Best Freshman Classes

Surely you’ve heard the talk (Washington Post, Mike DeCourcy, Rivals.com) – this year’s freshmen class is one of the best in college basketball history, comparable to the legendary 1980 class. Greg Oden. Brandan Wright. Kevin Durant. Spencer Hawes.
Just in the ACC, we have an impressive crop – Wright, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Brandon Costner, Javaris Crittenton, Thaddeus Young, Jon Scheyer, Grievis Vasquez and a few others.
But how does this class rank with some of the great ACC classes of the past? Is this one really the best ever?


I decided to look back at some of the great ACC freshmen crops to see. I only went back to 1974, because that’s when freshmen became eligible to play. I factored in their whole career impact instead of just their freshman year, because some guys really don’t get a chance to play in their first year or two. It’s hard to compare a guy like Tyler Hansbrough last year to, say, Rasheed Wallace who came into a defending national champion returning all of its players.
From the records (God bless Charlie Board’s site!) I picked out six exceptional classes. Note that the year I’m using is the spring of their freshman year. Some articles use the high school graduation year, but I find that confusing when talking about college players.
1980
Ralph Sampson, VIRG ***###&&&!!!
James Worthy, UNC *&
Sidney Lowe, NCSU *
Dereck Whittenburg, NCSU *

This class is one of the ones always mentioned as the best ever, but the ACC didn’t really get a lot of those players. But the ones we did get were amazing. Sampson of course was one of the most decorated college players ever, winning three National Player of the Year awards. Big Game James led UNC to a national title before bolting after his junior year. Lowe and Whittenberg did the same for State the next year.
1983
Mark Price, GT ***
Johnny Dawkins, DUKE **&&!
Mark Alarie, DUKE **
Kenny Green, WFU
Jay Bilas, DUKE
Len Bias, MD **##&
Brad Daugherty, UNC **&

Now that’s some depth! Price scored 20ppg as a freshman, beating out Michael Jordan for the ACC scoring lead. Dawkins, Alarie and Bilas built the foundation for the Duke dynasty and helmed one of the greatest teams to not win a championship, losing in the 1986 finals to Louisville (and their own fabulous frosh, Pervis Ellison). Brad Daugherty played behind other trees for a couple of years and then dominated for two seasons before going #1 in the NBA draft. And of course, you have Len Bias, the best player of this incredible group.
1994
Joe Smith, MARY **#&!
Jerry Stackhouse, UNC *&
Jeff Capel, DUKE
Tim Duncan, WFU ***##&&!
Rasheed Wallace, UNC *&
Harold Deane, UVA
Keith Booth, MD *

Had Smith, Stackhouse and Wallace played more than two years each, this might have been a no-brainer as the best all time. I mean, look at those guys! Three different players won NPOY honors (folks forget that Stackhouse got one) and four were first team All-American.
1996
Stephon Marbury, GT *
Antawn Jamison, UNC ***#!
Terrell McIntyre, CLEM
Courtney Alexander, VIRG
Vince Carter, UNC *

If this list only included freshman-year performance, ’96 might be the winner. Marbury and Jamison were great right off the bat and Alexander quickly showed that he was Virginia’s most gifted offensive player ever. Carter and McIntyre both grew into great college players. Sadly, Marbury played only one season of college ball.
2000
Joseph Forte, UNC *&
Jason Williams, Duke **&&!!
Carlos Boozer, Duke *
Travis Watson, Virg
Roger Mason, Jr., Virg
Damien Wilkins, NCSU
Steve Blake, MD *
Mike Dunleavy, Duke *&
Josh Howard, WF *#&

This might be your winner! Like ’94, four different players in this group made first team All-America. Blake helped lead Maryland to their only national championship while Williams, Boozer and Dunleavy took Duke to a title a year earlier. It’s hard to remember, but Forte was actually the best player out of this group at first, but he left school too early.
2003
Chris Bosh, GT
Raymond Felton, UNC *
Rashad McCants, UNC *
Justin Gray, WFU
Jarrett Jack, GT
J.J. Redick, Duke **##&&!
Sean May, uNC *
Shelden Williams, Duke **&

If Bosh had played more than one season, this might have been the best group. Talk about your depth. May, McCants and Felton led Carolina to a title. Jack nearly did the same for Georgia Tech. Redick and Williams made one Final Four and Redick became the ACC’s all-time leading scorer.
* = 1st team All-ACC
# = ACC POY
& = 1st team All-American
! = National POY
So, which one do you think is the best? Is there another class that I’m missing? Take it to the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *