College, NBA, Video / Feb 25, 2009 / 8:18 am

Which College Freshman Will Be the Best Pro?

Jrue HolidayJrue Holiday

Unlike last year, this year’s crop of highly touted freshman hasn’t proven that they’re NBA-ready material. However, that doesn’t look like it’s going to stop a lot of them from declaring for the draft come June.

At the beginning of the college season, a bunch of us were itching for one of these rooks to separate themselves from the pack. Greg Monroe‘s first three games of Big East play made him look like a sure-fire lottery pick, as he tallied 17.3 points and 7 boards per game against UConn, Pitt and Notre Dame. But since then he’s cooled off as quickly as his disappointing Georgetown team.

Jrue Holiday looked like UCLA’s most capable guard at Madison Square Garden in their loss against Michigan in November. He handled John Beilein‘s ball pressure as well as Darren Collison, and played more confidently than Josh Shipp, which was undoubtedly impressive for a freshman. But at the same time, that’s a far cry from last year’s crop. Those kids were far and away the best players on their team. This time around, we’re trying to justify that they are valuable pieces to their respective squads.

Many people think that B.J. Mullens will be a great pro someday. But he’s been pretty disappointing all year at Ohio State. He is a skilled 7-footer, whose game might be better suited for the League, but right now, NBA teams shouldn’t be confident that he’s a lock to hold down the pivot for years to come. I wasn’t at the Elite 24 when he played, but I remember hearing stories about how the Rucker Park crowd embraced the big fella because he was throwing down on virtually every touch. But last night against Penn State, he timidly flipped-in a lay-up on a largely uncontested break. He doesn’t seem like the same guy who was No. 1 in the Class of ’08.

Memphis’ Tyreke Evans puts up numbers – 17.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg – but he looks a half-step slower on this level than he did last year at American Christian. I can’t get past his struggles against real non-C-USA comp earlier this year, when he shot a combined 23-74 FG (31% FG). His numbers have shot through the roof since the Tigers began C-USA play, but there’s an asterisk there for me.

We could go on and on, breaking down how various freshmen have failed to live up to expectations. But there is one rook who has separated himself from the pack: Oklahoma’s Willie Warren.

If you’ve been too busy watching Blake Griffin every time OU is on TV, check out this video of Warren.

He’s supremely athletic, and his handle is good enough to get to the hole against pretty much any defender. Against Kansas two nights ago, Warren dribbled the ball back-and-forth between his legs probably eight times, before exploding right, taking off around the first hash mark and soaring to finish at the rim. I’m not sure if that means he’ll slide from the two-guard over to the point in the NBA. At 6-4, 207 lbs., he’s a real combo guard who definitely has some Rodney Stuckey in his game.

There’s also a little bit of Jack McClinton in Warren’s style – if Jeff Capel gave him the green light, Warren could pull close to thirty times in a single outing without really thinking about it. But because he’s played with Blake Griffin all year long, he’s learned to control some of that shoot-first, shoot-second mentality. He’s only averaging three assists per game, but his role on this team is to help the offense flow to Griffin, and to be the Sooners’ second scorer.

After Warren put up 23 points against Kansas two nights ago in a loss, KU coach Bill Self summed up the freshman’s potential pretty well.

“He’s the best offensive player we’ve recruited since I’ve been at KU.”

Of all the freshmen in college hoops right now, that’s got to be the highest praise we’ve heard. And better yet, it’s some of the only high praise that we’ve heard since any of these freshmen have gone to college.

Source: NewsOK

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  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    This freshman class is so weak it’s annoying. In fact the draft is pretty weak as a whole. The mock draft on Hoopshype has Jordan Hill drafted third and compares him to Chris Wilcox. Who in their right mind would draft a player with Wilcox as their ceiling third? I realize they haven’t taken team needs into account yet but Hill as the third best talent shows how weak the draft could be. I don’t think any of the freshman are ready to make the leap but of course some will. There will be more draft picks based on “potential” this year than ever before.

    I know I’m going to get some shit for saying this but I don’t think being compared to Rodney Stuckey right now is that good of a thing. We know Stuckey has skills but he’s been really disappointing this season after everybody annointed him the piston’s savior with the departure of Billups.

