If opening night of the new college basketball season is any indication, the vaunted 2013 freshman class may live up to expectations.
Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle were among the many highly rated freshmen who carried their teams to victory Friday night in their collegiate debuts.
The most pedestrian performance from the three came from Wiggins, who wasn't always aggressive in Kansas' laborious 80-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe but showed flashes of his precocious talent. Despite going scoreless for one 14-minute stretch of the first half, the 6-foot-8 wing sank 5 of 9 shots and finished with a team-high 16 points, three boards, two assists and three steals.
Assertiveness was no problem for either Randle or Parker. Both took command in their respective games.
The most can't-miss of Kentucky's latest crop of elite freshmen, Randle delivered 23 points and 15 boards in the Wildcats' victory over UNC Asheville, both two shy of school records for a freshman in his debut. Amazingly, however, John Calipari was not satisfied, telling reporters that his 6-foot-9 freshman "could’ve had 20, 21, 22 rebounds."
"Why not go do that?" Calipari said. "Why not open up with a 20-20?"
Jabari Parker may not have produced a 20-20 game Friday night against Davidson, but the Duke star probably boasted the most efficient line among freshmen on Friday night. The 6-foot-8 Chicago native tuned up for his matchup with Wiggins on Tuesday night by scoring 22 points on 8 of 10 shooting, scoring on everything from back-to-the-basket moves, to mid-range jumpers, to 3-pointers, to free throws.
In addition to college basketball's three most high-profile freshmen, there were a handful of other decorated first-year players who impressed Friday night in their debuts.
Jon Severe, Fordham's most heralded recruit in years, delivered in a big way in his first game on Rose Hill, scoring 28 points and knocking down 7 of 10 3-pointers in his team's rout of St. Francis (PA). Indiana big man Noah Vonleh overpowered Chicago State's frontcourt, grabbing 10 rebounds in his first 10 minutes on his way to 11 points and 14 boards. And playing mostly power forward rather than small forward against undersized Cal Poly, Arizona's Aaron Gordon delivered a double-double, tallying 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in a 73-62 victory.
All in all, so many strong debuts from top freshmen is a reminder of the landscape in college basketball today. No longer does it take a year or two -- or even a month or two -- for elite players to be ready to make an impact. Quite often, the best freshmen in every class are ready from day one.