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November 6, 2007

Instant impact: Freshmen in the spotlight

If you want to see the best young players in college basketball this season, you're going to have to stay up late. Either that, or buy a DVR.

Four of Rivals.com's top-10 impact freshmen hail from the Pac-10. USC's O.J. Mayo, UCLA's Kevin Love, Arizona's Jerryd Bayless and Arizona State's James Harden (each five-star recruits) will be playing the bulk of their games in the Pacific time zone.

The Big 12 is the only other conference with multiple selections, landing two on our list. When compiling this collection of newcomers, we focused on which freshmen will play the biggest roles in 2007-08, not necessarily the ones with the brightest futures. The ACC, Big Ten, Conference USA and SEC also are represented.

Rivals.com Top 10 Impact Freshmen
1. F Michael Beasley, Kansas State, 6-10, 240
He was Rivals.com's No. 1 prospect in the class of 2007 for a reason. Beasley, a left-hander, is a solid outside shooter and has the athleticism and power to dominate around the basket. He should put up big numbers in a hurry. That showed at the U-19 World Championships, where Beasley averaged 12.3 points in just 17 minutes a game.
Video: Beasley in action
2. G Eric Gordon, Indiana, 6-4, 220
Gordon can be the difference between battling for an NCAA Tournament bid and going to the Final Four. A dangerous scorer, Gordon has deep shooting range and an explosive first step. Look for him to form one of the nation's top inside-outside tandems with Indiana senior post player D.J. White.
Video: Gordon in action
3. G O.J. Mayo, USC, 6-5, 200
The Trojans are losing three double-digit scorers and are in desperate need of some scoring punch, particularly on the perimeter. Mayo excels at creating offense, whether it's hitting 3-pointers, pulling up for mid-range jumpers or attacking the basket and getting to the line. Look for him to challenge for the Pac-10 scoring crown.
Video: Mayo in action
4. C Kevin Love, UCLA, 6-10, 250
Love is a tremendous rebounder who can wreak havoc around the basket. Also a great outlet passer, Love will give the Bruins - who have reached the past two Final Fours without a dominant big man - an entirely new dimension. The Bruins now can match up with the biggest of opponents.
Video: Love in action
5. G Derrick Rose, Memphis, 6-4, 195
The ultra-talented Rose is going to start immediately for a national-title contender. Rose joins a team that returns every starter from an Elite Eight run. A terrific playmaker with a great handle, he will make the veterans around him even better. Rose will create more open shots and scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Video: Rose in action
6. F Blake Griffin, Oklahoma, 6-10, 240
It's rare to see a freshman post player as ready for the college game as Griffin. This young Sooner has a muscular frame and plays with an intensity to match. He will make OU a much better rebounding team and will team with Longar Longar to form one of the Big 12's top frontcourt tandems.
Video: Griffin in action
7. G Jerryd Bayless, Arizona, 6-3, 195
Much like Mayo at USC, Bayless comes to Arizona at a time when the Wildcats - who lost nearly 50 percent of their scoring from last season - need him most. Able to play point or on the wing, Bayless is a good outside shooter who has a knack for finishing around the basket. He also excels in the open court, which should make him a great fit for the up-tempo Wildcats.
Video: Bayless in action
8. F Patrick Patterson, Kentucky, 6-9, 220
New coach Billy Gillispie has inherited a deep crop of guards, but his frontcourt is thin. Patterson will be asked to play heavy minutes, guard the SEC's top opposing big men and provide an inside scoring threat. Is he ready? If so, Gillispie will be an instant hit.
Video: Patterson in action
9. F Kyle Singler, Duke, 6-8, 220
Mike Krzyzewski has increased the already-high expectations surrounding Singler. Coach K recently called Singler Duke's most talented and most well-rounded player. A multi-dimensional threat, Singler is a good ballhandler with shooting range beyond the 3-point line. But it's his feel for the game that really sets him apart.
Video: Singler in action
10. G James Harden, Arizona State, 6-5, 200
Every school in the Pac-10 pursued Harden, but he signed with the Sun Devils. Harden gives second-year coach Herb Sendek the kind of player around which he can build his program. Harden, a lefty, is a good 3-point shooter who can drive to the hoop with either hand and also make a major impact on the defensive end.

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