Noah Vonleh: RTC Big Ten’s Preseason Freshman of the YearPosted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 6th, 2013
By all accounts, this is the year of the freshmen. Not since the 2007-08 class of Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love has an incoming rookie class had this much talent. Players like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon are expected to dominate college basketball for one year and then bolt for the NBA as lottery picks. Unfortunately for Big Ten fans, none of these top recruits chose one of its 12 schools as their destination. However, this doesn’t mean the conference is devoid of incoming talent. According to RSCIhoops.com, 13 of the top 100 recruits entering college basketball will play in the Big Ten but only one freshman stands out from the rest. Noah Vonleh, the conference’s highest ranked recruit at #8, is a big man from New Hampshire who will play for Indiana. He, perhaps not coincidentally, is the most prepared freshman to have immediate success in the rugged Big Ten.
Vonleh gives the Hoosiers something they’ve lacked since DJ White was in crimson and cream — a physical, back-to-the-basket big man with pro talent. Though he only recently turned 18 years old, the 6’9″, 240-pound Vonleh already has a Big Ten body — add a 7’5″ wingspan to his size, and you realize that he is plenty big, long and strong. He’ll need all of these tools when conference play begins in order to handle the physical play of the Big Ten. He will need to get acclimated quickly to begin to replace what they lost in the frontcourt. Last year’s trio of Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, and Victor Oladipo contributed 47.4 PPG and 20.6 RPG — a rather tall order for the freshman and his colleagues. It could take a while — as a case in point, last year’s best freshman big man, Michigan’ s Mitch McGrary, didn’t start putting it all together until March.
Vonleh will have an opportunity to establish himself as the primary rebounder and scoring option down low. The exodus from the Hoosiers’ frontcourt means Vonleh’s chief competitors for playing time will be freshmen or second-year players who have had limited experience themselves. And none of those players have the physical gifts and natural abilities of Vonleh. The deciding factor in whether Vonleh will be a featured frontcourt player will be his ability to adapt to the speed of college basketball. Another potential obstacle might be if head coach Tom Crean decides to run the offense from the perimeter. With Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey the two top returnees along with the addition of transfer Evan Gordon, Crean may only trust his experienced guards to run the show. This could potentially deny Vonleh the touches he needs to fully develop this season. Despite all this, Vonleh is clearly the most talented incoming Big Ten freshman this year. This fact, combined with opportunity he’ll have to replace a good deal of frontcourt talent, makes him the RTC Big Ten microsite’s Preseason Freshman of the Year.