2014 College Basketball Season’s Impact on Future Recruiting

2014 NCAA Season

The beginning of this season in college basketball was headlined by the arrival of a number of star freshmen. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle were all seen as sure NBA lottery picks, readymade to dominate the Division I circuit. Those players have been scrutinized all season long, with Parker and Wiggins having stretches of disappointment, and the much heralded 2013 Kentucky recruiting class placed out of the AP top 5 since December. 


Headlines as the year went on have gone to the undefeated runs by the Wichita State Shockers, and the scoring pursuits of Doug McDermott from Creighton, a Naismith Trophy candidate. Those stories all involve established players and programs, teams that built around recruits who looked to stay longer than one year in college. Even Arizona, a top team with an ace freshman in Aaron Gordon, is heavily dependent on upperclassmen like TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson.


Since 2006, the first season when the NBA stopped accepting recruits straight out of high school, the Division I scene has been dominated by so-called one-and-done players. From Kevin Durant and Greg Oden to Andrew Wiggins (who announced before the season that his freshman season would be his only year in college), these players have used college as a way station for the NBA. However, it is rare that one-and-done players are the focal points for championship seasons. The most prominent examples are Carmelo Anthony’s 2003 Syracuse team and the 2012 Kentucky team headlined by Anthony Davis. However, more common were the championship games lost by Oden’s 2007 Ohio State team, and Derrick Rose’s 2008 Memphis Tigers. 


College coaches are always looking for the most talented players, and currently the top recruits are the ones most likely to depart after one year to the NBA. Yet the course of this season has served as a microcosm of the one-and-done era. Despite the initial excitement over the NBA-bound recruits, it has been the teams built on upperclassmen that have risen to the heights of the landscape. The coach defined most associated by the one-and-done era, John Calipari, has struggled to live up to expectations for the second year in a row, with his team looking at a potential #3 or #4 seed in this year’s tournament.


Changes may be coming to the college basketball scene. There is speculation that the NBA will no longer accept players until they are two years removed from their high school graduation year, allowing NBA teams to get a more finished product. Until then, college basketball analysts should remember to look further than those few top recruits that come in every year. Sometimes the players that aren’t immediately linked to the NBA are the ones more likely to experience Tournament glory.