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5 impact freshmen set to steamroll college basketball

The next wave of young stars has arrived in college basketball.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest turning point in the modern history of college basketball occurred 10 years ago thanks to a decision by an organization the NCAA has no control over. When the NBA's collective bargaining agreement expired in 2005, one of the agreed upon changes was a rule that mandated no player could enter the draft straight out of high school, instead having to spend at least one season in college.

Ever since, college basketball has been defined by phenom freshmen.

The first high school class impacted by the new rule featured two players you might remember: Ohio State center Greg Oden and Texas wing Kevin Durant. Stars like Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and John Wall would follow with varying degrees of postseason success until freshman Anthony Davis led Kentucky to a dominant 38-2 season and a national championship in 2012.

This past season might have been the greatest example yet of the power of blue chip freshmen: Duke won the national championship by getting 60 of its 68 points from four freshmen in the title game. All four were McDonald's All-Americans just one year earlier, and the type of five-star recruits any program in the country would love to land.

Even if some powerful figures like Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany foolishly want to ban freshmen from playing altogether, The Era of Freshmen won't end until the NBA makes another rule change. In a new podcast with Scott Phillips of NBC Sports, we discussed five freshmen set to leave a mark on the sport in their first season. Below, you'll find more information on the five players we talked about.

F Ben Simmons - LSU

ben simmons

(Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports)

From: Florida's Montverde Academy, via Australia

Size: 6'10, 230 pounds

Simmons is the most publicized member of the freshmen class and likely the only player on this list who wouldn't have looked out of place in the NBA straight from high school. It's possible he'll be the most dominant player in the country. This is the best LSU recruit since Shaquille O'Neal.

You'll hear the same descriptor for Simmons over and over: point-forward. Essentially, he has the size of a big man, the speed of a wing and the feel of a point guard. He's a gifted passer who should be the Tigers' primary ball handler this season. He struggles shooting from the outside at this point in his career. The formula for any team with Simmons is simple: spread the floor with shooters and run everything through him.

LSU is on an exhibition tour in Simmons' native Australia at the moment, and he's already showing what makes him such a multifaceted threat on the floor. Get used to seeing coast-to-coast drives like this one all season long:

Getting a player of Simmons' caliber changes a program, at least for a year. LSU, which loses a pair of star big men in Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, will still have a talented supporting class in place led by junior Tim Quarterman and Simmons' AAU teammate Antonio Blakeney. Still, there's no sugarcoating the fact that this team will go as far as Simmons takes it for what's assuredly going to be his only season of college ball.

C Skal Labissiere - Kentucky


(Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports)

From: Memphis, via Haiti

Size: 7-foot, 215 pounds

No recruit in the country enters college basketball with a backstory as simultaneously incredible and bizarre as Labissiere.

He came to the United States after an earthquake rocked his native Haiti, leaving him trapped under his family's collapsed house until his father rescued him. He landed near Memphis where he developed into one of the best players in the country, but an attempt to transfer high schools before his senior year was shut down and left him without a school. That forced Labissiere and Gerald Hamilton, a shady guardian who allegedly tried to profit off him, to essentially create their own school so he could play as a senior.

It seems obvious all of this would make Labissiere a player the NCAA is interested in, but there have been no rumblings about his eligibility so far. That means it looks like he's going to be the next Nerlens Noel/Julius Randle/Karl-Anthony Towns and not the next Enes Kanter, who once famously signed with Kentucky before being ruled ineligible.

Labissiere might not be as big or strong as Towns, but he seems like the best possible candidate to replace him in the current recruiting class. Labissiere has the ability to knock down jump shots at one end and block shots at the other, giving him an NBA ceiling as high as any player in the country this year.

No program has been able to string together ultra talented big men year after year like Kentucky, and Skal is next in line. He should be a Day 1 starter in the front court next to either Alex Poythress or Marcus Lee.

F Brandon Ingram - Duke

brandon ingram

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

From: Kinston, North Carolina

Size: 6'9, 190 pounds

Ingram was considered a strong UNC lean for most of his high school career, but the NCAA allegations hanging over the program did a lot to change his mind. He waited until to spring to commit and in the end landed at Duke, where he's the premier recruit for another young but supremely talented roster.

It's worth wondering just how effective Ingram will be this year; he rose as high as No. 3 in the recruiting rankings mostly based on his long-term potential. He has great height for a wing, a 7'3 wingspan and a nice shot from three-point range. He's also one of the youngest players in the class of 2015, as he doesn't even turn 18 years old until September.

If Ingram can tighten his handle and prove to shoot a high percentage from three, there's no cap on his ceiling. In the short-term, he should slide into the four for Duke next to Amile Jefferson. With a scorer like Grayson Allen also on the wing and two quality perimeter defenders in Matt Jones and freshman Derryck Thornton, Ingram can pick his spots and won't be asked to do too much on either side of the floor.

That's basically an ideal situation. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Ingram turned into Duke's best scorer late in the season, but he doesn't need to be that type of player right away. We're starting to think Coach K knows what he's doing.

F Jaylen Brown - Cal

jaylen brown

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

From: Marietta, Georgia

Size: 6'7, 220 pounds

Cal wasn't one of Brown's five official visits, so when he had to decide if he really wanted to give Cuonzo Martin's program serious consideration, the Georgia native had to pay his own way out to Berkeley. He did, and the result is the most anticipated season of Cal hoops since ... the days of Jason Kidd?

Fellow five-star big man Ivan Rabb was already on board when Brown picked Cal, giving the Golden Bears an intriguing mix of blue chip recruits and talented veterans. In Tyrone Wallace. Jordan Matthews and Jabari Bird, Cal is loaded with athleticism and shooting. They don't have a natural center or point guard in that mix, but conventional lineups are soooo overrated. Kingsley Okorah should be able to provide some good minutes inside.

Brown's decision to go to Cal gives the Bears a legitimate shot at making noise deep into the NCAA Tournament and automatically makes this one of the country's most fun teams to watch. Brown should be a two-way terror as a 'power wing'. He doesn't come in as touted as Andrew Wiggins, but he has a similar game: A-plus athleticism, a great frame and a willingness to defend. That's  a good combination.

G Malik Newman - Mississippi State

malik newman

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

From: Jackson, Mississippi

Size: 6'4, 180 pounds

Newman is the type of player custom built to wreck the college game. An explosive scorer who can pile up points in a hurry from all three levels, Newman chose to stay at home and play for the Bulldogs instead of taking an offer from Kentucky. He's already a local legend for winning four state titles in high school, and now he's Mississippi State's biggest hoops recruit since Renardo Sidney.

Newman led USA Basketball's U17 team to a gold medal in the United Arab Emirates, where he was named tournament MVP after averaging 14.9 points per game. He shot the ball well from three in that tournament (36.4 percent on nearly five attempts per game), and he'll have the green light all season at Mississippi State.