Scoping A Dozen Top Freshmen
Shawne Williams
Shawne Williams
National Basketball Columnist
Posted Dec 27, 2005


There is no shortage of freshmen who are making signficant contributions for some of the very best teams in college basketball this season. And some of those squads, including Memphis, Duke, UCLA and Kansas, are getting help from multiple first-year sources.

The 2005 NBA Draft may have hijacked some of the very best high school talent from last season.

 

But it didn’t totally strip mine this season’s college freshman class.

 

Freshmen Jon Brockman, Greg Paulus and Jamar Smith have been major components to the unbeaten starts of Washington, Duke and Illinois, respectively.

 

Here’s a look at the performances of those freshmen, and nine others, as the 2005 portion of the season wraps up this week:

 

*Jon Brockman (6-7, Washington): He gives Coach Lorenzo Romar the best low-post scoring presence that the Huskies have had since Romar took over the program in 2002. He also eased the loss of senior Mike Jensen, who missed the team’s first nine games after September shoulder surgery. Stats: 11.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game (.597 FG percentage). Romar is also getting a better-than-anticipated performance out of point guard Justin Dentmon (8.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 4.5 assists per game).

*Devan Downey (5-10, Cincinnati): Why are the Bearcats a somewhat-surprising 9-2 (with six wins in a row going into the team’s Wednesday night game against Miami-Ohio)? Here is one of the immediate answers. The resident of Chester, S.C., has averaged 17.2 points, 5.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game during the winning streak. Stats: (overall) 14.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg and 3.7 apg.

 

*Jamont Gordon (6-4, Mississippi State): Despite the Bulldogs’ 9-3 start (the most significant of those victories coming against Charlotte), it’s still difficult to ascertain how good Coach Rick Stansbury’s team is. But Gordon isn’t a tough one to evaluate: He’s a leading candidate for Freshman of the Year honors in the SEC. Stats: 13.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 3.3 apg.

 

*Tyler Hansbrough (6-8, North Carolina): He game into the season with about as much hype as any freshman in the country and he has delivered on all of that advance notice. He’s among the craftiest and most polished players in the lane and along the baseline in college, regardless of class or age. Stats: 16.0 ppg and 7.4 rpg (.672 FG percentage). Coach Roy Williams is also getting outstanding contribution from three other freshmen: Marcus Ginyard (8.4 ppg/3.3 rpg), Danny Green (7.5 ppg/3.3 rpg) and Bobby Frasor (7.5 ppg/5.0 apg).

 

*Billy Humphrey (6-2, Georgia): A member of the same spring and summer traveling team (The Georgia Stars) as Bulldogs’ classmate Mike Mercer (10.6 ppg) and Louis Williams (who signed with Georgia but entered the NBA Draft and was selected in the second round by Philadelphia), Humphrey was touted as a mostly “catch and shoot it” player. He’s live up to his reputation as a deep shooter (.477 on 3’s) but is a lot more than “just a shooter”, as his 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio illustrates. Stats: 12.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 2.7 apg.

 

*Dominic James (5-11, Marquette): He was one of the most underrated point guards on the prep scene last season but he’s no longer under the national radar. He’s Downey’s top challenger for Big East Freshman of the Year honors. Stats: 13.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg and 5.8 apg. The Golden Eagles are also getting solid production from two of James’ classmates, 6-3 Jerel McNeal (10.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 2.6 apg) and 6-5 Wesley Matthews (10.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 2.5 apg).

 

*Tasmin Mitchell (6-7, LSU): He’s struggled of late (10 of 27 from the field over the past three games, two of those losses). But the McDonald’s All-America is still a strong challenger for SEC Freshman of the Year honors and an important cog in the Tigers’ conference and NCAA Tournament aspirations. Stats: 11.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 2.7 apg.

 

*Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (6-7, UCLA): His name is a mouthful. And his game is a handful for opponents to cope with. Coach Ben Howland picked out the native of Cameroon early at the 2004 Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis and made him a top priority. It’s easy to understand why. Stats: 8.2 ppg, 8.9 rpb and 1.3 apg. Howland’s other four freshmen, most notably point guard Darren Collison (5.5 ppg and 3.1 apg), are also making significant contributions.

 

*Greg Paulus (6-1, Duke): Coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t expect much in the way of scoring out of him. But what Paulus is giving the Blue Devils are solid playmaking and decision making, and much better than advertised defense. His 3-point shooting (.529) has been a bonus. Stats: 5.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg and 5.3 apg. Duke also has the player with the most upside of any freshman, 6-10 Josh McRoberts (7.5 ppg and 4.5 rpg, and .585 FG percentage).

 

*Brandon Rush (6-6, Kansas): The last member of Coach Bill Self’s highly touted freshman class to come aboard, Rush has been the Jayhawks’ most consistent scorer. Byron Eaton (Oklahoma State) is pushing him but Rush is the choice right now to win top freshman honors in the Big 12. Stats: 12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 2.2 apg. Other Kansas freshmen and their numbers; Julian Wright (8.0 ppg), Mario Chalmers (6.1 ppg) and Micah Downs (5.9 ppg).

 

*Jamar Smith (6-3, Illinois): How is it that the Illini are 12-0 despite the departure of Deron Williams, Luther Head and Roger Powell? The immediate contributions of Smith are a large part of that equation. There isn’t a freshman who has shot from the extended perimeter as well as he has. He’s got at least two 3’s in all but one game. Stats: 9.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg and 1.8 apg (.557 on 3’s).

 

*Shawne Williams (6-8, Memphis): It didn’t take Williams long to demonstrate what kind of impact he was going to have on the season from a national basis, totaling 41 points, 15 rebounds and five assists against UCLA and Duke in New York City during the November NIT Season Tipoff. Stats: 16.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 2.7 apg. Chris Douglas-Roberts (10.1 ppg and 3.4 rpg), Antonio Anderson (8.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 3.5 apg), Kareem Cooper (7.7 ppg and 3.3 rpg) and Robert Dozier (4.9 ppg and 6.1 apg) are other frosh who have been exceptional for Coach John Calipari’s team.

 

An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com’s national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison’s pieces at www.FrankHoops.com



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