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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gary Parrish: The Impact Freshmen

The impact freshmen: Nice class, just not that nice
Oct. 27, 2008

By Gary Parrish

Four of the top five picks in last June's NBA Draft were freshmen.

Year before that, five of the top 10 picks were freshmen.

So let me be the first -- or actually the 500th -- person to tell you that, no, this season's freshman class will not be as good as last season's freshman class or the freshman class before that. Greg Oden and Michael Beasley are not walking through that door. But what you must understand is that even though this group of freshmen isn't as gifted as those groups of freshmen there are still many first-year players capable of making an immediate impact.

Any by impact, I mean impact.

Ed Davis might be one of the best freshmen in America; he's talented like that. But how much of an impact will the North Carolina forward make this season considering the Tar Heels already have Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson in the frontcourt? Answer: I'm not sure. But what I do know is that Davis probably won't get the same opportunities as many of his classmates who signed elsewhere. So that's why Davis isn't on this list, because it's not necessarily a list of the best freshmen but rather a list of the freshmen best-positioned to have immediate impacts on relevant programs.

You dig?


Now here's the list of freshmen poised to make immediate impacts:

1. DeMar DeRozan (Southern California)
Why he's here: DeRozan did nothing to lower expectations when he scored 29 points in Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage. The 6-7 wing is a different player than O.J. Mayo, but his impact will be similar, if not more significant.

2. Jrue Holiday (UCLA)
Why he's here: Holiday does a little bit of everything -- including make predictions. In fact, the 6-3 combo guard didn't hesitate when he was asked at UCLA's annual media day for a prediction on the season. "National championship, national championship," Holiday said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We've gone to the Final Four three years in a row, the history here. What else do I have to say? National championship."

3. B.J. Mullens (Ohio State)
Why he's here: A lot of these rankings are based on the impressions prospects made on me when I saw them at various times. I tell you that to tell you that the reason Mullens is so high is because every time I've ever seen him in person he's been awesome, just a jumping and dunking machine who should wreak havoc on the Big Ten. Is he Greg Oden? No, not quite. But he's certainly good enough to become the third straight OSU center to leave school after one season.

4. Tyreke Evans (Memphis)
Why he's here: Evans has to be John Calipari's best player if the Tigers are to make a fourth consecutive Elite Eight, and I suspect he will be. The 6-foot-6 combo guard has reportedly been great in preseason practices on both ends of the court. So the guess here is that Evans picks up a large portion of the points left behind by Chris Douglas-Roberts and becomes the sixth Memphis player in the past eight seasons to win C-USA Freshman of the Year honors.

5. Samardo Samuels (Louisville)
Why he's here: Samuels got 36 points and 16 rebounds in Sunday's Red-White scrimmage while reportedly "overpowering" Earl Clark and Terrence Jennings. Assuming that description is true (and that Samuels can dominate the paint) it's safe to pencil the Cardinals in as a legitimate threat to North Carolina, which makes me feel good about ranking Louisville second in the Top 25 (and one).

6. Willie Warren (Oklahoma)
Why he's here: Warren will team with Blake Griffin and provide one of the nation's best inside-outside duos. He's great at getting to the rim and should be one of the more entertaining freshmen given his unique ability to talk the talk and walk the walk.

7. Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest)
Why he's here: Aminu is the centerpiece of Wake Forest's stellar recruiting class assembled by the late Skip Prosser and held together by his successor Dino Gaudi. When the Demon Deacons make the NCAA tournament this season, this 6-8 forward will be a huge reason.

8. Scotty Hopson (Tennessee)
Why he's here: Bruce Pearl has established himself in the SEC by doing more with less. Now he gets to do more with more because Hopson is a McDonald's All-American who will start from Day 1 and ensure the Vols have the type of talent to advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time in history.

9. Greg Monroe (Georgetown)
Why he's here: Remember what I wrote about Mullens and how he's ranked so high because every time I've seen him he's been great? Well, that's the same reason Monroe is lower than most would put him, because every time I've seen him he's merely been pretty good. Monroe spent much of his prep days as the nation's top-rated player, but I never saw him consistently dominate the way a No. 1 player should. That said, I know Monroe is talented; that's why he made the list. It's just that when watching him I never saw what I'm used to seeing from an elite prospect, but I'm willing to wait longer.

10. JaMychal Green (Alabama)
Why he's here: Alabama would be the easy pick to win the SEC West had Richard Hendrix returned to school. He didn't, and that's too bad for Alabama. But the reason Mark Gottfried isn't devastated is because Green is on campus after averaging 11.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. As Davidson's Bob McKillop said after coaching him, Green is "terrific".

The next 10

11. Devin Ebanks (West Virginia)
16. Marcus Morris (Kansas)
12. Delvon Roe (Michigan State)
17. William Buford (Ohio State)
13. Kemba Walker (Connecticut)
18. Chris Singleton (Florida State)
14. Luke Babbitt (Nevada)
19. Yancy Gates (Cincinnati)
15. Iman Shumpert (Georgia Tech)
20. Tony Woods (Wake Forest)

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