2013-14 RTC Preseason All-America TeamsPosted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2013
With the season tipping off Friday night, there’s no better time to roll out our preseason First, Second, and Third All-America Teams. More than anything, these three groups of outstanding players are here to foster and encourage discussion. Our crack panel of eight national columnists provided ballots over the last week or so, and this, perhaps unsurprisingly, is where we ended up.
First Team All-America
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas (unanimous) – Wiggins begins his career in Lawrence as one of the more ballyhooed freshmen in recent memory. The 6’8″ swingman, who was unanimously considered the top player in the Class of 2013, committed to Kansas in April following a recruiting process that was primarily kept close to the vest. While some of the hype surrounding the dynamic freshman may be a bit overblown, it is impossible to deny Wiggins’ credentials, as he was named 2013 Naismith Prep Player of the Year, 2013 Gatorade National Player of the Year, and Mr. Basketball USA. Wiggins has already acknowledged that he would like to be a one-and-done and enter the 2014 NBA Draft, so it is logical to see why expectations are so high in Lawrence this season.
Factoid: It is not exactly a surprise that Wiggins is a top-flight athlete when you consider the fact that his father, Mitchell Wiggins, had a lengthy professional basketball career and his mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, won two silver medals for Canada as a sprinter in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.
Doug McDermott, Creighton (unanimous) – McDermott’s ability to score from anywhere on the court makes him one of the most feared offensive players in the country. It is rare for a two-time First Team All-American to return to school, but that is the case with McDermott, who spurned the NBA to return for his senior season in Omaha. With Creighton making the big move from the Missouri Valley to the Big East this season, the Bluejays are going to be counting on him to fill the stat line each night out – and McDermott is good enough to come through for them.
Factoid: Due to Creighton guard Grant Gibbs receiving a rare sixth-year of eligibility from the NCAA (and thus, needing a scholarship), McDermott will be an extremely talented walk-on for the 2013-14 season.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State – The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year shocked the basketball world when he announced in mid-April that he would return to Stillwater for his sophomore season. The Flower Mound, Texas, native is widely considered the best returning player in all of college basketball. Smart brings a little bit of everything to the floor. His 6’4″ frame is elite for the point guard position and he uses that size as well as any perimeter player in the country. The leadership and intangibles that Smart provides are also second to none. After Oklahoma State finished third in the Big 12 during Smart’s freshman season, it is projected to contend with perennial powerhouse Kansas for the conference crown this season.
Factoid: Making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010, Oklahoma State’s stay in the 2013 event was a short one. The Cowboys, a five-seed, were upset in the Round of 64 by 12-seed Oregon. This loss affected Smart’s decision to return to school, as the setback helped him realize he was not ready to be one-and-done in a Cowboy uniform.
Russ Smith, Louisville – Smith returns to Louisville for his senior season looking to lead the Cardinals to a repeat as national champions. “Russdiculous” is coming off a season that saw him average 18.7 points per game and take home the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional. While Smith gets a majority of his attention for his performance on the offensive end of the court, he is also a defensive stalwart who keys the relentless full court pressure of the Cardinals. Even though Smith certainly figures to be Louisville’s most explosive player this season, you better believe he will still at times do some things on the court that will drive Rick Pitino crazy.
Factoid: Smith spent his fall interning with WHAS-TV in Louisville, working local high school football games on some Friday nights.
Julius Randle, Kentucky – Kentucky coach John Calipari brought in one of the best recruiting hauls in history for this season and the star of the class is the ultra-athletic Randle. The Plano, Texas, native arrived in Lexington as the second-best prospect in the Class of 2013 – only behind Andrew Wiggins – and early returns on Randle as a Wildcat forward have been overwhelmingly positive. Randle’s talent level is so elite that ESPN‘s Jeff Goodman declared in late September that he would take Randle over Wiggins with the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Second Team All-America
Gary Harris, Michigan State – The 2012-13 Big Ten Freshman of the Year decided to return for his sophomore season in East Lansing and that was a tremendous development for Tom Izzo and the Spartans. Despite being plagued by a shoulder injury for much of his freshman season, Harris still led the team in scoring, three-pointers made, three-pointers attempted, and three-point percentage during the Big Ten season. The Spartans are a consensus pick as a top five team entering the 2013-14 season and Harris is a major reason why.
Factoid: When evaluating whether to declare for the 2013 NBA Draft or return to Michigan State, the opportunity to win a national championship was just too much for Harris to ignore. “I don’t want to miss out on something great we have the opportunity to do,” the Spartans’ guard said of his decision.
Jabari Parker, Duke – Parker was in the national spotlight for much of his high school career, as he followed in Derrick Rose’s footsteps at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago. Following a terrific prep career that saw him become the only player to ever win Illinois Mr. Basketball twice, Parker will suit up for a very talented Duke squad this season. The freshman’s length, athleticism and versatility will provide Mike Krzyzewski’s team with an asset it has not had in a long time.
Factoid: Parker is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As a member of the church, Parker became a Mormon priest at the age of 16 and that has allowed him to handle the sacrament on Sundays and perform baptisms.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State – Craft returns for the Buckeyes in his senior season as one of the most well-respected players in college basketball. The senior’s tremendous basketball IQ, leadership skills and defensive tenacity make him one of the most adept point guards in the country. With the departure of Deshaun Thomas from last season’s Elite Eight team, look for Craft to shoulder even more offensive responsibilities in the 2013-14 season.
