Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter and Josh Selby were the elite of the elite when they arrived on college campuses last summer.
Irving to Durham, N.C., Kanter in Lexington, Ky., and Selby at Lawrence, Kan.
They weren’t just supposed to make their teams national championship contenders, but also save a lackluster freshman class.
It never happened.
And now, in a blur, they are gone.
Kanter never played a single game in a Kentucky uniform after the NCAA basically deemed him a pro, saying he received an excess of money and benefits from his team back in Turkey.
Selby was docked the first nine games of the season by the NCAA for taking impermissible benefits – much of it having to do with Carmelo Anthony’s business manager, Robert "Bay" Frazier.
But Irving made up for both of them when he came out of the gates swinging. In fact, the only player in the country that was more effective over the first eight games of the season was UConn’s Kemba Walker.
It was clear that Irving was an upgrade over last year’s point guard in Durham, Jon Scheyer, and it was also evident that this Duke team was all-powerful with Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
Then he went down with a toe injury that put him on the shelf until the NCAA tournament.
We got just 11 games from Irving, not a single minute from Kanter and 26 mostly forgettable games from Selby.
But that doesn’t matter, for the most part, to the NBA folks. It’s all about potential.
Case in point: Daniel Orton.
A year ago, Kentucky’s freshman big man logged 13.2 minutes per game and averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest.
Yet he was still a taken in the first round, 29th overall, by the Orlando Magic.
Irving was ranked No. 2 in the nation by Scout.com behind only North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes. Kanter checked in at No. 3 and Selby was fifth in the nation, but was ranked first by another national recruiting site.
They were here, now they are gone.
Kanter was ruled “permanently ineligible” by the NCAA, so he has virtually no choice but to declare for the June NBA draft.
Irving, although playing in a small sample, has made his way to the potential No. 1 overall pick – and that’s difficult to turn down, even with the threat of an NBA lockout looming.
Irving’s career at Duke is over.
Selby never truly wanted to be in college in the first place. The explosive 6-foot-2 guard battled injuries throughout the season, but Kansas coach Bill Self benched him down the stretch in favor of veterans Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar.
Selby is the poster child for why the one-and-done rule should be abolished by the NBA.
Don’t force someone to go to college that doesn’t want to be there.
Sure, we almost certainly would have missed out on the Kevin Durants, but we also would have been spared the Selbys and O.J. Mayos – kids that truly have no interest in sitting in a college classroom.
It’s why nearly everyone is hopeful that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will include the alteration of the rule to where kids are allowed to enter the NBA directly out of high school – or they have to remain for at least two years.
Selby made his departure from college basketball official on Wednesday, but it was a foregone conclusion after he blew off the team banquet in favor of spending time training for the NBA draft out in Las Vegas.
There’s a reason why the talent level in college basketball was down this year.
Kanter never stepped on the court, Irving’s was on the bench for most of the season and Selby was a train wreck from the moment he arrived at Kansas.
The freshmen were supposed to be the saviors – and three of them didn’t give us much of anything.