College Basketball 2011: 5 Impact Mid-Major Freshmen
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This article takes a look at five mid-major recruits that are likely to make an early impact for their school. To be eligible a player must be a freshman, so junior college recruits do not count. Also a player must play at a school that is not in the six power conferences. I have also decided to exclude programs consistently ranked in the Top 25, so Dezmine Wells of Xavier and Gary Bell of Gonzaga will not be included.
Adjehi Baru, College of Charleston
If he gets NCAA clearance Adjehi Baru could be a terror in the SoCon.
College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins did something he spent years doing at Georgia Tech, land a top 50 recruit. That top 50 recruit is 6'9" center Adjehi Baru, and although he is still awaiting NCAA clearance he could make a major impact in the same Southern Conference that Stephen Curry lit up.
Baru is ready to step into the SoCon and immediately be an impact player on the boards and as a shot-blocking presence in the middle, something he could do in any other league in the country as well.
Offense may not be the strong point for Baru, but he could still make an impact as a face up player or a true post player. Baru is a good passer and has a great work ethic, giving him a chance to average double figures early on.
Nic Moore, Illinois State
Nic Moore should be a top point guard in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Illinois State stole a talented point guard out of Indiana when they landed Nic Moore. The 5'10" speedster is a true point guard capable of helping lead an up-tempo pace. Moore is a talented distributor capable of getting his teammates involved. Moore is a strong shooter able to do more than just keep opposing defenses honest.
Moore may or may not put up big numbers as a freshman, but he's the type of player that will make his teammates better because of his presence.
Rod Days, UCF
Rod Days is a potential future star for UCF.
When UCF signed a loaded class, Days was overlooked by many due to the presence of top 50 recruit Michael Chandler, but Chandler did not qualify. That leaves Days as the top recruit for coach Donnie Jones' Knights.
Days fits the style of play that Jones likes to play, a long 6'6" wing with great athleticism. Days excels in transition and plays very good defense.
The cousin of Georgia Tech backup quarterback Synjyn Days, Rod Days isn't much of a scorer at the moment but has the ability to improve upon that as he continues to mature as a player instead of just relying on his athleticism.
Erik Copes, George Mason
Erik Copes can is part of the best frontcourt in the Colonial Conference.
George Mason may have lost a great coach, but new coach Paul Hewitt has Final Four experience of his own. Hewitt isn't the only important addition for the Patriots, as 6'7" big man Erik Copes is a top 75 recruit.
Copes is a true blue collar player that gets by on grit and strength. He excels on the boards and scoring near the basket like former Pitt star DeJuan Blair, who was ranked nearly the same as Copes is out of high school.
Copes is the type of player that may not take over a game but will make his mark on the game by doing the little things. He will join Ryan Pearson to give the Patriots the top frontcourt in the Colonial Conference. Even if he doesn't end up starting, Copes will bring energy off the bench that could rub off on his teammates as George Mason has the talent to win the Colonial.
Wes Saunders, Harvard
Wes Saunders could be dangerous in the Ivy League.
If he was just a few inches taller he would be playing for a big-time program, but Wes Saunders is very undersized as a 6'5" power forward. That lack of size shouldn't matter too much in the Ivy League, a place where his combination of skill and motor have the potential to make him an immediate star.
Saunders is a big-time rebounder with the ability to score under the basket or step out and hit a mid-range shot.
With his skill set, Saunders could average double-figure points and at least seven rebounds this year, assuming he gets enough opportunities playing next to Ivy League Player of the Year Keith Wright. I fully expect him to end up dominating the Ivy League before he leaves Cambridge.