B1G Freshmen First Impressions

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 11th, 2013

I stay away from trying to analyze freshmen before they step on a college court for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I follow recruiting to the point where I generally know the top 100 players and pay attention to where they sign. I just don’t feel comfortable going off of high school/AAU scouting reports and am of the mind that every newcomer steps in with a clean slate until they play at least once in their college careers. What follows are simply some first impressions of a handful of Big Ten freshman as they made their collegiate debuts this past weekend.

Noah Vonleh won the first B1G Freshman of the Week award of the season after a double-double effort on Friday.

Noah Vonleh won the first B1G Freshman of the Week award of the season after a double-double effort on Friday.

Indiana had six freshmen make an appearance in its blowout win against Chicago State on Friday night. After getting a chance to see Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams for the first time, my first thoughts were about how much length and athleticism they provide. The Hoosiers should have a chance to be scary good defensively. Between these two and Jeremy Hollowell, they will influence a number of shots in the paint, causing teams simply launch threes instead of coming at them inside. Vonleh had a nice overall line with 11 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks, but he really got my attention by grabbing offensive rebounds and leading the fast break. He showed flashes of a number of different skills that will no doubt have him on the NBA’s radar. Williams, on the other hand, was drawing comparisons to Victor Oladipo throughout the telecast, and while he may never get to that level defensively, he has a chance to become a legitimate stopper on that side of the ball. Stanford Robinson and Devin Davis didn’t get as much time as the other two, but they also are nice, athletic wings who have a chance to earn more minutes for the Hoosiers down the line, especially if they can knock down shots from the perimeter.

Illinois did not have any freshman starters, but they have five new players who all contributed in various ways to their two weekend wins. The most impressive one from the group, both statistically and from observation, was Jaylon Tate. He may legitimately push Tracy Abrams for the starting point guard spot this year when all is said and done. He has  a 10:1 assist to turnover ratio in his first two times out, while Abrams is currently at 4:3.  He seemed to defy his age by playing with a calm and poise that Abrams doesn’t always exhibit. Aside from Tate, the rest of the group of Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn, Maverick Morgan, and Austin Colbert all looked a year away from making a huge impact. They all mixed in impressive plays that show their potential with an element of seeming lost, especially on the defensive end. Tate is the only freshman in the lineup who is likely to get on the floor for more than 10 minutes a game once conference play starts.

Purdue had a rough Friday evening against Northern Kentucky as the Boilermakers pulled out a last second victory at home. That’s not to say that there weren’t some freshman on their roster who made an impact. I have concerns about how Jay Simpson will function when A.J. Hammons comes back to the lineup, but he showed a decent post game and an ability to rebound. It’s difficult to envision how they would be effective with two back-to-the basket types on the floor at the same time. Kendall Stephens looks like he needs a year or two in the weight room, but he proved despite being in foul trouble that he can potentially become a knock-down shooter that the team desperately needs. Bryson Scott looked like he can get to the basket and played similarly to Ronnie and Terone Johnson by getting into the lane more often than shooting from deep.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at brendan.brody@gmail.com, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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