For the first time since Kevin Garnett opened the floodgates of prom night-to-draft night rookies, there will be a full crop of freshmen playing college basketball when the season tips off this week.
So what, you ask? Well, don’t doubt the impact a single 18-year-old can have on a college hoops season. Here’s a look at our top 10 freshman seasons in college basketball history.
(Warning: This list could need revising by the time Ohio State’s Greg Oden, Texas’ Kevin Durant and Georgia Tech’s Thaddeus Young are done next March.)
1. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse (2002-03)
Diaper Dandy: A 27-point college debut had ’Melo well on his way toward averages of 22 points and 10 rebounds per game.
One Shining Moment: o Take your pick. The corn-rowed one dropped 33 points on Texas in the national semifinals then tallied 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in an 81-78 championship game win over Kansas.
2. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Michigan State (1977-78)
Diaper Dandy: Michigan State improved from 10-17 to 25-5 as Magic averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists from the point.
One Shining Moment: o The Spartans came up a game shy of the Final Four, but Magic made amends when he led the team to a national championship win over Larry Bird and Indiana State one year later.
3. Michael Jordan, North Carolina (1981-82)
Diaper Dandy: The pre-Air Jordan was one of the first freshmen to start for Dean Smith and he responded with 13 points and four rebounds per game.
One Shining Moment: With 17 seconds remaining in the national championship game, Jordan hit the jumper that provided the winning margin in a 63-62 Tar Heels win over Georgetown.
4. Patrick Ewing, Georgetown (1981-82)
Diaper Dandy: One of the most physically intimidating players ever, Ewing averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game and personified Hoya Paranoia even as a freshman.
One Shining Moment: It was shining indeed, until Jordan ruined Ewing’s day. Ewing had 23 points and 11 rebounds in the national championship game loss to North Carolina. He’d win his title two year later.
5. Isiah Thomas, Indiana (1979-80)
Diaper Dandy: Thomas became the first freshman to earn All-Big Ten honors and one of the first to earn Bobby Knight’s respect as he ran the point for the Hoosiers from Day 1.
One Shining Moment: A teammate would eventually call him “the baby-faced assassin,” but Thomas couldn’t get the Hoosiers past Purdue in the Sweet 16. He made up for it a year later when he led Indiana to a national championship win over North Carolina.
6. Chris Webber, Michigan (1991-92)
Diaper Dandy: Webber averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds and led the Fab Five in pioneering shorts that dared go lower than any shorts had gone before.
One Shining Moment: The timeout that cost Michigan a national title wasn’t a freshman mistake. Webber erred in that regard as a sophomore. He first led the Wolverines to the national title game as a freshman, but they lost to Duke by 20.
7. Mike Bibby, Arizona (1996-97)
Diaper Dandy: Bibby took his prep records from Phoenix Shadow Mountain High down to Tucson and didn’t slow down, averaging 14 points and five assists per game.
One Shining Moment: Lute Olson didn’t win his only title or get his hair mussed until Bibby dropped 39 points and eight assists on North Carolina and Kentucky in the Cats’ final two games.
8. Shaquille O’Neal, Louisiana State (1989-90)
Diaper Dandy: Before Big Baby Glen Davis was eating up, umm, space in the Bayou, there was Shaq. O’Neal recorded 20 double-doubles as a freshman.
One Shining Moment: More like no shining moments. Shaq played in almost Ike Diogu-like solitude at LSU. He did go for 20 points, 24 rebounds and 12 blocks against Loyola-Marymount in a regular-season game as a freshman though.
9. Stephon Marbury, Georgia Tech (1995-96)
Diaper Dandy: One of the original one-and-done freshmen, Marbury averaged 19 points and five assists for the school he incorrectly referred to as Georgia Tech University.
One Shining Moment: Teamed with Brent Barry and Matt Harpring, Marbury guided the Yellow Jackets to the Sweet 16 in his only year on campus. He scored a career-high 29 points in the team’s second-round win over Boston College.
10. Marvin Williams, North Carolina (2004-05)
Diaper Dandy: Williams scraped out what playing time he could, averaging 11 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes per game on a veteran-laden squad.
One Shining Moment: In the Tar Heels’ 75-70 championship game win over Illinois, Williams showed Jordan-esque timing when he tipped in the go-ahead basket to break a 70-70 tie with 1:26 remaining.
Kenny Anderson, Georgia Tech (1989-90);
Luol Deng, Duke (2003-04);
Tyrus Thomas, Louisiana State (2005-06);
Chris Mullin, St. John’s (1981-82);
Lamar Odom, Rhode Island (1998-99);
Ralph Sampson, Virginia (1979-80);
DaJuan Wagner, Memphis (2001-02);
Dwayne Washington, Syracuse (1983-84);
Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina (2005-06).