In the first year following the draft restriction, last year's freshman class was notable for two reasons: Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. The #1 recruits at their respective positions, Durant and Oden became instant household names. Durant was one of four first-year starters for the Univeristy of Texas. Averaging 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, Durant received national fame for his efforts, becoming the first freshman to nab several prestigious player of the year awards. Oden averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 boards a game, propelling him to the top of the 2007 NBA Draft.
College coaches were encouraged by Durant and Oden's ability to make such a large impact last season. In addition to those two, great performances by freshmen Mike Conley, D.J. Augustin, and Brandan Wright paved the way for this year's class. Take a look at the stats for Scout.com's top recruits:
- O.J. Mayo- USC- 36.3 MPG, 21.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG
- Eric Gordon- Indiana- 34.5 MPG, 27.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 APG
- Kyle Singler- Duke- 26.6 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG
- Michael Beasley- Kansas State-31.9 MPG, 26.7 PPG, 15.0 RPG
- Kevin Love- UCLA- 29.0 MPG, 18.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG
Other players like Donte Greene from Syracuse (20.5 PPG) and Kosta Koufos from Ohio State (16.2 PPG/7.2 RPG) have made this freshman class the deepest in memory. With coaches observing the ability of these freshmen to contribute right away, future first-year players should benefit with more opportunities for playing time.
From 1968-1970, Pistol Pete Maravich provided the top three scoring average seasons in Division 1 history. One player, the top three greatest years ever. Many analysts are quick to note the lack of a three-point line during Maravich's college career. His 44.2 career point average could have easily been 5-10 points higher. Additionally, Maravich's total points record, 400 more than any other player in history, could have crested to a superhuman 5000 had freshman been allowed to play on varsity squads.
In this, the Year of the Freshman, we will have the opportunity to witness a change in college basketball. More than ever before, first year players like Gordon, Singler, and Greene are leading their teams all across the country. Like the introduction of the three-point line, the NBA's restriction on draft eligibility has created a huge shift in how the game will be played. First year players will receive more playing time and the opportunity to dominate the game's landscape for years to come.
This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on BasketballForum.com, can be found at the weekly blog here.