Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
In case you missed it earlier this week, we evaluated the freshmen from Indiana, Michigan and Iowa after the non-conference season. Today, we look into the true freshmen from Michigan State, Wisconsin and Purdue.
Michigan State: Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine
Harris has been a tease with the Spartans so far this season. He has shown flashes of brilliance such as against Kansas when he scored 18 points by consistently cutting to the hoop to make easy layups. Since that game, however, he has not been overly impressive with his scoring because he has settled for the three-point shot too much. Harris can improve his long-range shooting from 31% but his main strength lies in the ability to score around the basket. Against the Gophers he was 1-of-5 from beyond the arc but needs to better play to his strengths during the conference season. Overall, he hasn’t disappointed with his 12.3 PPG in 26.5 MPG but he will continue to be called upon to pick up some scoring slack especially if Keith Appling draws the best defending guard from the opposition. While Harris’ role is clearly defined, his fellow freshmen guard Valentine has been a jack of all trades for Tom Izzo. Valentine can best be described as a “grinder” with his style of play. His statistics aren’t impressive – just 6.0 PPG in 22.3 MPG, but Valentine is an excellent rebounder for a guard (4.3 RPG) and has shown a knack for playing excellent defense. Rarely do you find a player who will impress Izzo as a freshman because Michigan State always has great upperclassmen, but you can tell that Valentine will be a special player in East Lansing by the time he leaves campus. Expect him to average about 23 MPG and help the Spartans on the defensive end during the rigorous Big Ten season.