Young players often breed excitement around college basketball. They add new life to a team, a new look, and in some cases talent that has not been seen at a school in years. With 80 freshmen and sophomores in the Big East this season, you could certainly say the conference will have a new look.
It is a definite benefit to have youth on a team. It builds a buzz across a campus. One benefit of having young players is that they are full of confidence today.
Just look at Marquette, which is looking at what could realistically be its first future NBA first round pick since 2011 in freshman Henry Ellenson, who says his dream is to make it to the NBA.
It is all well and good to have confidence. But as Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead found out last year, it is one thing to have confidence when things are going well. When they go sour, though, when bumps in the road present themselves to a team, when those confident freshmen do not pan out immediately, that confidence that is possessed might soon be referred to as arrogance by fans and media members alike.
The truth is that many of these young players come in underprepared. They come from being the cream of the crop in high school, to all of a sudden being one of nearly 18,000 of the best amateur basketball players in the country (17,984 to be exact, according to the NCAA’s website).
Ultimately, the key to a younger player being immediately successful is the presence of upper-classmen on a team. The younger players must watch and learn from the upperclassmen on the team and follow their lead during the preseason, according to Billy Garrett Jr., a junior guard for DePaul.
“It’s very important [to prepare freshmen]. The more ready we can get them for Big East play, the better,” Garrett said. “It’s really up to the upperclassmen on our team to make sure those guys understand what it takes to be successful.”
Other teams, like Creighton, which has nine freshmen and sophomores, took trips to foreign countries to help prepare their young teams for what is to come in the landscape of college basketball.
“I think our trip to Italy and our ten practices in preparation for that was very valuable to them [the young players],” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said.
The 80 freshmen and sophomores in the Big East most likely have dreams of playing in the NBA, just like the other 17,904 college basketball players.
With 46 players being drafted out of college in 2013—less than one percent—many of those dreams are likely to be crushed whether it is due to an injury, a player not panning out, or one of the hundreds of other possibilities.
It is time to stop thinking every freshman who is supposed to bring a program back from the depths of the conference will do that.
Sure, Ellenson could possess the talent to go one-and-done or Whitehead could have a breakout season and go to the draft. But until then, just enjoy the game they play and let the chips fall where they may.
Kevin Huebler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Hueblerkevin.