The 2008-09 college basketball season doesn't feature a Michael Beasley. Or a Greg Oden. Or a Kevin Durant, Kevin Love or O.J. Mayo. It's full of good, but not great players.
At least, that's the general opinion by most media outlets. (Nevermind that DraftExpress.com has freshmen as four of the top 10 picks in this year's draft, not including Brandon Jennings.)
|Louisville freshman Samardo Samuels is one of the country's best incoming freshmen.
Still, even if the player of the year isn't a freshmen, there are plenty of dynamic newcomers you'll need to know. Here are 10.
DeMar DeRozan, USC
Another season, another impact Trojan. O.J. Mayo was a complete basketball player, but DeRozan is on another level with his athletic ability. The 6-foot-6 guard has already wowed his teammates.
"When he's on the fastbreak by himself, I'm like, 'Wow, I have never seen anybody with that jumping ability,' " junior Taj Gibson told the L.A. Times. "He's so strong for a freshman."
It's not surprise that DeRozan is touted as the best NBA prospect among this year's freshmen. DraftExpress.com has him rated behind Spanish star Ricky Rubio and Oklahoma's Blake Griffin.
USC may not dethrone UCLA atop the Pac-10 standings, but DeRozan will ensure the Trojans are back in the Big Dance and making a run to the Sweet 16.
Tyreke Evans, Memphis
The Tigers lost three starters from their 38-2 national runner-up squad, including Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. That's ideal for an explosive player like Evans, who's likely to fill that role.
The 6-6 guard is a dynamic scorer and stellar mid-range shooter, which is ideal for Memphis' Dribble-Drive offense. That's already crossed Evans' mind.
"With this offense I can be unstoppable and have an impact,'' Evans told ESPN. "I love the style of the play, the Dribble-Drive [Motion]. I can score off the drive a lot.''
Jrue Holiday, UCLA
Holiday has a simple prediction for the Bruins.
"National championship, national championship," Holiday told the L.A. Times. "We've gone to the Final Four three years in a row, the history here. What else do I have to say? National championship."
The 6-3 guard should UCLA's best all-around player. He can score, defend, pass and rebound. If Monday's exhibition line was any indication -- 12 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and six steals -- Holiday figures to be a star in Tinseltown.
B.J. Mullens, Ohio State
The top prospect from Rivals.com, Mullens is another 7-foot center who should thrive in Columbus, like Greg Oden and Kosta Koufas did. He's best viewed as a mix of the two -- not as dominant as Oden, but a step up from Koufas.
Mullens isn't expected to be the Buckeyes' go-to guy on offense, but should play in his favor. He can focus on controlling the boards, blocking shots and overpowering smaller defenders.
By season's end, he could too much for most post players to handle.
Samardo Samuels, Louisville
Samuels is another freshman who doesn't have to carry his team -- but he may anyway. Paired with Terrence Williams and Earl Clark, Louisville is loaded up front.
The 6-8 power forward recently dominated an intersquad scrimmage, scoring 36 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, prompting Cards coach Rick Pitino to label him a "killer forward."
Makes sense. Samuels (Scout.com's top freshman prospect) is 250 pounds, has long arms and essentially controls the low block. The Cardinals needed to replace their three departed post players, and he should do just that.
Those five freshmen are considered to be top of the class. The next five should be equally impressive, though.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
The ACC's preseason pick as freshman of the year gives the Demon Deacons another big body on an already monstrous frontline (five players are 6-8 or taller). His mid-range game allows him to play several positions, too.
In short, he's exactly what Wake needs to return to the Big Dance.
"Everybody knows the hype Farouq came in with," junior L.D. Williams told the Winston-Salem Journal. "And to be honest with you, it's not hype. He can really go out and help us."
Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
West Virginia got a big boost when Ebanks de-committed from Indiana last spring when Kelvin Sampson was fired. The 6-9 forward isn't a bruiser, but a skilled, smooth wing who should thrive in Bob Huggins' offense.
He's a little concerned about playing in the physical Big East, but that's about the only worry.
"The hardest thing for me is taking a bump right now," Ebanks noted. "I'll get by somebody and they will give me a little bump and it will get me off-balance. I will take a shot that's tougher than I probably would have made if I was a little stronger."
Huggins, for his part, thinks Ebanks and the rest of his freshmen are ready now.
"If we played today, we could put them in a game," he told the Times West Virginian. "A year ago I don't think we put anybody in there at this time. So I think we're ahead."
Greg Monroe, Georgetown
Monroe was tabbed the preseason Big East rookie of the year (along with Samuels), and with good reason. He's not a perfect replacement for Roy Hibbert, but the 6-10 post player should thrive in the Hoyas' system.
"Style-wise, he couldn't have made a better choice. Georgetown will accentuate what he's good at," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer told USA Today.
Especially when that system goes up-tempo. Well, a little more up-tempo.
"This team has the aptitude and athletic ability to play at a faster pace than the team in the past," coach John Thompson told the Washington Post. "But at the same time, they understand that end-of-the-game, half-court execution is what wins games."
Chris Singleton, Florida State
The 'Noles aren't supposed to be an ACC contender, but that's doesn't bode ill for Singleton. The McDonald's All-American is a nightmare matchup on the wing -- he's big, fast and can hit the three.
On this list of stellar freshmen, Singleton's the most likely to record a triple double with some highlight-reel dunks to go with it.
"He plays hard, he defends, he likes to rebound, he blocks shots," Hamilton said after Singleton recorded 11 points, six boards and six steals in an exhibition last week. "He takes pride in kind of doing the dirty work. And that's kind of unusual for a guy that's been as heralded as him coming in."
Willie Warren, Oklahoma
If Blake Griffin is the Sooners' star, Warren will be the guy who drives them. The 6-4 point guard will improve OU's offense immensely thanks to his scoring and swagger.
"Going and watching them last year," Warren told the Daily Oklahoman, "I didn't feel like the guard play had the swagger, the confidence to go and compete. This year, maybe because we have the talent that can push them in practice, they know if they don't bring it, they're going to get shown up in practice. You can just tell how much better the guard play is this year."
Sound brash? Warren can back it up. He's already shown his teammates he can score and that makes everyone else's life easier.
"He can definitely score," Griffin said. "I think it will keep teams honest. They won't be able to double down as easy with a guy like Willie Warren out there. Or Tony Crocker, or Austin Johnson.