We're still months away from the start of the college hoops season, but you can already feel the hype machine building around incoming freshmen. The same thing happened with John Wall last summer. It got to the point where it seemed impossible for Wall to live up to his high school billing. He couldn't possibly be that good, right?
We know how that one turned out. Wall wasn't just that good. He was better.
The 2010 freshmen class is unlikely to have the same sort of surefire No. 1 overall draft pick in its ranks, but it does have two players -- North Carolina's Harrison Barnes and Duke's Kyrie Irving -- that should do just fine in the hype-building phase of the offseason. Much like Wall, it's already beginning.
Both players are undeniably well-regarded. Barnes is the No. 1 player in the class; Irving is the No. 3. What makes this even better is the increasing suspicion that not only will both players be on opposite sides of college basketball's most-hyped rivalry; they'll be key players in that rivalry as soon as they get to campus this fall.
Barnes is a force of nature, a versatile 6-foot-8 forward that can dominate the interior or work smoothly from the outside. He might also be the most polished high school prospect of all time. For example, check out Luke Winn's recent feature on Barnes, which contains one of the cooler quotes uttered by a high school senior since Ferris Bueller took that awesome day off:
"I usually measure myself by what I achieve," Barnes said. "And Wooden just let me know that if you give your best, to become the best person you can, that's success. So I try to focus now on giving everything that I can be giving. Because even if I'm accomplishing the goals that I set out, if I'm not giving my best effort, then what does that mean?"
Right? That's great stuff! Add in Barnes' incredible talent and the fact that North Carolina will need big things from him as the young team recovers from one of its worst seasons in school history and you've got a surefire star on your hands.
Over in Durham, the main question about whether Irving, Barnes' future rival, would be capable of making a Wallian impact in 2010-11 is will Coach K hand him the keys to Duke's offense right away? Jon Scheyer's are big shoes to fill. Would K be comfortable with such a swift transition? Actually, yes. Yes he would:
"We'll change our whole offense, the way we play because of Kyrie," Krzyzewski said ... "Just like we did when we had Jason Williams, he'll make a big impact right away. He's going to be very, very good."
And, as if the fire needed any more fuel, the aforementioned Mr. Williams has already said he thinks Irving will be every bit the player Wall was -- if not better:
“John Wall is an exceptional talent, but if I had to pick a point guard, I'd take Kyrie," Williams said.
Let's summarize. This fall, two of the three best players in the country will be playing a dozen miles apart in the heart of basketball country, squaring off in one of the country's most heated, famous rivalries.
Maybe neither player is John Wall. (Or maybe so, if Jay is correct.) It won't matter. That's going to be really, really fun to watch. Those interested in finding a cure for the offseason -- perhaps cryogenic technology, or a rudimentary time machine? -- please keep me posted on your progress. Because basketball season needs to get here now.