Wednesday, September 30, 2009

12 impact freshmen

Freshman, freshman, who doesn’t love a freshman? They make everything better, right? Well, at least they do before the season officially tips off. In today’s 12 @ 12, we look at the top dozen instant impact rookies in college basketball.

1. John Wall, Kentucky – No brainer pick here. He is picked by some as the National Player of the Year. That may be a little too much for a guy that hasn’t proven himself as a winner at the highest level yet but there is no question that he’s the most talented rookie in college basketball. Getting to the Final Four (and beyond) would certainly end the knock that he doesn’t win the big one, wouldn’t it?

2. Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech – Those in Atlanta have compared him to Dwight Howard and while the comparisons aren’t dead on, Favors will certainly be a major factor. He’s a double-double guy from the outset and a challenge-free run through the high school and grassroots ranks, Favors is ready to play against a high competition.

3. Kenny Boynton, Florida (pictured) – The Florida Gators need to push the reset button. And the in-state star should do it. Boynton will start from day one and his presence will be felt immediately. He can score. He can defend. He can shoot. And more importantly, he wins, wins, wins.

4. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt – Don’t be surprised if the 6-5 guard leads all freshmen in scoring this year. After all, he scored over 40 points a game as a high school senior. He is one of the elite shooters in the country, too. Jenkins is quietly one of the best freshmen in the country right now.

5. Michael Snaer, Florida State – Toney Douglas is gone. And he took his 21.5 points per game with him. Snaer, a score-first guy, has to love that. The California guard is similar to Douglas in the sense that the two can score with the best of them. Snaer is bigger, more athletic and has deeper range, too. Don’t be surprised to see him average 15 points this year.

6. Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati – From a straight basketball perspective, he’s a major talent. The New Yorker is big, strong, athletic and when he wants to be, a fierce competitor. Stephenson is his own worst enemy but leaving Coney Island for Cincy could be the magic he needs to have his best basketball year to date.

7. DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky – You could argue that the 6-10 center is the most talented player in the class. He’s one of the most skilled post players to come out of high school in a long, long time. His passing skills are just as good as his rebounding. And his rebounding is just as good as his scoring. If John Calipari can channel it all together, Cousins could be argued for the number one pick in the draft in June.

8. Dante Taylor, Pittsburgh – Is there a power forward better suited for the Panthers more than Taylor? Doubt it. He’s as rugged, skilled and tough as they come and his game just screams Pitt. He’ll be a fan favorite not just because of his effort but because of his likely 16 points and nine rebounds a game as a rookie.

9. Mouphtauo Yarou, Villanova – How the basketball world continues to sleep on this guy is amazing. The .com recruiting world knows plenty about him and understands his value but most college basketball pundits aren’t seeing the light with him. Sure, most African imports struggle in college. Yarou is very much the exception.

10. Avery Bradley, Texas – Last July, we saw the quick rise to elite status for the Washington state native. His rise was quick and very noticeable. The rise hasn’t ended. Bradley is an elite defender and it could be argued he’s the best on the ball defender in the country. Right now. Oh, and his offense is outstanding, too.

11. Abdul Gaddy, Washington – The Huskies are now the home to the best three guard rotation in the West. With Gaddy, the best pure point guard entering college, Isiah Thomas and Venoy Overton, Washington will be dancing for a while in March. Gaddy makes the other two so much better.

12. Wally Judge, Kansas State – Sure, there may be others that you could argue make this 12th spot. But Judge quietly had a huge senior season and is physically, mentally and athletically ready for the next level. While he is no Michael Beasley, Judge will likely lead the team in rebounding and maybe even scoring this season.

Truth be told, 12 may not be enough for one day. We’ll have an additional 12 freshmen of impact on Thursday.

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