College Basketball Preview: Top 30 freshmen

Julius Randle (Getty)
Kentucky's Julius Randle dunks at Friday's Big Blue Madness. (USATSI)

Freshmen get loads of attention heading into every season mainly because they’re just that: freshmen. Many are looked at as prospects with unlimited potential, with sky-high expectations. This year is no different – but the expectations have been taken to a new level as we enter the 2013-14 campaign. NBA people have been looking at the 2014 NBA Draft as one of the best in a long time, primarily because of the incoming crop of freshmen. One mock draft currently has six freshmen in its top eight selection, nine in its top 17.

Of course, there are going to be some growing pains, and some people will be quick to anoint former five-star prospects as “busts” by Christmas. On the other hand, there will be surprises. It’s not an exact science.

The following rankings are also not simply a regurgitation of the 247Sports Composite for the class of 2013, either. This takes into account the opportunity for immediate impact more so than simply talent and high school performance. Not every five-star prospect will make the list – sometimes, the minutes and starring role just aren’t there yet.

 1. Andrew Wiggins


 Vitals: 6-8 | F

 Comment: Is Wiggins going to average 20 a game? Probably not. But by the time conference play heats up, it’s going to be clear the Canada native is the best player in the country. He’s that good.

 2. Julius Randle


 Vitals: 6-9 | F

 Comment: An absolute physical specimen, Randle has the ability to be unstoppable around the basket. He also isn’t afraid to step out to the perimeter and take slower defenders off the dribble.

 3. Jabari Parker


 Vitals: 6-8 | F

 Comment: The former No. 1 player in the class, Parker has been overshadowed by Wiggins and Randle the past few months. He’s a stud in his own right, and has an advanced offensive game already.

 4. Aaron Gordon


 Vitals: 6-8 | F

 Comment: His numbers might not reflect his top-five status because the Wildcats are going to be so balanced, but Gordon will be one of the most entertaining players in the country. Super athletic and can do a little of everything.

 5. Andrew Harrison


 Vitals: 6-5 | G

 Comment: The next in a long line of tall, aggressive point guards under John Calipari, Harrison can get into the lane at will. He’s very competitive and can be unstoppable with a consistent jumper.

 6. James Young


 Vitals: 6-6 | G

 Comment: It’s hard to say a top-10 prospect was forgotten, but Randle and the Harrison twins have received most of the attention at Kentucky. Meanwhile, NBA scouts continue to fall in love with Young.

 7. Wayne Selden


 Vitals: 6-5 | G

 Comment: One NBA guy told me this week that Selden would be the best of the Kansas freshmen this season. He’s got a strong body that he uses to get into the lane, and his decision-making has become a huge asset.

 8. Aaron Harrison


 Vitals: 6-5 | G

 Comment: The lesser-heralded of the Harrison twins (even only by a little), Aaron might be the better pure scorer. He can shoot from the perimeter, and is also effective off the bounce and in the mid-range.

 9. Joel Embiid


 Vitals: 7-0 | C

 Comment: The Cameroon native burst onto the scene two summers ago, and has become a future lottery pick. His ceiling is absurdly high, but he’s not just a potential guy: he will contribute this year.

 10. Tyler Ennis


 Vitals: 6-2 | G

 Comment: Another product of Canada, Ennis gets the unenviable task of replacing Michael Carter-Williams. But he will be up to the task. He gets teammates involved, but can score if needed.

 11. Noah Vonleh


 Vitals: 6-10 | F

 Comment: Vonleh is likely to start out at the five for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers, and that could be the best spot for him this season. He’s a tremendous rebounder, and his strength enables him to bang down low.

 12. Jarell Martin


 Vitals: 6-9 | F

 Comment: If LSU is to make a run to the NCAA tournament this season, Martin will be a key reason. He has a versatile offensive game, and will make an immediate impact on the offensive glass.

 13. Kasey Hill


 Vitals: 6-1 | G

 Comment: In terms of pure talent, Hill could easily be in the top 10 among freshmen. He’s supremely athletic and quick, and loves to push the break. He might not give up Scottie Wilbekin’s job.

