|Posted by Brian Dickmann on December 28, 2016 at 4:05 PM|
Photo: Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images
One of the few bright spots to Green Bay’s disappointing 6-6 start to the college basketball season has been the play of point guard Trevor Anderson.
The 6’1” freshman has hit the ground running in his first season in a Phoenix uniform and leads the team in assists (2.6 per game), made three pointers (27), three point percentage (42.2%), and minutes played (30.5 per game). He is second on the team in free throw percentage (82.4%) and points per game (11.9), trailing only senior Charles Cooper (12.3).
So while his play has no doubt proven that he is one of the best players on the Green Bay roster, where does the former 3-star prospect rank among other freshman in the Horizon League so far this season?
One of the highest rated recruits in program history, Anderson has yet to win the conference’s weekly “Freshman of the Week” award which was given out seven times during the non-conference season. Yet the reigning Wisconsin Mr. Basketball shows up on several conference leaderboards, including 8th in three point field goal percentage, 9th in minutes played, and 4th in the conference in true shooting percentage – an advanced statistic that takes into account field goals and free throws.
So far this season Anderson is 1st amongst Horizon League freshman in minutes played, 2nd in scoring, 5th in assists, and 9th in rebounding.
So who are the other contenders?
At this point, the leader in the clubhouse appears to be Northern Kentucky’s Carson Williams. One of two players to have won the Freshman of the Week award twice so far this season, the 6’5” Williams has played a big part in helping the Norse to an impressive 9-4 start entering conference play.
A 3-star recruit, Williams was named Mr. Basketball in Kentucky last season as a high school senior and is averaging 10.9 points per game while leading all Horizon League freshman with 6.1 rebounds per game so far this season.
He has just one three point attempt, but is extremely active around the basket. He leads the conference in offensive efficiency while also leading the league in offensive rebounds, grabbing nearly 3 per contest. He also gets to the line a lot, attempting the 6th most free throws during the nonconference season, making them at a 67.7% clip.
The upstart Norse have six freshman on their roster that have appeared in at least 7 games this season, four of which play a large role and average at least 14 minutes per game.
The other two time Freshman of the Week award winner is Oakland’s feel-good story Isaiah Brock.
The 6’8” forward, a 22-year old freshman who recently finished four years of military service, has surprised everyone so far this season to become a starter and steady contributor to the Golden Grizzlies’ 10-3 start to the season.
Extremely athletic but still raw, Brock scores most of points via dunks or layups. Want evidence? He’s shooting an incredible 81.3% from the floor this season, averaging 6.5 points per game. However, most of his contributions come at the defensive end of the floor protecting the rim – he is 2nd in the conference in blocks per game at 1.8. His 5.5 rebounds per game trails only preseason Horizon League first-teamer Jalen Hayes for the team lead and is second amongst conference freshman behind only NKU’s Williams.
Oakland also has received contributions off the bench from freshman Brailen Neely, a 5’9” guard that ranks third among Horizon League freshman in steals (0.9) and sixth in assists (2.4) per game. He scores 2.9 points in 12.5 minutes per game but is a clutch free throw shooter – knocking down 88.2% from the charity stripe.
Another freshman contributor for the Grizzlies is 6’6” wing Chris Palombizio who is scoring 3.5 points and grabbing 1.9 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game.
Across town, while the start of the season for Detroit Mercy can only be described as a dumpster fire – they’re 2-10 overall and that doesn’t include two exhibition losses to non-Division I teams to start the season – they may have found an absolute gem in freshman guard Corey Allen.
The 6’3” Allen scored 33 points, including 9 of 13 from beyond the arc, in a 93-86 loss at IPFW back on December 23. He leads all Horizon League freshman in scoring at 12.4 points per game and leads the conference overall in three point field goal percentage, connecting on a blistering 51.9% from beyond the arc.
Four Titan freshman have played in at least 10 games so far this season as new coach Bacari Alexander tries to get things turned around in his first season at Detroit.
The team with the most impressive crop of freshman players is easily the UIC Flames.
After a 5-25 season last year, 2nd year head coach Steve McClain landed an impressive recruiting class prior to the start of this season that is already paying dividends. The Flames, who are 62-158 (.282) overall in the last seven years, are off to a 7-6 start this season and are fueled by four true freshman averaging at least 18 minutes per game and another redshirt freshman that plays 15.
