Each college basketball season brings a fresh batch of young talent.
The 2007-2008 season is once again the Year of the Freshmen, with Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, and Michael Beasley headlining the bunch.
All four appear to be NBA-ready, and are thriving with their respective teams.
Rose stands out on a stacked Memphis squad, Gordon boasts freakish shooting numbers, Love is reminiscent of just about any old-school big man, and Beasley is making a case for Player of the Year.
(Oh, and three out of the four already have their own websites.)
Each recruit was labeled a can't-miss prospect and—surprise!—they didn't miss.
But sometimes it's easier to meet the hype when none exists in the first place. Often a few freshmen come out of nowhere to make strong impressions.
The ACC—which claims top-notch recruits and the fiercest rivalries—has an under-the-radar star in the making. Coach Mike Krzyzewski seems to know how to pick 'em, and he's struck gold yet again.
Meet Taylor King—a 6'6" pure shooting southpaw and McDonald's All-American from Southern California.
Now, I'm not here to take a stance on the Carolina-Duke rivalry, because I'm not affiliated with either school. However, I do think certain individuals are worth talking about, especially when they aren't receiving enough attention.
The glaring difference between King and the names mentioned above is that they were expected to be great, while King is catching Duke's opponents off guard...and typically gets lost in the talented mix of his own team.
Kyle Singler was—and probably still is—thought to be Duke's top freshman. But King has recently shot up the list of must-see TV. He is currently averaging 10.6 PPG in 14.3 minutes, with a .500 field goal percentage and .458 three point percentage.
Best of all, King is anything but shy. He fires at will.
In his first game as a Dookie, King lit up the scoreboard with five three's and 20 points. Since then, King has posted big games versus Eastern Kentucky (six three's for 27 points) and Michigan (three three's for 18 points).
The kid is fearless.
I had the privilege of watching King dominate at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California (where he average 26.7 PPG and 10.9 RPG). I distinctly recall a game in which he won the opening tip, called for the ball, and—wasting no time—chucked up an NBA-range three.
King is not a LeBron James man-child, but he's overpowering in his own way. Even at Mater Dei he had a certain swagger about him.
The way he carried himself seemed to make a statement to every spectator. In short, he had the "it" factor—whatever "it" is.
UCLA knows everything there is to know about King. He is, after all, the one that got away. King committed to the Pac-10 powerhouse before suiting up for a single game at Mater Dei. In the end, though, he claimed Duke was a better fit—and, really, who's to argue?
Even at a university where fundamentals are prized, King displays his wild and erratic side freely. He's exactly what the NCAA—and Durham—need.
And when March rolls around, he could very well become a tourney hero.
But don't paint King with just one brush. Just because he has a tendency to shoot the trey doesn't mean he can't do much more.
"I'd rather call him a player off the bench," says Coach K. "If he becomes a shooter off the bench, then he'll never become a player."
King's full game has yet to be unveiled, but time is on his side. As the upperclassmen shuffle out of Duke's spotlight, King will step in.
So far, he's looked like a bigger, stronger J.J. Redick—curling off picks and finding ways to get open. His short-range game is well-polished, and his long-range work is devastating.
Some might even call it fearless.
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