They say that today's college freshmen aren't what they were back when Al McGuire famously said, "The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores." Today, it isn't unusual to see a freshman leave college to become the #1 draft pick or lead their team in scoring. In fact, two of the phenoms we'll cover today are leading their team in scoring already. One is the top scoring freshman in the country. But before we get to that let's lay our ground rules. We're going to keep tabs on all true freshmen players getting a significant chunk of minutes for their team, which we'll call 40% of available minutes(16mpg) for now. Next week we'll take a look at some of the guys that were featured in last season's Freshman Tracker so that we can check out how guys like Bryson Scott and Derrick Walton Jr. have progressed. But for now let's dig into the freshmen stats.
By The Numbers (Through Saturday, November 22nd)
|James Blackmon Jr.||G||Indiana||20||22.8||145.2||.500||.640||.913||5.5||0.8||0.0||0.5||1.8|
|Shep Garner||G||Penn State||173||12.5||122.9||.571||.464||.889||1.5||1.5||0.0||1.0||2.0|
|D'Angelo Russell||G||Ohio State||16||11.0||118.0||.565||.471||.571||3.0||5.0||0.0||2.0||4.0|
|Jae'Sean Tate||G||Ohio State||58||4.0||109.1||.727||.000||.800||5.0||0.0||1.0||0.0||2.0|
|Lourawls Nairn||G||Michigan State||104||1.7||87.0||.400||.000||.500||1.7||4.3||0.0||0.0||2.0|
Bold highlights indicate the strongest performance in a given category
It's a bit early to go in-depth on awards so we'll run through a truncated list of notables this week.
D'Angelo Russell's Ability to Pass - We all heard that Russell could score, and he has(Russell dropped 32 points on 12-21 shooting on Sunday night), the common consensus was that it would take him time to learn how to lead an offense. So far, though, he has done a good job of creating opportunities for his teammates. It remains to be seen whether Russell can function as Ohio State's point guard against stronger competition, and he won't ever be asked to do more than back up Shannon Scott considering how well Shannon is passing, but the early returns are strong.
Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh Are Already a Dynamic Duo - Looking at Northwestern's roster coming into this season it was clear that both Law and McIntosh would get a chance to show their stuff right away. But not many freshmen can come in and affect so many areas of the game right away whether they're given an opportunity or not. Tre Demps is the man for the Wildcats, as of now, but Vic and Bryant have already made their mark on the program and have already begun to assert themselves.
Kameron Chatman has Struggled - I know. The season is just over a week old. He's just getting his legs under him. I agree. But I also thought that Chatman would take to this level more smoothly. You can already see the sort of player he'll become - he's done a bit of everything for the Wolverines -but his offense has been a work in progress.
Freshman of the Year (to date)
James Blackmon Jr. - G, Indiana
James Blackmon Jr. had received his fair share of plaudits before he ever suited up for Indiana. SI listed him as one of the nation's best guards. He was a McDonald's All-American. Since joining the fold, Blackmon Jr. has led the Hoosiers in scoring in each of the four games he's played so far AND he leads Indiana in offensive efficiency. As of now, Blackmon Jr. leads all freshman in scoring nationwide. In Blackmon Jr.'s stiffest test to date, against No. 22 SMU, the freshman phenom poured in 26 points on just 15 shot attempts including 5 made 3-pointers. So far James has played beyond even the loftiest of projections. Except defensively.
What to Watch For
Many teams face their first major tests in the coming week and the week to follow, meaning that we'll really get a chance to see what some of these guys are made of. Michigan plays Oregon. Purdue takes on Kansas State. Maryland will play Arizona State. The rubber hasn't quite hit the road yet, but the kids are one step closer to being shoved into the deep end of the pool.
When will Kameron Chatman rebound?
Because he will. It's just a matter of when. Oregon will be a stiff test for Michigan and given how well he has played to this point he may not see the sort of minutes he's been seeing to date. The Wolverines' second game of the week, against Nicholls State on Saturday, seems like a better bet.
Can Shep Garner Keep It Going?
Penn State has needed him, and so far he has responded. The sledding will remain tough this week - the Nittany Lions host an Akron team that has already beaten the USC in LA and the USC in the Carolinas and travel on the road to face Bucknell. Garner is already the team's best scorer behind DJ Newbill, so they need him to remain consistent.
Who Will Make the Tracker Next Week?
Guys like Michael Cekovsky and Keita Bates-Diop were just outside of the minutes requirement needed to make this week's tracker, while Kameron Chatman was just over the line. Some players will likely fall out of this lineup as the competition ratchets up in the weeks ahead, but some freshmen will carve out bigger roles as they find their niche on the collegiate level. Which freshmen will be relegated to the bench as competition heats up and which freshmen have yet to emerge?
It's early in the season, sure, but there are a lot of freshmen logging heavy minutes in the league this year. That number will almost certainly go down, but in a league that is less senior than it has been over the past few seasons some clubs won't have a choice. There is a youth movement taking place throughout the Big Ten and it'll be exciting to follow some of the prospects that will shape the conference in years to come.