It's always a gamble to rely on unproven talent, even when that talent is a decorated All-American freshman. Between inexperience and not having a true idea of what they look like against elite competition, a coach can't put together reasonable preseason expectations for someone who has never played in college.
But usually, talent tends to trump all. Fans at the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday night in Brooklyn, N.Y. had the chance to see some of that talent, and they were treated to a game that included several players who will be instrumental to their college teams next year.
Jabari Parker, Duke
By taking home co-MVP honors Saturday night at Barclays, Parker proved he is among the best incoming freshmen in the country. His 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals filled the stat sheet, and the small forward will needs to keep that up going into next season in Durham. Though Parker is listed as a small forward, coach Mike Krzyzewski might have Parker play bigger than that at times. The Blue Devils are losing bigs Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee to graduation, so expect Parker to get an immediate shot with Duke thin in the front court.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
The Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche era officially came to an end last weekend in Atlanta, leaving Ennis with plenty of room to work at Syracuse. The point guard had 14 points and six assists Saturday night and will need to produce just as much for the Orange. More importantly than putting up numbers though, his ability to fill the leadership void left by their floor general Carter Williams will be key. Can Ennis become the guy who handles the ball confidently under pressure? The guy who sets up that final play with the game on the line? If Syracuse is going to be successful next year, he will have to be.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana
It was a magical season in Bloomington, but the Hoosiers will lose a lot next year in their front court with Cody Zeller in the NBA and Christian Watford having graduated. Enter Noah Vonleh. The 6'9 power forward is already polished offensively and is improving by the day on the other end. He only scored four points and had three rebounds on Saturday, but he is capable of and will need to do much more next season. Vonleh just proves that Tom Crean and the Hoosiers don't rebuild, they reload.