Dorm Report: New in town
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 2013-14 season was a great one for freshmen.
Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid played far above their age range for Kansas. Jabari Parker gave Duke fans flashbacks of Grant Hill. Tyler Ennis was as clutch as they come for Syracuse and Aaron Gordon's freak athleticism was on full display at Arizona.
That list doesn't even take into account the efforts of the incredible rookie class at Kentucky (Julius Randle, Marcus Lee, James Young, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison) as well as Indiana's Noah Vonleh.
Many of those players are now on NBA rosters, but just a year ago they were fresh out of high school with immense hype surrounding them as they entered the college ranks.
It is position that a number of incoming freshmen for the 2014-15 season find themselves in.
Chief among those newcomers has to be center Jahlil Okafor, who will be pushing people around on the inside for Duke. Okafor is a mammoth specimen, checking in at 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds. Don't let his size fool you, however, as he plays with great touch around the rim.
The accolades Okafor brings along with him are numerous, including back-to- back USA Today All-American selections and the honor of 2014 National High School Player of the Year.
Okafor's path to Duke was similar to that of his predecessor, Parker. Although not originally from Chicago, like Parker, Okafor played high school ball in the Windy City at Whitney Young, a team he helped lead to the IHSA Class 4A State Championship.
Duke's talented freshman class also will include point guard Tyus Jones and swingman Justise Winslow, who should step in right away to fill in for Parker and Rodney Hood.
While Duke certainly has a lion's share of this year's freshman talent, there is still plenty spread throughout the rest of the country.
Just down Tobacco Road at rival North Carolina, there is another group of exciting prospects, led by shooting guard Theo Pinson. At 6-5, 180 pounds, Pinson is a bit thin, but his athletic ability is without question. He possesses incredible speed and is deceptive with the basketball, using a slew of crossover moves to get the basket, where he finishes with finesse and flash. Pinson is also a strong passer, able to create plays whether he is looking for his own shot or attempting to set up others.
Pinson will be joined by fellow touted recruit Justin Jackson (6-7, 180), who also offers excellent scoring and leaping ability.
The Tar Heel State is not the only destination for all of this year's new talent.
SMU and Seton Hall may not seem like desirable locations for potential "one and done" players to end up, but that is just where Emmanuel Mudiay and Isaiah Whitehead will be playing, respectively.
Mudiay is the first big high school recruiting coup at SMU for legendary head coach Larry Brown. It was just a matter of time before Brown's reputation started luring in the type of talent normally reserved for college basketball's elite, a group Brown has SMU moving toward.
After SMU narrowly missed out on the NCAA Tournament but finished 27-10 with a run to the NIT championship game last season, the American Athletic Conference squad should be even better this season, especially if Mudiay lives up to the hype.
The No. 2 recruit in the country according to Rivals.com, Mudiay moves fluidly with the ball and has the type of size (6-5, 200) to be a real nightmare for opposing guards. Expect him to challenge for AAC player of the year honors and to give SMU the inside track at the conference title now that Shabazz Napier has left Connecticut.
Meanwhile, over in South Orange, New Jersey, Seton Hall has a player in Whitehead who could finally bring the Pirates back to the glory days of the P.J. Carlesimo era. The 6-4 guard from New York is an extremely versatile scorer, who excels equally in getting to the rim as he does relying on his jump shot. Whitehead may not have the same type of supporting cast, but he has the type of ability to make Seton Hall a contender in the Big East by himself.
Across the country at UNLV, there is another freshman who could be grabbing headlines into late March. Rashad Vaughn of Findlay Prep was a beast in his senior year of high school. The 6-5 combo guard stuffed the stat sheet (19.9 points, 4.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game), showing the type of versatility that would have any coach salivating. Perhaps the most dangerous part of his game is his outside shooting, as he nailed 74 3-pointers on 43 percent shooting from long range.
Traditional powers like Kansas, Texas, UCLA and Arizona will all have new players to build around as well. The Jayhawks have already found replacements for Wiggins and Embiid in Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander.
Arizona will have an extremely athletic frontcourt with Stanley Johnson joining returning forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Kevon Looney's length (6-9, 220) should help produce plenty of highlight-reel material and wins for UCLA. Although it had to wait longer than most, Texas landed top-10 recruit Myles Turner.
No list of top incoming freshmen would be complete without a look at Kentucky's incoming class. The alma mater of such prolific freshmen as Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Randle will have plenty of new pieces to fit in this season, especially up front. The biggest blue chippers for John Calipari are Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Unlike in recent seasons, however, Towns and Lyles will have to compete with a glut of returning talent at Kentucky, such as Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson.
07/08 10:06:54 ET