Frosh Watch: Preseason Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Welcome to Frosh Watch! With college basketball becoming more and more an underclassman’s game it’s imperative that we keep tabs on just who is living up to his potential and who is struggling to adjust to the college game. Is Harrison Barnes really the answer to all of UNC’s problems? Does Kyrie Irving make Duke even better? Will Kentucky’s Enes Kanter ever get to play? What about Tony Mitchell over at Missouri? Those questions — and many more — will all be answered eventually. But that’s a job for another week. First we need to introduce you to some of the rookies we’re most excited about this year. What we’re going to do is look at some of the impact rookies in each of the six BCS conferences, and then give you four freshmen from the non-BCS conferences.  During the seasson we’ll re-visit some of the players on this list (and some not) as part of our weekly wrap.

DISCLAIMER: This is just a taste of the 2010-11 freshmen class — not a finite list. Don’t worry if one of your team’s top signees didn’t make the cut (i.e., Kanter and Mitchell), as he’ll have every opportunity to earn recognition down the road. Consider this first group a hoops aperitif. Just something that teases your college basketball appetite before games start and preseason hype takes a backseat to on-court reality.


  • Harrison Barnes, forward, North Carolina — Barnes became the first freshman to ever earn AP first team preseason All-America honors when he received 17 votes on Nov. 1. Expect the future lottery pick to lead UNC in points, ‘wow’ plays, and fan hearts won as the Tar Heels storm back into the national picture after a one-year hiatus.
  • Kyrie Irving, guard, Duke — Irving is the most heralded backcourt recruit to come to Durham since Jason Williams, and we all know how that turned out for Coach K. With Irving running the attack, the Blue Devils won’t miss Jon Scheyer.
  • C.J. Leslie, forward, NC State — If Sidney Lowe saves his job this year, it will be because Leslie lived up to the hype. Leslie’s ability to slash into the lane should make the Wolfpack a more well-rounded offensive team, in addition to freeing up space down low for big man Tracy Smith.

Big East

SU Fans Hope Melo Smiles Like This All Season Long (Post-Standard/D. Nett)

  • Fab Melo, center, Syracuse — Melo’s name should be enough to get him on this list (it really is fantastic), but the 7’0, 244-pound monster also is the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year. Paired with Rick Jackson, Melo gives the Orange one of the most tantalizing frontcourts in the nation.
  • Vander Blue, guard, Marquette — Blue somewhat flew under the radar during his high school career, but all that changed after his stint on Team USA this summer in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships. Blue scored 13 points to help USA win the gold medal, and now he’ll be expected to be an instant impact scorer for the Golden Eagles.
  • Roscoe Smith, forward, Connecticut — There are few things to be excited about if you’re a UConn fan. Smith is one of the bright spots in what was a miserable offseason for the Huskies. Smith hasn’t played a game yet, but coach Jim Calhoun already has declared him to be the second best power forward on the team.

Big Ten

  • Jared Sullinger, center, Ohio State — With Sullinger patrolling the lane, the Buckeyes should once again be a dominant team on the boards. The 6’9, 280-pound Columbus native is versatile enough to play power forward with a decent jump shot to keep defenses honest.
  • Adreian Payne, center, Michigan State — Payne was out for four months this offseason because of a shoulder injury but he didn’t seem to be limited in the Spartans’ exhibition opener against Saginaw Valley State. Once Payne is completely healthy, Tom Izzo gets another bruiser to play along the frontline, and Kalin Lucas gets another toy to play with on fast breaks.
  • Deshaun Thomas, forward, Ohio State — He’s not Evan Turner, but Thomas should be able to fill some of the holes left by last year’s Wooden Award winner. OSU coach Thad Matta said during the school’s media day that Thomas has dropped from 14.6% body fat to 8.2% and that he’s already established himself as an electric scorer during the preseason.