  • Kobeef

    This whole situation is interesting and makes you realize why the NBA introduced the age limit.

    Forcing players to go to college or at least play in a professional league allows scouts to see them play against other players with talent and size and not just in high school leagues where any player over 6’6 looks like Shaq. If Kwame, Eddy Curry, Gerald Green, etc were forced to play in college they would have been exposed as over-hyped high school players…kind of like Tyreke this year..

  • http://dimemag.com Andrew Katz

    Kobeef – I agree 100%.

    Right now I’m reading Bob Knight’s quasi auto-biography (written in 2002), and he brings up Isiah Thomas’ decision to go pro after two seasons at Indiana, a move he fully endorsed.

    But Knight says that “very few” players are ready to leave school early and make it in the NBA.

    Here’s my question: over the long run, do you think it’s a better decision for a lot of these kids to go one-and-done, get picked in the first round purely on potential, and maybe grow into a good pro. Or should they continue to improve at the college level, where they can really grow as a player, and then declare after two, three, or even four years?

    The easy answer is that it’s a case-by-case situation.

    But honestly, I feel like these guys would earn more over the long-term if they stayed in school until they were ready.

    Just because there are a handful of people who have been ready to leave college early doesn’t mean that everyone should.

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    Money is what motivates a majority of the early draft entrants. Agents make these kids feel like the decision to go pro is the better one only to pad their own wallets. I think drafted players in all sports should not have guranteed contracts and only earn the minimum for their rookie year even with a three year contract in place. The NFL is the most ridiculous. Top draft picks who have proven nothing automatically receive huge contracts that can be the highes salaries on their team. Of course the players unions will never change allow these changes but it really is backwards in mindset.

  • Kobeef

    @AK and Spliff
    There are exceptions to every rule but generally the preps-to-pros transition only benefits the kids who make money and probably shouldn’t.

    Looking at the current rookie crop only helps to strengthen this point. DeRozan, Jennings, BJ Mullens, Greg Munroe and Tyreke probably would have been picked out of high school if not for the age limit. After a year in college it is clear that most of them will take a few more years – if ever – to become effective NBA players.

    Ultimately this is also good for the game because you need to be a complete player to be successful in college and since college is the new stage for NBA auditions a complete player is the new standard for an NBA player…not just a player with a good PR agency(cough..Telfair)

  • peoples champ

    kind of like Tyreke this year..

    I just wanna remind people that the AP poll anked 5th Memphis tigers lost 3 players to the league and that theres not much talent on that team . nnothing like lst year anyways did i menton their ranking or that hes playing the 1 and gives em 17 and 5. I mean do you really believe dozier or taggart are gonna make the league( maaaaaaaybe taggart but late 2nd round at best.)

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    The selfish college basketball fan in me is glad the freshmen have been disappointing. That means most of them will stay in school another year, and the college game doesn’t lose a big chunk of talent again. Specifically in the case of Monroe, after those first three Big East games AK mentioned, I was giddy about how far he could take the Hoyas, but at the same time I was like, “Damn, we’re only gonna have him this one year.” Now that he’s dipped in production, maybe he comes back for another year and I can see what he does with next year’s team and after JT3 gets some more times to work with him. With the case of DeRozan, I want to see him play with Renardo Sidney next year, and if Taj Gibson comes back, I want to see that loaded USC squad.

  • Big Shot BOB

    Like I said b4 it only benifits the player to stay in college no matter who he is. Sure some players games are more suited for the NBA. But in college they teach more of the fundamentals as oppose to the pro’s where they expect you to already know alot of that stuff. Not to mention you have more of the coaches personal time to work with you one on one. In the NBA it’s more strategy being taught than basics.

    At the same time part of me knows alot of these kids can’t even read or write and are banking everything on making it to the pro’s. They have been getting by on who they are in highschool and it continue’s in college. I think it is a waste of the professor’s time and the player time. Not to mention they take a spot from someone who maybe isn’t an athlete but has good academic’s.

  • Tommy

    Delvon Roe from Michigan State is low key sick. He had 2 knee surgeries and is just now starting to get his freakish leapin abilities back in true form. He’s got a variety of post moves and is a great rebounder. He wont leave for the league until atleast after his sophomore year (hopefully) but when he does…watch out this kid could be special.