I know college basketball is only a few weeks underway, but with most Colleges ending their semesters this week for Winter break it seemed like a pretty good time to evaluate the freshman class's performance so far.
Prior to the season I wrote an article predicting my top picks for the must-see freshman of the year: Devin Ebanks (WVa), Scotty Hopson (Tenn), Greg Monroe (GTown), Samardo Samuels (LVille), Tyreke Evans (Mem). I received plenty of feedback from the article where I went wrong and who I should watch out for. While I have some right picks, I have definitely have some wrong ones as well. Here's my updated list of top five performing freshman along with some freshman who haven't played up to their potential.
(Again I understand some teams have only played a hand full of games)
Dean's List Freshman (In No Particular Order)
5. Kemba Walker G Uconn
In my previous article, BleacherReport's Gregory Caldarella left me his prediction of Walker as the best freshman PG and so far this prediction has been right on. Walker, the No. 2 ranked point guard in the 2008 recruiting class, went relatively under the radar in the recruiting headlines. After eight games, Walker's stat line is solid: 12 ppg, three assists, and a hair under four rebounds per game. On top of that, Walker is shooting near .400 on from behind the arc.
He pulled down eight rebounds in a win over Wisconsin and has already had two 20-plus scoring performances. With the talent that surrounds him, Walker has jumped into the starting rotation and seems right at home. With the Huskies schedule getting tougher, expect to see Walker further define himself as one of the elites of this class.
4. Seth Curry G Liberty
That's right, you recognize the last name. Curry is the younger brother of Davidson star point guard Stephen Curry. Seth's story parallels Stephen's in more ways than one. Both put together productive senior years in high school, had moderate recruitment from big DI schools, but were unable to get scholarships and signed at a lower D1 school. The similarities don't stop there. Seth, just like Stephen, has been scorching his opponents and turning heads all over.
After seven games, including upset victories over ACC team Virginia and recent Final Four Cinderella George Mason, Seth is averaging 22 ppg, 4.8 rebounds and shooting .380 from behind the arc. Correct me if I am wrong, but these numbers are higher than his big brother's were his freshman year and he's already defeated some decent competition.
Although the Flames schedule is not overly competitive, look for Seth to score at will and end the season with Stephen-like numbers.
3. Sylven Landesberg G/F Virginia
The former McDonald's All-American is in a prime situation, and as of yet he hasn't disappointed. After six games with the Caveliers, Landesberg is putting up 19 points per game and 5 rebounds per game, including three 20-plus point games.
Virginia has an inexperienced team after the departures of Sean Singletery, JR Reynolds, and Adrian Joseph over the past two years. Landesberg has stepped right in, taking the position early on as the Cav's leader. While the UVA might not put much together on the court this year (already losing 3 games), the ACC competition provides Landesberg a prime spot to display his talent and earn a nice first round paycheck in the Association.
2. Willie Warren G Oklahoma
It's no secret the Sooners are led by the half-human, half-animal Blake Griffin. But right by his side, Willie Warren has proven to be an undeniable second option for the number six team in the country. After seven games, he's put up 13.1 points per game and 2 steals a game (most of the steals lead to oops to Griffin on the break). While he's only been hitting .285 from behind the arc, expect that number to rise. As a sharp shooter in high-school, its only a matter of time before he finds his stroke.
As with Landesberg, Warren is in another great situation with his squad. He's got the green light on pulling the trigger because of Griffin's rebounding ability and when Griffin makes the jump to the Association next year, Warren will inherit the team. Expect Warren's numbers to increase as he gets his legs under him behind the arc.
1. Samardo Samuels F Louisville
I'm happy to say, Samuels was my pre-season top performer pick. He hasn't disappointed. After four games, Samuels has put up almost 18 points per game and 6 boards a game. While the Western Kentucky game was a severe let down, expect Samuels to continue to produce big time numbers throughout the season.
In his first four games, he has proved to be not only strong, but agile in navigating the lane. With the talent surrounding him at Louisville, Samuels has stepped up as a vital contributor to the team's success. The 2009 class coming in for Louisville will compliment Samuels as well, if he elects to stay for his sophomore year.
Freshman on Academic Probation
DeMar DeRozan G/F USC
With all of the preseason hype, DeRozan is only the 4th leading scorer (9.8 ppg) on the 5-3 unranked Trojans. While his numbers are good for a freshman, DeRozan was depicted as a man-among-boys in the freshmen class. He was supposed to be an electric player with a Mayo-like ability to score.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying DeRozan is a flop, or that he isn't what he's hyped to be. I just expected more. Hopefully he will step it up after the holidays.
BJ Mullens C Ohio St.
Chad Ford reported in an October article that NBA GM's were confident BJ Mullens was a top-five talent and predicted him to be the 2009 #1 Pick overall into the Association. Only two months later, Mullens is putting up 5.5 ppg and 4 rebounds in only 15 minutes per game.
These bleak numbers immediately bring comparisons to lottery pick Robert Swift, currently on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Maybe he just hasn't matured into his 7'1 frame yet?