Factoid: Former Duke point guard and current Cleveland Cavalier All-Star Kyrie Irving can be counted as a big fan of Aaron Craft. This offseason, Craft impressed Irving enough during a camp that Irving held in New Jersey that the young professional phenom noted that he believes Craft can play in the NBA.
Mitch McGary, Michigan – As a freshman, McGary burst onto the scene for Michigan during its run to the NCAA championship game. In Michigan’s six NCAA Tournament games, the big man averaged 14.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest – with his most impressive performance coming in Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen upset of top-seed Kansas when he tallied 25 points and collected 14 rebounds. With Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. now in the NBA, look for McGary to take another leap forward in his second season in Ann Arbor.
Factoid: While McGary has captured many preseason headlines and several accolades, he has not yet practiced for the Wolverines as he continues to deal with a back injury.
Jahii Carson, Arizona State – Arizona State has not appeared in an NCAA Tournament since 2009, and if that drought comes to an end in 2014, Carson will be a big reason why. As a redshirt freshman in 2012-13, Carson averaged 18.5 points per contest and was named the Pac-12’s Co-Freshman of the Year.
Factoid: Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek confirmed at the team’s media day in early October that Carson will leave Arizona State after this season and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.
Third Team All-America
Aaron Gordon, Arizona – The two-time Mr. Basketball in California and the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game has excitement high in Tucson. Gordon finished as a top-three prospect in the Class of 2013 and his elite athleticism has many experts believing he will live up to the considerable hype.
Factoid: With all the hype surrounding this season’s elite freshman, sometimes you have to worry about maturity issues. That does not appear to be the case with Gordon, as Wildcats coach Sean Miller believes maturity may be Gordon’s “greatest gift” to the team.
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut – The 2012-13 season in Storrs was quite unusual. For the first time since 1985, someone other than Jim Calhoun was the coach of the Huskies and the team was ineligible for postseason play due to a poor APR score. However, these challenges did not stop from Connecticut finishing at a respectable 20-10 overall. Much of the Huskies’ success in 2012-13 can be attributed to the improved play of Napier, who led the team in scoring with 17.1 points per game. With stability back in the Connecticut program and the return of several key complementary pieces, Napier should have the Huskies battling near the top of the American Athletic Conference.
Factoid: Napier considered transferring following Calhoun’s retirement in September 2012, but the guard ultimately decided to stay at Connecticut. The Husky faithful are undoubtedly thankful.
C.J. Fair, Syracuse – The ACC Preseason Player of the Year nearly left for the NBA following Syracuse’s run to the Final Four this spring. Thankfully for Jim Boeheim and the Orange, Fair changed his mind and is back to lead the team as it makes the transition from the Big East to the ACC. With Michael Carter-Williams gone to the NBA and Brandon Triche having exhausted his eligibility, the Orange are now Fair’s team to lead.
Factoid: Fair is much better at playing basketball for Syracuse than he is at drawing the school’s mascot.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State – Much like Gary Harris, Payne passed up a chance at going to the NBA to return to the Spartans. Needing only 22 blocks to become the school’s all-time leader in rejections, the big man is a defensive presence for Tom Izzo’s squad. The most underrated aspect of Payne’s game is his offensive versatility, as he is dangerous from both the post and behind the three-point line.
Factoid: It is always a good time to mention the stupendous feature from “The Journey: Big Ten Basketball 2013″ about Adreian Payne’s special relationship with a seven-year-old cancer patient from St. Johns, Michigan.
Joe Harris, Virginia – Harris had a national coming out party this past February when he scored a career-high 36 points in an upset victory over Duke. The preseason All-ACC selection will look to build on a 2012-13 season where he averaged 16.3 points per game and helped lead the Cavaliers back to the NCAA Tournament following a one-year absence.
Factoid: Harris is a native of Chelan, Washington, and he was being recruited by Tony Bennett at Washington State before Bennett left for Charlottesville. Bennett continued recruiting Harris, Harris pledged to Virginia, and the rest is history. To this day, Harris says he would have gone to any college where Bennett was the coach.
Honorable Mentions: Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Rodney Hood (Duke), P.J. Hairston (North Carolina), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Andrew Harrison (Kentucky), James Young (Kentucky), Alex Kirk (New Mexico), Kendall Williams (New Mexico), Semaj Christon (Xavier), Taylor Braun (North Dakota State), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Jordan Adams (UCLA), Perry Ellis (Kansas), Olivier Hanlan (Boston College), Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado), Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), and Glenn Robinson III (Michigan).
Some brief analysis on the selections:
- Thirty-two different players earned nominations to the three teams. Only two players – Andrew Wiggins and Doug McDermott – were consensus First Team Preseason All-Americans.
- All 15 players selected to our All-America teams come from the now “Power Seven” conferences.
- With the season set to begin Friday, we definitely realize there will be some different names on this list come March 2014. Until then, let’s all debate and discuss intelligently and enjoy what should be another very entertaining season of college basketball.