October 23, 2008

Preseason story line No. 19: One and done?

Rivals.com has selected the top 25 story lines for the 2008-09 season and will be revealing one daily. At No. 19, we look at the touted freshmen who likely will be spending just one season in college basketball.

The past two seasons have produced arguably the two greatest groups of freshmen in college basketball history. They've also made college basketball fans a nervous bunch.

As soon as a team lands a commitment from an elite high school prospect, its coaches now seem to immediately begin factoring how long that player will stay in school and with good reason.

In 2006-07, the first year of the NBA's 19-year-old age limit, a record eight freshmen were selected in the NBA draft. That was more than the previous four years combined. Soon after, the term "one-and-done" referring to players who turn pro after one year in college was coined. Six of those eight freshmen were lottery picks, including No. 2 pick Kevin Durant, who was the consensus national player of the year.

In 2007-08, 11 freshmen were drafted. Seven were taken in the lottery, including No. 2 pick Michael Beasley, who bested Durant's gaudy statistics on his way to being named Rivals.com's National Player of the Year.

That record should be safe for at least one year. The 2008 class of high school prospects isn't considered nearly as deep or as talented as the previous two. But that's not to say freshmen won't be making a big impact in 2008-09. There are at least nine one-and-done candidates. We take a look at each and what makes them so highly touted:

B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State: Buckeyes coach Thad Matta says Mullens, the nation's top incoming freshman, is bigger than 7-footers Greg Oden (No. 1 pick in 2007 draft) and Kosta Koufos (No. 21 pick in 2008 draft) each of whom left after one season. Mullens also runs the court better than the former OSU big men. With that kind of size and speed, Mullens has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft.

Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA: No prospect in the 2008 class may be more polished. Able to play the point or off the ball, the 6-3 Holiday is a graceful athlete who can get to the basket and finish. He also can be a disruptive force on defense, making him a great fit for the defense-minded and perimeter-oriented Bruins. He's also a good outside shooter, which may be what ultimately gives him an edge over the other guards in this class.

DeMar DeRozan, F, USC: Expectations remain high in the land of Troy despite the loss of one-and-done O.J. Mayo (No. 3 pick in the 2008 draft). That's because DeRozan is capable of replacing much of the 20.7 points per game Mayo averaged last season. DeRozan, a 6-6 swingman, can't shoot the ball like Mayo, but he's bigger and more athletic. It will be a surprise if he's not an instant star and an even bigger surprise if he sticks around for a sophomore campaign.

Scotty Hopson, G, Tennessee: After the departure of veteran guards Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, Tennessee found exactly what it needed in Hopson. He is a dynamic scorer who will provide plenty of perimeter firepower. At 6-7, the ultra-athletic wing will be extremely tough for any guard in the college ranks to defend. He could prove to be the missing piece in what gets the Vols past the Sweet 16, where each of their past two seasons have ended.

Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis: This five-star recruit may be the best pure scorer in the class. A longtime star on the AAU circuit, Evans excels at beating defenders off the dribble. He also can finish around the basket, score in the mid-range area and knock down 3-pointers with regularity. The Tigers will need Evans to display all those skills after losing three starters from their national runner-up team: No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose and second-round picks Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey.

Al-Farouq Aminu, F, Wake Forest: This multi-dimensional forward has the potential to be a difference-maker on both ends of the floor. Aminu is blessed with an athletic 6-9 frame and a massive wingspan, the kind of physical combination that will eventually have NBA scouts salivating. Aminu is joining a team that returns all five starters, including potential NBA players Jeff Teague and James Johnson, so he likely won't be asked to do as much in his first season as the others on this list.

Greg Monroe, F, Georgetown: The Hoyas could not have found a more ideal prospect for their team-oriented program. The 6-11 Monroe has tremendous size and athleticism. Monroe also has an extraordinary feel for the game and prefers to pass rather than shoot, traits that are highly valued in the Hoyas' Princeton-style offense. He should be in the mix for Big East Rookie of the Year honors.

Samardo Samuels, F, Louisville: The terms "beast" and "bruiser" have been used to describe Samuels, who seems to crave contact and enjoys delivering punishment around the basket. The 6-8 big man is the favorite to replace center David Padgett, the Cardinals' only departing starter. If he's as good as advertised, the Cards will be in the national title hunt.

Willie Warren, G, Oklahoma: Warren already is an Internet legend because of his acrobatic dunks. But he's far more than just a great dunker. He is a good ballhandler and can overpower defenders with his strength and speed. He'll team with Oklahoma big man Blake Griffin (projected by some to be the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft) to form one of the nation's top inside-outside tandems.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.


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