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Ranking the 10 Greatest One-and-Done Players in College Basketball History

Scott HenryFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2013

Ranking the 10 Greatest One-and-Done Players in College Basketball History

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    When we use the term one-and-done around college basketball circles today, it's usually in reference to the past seven years of the game's history.

    In 2006, the NBA instituted a rule which forced high school players to wait a year before entering the draft, closing the door that players, such as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, walked through.

    Even before that rule, however, there were players who stopped in college for a one-year cup of coffee, and a few became stars in their brief stays. Those players are often ignored when we chronicle the best one-and-done players in the college game's history.

    While many of the 10 players here have made their names since 2006, a few predate the NBA's official barring of high school prospects. They went to college because they wanted to, not because they had to.

    Players are listed by not only statistical accomplishments but also by awards won and team success during their singular seasons.

10. O.J. Mayo, USC

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    It's hard to respect the way O.J. Mayo's college career began.

    His recruitment was instantly scrutinized by the NCAA. The resultant findings landed the program in hot water and made coach Tim Floyd a temporary pariah. Mayo himself had a fight with a teammate before the season even began.

    What is easy to respect, however, is the way Mayo played between the lines. The 6'4", 210-pound guard was named to the All-Pac-10 first team after a season averaging 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He ended up second in the conference in scoring and first in three-point percentage, making better than 40 percent of his long shots.

    Mayo scored 20 points in his lone NCAA tournament game, but he was outplayed by fellow one-and-done icon Michael Beasley. Beasley's Kansas State team moved on in the tournament, and Beasley was drafted one spot ahead of Mayo in June.

9. Greg Oden, Ohio State

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    Before Greg Oden was hit by the Portland Trail Blazers' injury jujua curse that also derailed Sam Bowie's equally promising careerhe helped carry Ohio State to its first national title game since 1962. Much like that team 45 years prior, the Buckeyes fell to a defending national champion capping off a repeat.

    Oden missed OSU's first seven games recovering from wrist surgery but hit the ground running when he did get on the court. Over his first three games, Oden racked up 44 points, 25 rebounds and 15 blocks, numbers that would remain standard as the season wore on.

    His final averages were 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, and he maintained similar figures through the NCAA tournament. Oden became the first freshman to win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, owing to that shot-blocking prowess.

    As the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft, Oden was put in the company of Hall of Fame big men like Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing. Sadly for him and his fans, he ended up more like another Hall of Famerthe similarly hobbled Bill Walton, another former Blazer.

8. Derrick Rose, Memphis

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    Like O.J. Mayo, you won't find much trace of Derrick Rose in his school's record books.

    Memphis had its 2008 national runner-up season vacated thanks to a dust-up over Rose's SAT scores. The fact remains, though, that if not for an iconic shot from Mario Chalmers, Rose would have led the Tigers to their first-ever national championship.

    Individually, Rose was named a third-team NABC All-American, won the MVP award of the South Regional and put himself on the All-Final Four team. He averaged nearly 21 points, 6.5 rebounds and six assists during the NCAA tournament.

    According to the NCAA, however, none of that ever happened.

7. John Wall, Kentucky

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    Another product of the John Calipari point guard factory, John Wall was the prototype model to be assembled at the Kentucky branch. He almost didn't make it to Lexington, as some reports linked him with a loophole that would have made him eligible for the 2009 NBA draft.

    Wall chose college instead and hit the ground running.

    He drained a buzzer-beater to stave off an upset bid by Miami (Ohio) in his UK debut. The freshman-laden Wildcats would defeat nationally ranked opponents North Carolina and Connecticut before they ever tasted defeat.

    Kentucky reached the regional finals of the NCAA tournament, where it fell to a veteran West Virginia team. Still, Wall's season was one for the books at UK, with him becoming the first Wildcat freshman to be named a consensus All-American. He set the school record for assists in a season, along with a new mark for scoring by a freshman.

    Finally, the supreme mark of respect: Wall was immortalized in song by the rap group Troop 41, who put out a track called "Do the John Wall." None of Wall's fellow freshman legends can claim a song with their name in it.

6. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, California

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    Pictured here late in his NBA career, forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim crossed the country from his Georgia home to Berkeley, Calif. in 1995. The Golden Bears were nearing the end of Todd Bozeman's stormy reign as coach, and while the results were varied in the mid-1990s, Cal certainly had some talent on hand.

    Abdur-Rahim was the second of three Bears to win the Pac-10 Player of the Year award in a four-year span, following Jason Kidd in 1993 and preceding Ed Gray in 1996. No other freshman had ever won the award. Multiple publications named Abdur-Rahim an All-American, and he was awarded National Freshman of the Year

    Unlike several others on this list, Abdur-Rahim's career ended in disappointing fashion.

    Like O.J. Mayo, his team was knocked out of the NCAA tournament in their first game. Unlike Mayo, Abdur-Rahim suffered through a miserable game, being held to only seven points and two reboundsboth less than a third of his season averagesin a loss to Iowa State.

    Abdur-Rahim had a productive 12-year NBA career that ended in 2008. He later went back to school and finished his degree in sociology 16 years after leaving for the draft.

