With the Utah Jazz in the midst of a 0-7 start to the 2013-14 basketball season, many have already started looking forward to the up-and-coming 2014 NBA Draft.
Normally that would be way too premature, but in this case there is a good reason. If every player that is eligible to come out does, this will be the most talent-laden draft in at least a decade.
The college basketball season began in earnest Friday night for the most heralded freshman class in a long time, and we already saw flashes of why NBA teams are positioning themselves for a high pick in 2014.
Not since LeBron James was in high school has there been so much fanfare about a high school class of players. Some of the best are already household names.
Everyone in sports has already heard the names Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, but they aren’t the only players in college whose games have virtually every NBA general manager and scout drooling. The Kentucky Wildcats' roster is testament enough of that.
Coach John Calipari brought in so much talent that after an extremely disappointing season a year ago, the Wildcats are already ranked No. 1. The main attractions for the Wildcats this season are dominating forwards Julius Randle and James Young, as well as twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison.
Not to be outdone, Kansas brought in a pair of talented freshmen to play with Wiggins this year in big man Joel Embiid and guard Wayne Selden.
The Arizona Wildcats also made a splash in recruiting. Their biggest get on the season was acquiring the serves of Aaron Gordon.
Freshmen aren't the only players that make the upcoming draft so deep. Oklahoma State's sophomore point guard Marcus Smart will be highly sought after if he decides to go the NBA route after this season is over.
Throughout the college basketball season, we will follow this bunch of gifted athletes and any others that separate themselves from the pack to let you know who is flourishing and how it will affect their draft status so you know who might land in a Utah Jazz uniform a year from now.
Here is a look at how each of the draft hopefuls played as they started their seasons on Friday night.
Even after just one game, Parker has shown what the hype was all about.
Duke started its season Friday night, and Parker looked like anything but a freshman as the Blue Devils rolled the Davidson Wildcats 111-77. He looked like a natural fit in the Duke up-tempo offense and showed his all-around game from the start.
Parker is a silky-smooth wing who can do it all on the offensive end of the floor. He can score with his back to the basket and has a great touch in the face-up game. Parker can also be effective putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim.
In his college debut, Parker finished the night with 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, including 3-of-3 from beyond the 3-point arc. Parker also showed some skills on the glass by registering six rebounds. He also tallied two assists and a block with only one turnover.
Wiggins played 34 minutes as the Jayhawks beat Louisiana-Monroe 80-63 and had a solid all-around game. Wiggins only attempted nine shots but was still able to lead the team with 16 points. He showed nice touch from the outside, hitting 2-of-4 attempts from three-point range, and looked good going to the rim. Wiggins rounded out his stat line registering three rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Selden struggled Friday night, finishing the game with just eight points on 1-for-4 from the 3-point line and 1-for-6 from the free-throw line in 28 minutes of play. He did do some nice things, though, in the Jayhawks' win. He showed he is a willing passer and was able to find the open man, finishing the night with four assists.
Embiid came off the bench for the Jayhawks and only played 11 minutes because of foul trouble. He was very productive in his limited action, however, registering nine points, four rebounds and a steal.
Although he had a nice stat line considering his foul trouble, Embiid needs to be more disciplined if he wants to get major minutes this season for Kansas.
Gordon played 33 minutes in the Wildcats' 73-62 victory over Cal-Poly on Friday night. Gordon was a post presence on both ends of the floor as he registered his first double-double on the season.
On offense, Gordon shot just 5-for-11 from the floor and 2-for-6 from the free-throw line on his way to 13 points but did manage to grad five offensive rebounds.
On the defensive end, Gordon was able to block four shots and grab five more rebounds to finish with 10 on the game.
Team: Oklahoma State
Smart and his Oklahoma State Cowboys had little trouble with Mississippi Valley State, winning 117-62.
In 19 minutes of action in the Cowboys' blowout win over the Delta Devils, Smart managed 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Randle was the most impressive of the Kentucky freshmen on Friday night in the Wildcats' 89-57 victory over UNC-Asheville.
Randle dominated the paint, recording the first of what will be many double-doubles at Kentucky. In just 26 minutes on the floor, he scored 23 points and tallied 15 rebounds, including five on the offensive end.
Young wasn’t nearly as impressive as Randle but was still able to show a nice outside touch and plenty of athleticism for the Wildcats. Although Young only shot 3-for-10 from the field, he was 2-for-5 from long-range.
On the night, Young finished with 11 points, four rebounds, an assist and a block.
In his first college game, Harrison only made one shot on three attempts but went to the free-throw line nine times in the Wildcats' decisive win.
He finished the game with eight points and led the way for Kentucky with five assists.
Harrison had a solid if unspectacular outing for the Wildcats but was still able to put up some nice numbers in 32 minutes of play. Harrison scored 10 points to go along with five rebounds, a team-leading four steals and a block.
After an easy opener for most of these dynamic players, the road will get much tougher this week. Kentucky has its first true test of the season on Tuesday night against the No. 2-ranked Michigan State Spartans.
In another exciting matchup this week, Duke will play Kansas on Tuesday; we get to see a battle between Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins with early bragging rights at stake.