 14. Jabari Bird


 Vitals: 6-6 | G

 Comment: With Allan Crabbe gone, there is a void on the perimeter for the Golden Bears. Bird will step up, especially on the offensive end. He was one of the best scoring guards in the country.

 15. Eric Mika


 Vitals: 6-10 | C

 Comment: This one might surprise me a few people, but Mika has a chance to be a big-time player immediately. He gets to replace Brandon Davies down low, and he can score with his back to the basket.

 16. Dakari Johnson


 Vitals: 7-0 | C

 Comment: Johnson won’t start, as Willie Cauley-Stein is ahead of him in the pecking order. But there aren’t many players Johnson’s size who can get position on the block and then score consistently.

 17. Robert Hubbs


 Vitals: 6-6 | G

 Comment: He didn’t become an elite prospect until the spring after his junior year, but Hubbs has the ability to fill it up quickly. He is great off the bounce and can shoot from the perimeter.

 18. Jajuan Johnson


 Vitals: 6-5 | G

 Comment: Another wing scorer that could end up putting up plenty of points this season, Johnson has the opportunity to break out. Marquette loses its three perimeter starters from a year ago.

 19. Brandon Austin


 Vitals: 6-6 | G

 Comment: The Philadelphia native’s most impactful attribute will be his versatility. He has the ability to handle and pass the ball, while his length and size enable him to guard multiple spots on the perimeter.

 20. Demetrius Jackson

 Notre Dame

 Vitals: 6-1 | G

 Comment: Yes, Notre Dame has three returning starters on the perimeter from last season – but the Fighting Irish are going to find ways to get Jackson on the court. He’s strong and quick with the ball.

 21. Derrick Walton


 Vitals: 6-1 | G

 Comment: He will get first crack at replacing Player of the Year Trey Burke – and it won’t be easy. However, Walton is a winner and a leader who can run a team and find teammates for easy buckets.

 22. E.C. Matthews


 Vitals: 6-5 | G

 Comment: Head coach Dan Hurley thinks Matthews can play in the NBA, and given the early returns from practice, it sounds like Matthews is poised for a big year. The lefty will put up numbers.

 23. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson


 Vitals: 6-7 | F

 Comment: It remains unclear whether Hollis-Jefferson will start, but it will be hard to keep him on the bench. He has tremendous athleticism, but his ability to be a lockdown defender will be a factor.

 24. Terry Rozier


 Vitals: 6-1 | G

 Comment: The backcourt of Chris Jones and Russ Smith will get most of the minutes, but Rozier will find time – and will excel. Everyone who has seen practice says Rozier is a future star.

 25. Matt Thomas

 Iowa State

 Vitals: 6-3 | G

 Comment: The Cyclones led the nation in 3-pointers per game last season, but their entire perimeter group is gone. That’s where Thomas steps in. He was one of the best shooters in the country.

 26. Keith Frazier


 Vitals: 6-5 | G

 Comment: The first McDonald’s All-American to play for SMU, Frazier is going to be a player who can get points early and often. He has deep range on his jumper, and he’s very confident offensively.

 27. Jermaine Lawrence


 Vitals: 6-9 | F

 Comment: He had an up and down high school career, but he finished as a borderline five-star prospect. Lawrence is able to play both forward positions, and can be a playmaker or a scorer.

 28. Bobby Portis


 Vitals: 6-9 | F

 Comment: The Razorbacks’ first McDonald’s All-American in a decade, it would be a surprise not to see Portis get big minutes immediately. He has a variety of skills and brings an impressive motor.

 29. Damian Jones


 Vitals: 6-10 | F

 Comment: Head coach Kevin Stallings said Jones has a chance to be the best post player he’s ever had – and that starts now. He’s excellent on the defensive end, and has a growing offensive game.

 30. Zena Edosomwan


 Vitals: 6-9 | F

 Comment: The Crimson have plenty of depth on their roster, and Edosomwan is going to be a guy who gets minutes. He’s simply too strong for the Ivy League; he could absolutely dominate.

Others: Rysheed Jordan (St. John’s), Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington), Zach LaVine (UCLA), Devin Williams (West Virginia), Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina), Chris Walker (Florida), Mike Young (Pittsburgh)

Our Latest Stories