Unfortunately for the Flames, UIC will be without their star player and last season’s Horizon League Freshman of the Year Dikembe Dixson for the rest of the season after he tore his ACL in their 80-75 victory over Big East foe DePaul on December 14th. He is eligible for a medical redshirt and will have three season of eligibility remaining after this season.
McClain can find a silver lining in the extra opportunities now available for his youngsters due to their go-to-guy going down for the season.
The Flames fantastic five freshman are led by Marcus Ottey, a 6’2” guard from Ajax, Canada. A 3-star recruit, he chose UIC over Cincinnati, Nebraska, and conference rival Valparaiso among others. He ranks third among Horizon League freshman in scoring this season behind Allen and Anderson, appearing in 13 games – including 6 starts – averaging 11.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 25.5 minutes per game.
He was named the conference’s Freshman of the Week on November 21.
The most recent award recipient was UIC’s Godwin Boahen. Another 3-star recruit, Boahen has stepped in and contributed immediately. In 13 games, Boahen has scored 9.2 points and grabbed 3.8 rebounds per game in 24.3 minutes. The 5’11” guard also ranks fourth in the conference at 3.7 assists per game, tops amongst league freshman.
The three other freshman play significant minutes for the Flames are Tarkus Freguson, KJ Santos, and Dominique Matthews.
Ferguson, a 6’4” guard, has started all 13 games for UIC this season scoring 8.3 points per game in 25.9 minutes. He ranks 2nd on the team (behind Boahen) and 7th in the conference at 3.5 assists per game. A 3-star high school prospect, he chose the Flames over a dozen mid-major scholarship offers.
Santos has started 9 games and will likely see his minutes increase as the result of Dixson’s injury. The 6’8” forward is averaging 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game. As a 3-star recruit, he chose UIC over offers from Iowa, Oklahoma, and Wichita State.
The final UIC freshman that plays meaningful minutes is Dominque Matthews. A 6’2” guard, Matthews appeared in 9 games last season, including 8 starts, before suffering a season ending injury and receiving a medical redshirt. In 12 games so far this season, he’s scoring 6.3 points per game in 15.7 minutes of action.
To be sure, there are other freshman to keep an eye on this season besides only those that have made the Freshman of the Week list.
Cleveland State’s Kasheem Thomas, who leads Horizon League freshman in both assists (3.9) and steals (1.1) per game, plays 29.0 minutes per game and is providing Vikings fans a glimmer of hope for the future as they suffer through yet another dreadful season.
Milwaukee is in the midst of a major rebuild but feature four freshman that average at least 15 minutes per game.
Valparaiso is primed for another push at a regular season championship and possibly an at-large bid should they stumble in Detroit at the conference tournament. They have three freshman providing depth that have appeared in all 12 of their games so far this season, including 6’11” Jaume Sorolla and 7’1” redshirt freshman Derrik Smits as the men in the middle where Vashil Fernandez once obliterated people.
Valpo’s prized recruit, 6'2" guard Micah Bradford, could possibly be a star for years to come in the conference, but the 3-star prospect has had a limited role so far this season scoring 3.1 points in 9.8 minutes of action.
Due to the depth and the talent level of the freshman class this season, it is difficult to predict at this stage who will be named to the Horizon League’s All-Freshman Team as well as Freshman of the Year at the end of the season. That is good news for a conference that has seen its standing fall from one of the country’s best mid-major basketball leagues, somewhere in the 10 to 14 range in overall conference RPI rankings, down to the 18 to 20 range.
The infusion of new talent as well as developing that talent will be essential for the future of the Horizon League. Valparaiso likely missed out on an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last season due to the rest of the conference being down, meaning their losses were fatal and their conference wins not as impressive as they should be.
With a talented group of freshman already making contributions, however, the future for the conference looks bright. As conference play gets underway one of the more intriguing things to watch will be how the newcomers handle the grind of Horizon League play.
Is Trevor Anderson the favorite to win the individual accolades at the end of the season? It’s a toss-up at this point.
But that’s a good thing for Green Bay and for the Horizon League.
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