October 1, 2013 11:46 AM EST
NCAA Basketball: Top Ten Impact Freshmen to Watch
The new NCAA season is drawing closer, and on Friday, teams already started their official practice sessions. While a lot of teams will rely on upperclassmen on their way to conference championships, some blue-chip freshmen are out to make an immediate impact on the college game.
We are featuring the consensus number one high school player of the year, a couple of intriguing foreign prospects, the high-majors' latest acquisitions, and surprising signees from mid-major teams seeking to break out in a high-major way. Are we going to see them doing a one-and-done? For most of them, probably. Others might take some more time to be ready for the NBA. But make no mistake about it -- these freshmen will make watching college basketball more fun and exciting in the months to come.
After all, half of the fun with college basketball is that one always sees new players all the time.
Kasey Hill, Florida
The latest in a long line of great Florida point guards, Kasey Hill is a five-star prospect who possesses a deadly first step and amazing explosiveness. This 6'0" prospect has very high athleticism and can leak out for exciting jams all the time. It seems that if Florida's problem the previous season was fastbreak points, that problem will be solved in the coming season.
Mamadou Ndiaye, UC Irvine
If the name sounds familiar, it probably is: Some guy named Mamadou N'diaye played ten years for the Denver Nuggets. That name is also that of a Senegalese footballer in Portugal. But this Mamadou Ndiaye could be the biggest one of them all -- he is 7'5" and 350 pounds with good footwork and the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. Once Ndiaye teams up with seven-footer Conor Clifford and 7'2" Greek prospect Giannis Dimakopoulos, the once-lowly Anteaters might just have the biggest frontline in all of college basketball.
Zena Edosomwan, Harvard
Coach Tommy Amaker has plenty of reasons to be optimistic in 2013-14. Aside from getting back the core of his Crimson team that went to the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, he will also welcome back 2011-12 starters Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey. The biggest news, literally, is the signing of four-star 6'8" prospect Zena Edosomwan, who passed up on offers from USC, Texas, and UCLA to become the best post player on the Crimson lineup since Brian Cusworth.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
The 6'4" Williams-Goss led Team USA to an under-19 world title in 2013, hitting 15 points in the championship game, and is expected to do more of the same for the Washington Huskies. The 6'4" shooting guard has excellent scoring ability. With his court vision and passing ability, he can slide down to point guard if needed. If the Huskies are going to contend for the Pac-12 title in 2013-14, Williams-Goss will be the biggest reason.
Derrick Walton, Michigan
When your coach calls you "exceptional" even if you haven't worn a uniform yet, you're bound to be a very special player instead. That's exactly what Michigan coach John Beilein called six-foot point guard Derrick Walton as soon as he signed with the Wolverines. Walton might be small for his position, but he more than makes up for it with his basketball IQ, which reminds many of the guy he's replacing -- 2013 National Player of the Year Trey Burke.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Talk about dedication -- at 6'9" and 220 pounds, Noah Vonleh already had a pro-ready body. But with Indiana's starting frontline of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo moving on to the pros, he realised he had to put on more muscle on those bones -- and added 30 more pounds in the offseason. Hoosier fans who miss Oladipo's high-flying acts have little reason to be worried about a lame aerial year, as Vonleh is rated among the top dunkers in all of college hoops.
Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Leading the world champion USA U-19 team in scoring, Aaron Gordon has shown what he can bring to the offense. However, his motor and energy will be the X-factor for the Wildcats, as he has proven to be a very capable rebounder, grabbing 6.8 boards at the U-19 world championships. Gordon has been compared to a young Joakim Noah. He has also shown the ability to play multiple positions, something Florida will need if they want to go back to national championship contention.
Julius Randle, Kentucky
NBADraft.net compares Julius Randle to Chris Webber. And with good reason - Randle has good size at 6'10" and 250 pounds and has great hops that allow him to dunk on just about anyone. Another comparison -- Shawn Kemp in his NBA Finals years. Randle is a tough cookie, overcoming a fractured foot to lead his high school team to a state championship. He will fill a void left by Nerlens Noel at Kentucky, and provide both offense and defense to a team that is already stacked at all positions.
Jabari Parker, Duke
Jabari Parker was the subject of an intense online tug-of-war among alumni of BYU, Duke, Florida, Stanford, and Michigan State. That struggle was rewarded when the Blue Devils, during their first official practice for 2013-14, showed off Parker's versatility -- blocking, dunking, sinking jumpers. Parker is one of the most pro-ready freshmen, and he should help get Coach K's team back into the national championship conversation.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Because he passed up a chance to represent Canada at the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament, Andrew Wiggins was already made a big reason for his country's shocking early exit. This early, he is considered the top pick in the 2014 draft, as many observers have compared him to LeBron James. And why not? Wiggins has the height, heft, athleticism, range, and all-around skill to make it big in the pros, never mind the collegiate level.