Nov. 8, 2004
Do you know what excites me about each new college basketball season? The newcomers, the freshmen, the diaper dandies, baby! We hear about kids leaving early for the NBA, but I love to talk about the new college kids on the block.
I can't wait to see some of these kids play. As is the case every year, a number of diaper dandies should intrigue us and excite us -- and perhaps even disappoint us, because they come in with such billing, walking on campus with big-time reviews and expectations. Here are some names to watch:
Let's start at Kentucky, where Randolph Morris will provide shot-blocking ability and presence in the lane. When coach Tubby Smith got the word that Morris was coming to Lexington -- the Wildcats beat out Georgia Tech for his services -- he had to have a big smile on his face. A McDonald's All-American, Morris is just what the doctor ordered.
|Randolph Morris averaged almost a triple-double as a senior at Landmark Christian School in Georgia. As a freshman at Kentucky, his numbers weren't quite as impressive.|
Morris comes in with an outstanding group of newcomers, including Joe Crawford, Rajon Rondo, Ramel Bradley and transfer Patrick Sparks. Smith will reload after losing the likes of Cliff Hawkins, Gerald Fitch, Erik Daniels and Antowain Barbour.
Texas will rely on the ball-handling skills of Daniel Gibson. The 6-2 guard has explosiveness, penetration ability and scoring talent. Gibson will be a major factor in the Longhorns' high-octane offense. He should get help from other diaper dandies, including Mike Williams and LaMarcus Aldridge when he's at 100 percent.
At UCLA, coach Ben Howland is rebuilding with a pair of talented diaper dandies in the backcourt. Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo will make some noise. Farmar is an outstanding passer who will be a leader at the point. Look for the Bruins to make strides and to be a Pac-10 challenger down the line. Who would have thought this program would slide to 11-17 last season? The bottom line is they will get back because Howland knows how to win.
Coach John Calipari has to be jumping with joy in Memphis. Calipari welcomes guard Darius Washington, who had some classic matchups with Sebastian Telfair in high school (Telfair jumped straight from high school to the NBA last June). Calipari has a way of getting the most out of his guards. Washington will provide all kinds of excitement in the city where The King, Elvis Presley, reigned supreme. The show will belong to Washington, who should have an instant impact. Washington has an interesting test in the Hall of Fame Classic against Maryland and John Gilchrist.
At Oregon, coach Ernie Kent shocked the world when he got McDonald's All-American Malik Hairston, who said no to the Big Ten and SEC and opted to attend school in Eugene. Oregon hasn't landed a recruit of this stature in many years. The question is: Will he have enough help around him to be the force that many are anticipating? Only time will tell, but it was a coup for Kent and the Ducks.
Marvin Williams is just what North Carolina needs to go with the talented returning nucleus. My preseason No. 1 team has a dynamite backcourt in Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton, plus Sean May and Jawad Williams up front. Marvin Williams will be a force on the inside and on the baseline. North Carolina was limited in its depth last year and suffered many heartbreakers last season. That should be turned around this season.
Michigan State landed an important part of the puzzle, even though Drew Neitzel didn't get as much publicity as some of the other stars. Coach Tom Izzo is excited about Neitzel, a potential leader on the court. Howard "Super Garf" Garfinkel of the Five-Star Camp has seen so many great ones, and he said Neitzel will be an instant impact player at the point. Neitzel could be the answer.
There are others to keep an eye on, like Rudy Gay of Connecticut, DeMarcus Nelson at Duke, Glen Davis of LSU ... hey, the list goes on and on! That's why it will be so much fun to see these diaper dandies improve all season long.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.