If there's one thing I've learned through two days of player rankings, it's that most readers hate freshmen. You'd rather look to the past than the future, and reward guys for what they've done in college rather than for what they might do in college.
|Kevin Durant's remarkable talent could put him in the running for Freshman of the Year. (Getty Images)|
But boy, are you going to hate this.
My best small forward is a freshman.
After him, another freshman.
What can I say?
I dig potential!
Top small forwards
1. Kevin Durant (Texas): Early word out of Austin is that the 6-9 freshman is as good as advertised, if not better. Durant has added weight since arriving on campus and showed the ability to maneuver both inside and out. And because the Longhorns lost just about everybody from last season's team, Durant will be the go-to-guy from Day 1. Obviously, with this ranking, I'm guessing he'll handle it all just fine. Don't be surprised if Durant challenges Greg Oden for Freshman of the Year honors and has himself in the conversation for National Player of the Year. His talent, everybody agrees, is simply that remarkable.
2. Thaddeus Young (Georgia Tech): Take everything I wrote about Durant, and apply it here. The 6-8 freshman is, like Durant, a top 10 NBA Draft selection waiting to happen, and not even Paul Hewitt believes it'll happen any later than next June. Put another way, Durant and Young are both one-and-done players, just serving time in college until they get past the NBA's age limit restrictions. But don't frown upon them and act like it's a disgrace for kids to use college as nothing more than a launching pad to the NBA. This is the only system we have, and if you get a chance to watch Durant and Young make campus tours for only five months, that's better than the alternative, which would be nothing at all.
3. Alando Tucker (Wisconsin): Finally, a guy who has played a college game. Tucker's actually played in 98 college games and has been nothing short of dominant, averaging 19.0 points and 5.7 rebounds last season while positioning himself as the favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year. As a pro, Tucker doesn't project as well as many, a classic tweener who lacks a true position. But I'll let the NBA scouts worry about that. In college, this 6-6 wing is a guy you want on your side, and that he's on Wisconsin's side makes the Badgers a legitimate Final Four contender.
4. Jared Dudley (Boston College): Dudley was lightly recruited out of high school, but he has developed into a premier college player, one who understands angles and plays bigger than his 6-7 frame should allow. Playing without Craig Smith won't be ideal. But I'm not going to doubt a guy who has consistently proved doubters wrong at every turn. So put me down as somebody who believes Dudley will continue to flourish, and he'll have Boston College in the mix for an ACC title.
|Point guards||Oct. 2|
|Shooting guards||Oct. 3|
|Small forwards||Oct. 4|
|Power forwards||Oct. 5|
5. Morris Almond (Rice): Almond won't get the attention he deserves playing for Rice and in Conference USA. But as I've written before, the 6-6 wing is a true talent, a future pro and somebody who could challenge for a national scoring title considering he went for 21.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game a year ago.
6. Marcus Williams (Arizona): After starting his freshman season somewhat slowly, Williams emerged pretty quickly and finished strong. He got 17 or more points in four of his final six games, including 24 in a NCAA Tournament loss to Villanova. Expect more of that this season, as Williams makes a run at Pac-10 Player of the Year honors.
7. Nick Young (USC): Young reached double figures in 29 of 30 games last season, and dropped a career-high 33 points on Oregon State in late February. He's a junior now. But if he hangs around for his senior year to team with Gabe Pruitt and, possibly, a freshman named O.J. Mayo, then USC will have the type of talent to challenge UCLA and Arizona for a Pac-10 title, and those days of losing in Chicago and New Orleans will be distant memories for Tim Floyd.
8. Corey Brewer (Florida): That a potential top 20 NBA Draft pick and standout on a national title team is eighth on this list should demonstrate how small forward is the most stacked position in college. Brewer hit double figures in five of six NCAA Tournament games last season, including a 19-point effort in the Final Four against George Mason. Even better, his 6-9 frame allows him to be a defensive presence few opposing wings can deal with, which in turn makes Florida tough to deal with.
9. Curtis Sumpter (Villanova): If Sumpter is even close to where he was before that torn ACL that cost him all of last season, he'll be better than the ninth small forward in the country. Hell, he'll be one of the top 10 players in the country. But for now, I'll take the cautious approach, wait and see if those 2004-05 numbers of 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds can be approached again.
10. Brandon Rush (Kansas): After being great in January and most of February, Rush faltered down the stretch, averaging just 8.0 points in his final four games, including a nine-point effort in that season-ending loss to Bradley. For now, I'll write it off as nothing more than a freshman hitting that proverbial wall and predict the 6-6 wing will rebound nicely to lead Kansas to a Big 12 title, and then some.
|11. Malik Hairston (Oregon)||6-6||Jr.||15.0||4.7||Not quite a pro yet, but he should be someday|
|12. Reyshawn Terry (North Carolina)||6-8||Sr.||14.3||6.2||He'll be the senior to balance all those freshmen|
|13. Tasmin Mitchell (LSU)||6-7||So.||11.4||5.6||Overshadowed by Tyrus Thomas no more|
|14. Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky)||6-5||Jr.||17.4||6.3||Here's your Sun Belt Player of the Year|
|15. Blake Schilb (Loyola)||6-7||Sr.||19.1||5.2||And here's your Horizon Player of the Year|
|16. Marcelus Kemp (Nevada)||6-5||Jr.||15.0||3.2||The outside to Nick Fazekas' inside|
|17. Demetris Nichols (Syracuse)||6-8||Sr.||13.3||5.8||If he's going to shoot 201 3-pointers (like last year), he needs to make more than 73 (like last year)|
|18. Chase Budinger (Arizona)||6-7||Fr.||NA||NA||If Lute Olson thinks he's great, that's good enough for me|
|19. Adam Haluska (Iowa)||6-5||Sr.||13.9||4.7||He'll be the go-to-guy, and improve on these numbers|
|20. Sam Young (Pittsburgh)||6-6||So.||7.9||4.4||This is what you call betting on the come|