November 6, 2010

Preseason Power Rankings: Freshmen

MORE RANKINGS: Point guard | Shooting guard | Small forward | Power forward | Center

Maybe it was the dawning of a new era. Or perhaps it was the overdue acknowledgement of an era that had arrived long ago.

When North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes earned first-team preseason All-America honors from The Associated Press on Monday, it made official what most fans had realized long ago: It's not unusual for a freshman to rank among the nation's top players as soon as he begins his career.

Texas' Kevin Durant did it in 2007. Kansas State's Michael Beasley followed suit in 2008. Kentucky's John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins continued the tradition last season.

Barnes is the freshman most likely to make the biggest impact this season. He's the first freshman to be named a first-team preseason All-America by the AP. Barnes also is the No. 1 freshman in the preseason edition of the Rivals.com College Basketball Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top performers at each position.

Although Barnes is the best, he certainly isn't the only freshman who should make an immediate impact.

Ohio State center Jared Sullinger has enough size to deal with the physical nature of Big Ten basketball right away. Duke guard Kyrie Irving will spend much of his freshman season running the offense for the defending national champions. Kentucky guard Brandon Knight will try to be the latest guard to have a magical freshman season while playing for John Calipari.

A couple of notable freshmen are missing from this list. We chose not to include Kansas guard Josh Selby or Kentucky center Enes Kanter in the power rankings until the NCAA rules on their eligibility.

Here are the top 25 freshmen entering the season.

1. F Harrison Barnes (6-8/210), North Carolina: Barnes was the USA Today national high school player of the year last season after leading Ames (Iowa) High to an undefeated record and a state title for the second consecutive season. He's the first freshman to be named a preseason first-team All-American by The Associated Press.

2. C/F Jared Sullinger (6-9/280), Ohio State: Sullinger won the Naismith Award as the nation's top high school player last season. He also was named the Parade magazine player of the year. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and is the younger brother of former Ohio State player James "J.J." Sullinger.

3. G Kyrie Irving (6-2/180), Duke: Irving averaged 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals and was named the Gatorade state player of the year his senior season at St. Patrick's in Elizabeth, N.J. He has averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 assists and only 1.5 turnovers in two exhibitions.

4. G Brandon Knight (6-3/185), Kentucky: Knight tallied 3,515 career points at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Pine Crest and is the second-leading scorer in Florida high school history. He scored a team-high 22 points in an exhibition Monday.

5. F/C Perry Jones (6-11/235), Baylor: Jones is the highest-rated prospect ever to sign with Baylor. He averaged 16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.7 blocks as a senior at Duncanville (Texas) High.

6. G Will Barton (6-6/175), Memphis: Barton helped Brewster (N.H.) Academy become the first school to win the National Prep Championship and the New England Preparatory School Athletic Conference title in the same season.

7. G Cory Joseph (6-3/185), Texas: Joseph spent the past two seasons playing for one of the nation's top high school programs at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev. He won the 3-point shooting contest at the McDonald's All-American Game. He has the ability to play either guard position.

8. F Tobias Harris (6-8/226), Tennessee: Harris was named New York's Mr. Basketball last season at Half Hollow Hills West High School in Dix Hills, N.Y. He averaged 24.7 points, 14.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks last season.

9. G Reggie Bullock (6-7/190), North Carolina: Bullock was named the North Carolina state high school player of the year by the AP and Gatorade as a senior at Kinston High. He led Kinston to two state titles in the past three seasons.

10. C.J. Leslie (6-8/206), North Carolina State: Leslie spent his senior season at Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God, the same school that produced John Wall. He pulled down a team-high nine rebounds at the McDonald's All-American Game. Leslie has the versatility to play either forward position.

11. Trey Zeigler (6-5/195), Central Michigan: Zeigler, the son of Central Michigan coach Ernie Zeigler, is the highest-rated prospect to sign with a Mid-American Conference school since Rivals.com began covering basketball recruiting. He averaged at least 24 points per game in each of his last two years at Mount Pleasant (Mich.) High School.

12. F Tristan Thompson (6-8/225), Texas: Thompson played alongside current Texas teammate Cory Joseph at Findlay Prep last season and averaged 15.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while making 60.9 percent of his shots. He should provide an immediate jolt of energy to the Longhorns' frontcourt.

13. C Fab Melo (7-0/244), Syracuse: Although Melo didn't play competitive basketball until ninth grade, he has proved a quick study. He moved from Brazil to the United States as a teenager and performed well enough at The Sagemont School in Weston, Fla., to become a McDonald's All-American.

14. F Terrence Jones (6-8/244), Kentucky: Jones led Portland (Ore.) Jefferson to three consecutive state championships. He averaged 30 points, 14 rebounds and six assists as a senior.

15. G Doron Lamb (6-4/195), Kentucky: Lamb averaged 23 points, six rebounds and four seniors as a senior at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. He scored 16 points in an exhibition Monday.

16. G Joe Jackson (6-0/170), Memphis: Jackson scored 3,451 points at Memphis (Tenn.) White Station and was the fourth-leading scorer in Tennessee high school history. He was named the Gatorade state player of the year.

17. G Juwan Staten (6-0/189), Dayton: Staten is a Dayton resident who played for Oak Hill Academy last season before returning to his hometown for college. He scored 12 points and was the Flyers' second-leading scorer in an exhibition.

18. C Adreian Payne (6-10/225), Michigan State: The Spartans already have a talent-laden frontcourt, but Payne has so much upside that he will find a way to carve out a niche. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is quoted in the Spartans' media guide as saying Payne is the "most athletic big man we've ever had."

19. C Josh Smith (6-10/305), UCLA: Smith has dropped 40 pounds since June to prepare himself for the start of his college career. He has a chance to assert himself immediately as one of the top big men in the Pac-10.

20. G Vander Blue (6-4/190), Marquette: Blue led Madison (Wis.) Memorial to a state title his junior year and a state runner-up finish as a senior. Marquette assistant Tony Benford has said he expects Blue to rank among the quickest players in the Big East right off the bat.

21. F Dwight Powell (6-9/227), Stanford: Powell averaged 23.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.3 blocks as senior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. His versatility should allow Powell to make an immediate impact.

22. G K.T. Harrell (6-4/204), Virginia: Harrell averaged 27.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.6 blocks his senior year at Brewbaker Tech in Montgomery, Ala. He could immediately become one of Virginia's top players.

23. G Ray McCallum (6-1/185), Detroit: McCallum, the son of Detroit coach Ray McCallum, was a McDonald's All-American who averaged 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists as a senior at Detroit Country Day.

24. F Tarik Black (6-8/252), Memphis: Black averaged 16.3 points and 12.6 rebounds as a senior at Memphis (Tenn.) Ridgeway. He had 15 points and eight rebounds in just 16 minutes during an exhibition Wednesday.

25. G Keala King (6-4/201), Arizona State: King - who went to Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei - is a jack-of-all-trades player who should help the Sun Devils immediately with his ability to play multiple positions. He's a solid ballhandler and shooter who also rebounds well for his size.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.




 

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