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UCLA Basketball: Ranking the 10 Best Freshmen in Bruins History

Robert PaceContributor IIINovember 27, 2012

UCLA Basketball: Ranking the 10 Best Freshmen in Bruins History

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    Although the Bruins have struggled early on in the 2012-13 season and certainly have their work cut out for them as they approach Pac-12 conference play, they still possess the raw talent with which they began the season.

    Highly acclaimed freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson as well as under-the-radar guard Jordan Adams have already made their mark in Westwood and have carried the team through its non-conference victories.

    With Adams and Muhammad on pace to lead the team in scoring (18.5 and 17 PPG, respectively), UCLA may see its best freshman performance in history this season.

    While that conversation will have to wait until the end of the season, here’s a look at the Top 10 freshman in UCLA basketball history to this point.

    Note: Freshmen, including Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, weren’t allowed to play on the varsity team in NCAA college basketball from 1954 to 1973.

Honorable Mention: Josh Shipp

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    Alongside fellow freshmen members of Ben Howland’s first UCLA recruiting class Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, Josh Shipp helped the Bruins rejuvenate their basketball program with their first NCAA Tournament appearance in three years.

    In his first season as a Bruin, Shipp averaged 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, which eventually earned him honorable mention on the Pac-10’s All-Pac-10 Freshmen list.

    Better yet, Shipp was a tough defender and averaged over a steal per game, which he would replicate in all of his four seasons (plus an abbreviated red-shirted sophomore season) as Bruin (sixth, all-time career steals).

Honorable Mention: Rod Foster

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    Rod Foster was the second freshman (alongside Michael Holton) to be given a starting position on UCLA’s varsity team since freshman were granted permission to once again join the varsity squad in 1973.

    He certainly made his mark on the team and established himself as the best freshman of the new freshmen era by putting up 11.5 points per game.

    Unfortunately for the record books, assists weren’t recorded in college basketball until the 1983-4 season, so Foster’s many dimes to star senior forward and future NBA All-Star Kiki Vandeweghe aren’t included in his legacy.

    However, his outstanding freshman season paved the way for him to etch himself in UCLA basketball history as the 28th all-time scorer.

10. Pooh Richardson

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    Pooh Richardson was one of UCLA’s best all-around players from the time he first set foot in Pauley Pavilion.

    In his freshman season, Richardson exhibited his hard work ethic on both sides of the court, averaging 10.6 points per game as well as averaging a steal per game on defense.

    Of all his accomplishments as a Bruin, Richardson’s most impressive feat was his assists tally, a category in which he led the team in all of his four seasons at UCLA. In his freshman season, he averaged 6.2 assists per game, and increased that average each season, eventually reaching 7.6 per game his senior season.

9. Baron Davis

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    Baron Davis came out with tenacity in his first season at UCLA and proved to be all that he was hyped up to be, and well worth the Bruins’ strong efforts to snag him away from Kansas and Duke in the recruiting battle that kept him in his native Los Angeles.

    Not only did he post an average of 11.7 points per game (sixth, freshman average), but Davis also proved to be a versatile guard by corralling rebounds (4 RPG) and dishing out dimes (5 APG).

    More importantly, Davis was solid on defense, and despite his share of freshman follies on the court, he averaged an impressive 2.4 steals per game (third, all-time single season).

8. Trevor Ariza

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    Trevor Ariza was unfortunately one of UCLA’s first one-and-done players, but that one season in which he wore blue and gold was impressive.

    As a freshman, Ariza averaged 11.6 points (T-7th, freshman average) and 6.5 rebounds (T-7th, freshman average), and was a key contributor to Ben Howland’s first UCLA team, which was very average.

    Although the Bruins posted a 11-17 record that season and didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, they made the Tournament next year and would have went much further had they had Ariza for at least another season.

7. JaRon Rush

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    There’s a reason why you might not remember JaRon Rush, but his freshman performance at UCLA certainly makes the Top 10 all-time.

