One of the most talent-rich crops of freshmen in history is set to take the NCAA hoops world by storm, and with the start of the 2013-14 college basketball schedule closing in fast, fans won’t have much time to familiarize themselves with the new stars of the hardwood. To ease the transition into the new season, Vivid Seats has created a preview of the top incoming freshmen to watch for in the upcoming season, as well as when they could face the first big tests of their young careers.
Andrew Wiggins | Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks won the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes, giving them the player unanimously regarded as the crown jewel of the 2013 recruiting class—both ESPN and Rivals.com rank him as the No. 1 incoming freshman. At 6-foot-7, 205 pounds, Wiggins possesses the body of a post player with the skill set and athletic ability of a guard. While he has a smooth shooting stroke and three-point range, it’s his ability to play above the rim that has had scouts drooling. As you can see from his high school highlight tape below, Wiggins oftentimes looks like a man among boys on the court.
It won’t take long for fans to get their first look at the Canadian star on a big stage, as the Jayhawks have a Nov. 12 date with Duke in Chicago at the Champions Classic, where Wiggins will square off against fellow freshman phenom Jabari Parker in what will be just the second game of their college careers.
Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison | Kentucky Wildcats
Of all the talent in Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s legendary incoming class, Randle could be the most dominant, and in almost any other year, this 6-foot-9 specimen would be considered the top prospect. Randle will be a matchup nightmare for opponents at the power forward position, as his rare blend of raw power and finesse allows him to find ways to score against anyone.
On-court chemistry can sometimes be an issue with young teams, as the time to mesh is quite limited before the start of the season. That won’t be a problem for the Harrison twins, as Andrew (point guard) and Aaron (shooting guard) have been taking the court together since they were children. With these multi-dimensional brothers manning the guard spots, the Wildcats should have no issues with communication in the backcourt.
Kentucky won’t waste any time testing the mettle of its heralded recruiting class. A Nov. 12 trip to Chicago to take on the Michigan State Spartans in the Champions Classic will provide fans a prime opportunity to see Randle and the rest of the talented youngsters as they take their show on the road against one of the most experienced squads in the country. The MSU game is just the beginning of the Wildcats’ non-conference gauntlet, as the team also will face Baylor at AT&T Stadium (Dec. 6), and both North Carolina (Dec. 14) and defending national champion Louisville (Dec. 28) on the road, all before New Year’s Eve.
Aaron Gordon | Arizona Wildcats
While much of the nation was focusing on Wiggins’ decision and the incoming crew at Kentucky, Arizona head coach Sean Miller picked up a huge commitment from Rivals.com’s fourth-ranked prospect, Aaron Gordon. A 6-foot-8 power forward, Gordon is an explosive leaper whose jaw-dropping dunks will bring the McKale Center crowd to its feet all season long in 2013-14.
Unlike the previously mentioned freshmen, Gordon will get the chance to get acquainted with the collegiate level via several low-profile games before his first big test, which will come in the form of a visit to the Crisler Center on Dec. 14 to take on the Michigan Wolverines, who add high-impact freshman Zak Irvin to a nucleus that reached the national championship game last season.
Jabari Parker | Duke Blue Devils
Although Parker was once heralded as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James by Sports Illustrated, the hype surrounding this Chicago product has since cooled off slightly, allowing the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Duke commit to keep a relatively low profile before the start of his freshman campaign. Don’t expect the all-around athlete to stay quiet for long, though, as the guard’s versatile skill set and electrifying play-making ability could put him in the All-American conversation from the get-go.
As mentioned, the Blue Devils’ tilt against Kansas on Nov. 12 will provide a can’t-miss showdown between Parker and Wiggins. Duke also will square off against Michigan (Dec. 3) and UCLA (Dec. 19) before beginning its ACC schedule.
Kasey Hill | Florida Gators
The Gators get a major boost in the backcourt with the addition of this lightning-quick point guard. Hill has the handles required to run Florida’s fast-paced offense, and even adds an effective mid-range jump shot to keep defenses honest. If and when fellow incoming freshman Chris Walker becomes eligible in the second semester, the Gators could have the potential to take a bite out of Kentucky’s chances in the SEC.
As it will for many of the nation’s top freshmen, Nov. 12 will serve as a stage for Hill to showcase his skills, as he and the Gators will visit the Kohl Center to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Florida’s non-conference slate also features a daunting four-game stretch of games against Florida State (Nov. 29), UConn (Dec. 2), Kansas (Dec. 10), and Memphis (Dec. 17).
Noah Vonleh | Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana rode a veteran team to a No. 1 ranking in the polls for much of last season, but with most of its stars from 2012-13 departed, incoming stud freshman Noah Vonleh will likely be able to pick up the slack. Much like Cody Zeller, a former Hoosier who was selected with the No. 4 pick in last year’s NBA Draft, Vonleh is a power forward with a high motor and an ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor.
Vonleh will have multiple chances to prove himself against top-notch competition in the early part of the season, but the Hoosiers’ Dec. 3 matchup against Syracuse on the road figures to give Vonleh his stiffest test, as the Orange have a highly touted freshman of their own in guard Tyler Ennis.