Fresh faces: No shortage of top freshmen in Big Ten
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It’s no surprise to see freshmen have an immediate impact each season in college basketball. Players arrive more and more ready to not just contribute, but also to be stars. And this year’s crop of freshmen in the Big Ten is emerging as a formidable unit with most teams getting key help from at least one freshman.
There was much anticipation about Michigan State’s group of four signees, which all ranked among the Top 50 in the nation by most recruiting services. In fact, only Duke and Kentucky had more heralded classes. Michigan State, Penn State, Maryland and Iowa are getting more from freshmen than any other Big Ten school.
Here is a look at the top 14 Big Ten freshmen thus far, listed alphabetically.
Jordan Bohannon, G, Iowa. He has assumed command of the team from the point guard slot with Mike Gesell gone. Iowa’s Mr. Basketball, Bohannon is a natural-born leader and an ultra-competitor who has a deadly stroke from 3-point land. And his basketball IQ is high. The 6-0 Bohannon averages 8.8 points and leads the club with 82 assists.
Miles Bridges, G/F, Michigan State. This guy has it all. The explosive 6-7 Bridges has athletic ability that’s second to none. He’s also powerful and can impact in myriad ways. But Bridges has played in just 10 of 17 games because of a left high ankle injury. Still, he averages a team-best 14.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. Watch him get better and better as winter’s grip tightens.
Tony Carr, G, Penn State. The lithe 6-3 Carr does a bit of everything, averaging 11.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists. The Pennsylvania Player of the Year by USA Today last season, Carr is steady and poised beyond his years, a real quarterback in the backcourt for a program on the rise.
Amir Coffey, G Minnesota. The son of former Gopher star Richard Coffey, Amir has been as sensational as we all anticipated when he committed to his home state school after being Minnesota Mr. Basketball. The 6-8 Coffey is No. 2 in the Big Ten among freshman scorers, averaging 12.8 points. He’s the epitome of “explosive athlete.”
Tyler Cook, F, Iowa. The 6-9 Cook arrived with a fat scrapbook and was a prep teammate of Duke freshman sensation Jayson Tatum. He is coming back from a broken finger that kept him out for seven games and averages 12.3 points and 5.1 rebounds. Cook is a force on the interior whose potential bubbles.
Anthony Cowan, G, Maryland. He has had just-add-water impact for the Terps, averaging 10.4 points while pacing the team with 60 assists and 19 steals. The 6-0 Cowan puts the go-go in the attack in College Park, a point guard with savvy and skills.
Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue. He has been a revelation, injecting needed speed and athletic ability into the roster. The 6-0 Edwards is cat-quick and a good defender who needs to hone his shot selection and be mindful of sloppy ballhandling. Still, he looks like a special backcourt talent rarely seen in West Lafayette. He averages 10.4 points and paces the team in steals.
Kevin Huerter, G, Maryland. He isn’t afraid to launch it from downtown, averaging 8.0 points for the Terrapins as one of three freshman starters. He also averages 4.8 rebounds. The lanky 6-7 Huerter is a terrific shooter who can fire up quickly. Instant offense.
Justin Jackson, F, Maryland. The 6-7 Jackson has been the best of a strong group of freshmen in College Park. His 10.8 scoring average is No. 2 on the team and he brings down 5.9 rebounds each game. With a 7-3 wingspan, Jackson also can be a force on the defensive end. He’s just an athletic freak.
Cordell Pemsl, F, Iowa. He has been a big bonus, ranking No. 3 on the team in scoring (10 points per game) and first in field goal percentage (66 percent). There’s more: The 6-8 frosh is No. 2 on the squad in rebounding (5.2).
Lamar Stevens, F Penn State. Nittany Lions coach Pat Chambers made waves when he pulled big-time players out of Philadelphia. And the best of the bunch is Stevens, who is netting 12.7 points per game. He went to the same high school (Roman Catholic) as fellow PSU freshmen, guards Nazeer Bostick and Tony Carr. The 6-7 Stevens is a mismatch waiting to happen for anyone who tries to guard him.
Nick Ward, F, Michigan State. The 6-8 bulldozer has been a revelation. In fact, the burly lefthander is averaging 3.8 blocks in his first four Big Ten games and he’s one of the top scorers among Big Ten freshmen (13.8). He’s a bull in the paint, a powerful post presence who is crafty around the basket and difficult to matchup with at 250 pounds. Where would MSU be without him?
Mike Watkins, F, Penn State. The 6-9 Watkins is a redshirt freshman who throws his weight around in the paint, averaging 8.4 rebounds. The big fella also nets 10 points per game to give the Nittany Lions a nice presence inside and nice inside-outside balance.
Cassius Winston, G, Michigan State. The 6-0 Winston is still finding his way but has the requisite skills to be an elite point guard. He is No. 4 on the team in scoring with a 7.2 average and leads the club with 100 assists. Winston has exceptional passing skills and lots of basketball smarts. Be patient.