anthony davis

by Cub Buenning / @cubbuenning

Effectively forced to play college ball, top freshmen have become some of the most compelling guys to watch. Here’s five for this year:

Anthony Davis, Kentucky
The expression “meteoric rise” was created for youngsters like this phenom from Chicago. A few busy summers on the court coupled with a growth spurt matured the now 6-10 forward into a can’t-miss prospect. Davis’ aggressive, attacking game is no longer a secret as he backed up an amazing 2010 summer with an outstanding senior prep season at Perspectives Charter. Under the tutelage of pro creator John Calipari, Davis is obviously in good hands. His eventual explosion in the upcoming college season could have the forward first up on the podium next spring shaking another hand—that of NBA commissioner David Stern.

Brad Beal, Florida
Often the last trait that an NBA prospect develops is a consistent perimeter jumpshot. For St. Louis native Beal, however, that aspect of his game needs no further development. Beal will immediately become one of the country’s best shooters, but at 6-4, the soon-to-be Florida Gator will need to learn to spend more time on the ball. A bit undersized for an NBA off-guard, Beal has the strength, game and aforementioned ability to put the ball in the basket, making himself extremely valuable to any team near the top of next spring’s Draft.

Andre Drummond, Connecticut
Before enrolling at UConn in August, the top center in this year’s freshman class toyed with the idea of preparing for the NBA Draft in prep school. Wise choice, Dre. Jim Calhoun has turned big men with way less potential and physical tools than Drummond has into NBA Lottery picks. Whether he decided to join the defending National Champs or not,  Drummond, who’s drawn comparisons to Amar’e Stoudemire and Dwight Howard, would have been a frontrunner for the No. 1 overall selection in next June’s NBA Draft, regardless.

Austin Rivers, Duke
It’s almost easy, with this influx of seemingly NBA-ready talent, to overlook the player who’s long been the most famous player in this class. Since he started his prep career at Winter Park (FL) High, Rivers has been in the spotlight. Granted, the 6-4, do-it-all combo-guard was raised around the game as the son of Doc Rivers, but Austin has been doing his own thing since Day One. Yes, he can pass like his dad, but Austin’s essence is combining the mentality of a scorer with the body of a high-flying slasher. Far more athletic and quick than often given credit for, the younger Rivers will be a perfect fit in Durham with Mike Krzyzewski.

Quincy Miller, Baylor
This long and lanky wing out of Chicago via High Point (NC) Westchester is ready to wow the folks in Waco, TX. Miller is a matchup nightmare for most on the wing with his 6-10-frame and his ability to handle the ball. A boisterous personality on and off the court, last year’s SLAM High School Diarist loves to break defenders down with his length and quickness and often relies on a spin move that he unleashes at any point on the court. Whether finishing with a pull-up jumper or at the rim, Miller can get points in a hurry. Adding a Texas-sized  diet to this kid’s frame will go far in preparing him for the 2012 NBA Draft.