5. Michael Beasley, Kansas State

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    While Michael Beasley's NBA career has been inconsistent at best and completely bizarre at worstcapped by last week's episode of him going Floyd Mayweather on himselfhis brief college career was transcendent.

    Crunching numbers that seemed mildly preposterous by today's standards, Beasley led the nation in rebounds (12.4 per game) and finished third in scoring (26.2). He posted double-doubles in 28 of his 33 games, topping 30 points in 13 of those. He shot nearly 54 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range.

    In only one season, Beasley set 30 Kansas State records and 17 Big 12 single-game and season marks. His conference record of 44 points in one game still stands, although fellow K-State star Denis Clemente matched it in 2009.

    The Wildcats fell in the second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament, but it was through no fault of Beasley's. He put up 46 points and 24 rebounds in State's two games.

    Then, he got drafted and things went sideways almost immediately with a marijuana-related incident at the NBA Rookie Transition Program.

    Like many of us, Beasley has continued to struggle with life after college, but his life in college was pretty sweet while it lasted.

4. Kevin Love, UCLA

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    Kevin Love chose to play at UCLA rather than at his home-state program Oregon, and Oregonians were none too happy with the decision.

    Before the Bruins traveled to Eugene for a meeting with the Ducks, Love's cell phone number was circulated among Oregon's fan base, some of whom decided to leave death threats on his voice mail.

    After a trying time like that, Love's All-America status at season's end seemed well-deserved. Of course, a player has to earn such honors on the court, and Love did that quite well.

    Love ranked in the Pac-10's top 10 in five of the eight major stat categories (points, rebounds, blocked shots, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage), leading the nation in total rebounds. He led a veteran Bruin team to the Final Four, averaging nearly 20 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks during the tournament.

    For all of those highlights, though, Love may not have enjoyed any game more than that night at Oregon.

    He put up 26 points and 18 boards, leading the Bruins to a victory in the face of all the abuse that rained down on him and his family.

    Kevin's father Stan, a former Oregon forward, summed it up to Sports Illustrated: "To think I'm sitting at the school where I played ball, and just because my kid ­didn't pick Oregon he gets abused like that? I'll never go back there."

3. Anthony Davis, Kentucky

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    Kentucky center Anthony Davis raked in the hardware at the end of his lone college season, claiming half a dozen national player of the year awards. Most of the honors had not been won by any freshman not named Kevin Durant.

    The awards poured in thanks to Davis establishing himself as one of the most fearsome defensive threats in basketball history. His 186 blocked shots established a national freshman record and an overall SEC record for one season.

    Although he averaged 14.2 points per game, Davis did not need to score to dominate an opponent. The national title game against Kansas proved that when he made only 1-of-10 shots for six points but added 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and three steals. The performance helped earn him the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award.

    Davis, along with classmates Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, helped demonstrate that UK coach John Calipari could not only put handfuls of players into the NBA lottery one season removed from high school but that he could win a championship doing it.

    UK's failure to even make the NCAA tournament the following season put the 2012 team's accomplishment into an even more positive light. Winning a title is hard enough to do with a veteran team, let alone one led by a herd of freshmen.

2. Kevin Durant, Texas

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    Before Kevin Durant dominated the 2006-07 season, no freshman had been named consensus first-team All-American since LSU's Chris Jackson in 1989. Even Jackson, though, couldn't win national player of the year trophies like the Rupp, Naismith and Wooden awards.

    Durant earned all those honors by averaging 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.9 blocks. That's an amazing enough line for a big man, but he also added a 40 percent mark from three-point range.

    Durant dropped a ludicrous 37 points and 23 rebounds on Texas Tech, one of 11 times he topped 30 points and also one of his 20 double-doubles.

    Texas fell in the second round of the 2007 NCAA tournament, losing to USC despite 30 points and nine rebounds from Durant.

    Few players in NCAA history have played as versatile a game as Kevin Durant. He's continued on to become one of the NBA's most skilled producers. While he may struggle to run down LeBron James for league MVP honors, LeBron can never claim Durant's superlative college accomplishments.

1. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse

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    The newspaper says it all.

    In 2002, Carmelo Anthony could have gone straight into the draft had he seen fit, but he chose to play for coach Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. By the time his freshman season ended, he was being doused with confetti and hoisting a national championship trophy.

    Melo averaged more than 22 points and 10 rebounds per game, but he saved the best for last.

    Scoring 33 points against Texas and 20 in the national title game against Kansas, Anthony equaled Mark Aguirre's Final Four freshman scoring record from 1979.

    Anthony became only the third freshman to be named a consensus All-American, joining Oklahoma's Wayman Tisdale and LSU's Chris Jackson, although he made the second team whereas the others were voted to the first.

    Although Melo originally intended to play two or three years of college ball, the championship left him with little more to do at the NCAA level. So, he left to join the 2003 NBA draft. That class has gone on to be the most decorated of the 21st century thus far.

    Fellow 2003 draftees LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have won a couple of NBA championship rings in the past two seasons. However, Melo and second-rounder Steve Blake of Maryland were the only members of that class to bring rings with them into the league.

     

    For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron. Now playing: the Conference Calling 2013-14 preview series.

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