Three 18-Year-Olds Will Change Basketball This Week

Shabazz Muhammad, Nerlens Noel, and Tony Parker are all set to commit this week. Here’s what you need to know. posted on

Nerlens Noel

Wait, 18-year-olds are going to change basketball?

Three, precisely. Nerlens Noel is a 6’10” big man in the mold of Anthony Davis — he’s a space-eating shot blocker with a developing offensive game.

Shabazz Muhammad is your prototypical wing scorer, athletic and decently sized at 6’6”. He can get to the hoop at will and spread the floor with his jumper. At the college level, there isn’t really anything he can’t do.

Tony Parker is, uh, big, but aside from that, he’s a skilled post player who can rebound and score in the paint. At 6’9”, he doesn’t have elite height for a center, making up for it in width and ability with the ball.

How good are these guys, really?

Their rankings, as per three major evaluators:

Noel — ESPN: #1, Scout: #1 Center, Rivals: #3 for 2013 (actually going this year, though)

Muhammad — ESPN: #2, Scout: #1 Small Forward, Rivals #1

Parker — ESPN: #26, Scout: #9 Center, Rivals: #33

Getty Images

Shabazz Muhammad

So, what do you mean by saying they’re going to change basketball?

They’re going to change the Division I basketball landscape based on where they decide to go.

Haven’t all these young whippersnappers pretty much decided where they’re headed by now?

For the most part — out of ESPN’s top 100 prospects, only 10 have yet to choose a college. Other notable undecideds include Anthony Bennett, Amile Jefferson, and Devonta Pollard, but none of the others have quite the buzz that Noel, Parker, and Muhammad do.

So are they all just gonna go to Kentucky?

Maybe! All three have the University of Kentucky in their final options.

Noel’s considering Kentucky, Georgetown, and Syracuse.

Muhammad’s considering Kentucky, Duke, and UCLA.

Parker’s considering basically everywhere: Kentucky, of course, and then also UConn, Duke, Georgetown, Georgia, Kansas, Memphis, Ohio State, and UCLA.

Tony Parker (in orange)

Why are they taking so long?

Depends on who you ask. If you ask the players, they’ll probably tell you that it’s a tough decision with huge importance for their futures, which, with players this talented, will be disappointing if they don’t include the NBA. Coaches, prestige, team success: all these and more play a huge role in a prospect’s development and readiness for the NBA. (Also, their chances of winning a championship, if that’s something they care about.)

Want to know why they’re actually waiting this long, though?

YES.

OK. Shhh. It’s because they’re waiting to see who declares from the current draft class. Players like this want a program where they know they’ll start immediately, and oftentimes, that’s dependent upon incumbents leaving school. If Anthony Davis were to stay another year, for example, it’s very likely that Noel would no longer want to go to Kentucky. (Davis won’t, and Noel probably will.)

This isn’t all cut and dry, though. Although today’s news that Mason Plumlee will play his senior year at Duke might seem to put them out of the race for Tony Parker, Coach Krzyzewksi could try and sell Parker on playing alongside Plumlee in the front court as an advantage, with Ryan Kelly playing the 3. It’s all gamesmanship.

This is stupid.

Yep! Welcome to college basketball.

So when are these kids going to announce?

Noel and Muhammad are scheduled to break the news tomorrow evening, by 7:30 pm. Noel tweeted that he would “shock the world,” which could mean nothing — he’ll just commit to UK like everyone expects and “shock the world” with his play — or everything — he’ll go to Europe and play pro a la Brandon Jennings.

Nobody really knows when Parker’s going to commit, and he’s been notoriously indecisive on the subject. Could be this week, though.

If like 99% of the country, I hate Duke/Kentucky/Georgetown/Syracuse, should I just start crying right now?

Not necessarily. Noel and Muhammad should both be Player of the Year candidates right from the start — Muhammad looked like a freak in the McDonalds All American Game, and he’s scary-good on the offensive end. Noel’s a little less predictable, as big-man prospects tend to be, but if anything his potential is even greater. And Parker, well — if Parker keeps his head screwed on straight, he should be the new Jared Sullinger. (No coincidence that he’s considering Ohio State.)

BUT: plenty of other teams are also looking good. The usual suspects — UNC, Kentucky, Michigan State — have reloaded. Down-on-their luck prestige program UCLA netted Kyle Anderson, a top-5 recruit who, at 6’7”, has the ball skills and playmaking ability to run the point. And similarly, Arizona has two top-10 guys after a year out of the tourney. Indiana looks to build on strong momentum. And out of nowhere, cinderella Sweet 16 team N.C. State has a top-10 class, including two of the country’s top guards and a dangerous forward. Also, Providence College? The fifth-best class? What?

So don’t fret. Unless Noel and Muhammad and Parker all go to UK. Then fret.

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