Reviewing Athlon's Top 25 College Basketball Freshmen of 2012

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The Class of 2012 offered top draft picks, wait-and-see prospects and busts

The Class of 2012 offered top draft picks, wait-and-see prospects and busts

Even by recruiting class standards, the top prospects of 2012 ran the gamut.

On one hand, the class produced the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in UNLV’s Anthony Bennett (though fellow freshman Nerlens Noel of Kentucky seemed the more likely pick until draft day). On the other, it produced one bona fide bust in Alabama’s Devonta Pollard, who has already withdrawn from school amid legal issues.

The 2012 class gave us everything in between, including eight early entries to the NBA Draft. All eight early entries were drafted, though two will not receive guaranteed contracts after going in the second round.

For the 2013-14 season, the 2012 recruiting class will have its share of stars like Marcus Smart, a high-profile transfer in Rodney Purvis and a handful of wait-and-see projects.

Now that the draft is complete and teams are starting to look ahead to 2013-14, this is a good time to look back at how Athlon Sports’ top 25 recruits for the class of 2012 fared in the last year.

LOOKING BACK: THE TOP 25 RECRUITS OF 2012-13

1. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Freshman recap: Noel was a top candidate to be the national defensive player of the year, averaging 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals. He also crept close to averaging a double double at 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds before a season-ending torn ACL against Florida on Feb. 12. His presence kept Kentucky in NCAA Tournament contention, but the Wildcats lost four of their last five without Noel, including a loss to Robert Morris in the NIT. Despite his injury, Noel was the SEC’s freshman of the year and defensive player of the year.
For 2013-14: Considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, Noel slipped to sixth in the NBA Draft, selected by the New Orleans Pelicans before being traded to Philadelphia.

2. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Freshman recap: Muhammad began his season ineligible as the NCAA investigated impermissible benefits. He finished the season as it was revealed he was a year older than his father had been claiming. In between, Muhammad was named the Pac-12’s co-freshman of the year while averaging 17.9 points per game.
For 2013-14: Muhammad was the final pick in the lottery, drafted 14th overall by Utah before being traded to Minnesota. That’s probably a lower spot than was envisioned for Muhammad out of high school, but he became UCLA’s highest draft pick since Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love went fourth and fifth in 2008.

3. Isaiah Austin, Baylor
Freshman recap:
Austin averaged 13 points and 8.3 rebounds for a disappointing Baylor team. The Bears won the NIT, but Baylor was expected to contend for a Big 12 title (Athlon ranked Baylor second in the Big 12 and 17th nationally). Austin, a 7-1 center, was expected to declare for the NBA Draft before surgery to repair a torn labrum meant he would not be able to participate in workouts. Austin instead elected to return to school.
For 2013-14: Hopes will be high again for a talented Baylor team. Austin will team with Cory Jefferson and Ricardo Gathers for one of the nation’s top frontcourts.

4. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Freshman recap:
Anderson wasn’t UCLA’s top-scoring freshman (that was Muhammad) or most important freshman (Jordan Adams), but he was the most well-rounded. Anderson averaged 9.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a rookie, earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 second team.
For 2013-14: Muhammad is gone, as is point guard Larry Drew II. New coach Steve Alford will look to Anderson to take the next step from one of the Pac-12’s most versatile players to simply one of the league’s best. The 6-foot-9 Anderson could take over point guard duties with Drew gone. Muhammad and Drew enabled UCLA to run a faster offense, but Alford likely will run things at a slower tempo.

5. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Freshman recap:
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon historically hasn’t relied much on freshmen. That was the case even with Adams, one of the most high profile recruits to sign with the Panthers. Adams averaged 7.2 points and a team-leading 6.3 rebounds per game.
For 2013-14: The seven-foot New Zealander shot up draft boards before being selected 12th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

6. Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
Freshman recap:
Tarczewski started all season, averaging 6.9 points and 6.1 rebounds as a back-to-the-basket center.
For 2013-14: Tarczewski will be a part of a stellar frontcourt on a potential top-five team with the 6-8 star freshman Aaron Gordon and 6-8 sophomore Brandon Ashley. A major progression for the seven-footer could make him an NBA Draft candidate.