    While Rush left after his sophomore season under the false impression that he would be a top NBA draft pick (he went undrafted and never played in the NBA), he was a tremendous force in his days at UCLA.

    In his freshman season, Rush averaged 10.4 points (10th, freshman average) and a whopping 7.3 rebounds per game (fourth, freshman average) as well as a surprising 1.6 steals per game.

    Alongside fellow starting freshmen big men Jerome Moiso and Dan Gadzuric, Rush helped the team to a 22-9 record, which ultimately culminated in a disappointing NCAA Tournament stint that ended in the first round.

    However, Rush would be selected to the Pac-10’s All-Freshmen team and was named co-MVP Freshman with Gadzuric.

6. Tracy Murray

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    Tracy Murray had an excellent freshman season against all odds. The young freshman had to compete with eventual all-time scoring list dwellers, and fellow forwards Trevor Wilson (eighth) and Don MacLean (first), and was still able to manage 12.3 points per game.

    Murray would ultimately work his way up to No. 9 on the all-time scoring list, just six points shy of overcoming Wilson, who was a senior during Murray’s freshman season.

    Under the three forwards, the Bruins reached their first Sweet Sixteen in 11 seasons despite finishing fourth in the Pac-10 that year.

5. Jason Kapono

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    Jason Kapono was money from the moment he put on a UCLA jersey. In his freshman season with the Bruins, the knockdown three-point shooter averaged 16 points per game with an astounding 47.4 percent three-point field-goal percentage.

    Unfortunately, Kapono wasn’t much of a defensive player and didn’t share the ball with his teammates, but he certainly could shoot and eventually landed himself at No. 3 on the all-time scoring list.

4. Jordan Farmar

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    Jordan Farmar was crucial to the Bruins’ revitalization in the mid-2000s. With a pop in his step that often left opposing defenses dumfounded, he helped lead the Bruins to their first NCAA Tournament berth under Ben Howland.

    While UCLA wouldn’t make it past the first round that year, he set a precedent for years to come and helped the Bruins reverse a two-season skid of pitiful performance under Steve Lavin.

    Farmar’s 13.2 points per game that year slots him at No. 4 on the all-time freshmen scoring list, and his 5.3 assists per game helped fellow freshmen teammates Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp begin to establish themselves in the Top 20 on the all-time scoring list.

3. Charles O’Bannon

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    Charles O’Bannon was a huge force for the Bruins in his freshman season alongside brother and fellow starting forward Ed.

    Not only did he average an impressive 11.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in his first season at UCLA, but he also led the team in blocks (1.4 per game) over his brother, who was two years his senior.

    While O’Bannon wouldn’t prove to be much of a player in the NBA, he was a stellar college player, and would lead the Bruins to their most recent national title the following season.

2. Don MacLean

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    Based on his monstrous freshman season alone, it’s no wonder that Don MacLean is UCLA’s all-time leading scorer and No. 5 in career rebounds.

    In his first season as a Bruin, MacLean averaged 18.6 points (first, all-time single season for freshmen) and 7.5 rebounds per game (third, all-time single season for freshmen).

    Although there would have been a few players like Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton who would exceed him on the freshman scoring list had they been allowed to play, MacLean has remained No. 1 on the list for 24 years and should remain there for quite some time unless this season’s freshmen Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad can uphold their current averages.

1. Kevin Love

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    Had Kevin Love not entered the 2008 NBA draft after his freshman season at UCLA, the Bruins may have won their first NCAA Championship since 1995 but instead never made it past the first round after his departure.

    In his one season in Westwood, Love averaged a double-double (17.5 PPG 10.6 RPG), becoming the first freshman to do so and registering 23 double-doubles on the year (sixth, all-time single season).

    Alongside Josh Shipp and fellow NBA players Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Darren Collison, and Russell Westbrook, the freshman forward led the Bruins to their second consecutive Final Four.

    After his stellar first and only season with the Bruins, Love was bestowed with college basketball’s highest honors: conference player of the year and freshman of the year, all-conference, and first team All-American.

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