These Freshmen Will Be Heard From Immediately

Headlines were made when they signed letters of intent, some nearly a year ago. But some of the best players from the high school Class of 2005 will be making headlines based on their play in college uniforms very shortly. Here's a look at the ones we think will make the most immediate impact.

Most of the best freshmen players in the country for the 2005-06 season signed letters of intent in November of last year, and many also committed to their future schools well before then.

 

And those who follow those schools' basketball programs have eagerly anticipated those players' debuts in their favorite teams' uniforms before the ink on the letters of intent was dry.

 

The anticipation is almost over.

 

In a little more than a month, we'll get to see which of those highly touted recruits have been worth the wait.

 

Here are the freshmen classes that are most likely to have the most immediate impact this season:

 

1. KANSAS:

The Class: Mario Chalmers (6-1), Julian Wright (6-7), Brandon Rush (6-5 ½), Micah Downs (6-8).

Who contributes immediately: This, at the same stage, is a better freshman class than the one Bill Self recruited at Illinois and which helped the Illini come to within a few jump shots of a national championship last spring. Chalmers is the best "scoring" freshman point guard in the country and Self will likely want him to take more of a classical playmaking role. Any – or all – of the other freshmen could start, too. Wright was as versatile a player as there was in the national Class of 2005 and could play four positions for the Jayhawks. The slender Downs is the best deep shooter in the group and is a much underrated athlete. Rush is the most athletically explosive player on Self's roster but needs a much more reliable jump shot to keep defenders from backing off him and neutralizing some of that explosiveness.

 

2. NORTH CAROLINA

The Class: Tyler Hansbrough (6-8 ½), Danny Green (6-5), Bobby Frasor (6-3), Marcus Ginyard (6-5), Mike Copeland (6-7)

Who contributes immediately: Roy Williams, like the guy who replaced him at Kansas, is another coach who could have multiple freshmen in his starting lineup from Day One. Hansbrough isn't the most physically skilled frontcourt player in the class – that honor goes to a fellow playing just few miles away in Durham – but he could be the most productive freshman post player in the country this season. If anything happens to him, the Tar Heels' post offense is all but zilch. Green is a reliable jump shooter to nearly 3-point range and Ginyard will see action at multiple positions – one of those, probably, as a starter – right away. Frasor will back up Quentin Thomas at point guard and could eventually challenge him for a starting job. Copeland was a late summer addition and improved the team's nearly non-existent post depth.

 

3. DUKE

The Class: Josh McRoberts (6-10), Greg Paulus (6-1), Jamal Boykin (6-7), Eric Boateng (6-10), Martynas Pocius (6-4)

Who contributes immediately: Many NBA scouts believed McRoberts was the best high school prospect in the country last season and that he would have been a lottery selection. His presence on the floor will keep defenders from doubling up on Shelden Williams too frequently. Paulus figures to be in a season-long battle with senior Sean Dockery to be Mike Krzyzewski's starting point guard. He was the best floor leader in the McDonald's All-America game last March. Pocius will have some cool deep-shooting contests with J.J. Redick in practice and will provide perimeter firepower off the bench. Boykin and Boateng will challenge for the few minutes in the post positions when Williams or McRoberts are on the bench.

 

4. MISSISSIPPI STATE

The Class: Jamont Gordon (6-4), Vernon Goodridge (6-9), Reginald Delk (6-5), Richard Delk (6-4), Bernard Rimmer (6-8)

Who contributes immediately: Gordon, very underrated nationally a year ago at Oak Hill Academy, and Goodridge could be Rich Stansbury's leading scorers and rebounders immediately. And the Delks, college basketball's best twins for a year – at least until Brook and Robin Lopez are playing for Stanford in 2006-07 – could also wedge their way into the Bulldogs' starting lineup before too deeply into the season.

 

5. GEORGIA

The Class: Mike Mercer (6-3), Billy Humphrey (6-0), Rashaad Singleton (7-0), Terrance Woodbury (6-6), Kendrick Johnson (6-10)

Who contributes immediately: Dennis Felton very well could have the best all-freshman starting backcourt anywhere this season in Mercer and Humphrey, AAU teammates with the Georgia Stars. Mercer was the most underrated point guard in the Class of 2005 and probably should have been a McDonald's All-America. And Humphrey is about as good a jump shooter as there is in the freshman class. Singleton is slender but should play immediately. Johnson was recently lost for the season because of ankle surgery.

 

6. WASHINGTON

The Class: Jon Brockman (6-7), Justin Dentmon (6-0), Harvey Perry (6-4), Artem Wallace (6-8), Joe Wolfinger (7-0)

Who contributes immediately: Martell Webster would have been the Huskies' leading scorer, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and a potential conference Player of the Year. Well, he's now in a Portland Trail Blazers' uniform but another McDonald's All-America, Brockman, is now the heavy favorite to be the conference's Freshman of the Year. He would have been the Huskies' top low-post scoring threat immediately, even without the shoulder injury that will keep senior Mike Jensen sidelined for a while. Wallace's prospects for immediate playing time increase with the absence of Jensen, Denton will push transfer Ryan Appleby for a starting backcourt spot and Perry could play anywhere on the perimeter for Romar.

 

7. LSU

The Class: Tasmin Mitchell (6-7), Magnum Rolle (6-10), Chris Johnson (6-11), Alex Farrer (6-5), Ben Voogd (6-1)

Who contributes immediately: Brandon Bass' decision to decline the opportunity to bag consecutive SEC Player of the Year trophies and head to the NBA greased Mitchell's path to SEC Freshman of the Year honors this season. He'll have better numbers than any freshman in the conference, although at least one player at Mississippi State could challenge him in the scoring/rebounding departments.

 

8. OKLAHOMA STATE

The Class: Byron Eaton (5-11), Keith Brumbaugh (6-9), Roderick Flemings (6-7), Terrel  Harris (6-5), Kenny Cooper (6-10)

Who contributes immediately: Eaton is the best player in this class although Brumbaugh – who put his name in the NBA draft pool but withdrew when he wisely realized there was no interest in him at all on the NBA's part – received more national hype last season. The competition at point guard between Eaton and JC standout Jamaal Brown should be something beyond mildly interesting. Brumbaugh, Flemings and Harris are capable perimeter scorers.

 

9. LOUISVILLE

The Class: Terrence Williams (6-6), Andre McGee (5-11), Bryan Harvey (6-4), Jonathan Huffman (7-0), Chad Millard (6-8)

Who contributes immediately: The Cardinals, with Juan Palacios and David Padgett sidelined for a while with foot injuries, could use immediate help in the post positions. But they are likely to get that from a red-shirted freshman, Brian Johnson. Perimeter players Williams, Harvey and McGee are all capable of playing a lot right away for Rick Pitino. Williams could be Pitino's best scorer by his sophomore season.

 

10. CONNECTICUT

The Class: Rob Garrison (6-2), Jeff Adrien (6-6), Marcus Johnson (6-6), Craig Austrie (6-2)

Who contributes immediately: This is a class that looks considerably different than it did last spring. For one thing, the top November signee, center Andrew Bynum, opted for the NBA and an immediate future of sitting on the Lakers' bench and trying to figure out the Triangle Offense. And then, with the arrest of guards Marcus Williams and A.J. Price for their alleged roles in the on-campus theft of four laptop computers, the Huskies needed immediate help at point guard. That is expected to provided by Garrison, who signed scholarship papers with the program in July. Adrien has the best future in the class but he isn't expected to see as much on-court time right away.

 

Others whose classes could have easily made the Top 10: Alabama, Arizona, Memphis, North Carolina State, Notre Dame and UCLA

 

An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com



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