The 2006-07 college basketball season will go down as the Year of the Freshman.
One (Texas' Kevin Durant) was the consensus national player of the year. Two (Ohio State's Greg Oden and Mike Conley) took their teams to the national title game. Several others like Arizona' Chase Budinger, Javarris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young of Georgia Tech, North Carolina's Brandan Wright and Cal's Ryan Anderson made big impacts.
Will there be another Durant in 2007-08? What can we expect from the top freshmen who didn't turn pro?
Nobody may be better equipped to answer those questions than DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright.
Wainwright coached the Americans to a second-place finish at the U-19 World Championships in Serbia last month. The team was comprised of eight of the nation's top rising sophomores and four five-star recruits from the class of 2007, including Rivals.com's No. 1-ranked prospect Michael Beasley.
Wainwright got to see each under some of the toughest situations imaginable.
The American team, which lost Kansas power forward Darrell Arthur to a leg injury just days before the tournament started, played 12 games in nine days. In every game, they were made to feel like the enemy.
"It was a very anti-American crowd," said Wainwright, who was aided by George Washington's Karl Hobbs and Drexel's Bruiser Flint. "The players were spit at and had things thrown at them. There are a lot of hard feelings there, and unfortunately your politics follow you. But the guys stayed focused. We had great chemistry. None of our players were in the top 10 in scoring, but we created the most steals of any team. They played hard, and I couldn't be prouder of what they accomplished."
Wainwright gave his thoughts on the players in a candid interview with Rivals.com. Here's a breakdown of what he said about each player - along their stats from the tournament. (* - Denotes team leader.)
"Michael has been given some remarkable gifts. He's so talented it's scary. There are things he did on the court that I never even imagined. He's also a hard-nosed rebounder and a really good competitor. I really liked him. His effort was great and he was very easy to manage. His inexperience showed at times. He got into foul trouble a lot and isn't comfortable with doing the same thing over and over again yet."
"Jonny was one of the few guys that could be a factor in any game regardless of who we played because he was so good defensively. He plays with an incredible passion. To be honest, we had to try and dial him down some. But, you'd much rather be doing that than having to dial him up."
"DeAndre will be making more money than most people ever see in their lives. He's a very good athlete with good hands. He's also got a great personality. He was very popular with many of the foreigners. I think he got a little bit overwhelmed on the court. He's used to just overpowering people. But in Europe the big men move around a lot and set up a lot of ball screens. He really had trouble scoring. Once he learns how to score and overcomes the learning curve, he's going to be a terrific player in the Big 12."
"What a great defender. David is like a poor man's Bruce Bowen (San Antonio Spurs guard). He was absolutely terrific. I named him our captain. He has a great motor and never had a bad possession. He tore his ACL not to long ago (suffered the injury entering his senior year in high school) but plays fearlessly. I'd love to have him on my team."
"Deon really stepped in and did a great job. He was our most improved player. He's similar to (former UNC power forward) Brandan Wright in that he is really composed and has no ego. He really understood his role and played it well. His knowledge of the game was incredible."