On Sports Illustrated’s Top 10 Freshmen In College Basketball

The last top 10 list from Sports Illustrated resulted in Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade launching into a now-well publicized series of social media jousts. Their compilation of the top 10 impact freshmen heading into the college basketball season was slightly less combative, but intriguing nonetheless. Take a look:

1. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
2. Julius Randle, Kentucky
3. Jabari Parker, Duke
4. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
5. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
6. Wayne Selden, Kansas
7. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
8. Noah Vonleh, Indiana
9. Derrick Walton, Michigan
10. Jarrell Martin, LSU

For the most part, finding qualms and taking offense to anyone listed or not listed here is pointless. In the spirit of the game (and Ball Don’t Lie), however, these five positional points represent a string of observations dealing with the diaper dandies heading into the 2013-2014 campaign.

PG: Remember Jabari Parker?

Parker was the apple of everyone’s eye before Wiggins reclassified and he, himself, injured his right foot in the summer of 2012. Now, with the hype around Andrew already on teenage LeBron and Durant levels and the “new Fab Five” in Kentucky, there’s almost the impression the Chicago high school hoops legend been relegated to second or third-in-command. I hate Duke. But witnessing Parker explode into full-fledged “Forgot About Dre”-mode all season would be anything but dreadful.

The crazy thing is, pending his health isn’t an issue and he and Coach K find middle ground on how best to utilize his talents with Duke’s offense, it may already be a foregone conclusion.

SG: Keep An Eye On Jabari Bird

Depending on Cal’s performance, Bird’s visibility to much of the country outside Pac-12 enthusiasts may not arrive until February or March. He’s also billed as the replacement for last year’s leading scorer Allen Crabbe (18.7 PPG), now up the road in Portland as a member of the Trailblazers. Despite that pressure, Bird’s 6’5 with a decent shooting touch, a top 20 recruit, a legacy (his pops potent scorer for Cal in the ’70s) and is an absolute freak in the open court.

While the schedule has yet to be released, mark those calendars for whenever Arizona and Cal play, too. Bird vs. Aaron Gordon could be worth staying up for.

SF: Julius Randle And The Young Kentucky Juggernaut

It’s tough to put so much pressure on a group of kids who attended prom less than six months ago, but “championship or bust” happens to be the correct mantra for Kentucky. With an incoming class already boasting the Harrison twins (UK’s best backcourt since John Wall and Eric Bledsoe in 2009-10), Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson and James Young, Randle is the cream of a crop billed as the best recruiting class of all-time.

We all embrace this next statement in different ways. Basketball’s become a game more perimeter-oriented over the years, and at 6’10, Julius does have range extending to the three-point line. That being said, here’s to hoping he translates some of his aggressiveness to occasionally breaking down opposing defenses on the block (which he is more than capable of). He and Dakari as a potential 4-5 combo is just flat out ridiculous.

PF: Derrick Walton And Helping Michigan Pick Up Where They Left Off

S.I. noted Walton is following in the shoes of Trey Burke, but won’t immediately have to replicate what Burke produced. They’re right. And that’s exactly why Walton’s role in Ann Arbor is compelling. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III carrying the bulk of the offense in the early portion of the season could be the best possible scenario for Walton as he finds his role on a team not only thinking about a Big 10 title, but finishing the job the Wolverines fell only minutes short of last season.

C: Andrew Wiggins vs. Marcus Smart

A buddy of mine mentioned this a few weeks back. Watching Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart battle during the regular season – cross your fingers for the Big 12 championship, too – is enough to reorganize the budget to see if adding the college basketball package to the cable bill is feasible (or dedicating oneself to finding a quality streaming site weeks in advance). Smart, a sophomore, and Wiggins enter the season as the unquestioned most hyped and talented players in the conference. And similar to Smart in Stillwater, it’s Wiggins who will have the keys to the Kansas operation from the very second fall practice begins.

Focusing on Andrew for a moment, the hoopla around the Canadian transplant is textbook knowledge. He can pass, rebound, score and do it all within the flow of the game without much exertion. That’s obviously about to change with the level of competition increasing dramatically, but’s Evan Daniels says Wiggins may is “arguably the best defender in the 2013 class;” a distinction neither James nor Durant were known for at 18. Meanwhile, Smart – the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year – would’ve legitimately been the second overall pick in 2013 and left the Orlando Magic listening to advance copies of Nothing Was The Same when he decided against declaring for the draft.

So, yeah, the seeds of anticipation have already been planted. Buckle those seat belts, ladies and gents. It’s almost that time again.

Photo: ESPN