College Basketball Recruiting: Incoming Freshmen with the Biggest Question Marks
Another crop of superstar high school basketball recruits are headed to a college near you this fall, and each phenom comes with his own satchel of hype and hope.
At this point, it's all just speculation how these prep stars will fare at the college level. They could each be the next Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins or end up like Renardo Sidney or Josiah Turner.
If you don't know who those last two are, then you get what we're driving at.
It's far too soon to consider any player a bust, especially since none of the class of 2014 will be in a college game for another seven months. But we have identified some players from this incoming crop who come with big question marks to go with their physical attributes and amazing intangibles.
Chris McCullough, Syracuse
Position: Power forward
Height, weight: 6'9", 200 lbs
Why he's a question mark: Rated as the No. 16 overall player in the class of 2014 and the country's fourth-best power forward, Chris McCullough could be the answer to Syracuse's lack of inside presence and reliable scoring. But three days before he signed with the Orange last November, he was kicked out of Brewster Academy in New Hampshire for an unknown violation.
He finished up at IMG Academy in Florida, his third high school in five years of play. The extra year at the prep level kept him from being invited to the McDonald's All-American Game, but he was in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 18.
However, he only managed four points and two rebounds in 12 minutes before fouling out in a game that didn't have much semblance of defense. Though it was an all-star game, it did show his "inability at times to play hard consistently," as Scout.com national recruiting Evan Daniels told the New York Post's Zach Braziller.
Malik Pope, San Diego State
Position: Small forward
Height, weight: 6'8", 175 lbs
Why he's a question mark: Malik Pope is one of the highest-rated players ever to sign with San Diego State, a 4-star wing who is rated No. 32 in the country. But the last 14 months have been nothing but injuries and rehab for Pope, who twice has broken his left leg.
The first injury was in February 2013, and then he re-broke the leg last September, ending his senior year of high school in Elk Grove, Calif., before it ever started.
According to Rob Dauster of NBCSports.com, Pope's injuries caused many schools to shy away and most ratings services to drop him from the 5-star level. If he can come back from the ailment, he could be a breakout star for the Aztecs, but that's a big if at this point.
Devin Robinson, Florida
Position: Small forward
Height, weight: 6'8", 169 lbs
Why he's a question mark: As the No. 4 small forward in the nation, 5-star Devin Robinson is part of a recruiting class at Florida that should help the Gators overcome the loss of heralded seniors like Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young. That is, assuming he manages to gain some weight.
He is listed as only 169 pounds, which is lighter than every player on Florida's 2012-13 roster (including 6'1" Kasey Hill, who came in at 181 pounds) and less than everyone else on 247Sports' ranking of the country's top 50 wings.
That lack of bulk didn't matter at the high school level, but considering he'll be asked to guard and drive on college guys who are much thicker, he'll have to spend a lot of time in the weight room and at the training table once he gets to Gainesville.
Elbert Robinson, LSU
Height, weight: 7'0, 322 lbs
Why he's a question mark: Elbert Robinson is a big guy, plain and simple. At 322 pounds, he's the heaviest center in the 2014 class, and it's not even close. While that girth is impressive, if it's not used properly, it could just get in the way.
He has made the most of his size to rise up the recruiting rankings, according to Patrick Schmidt of SI.com's Death Valley Voice blog for LSU sports. He's set to join an impressive line of very big men to play for the Tigers, including Shaquille O'Neal, Stanley Roberts and Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
Much of that weight still looks like baby fat, though, so he may need to slim down through conditioning and weight training to be effective. Kentucky's 7-foot signee, Karl Towns Jr., is only 248 pounds but is rated much higher because he's more sculpted.
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Position: Point guard
Height, weight: 5'8", 142 lbs
Why he's a question mark: A handful of guards under 6 feet have made it to the NBA, but most of them have tended to be on the stockier side and therefore have been able to fight their way through the bigger bodies to get to the rim. That's not how you'd describe Tyler Ulis or his game.
Besides being only 5'8", he's thin for his height. He's fast, yes, but whether his small body can withstand the inevitable bumps and bruises that will come with the kind of opponents Kentucky will face in 2014-15 leaves his impact up in the air.
Despite his size, he has impressed scouting services enough to be ranked as the No. 4 point guard in the country, and besides Kentucky, his offers included Florida, Iowa, Memphis and Michigan State. He had five points, three rebounds and three assists in the McDonald's All-American Game, but it'll be a much different world when he's facing Kansas or Louisville in the preseason and Florida in SEC play.
Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
Position: Shooting guard
Height, weight: 6'4", 195 lbs
Why he's a question mark: Rather than join one of the more high-profile programs that 5-star players tend to go to or join a stocked team that needs one more piece to get over the hump, Isaiah Whitehead signed with Seton Hall. New York's top-rated player chose the Pirates over Indiana, Pittsburgh and St. John's, among others. This move could pay off big time or derail his pro prospects, depending on how things go.
Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller noted that the combination of Seton Hall losing three of its top four scorers from last year, as well as the presence of holdover point guard Sterling Gibbs, could cause Whitehead to try to do too much and also play out of position.
Seton Hall hasn't had an NBA player since Andre Barrett in 2005, so either Whitehead will be a trendsetter or face possible irrelevance.
Note: All ratings courtesy of 247Sports.com.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.