Jon Kreft committed to Florida State in August of 2004.
That’s all of six years and four months ago. Kreft was preparing for his junior year in high school at the time, which would put him in the class of 2006. That’s the same class as guys like Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, and Ty Lawson. Every member of that class that graduated or left school within four years has become a professional, be it to the NBA, overseas, or, like those NCAA commercials love to tell us, in something other than basketball.
While the rest of his high school class is cashing paychecks, Kreft was finally granted eligibility at Florida State today. Tonight against Stetson, Kreft will suit up as a Division I basketball player for the first time in his life.
As you might imagine, it has been a long road for Kreft.
In May of 2006, he was arrested with a friend in a car with 15 grams of weed and a digital scale. He also admitted to hiding 1.7 grams of cocaine in his buttocks. He served almost a year in jail, but by the time he got out, Kreft’s scholarship offer from Florida State was gone. He found himself at Chipola College, spending the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons there. He had hoped to enroll at FSU for the 2009-2010 season, but he still needed to finish some course work.
So after clearing all of those hurdles, Kreft, now 24 years old but a junior in terms of his eligibility, will finally have the chance to play for the Seminoles.
It may be difficult for him to earn minutes initially. Florida State already has a deep and talented front line.
But that isn’t the story here.
The story is that Kreft turned around his life. And now he’ll have a chance to get an education. That is, after all, the purpose of collegiate athletics.
Kreft is far from the only player joining his team midway through the season. Here is a list of eight players that have yet to play a game, but could end up having a huge impact on the outcome of the season.
Josh Selby, Kansas, Fr.
We all know the story of Josh Selby by now. A Baltimore native, Selby had a relationship with Bay Frazier, Carmelo Anthony’s business manager, that the NCAA determined was based on his athletics abilities. He was suspended by the NCAA for nine games, and will become eligible to play on Saturday against USC.
What Selby’s impact will be is unclear. Most expect him to become a starter before long, but Bill Self is playing the part of the politician perfectly, requiring Selby to earn his spot in the starting lineup. He was considered just as good, if not better, than Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving coming out of high school, so it shouldn’t be an issue of if he will have an impact, but rather what that impact will be. He has needed the ball in his hands throughout his high school career, but Kansas runs a system that thrives on ball movement and runs through the Morrii, twin big men Marcus and Markieff. That said, a back court featuring Selby and Tyshawn Taylor will be talented, dynamic, and incredibly entertaining to watch.
If Selby can accept the fact that he will play a role, albeit an important one, for the Jayhawks, it shouldn’t be long before Kansas rivals Duke as the best team in the country.
Drew Gordon, New Mexico, Jr.
Gordon was arguably UCLA’s best player in the season and a half he spent in Westwood. But the talented power forward was never quite able to accept his role for Ben Howland, or the system that the Bruins ran, and left the school after six games last season.
With all due respect to the front line of San Diego State, Gordon could step in and immediately become the best big man in the Mountain West Conference. He’s big, hes athletic, and he is versatile. He can score with his bask to the basket, he can get out and run the floor in transition, and he can rebound the basketball. New Mexico already has a solid front line, but freshman Alex Kirk is more of a pick-and-pop player while AJ Hardemann and Emmanuel Negedu and big and physical, but more athlete than basketball player at this point. Gordon is on another level talent-wise.
It will be interesting to see what the Lobos look like with Gordon in the fold. Right now, they are probably the fourth best MWC team behind SDSU, BYU, and UNLV, who are all top 25 teams. The MWC will be that much better with a dangerous Lobo team. His first game will be Sunday against the Citadel.
Renardo Sidney, So., and Dee Bost, Sr., Mississippi State
Both of these kids had to wait for NCAA clearance to return to the Bulldogs, but for very different reasons. Sidney enrolled at Mississippi State prior to last season, but as a result of improper benefits he received and the NCAA’s belief that his family profited off of his athletic ability while he was in high school, Sidney was declared ineligible for last season and 30% of this season. He’ll play his first game on Saturday against Virginia Tech.
Bost, on the other hand, entered the NBA Draft back in April and took too long to withdraw his name. In a bit of an unexpected move, the NCAA cleared Bost while suspending him nine games. Since he was academically ineligible after last year, Bost’s suspension won’t kick in until the first semester is over.
Thanks to some tricky scheduling by Rick Stansbury, both Bost and Sidney will be available for the entirety of SEC play. And, there seems no doubt, these two will make the Bulldogs much better. They should immediately become the favorites in the dismal SEC West, but with losses to Florida Atlantic and East Tennessee State already on their resume, will the Bulldogs be able to do enough to earn an NCAA bid this season?
Jio Fontan, USC, Jr.
Fontan is a talent. As a freshman at Fordham, he averaged 15.1 ppg and 4.7 apg. But the Rams were terrible, and the St. Anthony’s product wanted out. He left the school five games into his sophomore season after a long battle with the athletic department, finally settling on USC has his destination.
Last year, USC’s season turned when they added redshirt senior Mike Gerrity to the mix. Can Fontan have that same impact this year? Kevin O’Neil has said that Fontan is their best player right now, and that carries some weight, considering Nikola Vucevic is playing great and freshman point guard Maurice Jones has impressed early in the season playing a whopping 38.4 mpg.
The Trojans already have losses to Rider, TCU, and Bradley, but if Fontan can change the course of the season, the NCAA Tournament committee may look past those losses. Fontan will make his Trojan debut opposite Josh Selby on Saturday.
Mike Holmes, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
Coastal Carolina was one of the best mid-major programs in the country last season, winning 28 games. This season has been a bit of the same, as they are currently 8-2 on the year with their lone losses coming to Georgetown and the College of Charleston in the Charleston Classic.
Holmes gives them an entirely new dimension. He’s a legitimate, high-major big man. He averaged 10.4 ppg and 7.7 rpg as a sophomore at South Carolina, but was dismissed midway through his junior season due to repeated violations of team rules. Holmes will have a shot at redemption this season, and he is already making good on that opportunity. He had 14 points and 10 boards off the bench in the Chanticleer’s 78-69 overtime win at LSU on Monday.
Roberto Nelson, Oregon State, Fr.
Its been a long wait for Nelson, the best recruit to head to Corvallis since Gary Payton, as he’s had to deal with a year and a half of NCAA scrutiny of his academic eligibility. But the time is finally here, as Nelson had four points in 15 minutes off the bench for the Beavers in a win on Sunday over Texas Pan-American.
Craig Robinson has made it clear that he wants to bring Nelson along slowly, but he may not have the choice. Oregon State is not Kansas. They do not have a roster full of high school all-americans. They are one of the worst high-major teams in the country, and any kind of infusion of talent at this point in the season is incredibly important if this team wants to be competitive in a weak Pac-10 this season.
Gregory Echinique, Creighton, Jr.
Echinique may have played for Rutgers, but that doesn’t change the fact that the kid was a hell of a player in the Big East. As a freshman, he averaged 8.4 ppg and 8.4 rpg. Before transferring out of the New Jersey school as a sophomore, he was averaging 12.6 ppg and 7.7 rpg.
And now he is headed to the Valley, which may as well be known as Death Valley this season. For a league that is generally considered one of the best mid-majors in the country year in and year out, this is certainly a down season. Creighton hasn’t been great either, losing to both Nebraska and Iowa State already this season.
But with Echinique joining forces with the Blue Jay’s talented big man Kenny Lawson, Creighton all of a sudden has a front line that can compete with the high-majors. We’ll get out first look at the Venezuelan on Saturday against Iowa State.