The Saline Courier Weekend

Top 1-and-done NBA prospects have made a big impact in the AP Top 25 college basketball poll

- By Aaron Beard

Chris Carrawell started for a top-ranked Duke team that blew out just about everyone behind a roster stocked with NBA talent, including a freshman with tantalizin­g athleticis­m in a limited role.

Back then, the norm would’ve been for Corey Maggette to return and blossom in a starring role for a title contender before jumping to the pros. Instead, potential alone — captured in shot-out-ofa-cannon flashes that made Carrawell say “Whoa!” — made him the Blue Devils’ first one-and-done NBA player in 1999.

“I was a little surprised,” Carrawell recalled.

It was quite a change two decades later as Carrawell returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach for the spectacle of Zion Williamson’s lone season of Duke superstard­om. By then, coaches across college basketball operated with near-certainty that those top pro prospects had a brief window to impact how highly a team is ranked or its title chances come March.

“When I come back 20 years later, now it was like that was the norm,” Carrawell said, “and that’s how we recruited.”

It’s easy to understand why. As The Associated Press marks the 75th anniversar­y of its men’s basketball poll, teams with those one-and-done talents often stayed near the top.

While the best players long stuck around college for multiple seasons, Spencer Haywood’s legal fight with the NBA set the stage for players to leave early and ultimately ushered in today’s oneand-done era. Now, with the NBA’S age limit of 19 and requiremen­t of a year of high school to enter the draft, colleges get one-shot glimpses of stars like Williamson, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis or Memphis’ Derrick Rose.

Their AP Top 25 standing reflected it, too.

There have been 107 one-and-done players to be NBA lottery picks after seeing college minutes dating to 2006, the first after the league closed prepsto-pros routes from high school. Nearly two-thirds (70) played for a team that cracked the top 10, with 34 on teams that hit No. 1.

Seven ultimately followed with another No.

1 as the top overall draft pick: Ohio State’s Greg Oden (2007); Rose (2008); Kentucky’s John Wall (2010); Duke’s Kyrie

Irving (2011); Davis

(2012); Kentucky’s Karlanthon­y Towns (2015) and Williamson (2019).

“It adds such another level of excitement to think where is the ceiling for this individual, now what does that do for the team?” said ACC Network analyst Luke Hancock, the Most Outstandin­g Player of the 2013 Final Four in Louisville’s later-vacated title run.

“You go year by year and see these guys and wonder what their impact is going to be on great programs and great teams. Or are they just going to kind of fade and show flashes of brilliance but not win at a high enough level?”

To that point, it hasn’t always gone smoothly. In the past decade, 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons’ LSU team was briefly ranked before missing the NCAA Tournament, while 2017 No. 1 Markelle Fultz played for a nine-win Washington team.

And while talent matters, it’s getting trickier.

The transfer-portal era has players moving freely between schools. College athletes can profit from endorsemen­ts using their name, image and likeness (NIL), offering financial incentives to stay in college longer.

It creates a sport rapidly getting older – particular­ly with extra years of eligibilit­y from the COVID-19 pandemic still floating around — with most teams opting for a readily available pool of experience­d talent compared to a small universe of elite NBA prospects.

“I think it’s made it tougher for one-and-dones to really have the same impact,” Hancock said, “whether they’re drafted high or not.”

Still, last year showed it still works amid the changes: six lottery picks played for top-10 teams, including No. 2 pick Brandon Miller (Alabama) and No. 8 pick Jarace Walker (Houston) on teams that reached No.


That illustrate­s why

Hall of Fame coach John Calipari won’t change his one-and-done emphasis, even while supplement­ing the roster through the portal.

Calipari coached Rose as Memphis spent five weeks ranked No. 1. He’s since spent spent 37 weeks ranked No. 1 at Kentucky, highlighte­d by Davis’ 2012 NCAA title winner and Towns’ 2015 team going unbeaten until the Final Four as a wire-to-wire No.


“If we can get good enough young players, develop those young players and win at a high level, that would be my druthers,” Calipari said. “I always come back to if it’s talent or experience,

I’ll take talent. If you have talented experience, then you’re going to be really good but most of the really talented players go pro.

“I’m not changing the philosophy of recruiting the very best players in the country. Teach them. Help develop them as individual­s and then bring a team together over the year that has a chance to compete for national titles.”

Back at Duke, Carrawell returned to find nowretired Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski had masterfull­y pivoted from relying four-year stars like Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill.

That has helped Duke produce at least one freshman lottery pick in 10 of 13 seasons, including two from Krzyzewski’s fifth NCAA title winner in 2015 and No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero in 2022. The Blue Devils have spent 34 weeks ranked No. 1 and 77% of the time (192 of 249 polls) inside the top 10 in that time.

“We actually recruited those guys and would tell them, ‘You’re not going to be here long,’” Carrawell said. “I was really amazed how Coach K adjusted to that, the different eras and how we used to be and perceived back then. Man, you would’ve never thought Duke would be a school with one-anddones.”

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