As we prepare for a new basketball season, the freshmen always excite me. A number of diaper dandies will become instant-impact players. Some of the new kids on the block live up to their billing coming out of high school; others don't because of overinflated egos or misleading high school stats.
But I'm also excited to see how the transfers -- the All-Marco Polo players -- fare after sitting out a season. Generally, a transfer is unhappy at his first stop, so he moves on in his journey, looking for happiness. He feels his second school is utopia.
Stop No. 2 is the place where he must get the job done. There are no more excuses or alibis, because this could be his last chance. Let's look at some of the Marco Polo transfers who should make an immediate impact this season:
All-Marco Polo transfers
Florida to Washington
Virginia to Vanderbilt
Auburn to Indiana
Auburn to Indiana
Kansas to Louisville
Louisville will be stronger up front with the addition of center David Padgett, the former Kansas Jayhawk. He shocked fans in Lawrence when he left a program that was one of the top five in America. He was a starter at Kansas, yet he wasn't happy because he didn't like the way he was utilized.
Now Padgett is playing for one of the best teachers in the game, coach Rick Pitino. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact he makes in the tough, improved Big East conference. Louisville and four other former Conference USA schools join the Big East this season.
Meanwhile, Indiana coach Mike Davis is feeling some pressure as articles, sports-radio phone calls and Web sites have been critical of the Hoosier program in recent years. Then there was the announcement by Indiana high school stars Greg Oden and Mike Conley that they were committed to go to Ohio State in 2006.
Yes, the heat is on in Hoosier country. Many in Indiana couldn't understand losing Oden and Conley, and to a Big Ten competitor like the Buckeyes. That simply adds to the pressure on Davis.
The coach welcomes a couple of impact transfers from Auburn, forward Marco Killingsworth and guard Lewis Monroe in the backcourt. Killingsworth gives the Hoosiers size up front, bolstering a frontcourt that includes D.J. White and Robert Vaden. Monroe will be an asset on the perimeter, especially considering Bracey Wright's departure to the NBA.
Killingsworth and Monroe must perform well if Davis is to survive. His athletic director, Rick Greenspan, bluntly said that things have to change. My friends, that is pressure.
At Washington, coach Lorenzo Romar is counting on Ryan Appleby to step up. The transfer from Florida wasn't able to get the job done and decided to move back home to the state of Washington. He's going to a program on the rise. Appleby should get some playing time with the departure of Nate Robinson (I expect Robinson to create some excitement for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden). Appleby should be a factor in the guard rotation.
Vanderbilt gets some support on the wing with the addition of 6-foot-7 Derrick Byars. He showed some potential at Virginia before opting for a change. Byars also can help on the glass.
These are my five Marco Polo transfers who hope to make an impact at their new schools in the 2005-06 season.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.