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Big Ten Basketball: Top Freshmen in the Conference This Season

Scott PolacekFeatured Columnist IVNovember 9, 2016

Big Ten Basketball: Top Freshmen in the Conference This Season

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    There is a reason that the popularity of news regarding recruiting has exploded the past few years. People want to see what the future holds for the basketball and football teams of their favorite schools.

    For the hardwood class of 2012, the future is almost here. Basketball season is about a month away, and there will be plenty of new faces on the court this year.

    Big Ten fans will recognize the familiar post moves of Cody Zeller and pesky defense of Aaron Craft, but what about those freshmen playing alongside them?

    Here are eight of the top newcomers in the Big Ten conference for the 2012-13 season. I wanted to spread the love, so I capped individual teams off at two freshmen—otherwise Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana may have dominated the list.

    Stars, scouting reports and general facts (height, weight, etc.) are courtesy of Fox Sports Next (previously Scout.com).

Sam Dekker (Wisconsin)

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    Wisconsin has been a consistent winner under Bo Ryan, but the Badgers do it on their own terms.

    They work the clock, rarely make fundamental mistakes and are almost impossible to beat at home. However, Wisconsin has not exactly churned out dynamic athletes at the same pace as Kentucky, North Carolina or even conference mates Ohio State and Michigan State.

    But Ryan has a freshman athlete with the chance to make an immediate impact at his disposal this year in Sam Dekker.

    Dekker is a 6’7” forward who is considered a 5-star prospect. His versatility and athleticism make him a nightmare matchup for opponents because he can play all over the floor.

    Furthermore, he is an effective passer and can shoot the ball from the outside. In fact, his height, shooting touch and versatility may remind some of Deshaun Thomas.

    If Dekker lives up to the hype, the Badgers should once again be playing deep into March.

Gary Harris (Michigan State)

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    Gary Harris is the brightest star in what is a star-studded 2012 recruiting class for Tom Izzo.

    He is a 5-star shooting guard who stands at 6’4” and brings elite talent to East Lansing.

    Harris should be the perfect complement for returning point guard Keith Appling and will see plenty of three-point opportunities when Appling penetrates. In fact, Harris’ three-point touch is probably his best asset.

    Moreover, Harris is an excellent on-ball defender thanks to his length and athleticism, which will help him earn playing time in Izzo’s rotation.

    It may be too much to ask for Harris to replicate the departed Draymond Green’s production in his freshman year, but a productive freshman season from Harris should keep the Spartans near the top of the Big Ten yet again.

Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III (Michigan)

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    Michigan probably has its best team since the days of the Fab Five thanks largely to its 2012 recruiting class, which is headlined by Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.

    McGary is a 6’10” 4-star center who will use his strength and relentlessness to battle for rebounds and loose balls with the Big Ten’s best in the paint. He also has an effective mid-range shot, which will help counteract the fact that he isn’t the best scorer down on the block.

    If McGary is bringing the effort and grittiness to the Wolverines, then Robinson will bring the dynamic athleticism that will help Michigan play a variety of styles. Robinson is incredibly versatile and can use his 6’7” frame in the paint or on the perimeter.

    With point guard Trey Burke driving and McGary occupying space in the middle, Robinson will also have plenty of chances to demonstrate his lethal three-point abilities.

    If Indiana has plans to run away with the Big Ten title this year, it better be concerned about what’s happening in Ann Arbor.

Adam Woodbury (Iowa)

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    Adam Woodbury was offered a scholarship by Wisconsin, Ohio State and North Carolina before he decided to stay close to home and attend the University of Iowa.

    Woodbury’s decision to eschew the opportunity to wear Carolina Blue and instead don Iowa’s black and yellow had to leave many Hawkeye fans pleasantly surprised.

    For the past few seasons, the Hawks have been a team that is capable of winning on any given day if the three-point shot is falling. It hasn’t been a formula that has given them sustained success (after all, it’s been a little while since Iowa has been in the NCAA tournament), but they have pulled off upsets along the way (Indiana and Wisconsin last year).

    Woodbury will give Iowa a formidable presence in the paint, which is something opponents aren’t used to seeing. He is a great rebounder and can score from inside by catching almost any pass thrown his way. In fact, he even runs the floor effectively.

    In the physical Big Ten, three-point shooting can only get you so far. That is why Woodbury is so critical to Iowa’s hope of a basketball resurgence.

Yogi Ferrell and Jeremy Hollowell (Indiana)

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    If Indiana is officially back (which it definitely is), then the Hoosiers’ 2012 recruiting class was just a case of the rich getting richer.

    Tom Crean already has Cody Zeller, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo coming back, and now he is adding 4-star point guard Yogi Ferrell and 4-star forward Jeremy Hollowell.

    Ferrell will bring a level of quickness that may even match the speedy Oladipo. He uses this speed to constantly drive the lane and look for scoring opportunities for himself and chances to kick it out to open teammates.

    Furthermore, Ferrell’s speed helps him cut off angles and contain opponents on the defensive side of the ball, much like future foe Aaron Craft.

    One of the Hoosiers that will benefit from Ferrell splitting defenders and finding open shooters is Hollowell. He is a great three-point shooter who scores in bunches. Furthermore, his 6’7” frame and athleticism will allow him to take smaller defenders inside and drive around larger ones.

    Zeller and company may be the primary reason the Hoosiers will probably start the year off ranked No. 1, but Indiana is setting itself up for sustained success with its young freshmen class.

A.J. Hammons (Purdue)

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    It’s officially a new era in Purdue, as the last traces of the core that included Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore and Chris Kramer have finally left West Lafayette.

    A.J. Hammons is part of a 2012 recruiting class that could help Boilermaker fans feel better about the transition, even if it takes a couple of years.

    Hammons is a 4-star center who uses his lengthy 6’10” frame (he is listed as 7’ on Rivals, so feel free to go by that Purdue fans) to snatch up rebounds. He is also plenty strong enough to battle in the paint with the Big Ten’s most physical big men.

    The only real knock on Hammons right now is his lack of a formidable shot, but how necessary is it for a seven-footer to be draining jumpers anyway?

    Purdue may not be as imposing as it has been in recent years, but expect the Boilermakers to be contending in the Big Ten again in the near future if they keep reeling in recruits like Hammons.

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