7. Alex Poythress, Kentucky
Freshman recap:
Like the rest of Kentucky, Poythress endured a disappointing season. His minutes dipped through SEC play, when he averaged 9.8 points per game and 6.2 rebounds.
For 2013-14: Kentucky coach John Calipari would like to see Poythress improve his consistency and maturity as a sophomore. Poythress shot 58.1 percent from the field, but he had his slumps (1 of 9 against Florida, 0 of 3 against Texas A&M, 3 of 9 against Vanderbilt). With a freshman cast capable of contending for a title, Kentucky will need Poythress to be one of the few veteran influences.

8. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Freshman recap:
Bennett was in contention for national freshman of the year before inconsistent results in Mountain West play. Bennett averaged 12.1 points in conference games, but failed to score in double figures seven times against MWC competition.
For 2013-14: The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the first shock of the draft when they picked Bennett No. 1 rather than Nerlens Noel or Maryland’s Alex Len.

9. Grant Jerrett, Arizona
Freshman recap:
Jerrett turned in a lackluster debut season with 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
For 2013-14: His decision to leave for the NBA Draft was a surprising one, but Jerrett’s gamble resulted in being a second-round pick. Jerrett saw limited playing time as freshman, a trend that may have continued as a sophomore.

10. Brandon Ashley, Arizona
Freshman recap:
Like Tarczewski and Jerrett, Ashley’s contributions were limited on a veteran team with Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Nick Johnson. Ashley averaged 6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in conference play.
For 2013-14: Part of the reason the Wildcats will be a preseason favorite in the Pac-12 is the predicted improvement in the frontcourt with he and Tarczewski expected to take a major step as sophomores. He struggled in USA Basketball’s Under-19 tryouts, which could either be a motivator for offseason improvements or a troubling sign for his second season.

11. Cameron Ridley, Texas
Freshman recap:
Ridley had 14 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to UCLA on Dec. 8 but was rarely a factor for the remainder of the season despite shedding weight when he arrived on campus. That was the last time all season he scored in double figures.
For 2013-14: Texas is in trouble with Myck Kabongo leaving for the Draft and a pair of transfers (Sheldon McClellan and Jaylen Bond) heading out of Austin. The Longhorns can ill-afford a top recruit on the roster who’s struggling to provide 10 minutes per game.

12. Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
Freshman recap:
Duke didn’t need Sulaimon to carry the Blue Devils, but he proved to be capable enough at times. He scored 21 against Creighton in the NCAA Tournament, 27 against Boston College and 25 against Maryland. He also had his freshman moments, going 0-for-10 in the first game without teammate Ryan Kelly against NC State and 1 of 10 in the Elite Eight against Louisville.
For 2013-14: Sulaimon will continue to be a standout perimeter defender, but Duke will look for him to improve from long distance (37.1 percent from 3-point range).

13. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Freshman recap:
Smart was everything Oklahoma State expected him to be, taking a leadership role from Day One and manning the point guard spot. he finished with 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as Oklahoma State returned to the NCAA Tournament before running into a hot Oregon team in the round of 64.
For 2013-14: Smart surprisingly returned for his sophomore season when he could have been the first point guard taken in the NBA Draft. The Cowboys will challenge for a Big 12 title and more with Smart leading a nucleus of Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown and Phil Forte. He’ll be on the short list for National Player of the Year honors when the season begins.

14. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky
Freshman recap:
Before the season started, there was talk Goodwin could be Kentucky’s best freshman. That never materialized, but Goodwin still averaged 14.1 points per game. He manned the point guard spot at times but finished with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio while shooting 26.6 percent on 64 3-point attempts for the season.
For 2013-14: Goodwin left school after one season to become the No. 29 pick in the NBA draft, selected by the Thunder and eventually landing with the Suns. He’s already been tapped as possible steal in the draft.

15. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Freshman recap:
A rare big-time recruit for Wisconsin, Dekker was in contention for Big Ten freshman of the year for most of the season. He finished with 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while rankings seventh in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage.
For 2013-14: Wisconsin is looking to Dekker to become the Badgers’ next great big man. Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans are all gone, so the spotlight will be on Dekker.

16. Gary Harris, Michigan State
Freshman recap:
Like teammate Adreian Payne, Harris dabbled with going to the NBA Draft but elected to return to school to compete for a national title. Harris was one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, making 65-of-158 shots (41.1 percent) from long range.
For 2013-14: Harris played all of last season with a shoulder injury, and Michigan State still went 13-5 in the Big Ten. What can Michigan State do if he’s healthy?

17. Ricky Ledo, Providence
Freshman recap:
Ledo sat out his entire freshman season as a partial qualifier.
For 2013-14: Hopes were high Ledo would help lead Providence back to relevance even as he was not eligible to play, but he left for the NBA Draft despite not playing a game. He was a second-round pick.

18. Rodney Purvis, NC State
Freshman recap:
A disappointing season for NC State extended to Purvis, who was part of the inconsistency for the Wolfpack last season. Purvis was NC State’s sixth-leading scorer at 8.3 points per game.
For 2013-14: Purvis will sit out the season following his transfer to Connecticut.

19. DaJuan Coleman, Syracuse
Freshman recap:
Coleman started the first 20 games of the season but eventually watched his role diminish. He missed eight games following knee surgery in January and played a grand total of 26 minutes after his return.
For 2013-14: Like many rookie big men, Coleman is struggling to find his role, but the Orange have had success in developing centers in their latter years, most recently Fab Melo.

20. Tony Parker, UCLA
Freshman recap:
Parker struggled in his season under Ben Howland. A transfer wasn’t out of the question after Parker averaged 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 points.
For 2013-14: Parker elected to stay at UCLA to play for new coach Steve Alford, who will hope the leadership change will help Parker contribute more than 6.3 minutes per game.

21. Amile Jefferson, Duke
Freshman recap:
Jefferson watched his role increase dramatically when Ryan Kelly was injured in January. The forward scored in double figures in five of 11 games when he played regular minutes with Kelly out of the lineup.
For 2013-14: Kelly is gone for good, and so is Mason Plumlee. Jefferson has added weight since he arrived on campus with the goal of stabilizing Duke’s post presence.

22. Robert Carter, Georgia Tech
Freshman recap:
The hometown prospect helped Georgia Tech’s modest improvement in 2012-13. Carter was second on the Yellow Jackets at 9.9 points per game and 6.7 rebounds.
For 2013-14: With Carter plus Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech should start to contend for a postseason tournament in Brian Gregory’s third season.

23. Kris Dunn, Providence
Freshman recap:
A shoulder injury limited Dunn early in the season, and he never quite broke out. The guard finished with 5.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
For 2013-14: Vincent Council is gone, so coach Ed Cooley needs Dunn to assume point guard duties. Providence may be a postseason contender in 2013-14, but the Friars may wonder what could have happened if Ledo remained on the roster.

24. Semaj Christon, Xavier
Freshman recap:
Christon wasn’t fully healthy last season and still led Xavier wtih 15.2 points per game and 4.6 assists.
For 2013-14: The Atlantic 10 rookie of the year should keep Xavier in Big East contention even though the Musketeers missed the postseason a year ago. Christon is looking to become a more complete guard, both as a floor general and outside shooter.

25. Devonta Pollard, Alabama
Freshman recap:
Pollard averaged 3.9 points and didn’t score in double figures in SEC play or the NIT.
For 2013-14: Pollard withdrew from Alabama after being arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Pollard is accused of serving as the driver and an organizer to aid his mother in the kidnapping of a 6-year-old girl.
 

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