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The NBA's Age Minimum Has Given the College Game Possibly One of the Best Freshman Classes Ever

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 14, 2007

Is this the best collection of freshmen, from coast to coast, ever to play college basketball?

The primary reason the class of 2010 is even in the discussion is because of the NBA's age minimum, which now requires players to be 19 years old and a year removed from high school to be eligible for the draft. The rule that prompted last year's best high school players to give college a try, at least for a year, has given college basketball a freshman class that rivals the best in memory.

Leading the class of 2010 brigade is Ohio State's Greg Oden, who draws comparisons already to Celtics legend Bill Russell. Then there is Kevin Durant, who leads Texas in points, rebounds and blocks. Add in another near-7-footer in Spencer Hawes, who leads Washington in scoring, shooting percentage and blocks. Completing the foursome is North Carolina's Brandan Wright, who leads the ACC in shooting percentage and already has won five conference rookie of the week awards.

All four are expected to be high NBA draft picks whenever they decide to forgo their college eligibility. All four could also be starring on a television near you this March in the NCAA tournament. But this class also has depth. Arizona's Coach Lute Olson has said freshman Chase Budinger could be the best freshman he has coached. And Connecticut's 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet is a shot-blocking savant.

Kevin Garnett set the high school-to-pros movement in motion in 1995. His college class of 1999, even without Garnett, is still considered the recent benchmark for freshman talent. There was Stephon Marbury, who played just one season at Georgia Tech before starting a star-crossed NBA career. There was also Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, all of whom became recognizable NBA performers. None of those players, however, won a national championship in college.

The college class of 1985, on the other hand, included Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, two players who competed in a total of four national title games, winning two of them. Both players went on to fairly successful professional careers as well.

One thing is certain about the class of 2010. It's hard to imagine any of the aforementioned freshmen sticking around college basketball through graduation day.

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