Sophomore Year or One-and-Done? Big Choices for Basketball’s 2013 Freshman Class

Over one year ago, Jabari Parker put on a Duke uniform and started his college basketball career. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior in high school, and he led his high school basketball team to four consecutive state championships. Parker had a great season at Duke, despite the team’s disappointing loss first round NCAA tournament loss.

In fact, Parker’s season bore a strong similarity to the one that Kevin Durant had at the University of Texas in 2006-2007: great numbers, disappointing tournament.

Parker, along with other members of 2013’s outstanding freshman class including Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Julius Randle (Kentucky), have officially joined the ranks of the “one-and-done.” Because of the NBA’s minimum age rule, outstanding high school athletes must play at least one year of college basketball before they’re allowed to join the draft.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver says he wants to raise the minimum age to 20. To those who love to bet on NBA basketball, Silver’s stance might look like another chance for the players’ union and NBA officials to have a giant confrontation.

For now, the minimum age is still 19, and most of 2013’s notable freshmen have already made their choices.

Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)

If Jabri Parker has conjured up images of Durant, then Andrew Wiggins has caused basketball fans to reminisce about a younger LeBron James in the pre-season. Looking back, Wiggins ended up with good stats in Kansas, although his results weren’t as godlike as people anticipated: 17.1 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and a third-round NCAA tournament loss in which Wiggins went 1-for-6. Wiggins still makes a solid No. 2 or No. 3 draft pick behind Parker, although as an introvert, he might not be the out-of-the-box leader that NBA coaches want.

Julius Randle (Kentucky)

Kentucky didn’t need Julius Randle to step up as much as Duke needed Jabari Parker, but Randle had a good season, averaging 15.4 points per game, 10.4 rebounds and 27 double-doubles. His physically imposing play in the NCAA tournament propelled the Wildcats to the final, where they lost to Connecticut. No doubt, Randle will end up in the top three NBA draft slots, and John Calipari’s 2014–2015 team will have to figure out how to play without him.

Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)

A few NCAA coaches still complain about one-and-dones wanting to make millions in the NBA; however they themselves make millions coaching college basketball because of the excitement that the one-and-dones provide.

One of those coaches is Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who publicly implied that Tyler Ennis could use another year of development before heading to the NBA.

Ennis will be a first-round pick, and although Boeheim suggested that being in the middle of the first round is “nothing.” Ennis averaged 12.9 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists during his one-and-done season with the Orange.

Aaron Gordon (Arizona)

It’s hard to imagine a height of 6 feet 8.5 inches tall could be “too small” for the NBA, but Aaron Gordon is pretty small compared to many other power forwards. However, what he lacks in heft he makes up for in speed, explosiveness and outstanding athleticism.
Gordon may not be a top five pick, but he could go around No. 7 or No. 8. As Gordon improves his ball handling, he’s earning more and more comparisons to L.A. Clippers power forward Blake Griffin.

Gordon, like Griffin, struggles with the two-point jumper, but once he improves his fluidity, he’ll be a formidable force.

Is Anyone Staying in School?

Pretty much everyone from 2013’s “Year of the Freshman” class who has a first-round shot is headed for the NBA draft. Others might be staying in school. Players like the Harrison twins in Kentucky aren’t in first-round contention. Dakari Johnson would go in the second round, or he could sneak into the first round if he’s lucky. Joel Embiid had a great freshman season for Kansas, but he sat out the NCAA tournament with a back injury, which might affect his NBA hopes.

As much as NCAA coaches complain about one-and-done, having these talented freshmen, even if just for a year, greatly increases the excitement and the visibility of their programs. Time will tell whether Jabari Parker does become the next Kevin Durant or whether he gets lost in a very talented pack.