Making an instant impact

Andrew Harrison

Here is a look at six prospects who should have a big impact from game one at the college level.

A lot goes in to being an immediate contributor as a freshman at the college level. Of course first and foremost is natural talent, but there is more to the equation than just talent. Hard work, physicality, depth at a position, and the ability to pick up a college system all go into making an early impact. Here are six players who should have no problem getting big minutes and putting up numbers as a freshman.

John Calipari and Kentucky are bringing in the top class and the most important player coming their way is Andrew Harrison. Harrison is obviously an elite talent and someone who plays a premium position, and while Ryan Harrow is extremely likely to be a returning starter, he won't play ahead of Harrison.

It is tough to imagine Harrison ending up a better player than Derrick Rose, who obviously is an NBA MVP when healthy, but he should be the best point guard that Calipari has had since Rose played one season for him at Memphis. That is how good Harrison is, and with him having the ball in a guard friendly offense from day one, big things should be expected for Harrison who physically is as ready to contribute in college as any player coming from the high school ranks in recent memory.

Maybe the perfect fit between player and coach is Rondae Jefferson with Sean Miller at Arizona. Arizona loses small forwards Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom after the year, and Jefferson now comes in to take their spot, and he is the exact type of player that Miller loves to coach.

In Miller's motion offense which is based on a lot of back screens and cutting, small forwards are asked to rebound, handle the ball, initiate the offense, and post up. That style fits perfectly in what Jefferson does well. With a whole ton of playing time available and a great stylistic match, Jefferson should be a big time contributor for the Wildcats, and should start from day one.

Staying out West, the California Golden Bears have one big time wing in Allen Crabbe on their roster, and now they potentially could have a second in Jabari Bird. The only reason they won't have two impact wings is if Crabbe has a good enough junior season to declare for the NBA Draft.

With that Mike Montgomery and his staff will rely on Bird either as a primary scorer or at worst the number two offensive option, and he should be more than up to the challenge. Bird is 6-foot-5, an elite athlete, and has made himself into a good jump shooter who can also get to the rim. That kind of skill set combined with his college ready physique and athleticism make him a candidate to have an absolutely enormous on the Pac 12.

In the Big Ten it is looking like Derrick Walton will have big shoes to fill. Michigan point guard Trey Burke seems to be a likely early entry candidate after almost leaving following his freshman season, and that should open up minutes for one of the toughest guards in the class in Walton.

Walton is a true floor general who has a knack for taking and making big shots, and nothing seems too big for him. With that kind of playing time opportunity and a point guard heavy offensive system in Ann Arbor, Walton should be someone who finds himself in contention for Big Ten newcomer of the year.

Keeping with the Big Ten theme, there are huge expectations being placed on shooting guard Kendrick Nunn at Illinois and it looks set up for him to have a major impact on the team. Currently Illinois' two best players, D.J Richardson and Brandon Paul, are both wings and both will be leaving the program following this year.

That leaves ample playing time for the 6-foot-2 Nunn at the shooting guard position. Not only will he have a lot of time on the floor, but he will be asked to score a lot of points and also have major responsibility on the defensive end. Illinois Head Coach John Groce is relying on Nunn for major production, and he seems set to deliver that for his home state school.

Finally in the SEC the Missouri Tigers are expecting big things for this recruiting class and while he isn't the highest rated commit, point guard Wes Clark will have the most pressure on him. In Colombia many are expecting starting point guard Phil Pressey to declare for the NBA Draft, and without another true floor general on the roster, Clark will be asked to come in right away and make a huge impact.

Clark went from mid-major type interest in April to high-major interest following an excellent run of things in July. A kid who is a jet in transition and is comfortable scoring or setting up teammates in the half court, Clark should be playing big minutes from day one in a system that asks the guards to be major scoring threats.

Overall while these aren't the six most highly rated players, for the guys signing during the early period this group should have a huge immediate impact on their respective schools.

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