experienced, that's great.

But if it's not, that'll be fine, too, and the evidence is in the latest Associated Press rankings. No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Memphis, No. 9 Indiana, No. 13 Duke, No. 18 Southern California and No. 25 Kansas State are all teams where the best player is arguably a freshman, and it should be noted that Love, Rose, Gordon, Singler, Mayo and Beasley will likely be lottery picks next June, if they want to be.

But in the meantime, they'll be dominating a college game near you.

So don't underestimate their impacts.

Just enjoy it while it lasts.

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