Big 12

  • Josh Selby, guard, Kansas — This one comes with an asterisk. When Selby gets to play, he’ll instantly become one of the top freshmen in the nation. The key word, though, is when. The NCAA still hasn’t deemed Selby eligible as it looks into a possible improper relationship between Selby and Robert “Bay” Frazier, who is Carmelo Anthony’s business manager. The key thing for Selby is that he still gets to practice with the Jayhawks — unlike Enes Kanter at Kentucky — which is why I’m confident Selby’s debut is just around the corner.
  • Cory Joseph, guard, Texas —Texas has a tradition of big-time guards (T.J. Ford, D.J. Augustin, Avery Bradley) and Joseph is the right player to keep that streak alive. With his ability to knock down perimeter shots, stands to be more of a player in the mold of Augustin then say a slasher like Ford.
  • Perry Jones, forward, Baylor — Baylor fans, get ready to forget about Ekpe Udoh. Jones comes to campus as the highest ranked recruit in Baylor history, and is one inch taller than Udoh. All those players who thought they would get free access to the lane when they played the Bears this year better think again.


Smith, Second From Left, is a Monstrous Presence Inside (AP/R. Saxon)

  • Josh Smith, center, UCLA — If UCLA has a resurgence this year, then look to for Smith to win Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors. At 305 pounds, Smith would be a tough load to handle for an NBA big man. Against Pac-10 competition, Smith could post a monster year.
  • Dwight Powell, forward, Stanford — With Landry Fields now in the NBA, there should be plenty of opportunities for Powell to prove he has what it takes to be the Man. Not much is expected of the Cardinal this year, so don’t be surprised if Johnny Dawkins makes Powell the focal point of the inside with Jeremy Green outside in order to get ready for a run in 2011-12.
  • Keala King, guard/forward, Arizona State —Arizona State’s roster lists King as a wing and that sounds about right. The Arizona Republic reported that King has seen time at four positions this preseason. Think a 6’4 player can’t play power forward? Well, King grabbed 26 rebounds in a high school playoff game.


  • Brandon Knight, guard, Kentucky — Knight got everyone in Wildcat Nation excited when he scored 37 points in Kentucky’s Blue/White intrasquad scrimmage. But as a point guard, Knight has to make sure he gets his teammates involved rather than look for his own shot. Knight definitely can score, but his ability to create for others (especially if Enes Kanter becomes eligible as a target) will dictate Kentucky’s success this year.
  • Tobias Harris, forward, Tennessee — The SEC East is wide open, and Harris could be enough to lead the Vols to a first place finish. Harris is widely considered one of the top incoming power forwards in the nation, and Tennessee will need every bucket and rebound from its star freshman to help people forget the program’s drama off the court.
  • Patric Young, forward, Florida Billy Donovan expects this year’s Florida squad to be a more physical bunch, and Young is a big reason why. Young definitely can be described as an enforcer, but he’ll have to learn to play smart and not rack up fouls in order to be a difference-maker right away.

Non-BCS Conferences

  • Will Barton, guard, MemphisJosh Pastner breathed a huge sigh of relief when Barton was cleared for his freshman season. Instead of playing in Europe or for a team in the NBA Developmental League, Barton immediately becomes one of the top players in Conference USA.
  • Joe Jackson, guard, Memphis — What Jackson lacks in size (he’s barely 6’0), he makes up for in his ability to score in bunches. Jackson finished his high school career as the leading scorer in the history of Memphis/Shelby County (3,451 points).
  • Trey Zeigler, guard/forward, Central Michigan —When Zeigler decided to sign with the Chippewas and play for his dad (Ernie Zeigler II), Central Michigan got itself a bona fide star. Zeigler has the skills to play the 1, 2 or 3, and his passing should make him an instant favorite among his teammates.
  • Ray McCallum, Jr., guard, Detroit — It seems playing for your dad is all the rage this year. McCallum made his decision to keep his talents in the family before Zeigler, and Detroit now enjoys the services of a McDonald’s and Parade All-American. McCallum is one of the main reasons the Titans are predicted to finish second in the Horizon League despite losing four players to graduation.
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