Freshmen such as UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kentucky’s Malik Monk and Duke’s Jayson Tatum have made it look, at times, very easy to live up to the insane expectations placed upon first-year players.
But it’s never that easy, not to jump into college basketball for one season, excel quickly and frequently and then expect to carry your team on a deep run in the NCAA tournament — which, by the way, you have no experience playing in. It’s a fascinating subplot for a fascinating group of extremely talented players as the tournament begins this week.
Fifteen players were selected to the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Boys Basketball Teams last March. Ten of them will be in the NCAAs. Two were on teams that missed the postseason, one was injured early in his freshman season and two were juniors last year so their shining moment won’t come until this time next year.
FIRST TEAM ALL-USA
Lonzo Ball, Chino Hills (Calif.), UCLA — Nation’s most high-profile freshman and the reigning ALL-USA Player of the Year, the 6-6 forward averaged 14.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 7.8 assists and two steals.
De’Aaron Fox, Cypress Lakes (Texas), Kentucky — 6-3 guard averaged 15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
DeAndre Ayton, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix) — high school senior
Josh Jackson, Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.), Kansas — 6-8 forward led one of the nation’s best offensive teams, averaged 16.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
Jayson Tatum, Chaminade Prep (St. Louis), Duke — 6-8 forward averaged 16.0 points and 7.3 rebounds.
SECOND TEAM ALL-USA
Miles Bridges, Huntington Prep (WVa.), Michigan State — 6-7 guard/forward has one of college basketball’s most dynamic players and averaged 16.6 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Markelle Fultz, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), Washington — 6-5 point guard who is widely expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft has already declared that he is leaving college. He had not played since Feb. 18 with an ankle injury. He averaged 23.3 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds.
Alterique Gilbert, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), UConn — 6-foot point guard suffered a torn labrum in an early season game and missed the rest of the season. He will not lose a year of eligibility.
T.J. Leaf, Foothills Christian (El Cajon, Calif.), UCLA — 6-10 forward averaged 16.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and shot 63 percent from the field.
Malik Monk, Bentonville (Ark.), Kentucky — 6-3 guard averaged 21.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and shot 41 percent from three. He could be the key to how far Kentucky goes in the tournament.
THIRD TEAM ALL-USA
Bam Adebayo, High Point Christian (High Point, N.C.), Kentucky — 6-10 forward averaged 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds)
Mustapha Heron, Sacred Heart (Waterbury, Conn.), Auburn — 6-5 guard averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds for a Tigers team that is not playing in the postseason.
Frank Jackson, Lone Peak (Alpine, Utah), Duke — 6-3 guard averaged 10.8 points and 2.5 rebounds.
Josh Langford, Madison Academy (Ala.), Michigan State — 6-5 guard averaged 6.5 points and 2.2 rebounds and has been a consistent starter.
Michael Porter Jr., Nathan Hale (Seattle) — high school senior