Unlike many college basketball players, Carmelo Anthony came onto the scene ready, dominated, and won a national championship. And if you watched him play in high school, his one-year stint in college was more of a gift than a necessity.

“The first time I met Melo was the Jordan Classic,” says Reggie Saunders, Global Marketing Director of Jordan Brand. “I was watching him practice and I was like, ‘He could go to the pros right now.’”

The NBA’s loss was the NCAA’s gain.

This year’s college basketball landscape features one of the best crops of newcomers in years. Many of them will be playing in the Big Dance and have the same opportunity to lead their team to a national championship, just like Melo did 11 years ago. And it’s this legacy that has inspired countless players to lace ‘em up each day and put in the work in order realize their dreams.

Without this legacy, the ‘Pure Platinum’ colorway of the M10 that dropped Saturday wouldn’t exist. So before you read about eight freshmen phenoms who will try and channel Carmelo Anthony this March Madness, watch to see how he became the man he is today.