Player of the Week
Lonzo Ball, PG (UCLA)
Ball came in as one of the most decorated freshmen in the country and has lived up to the hype. He was expected to be the immediate catalyst to a solid returning backcourt for UCLA. So far Ball has taken this team to a new level offensively, and it is a joy to watch. Everyone had heard about his rare passing ability before he played a game, and his efficiency (4.50 assist/turnover ratio) has been icing on the cake. Ball is averaging 9 assists per game, while only committing 2 turnovers per game. Ball is also averaging 16 points per game, while shooting 61% from the field and 50% from three-point range. Very impressive numbers for a guy that is supposed to be adjusting to the college game.
Lauri Markkanen, PF (Arizona)
Of the three marquee freshman for a talented Arizona team, Markkanen was expected to be the one whose impact would take the longest. However, Markkanen has been almost unstoppable in the early going. The skilled seven-footer from Finland has scored in double figures in every game this season, while demonstrating an advanced offensive repertoire. He has shown the adept skills in the low post, while also showing the ability to stretch the floor (38.5% from three-point range). Markkanen has also gotten to the free-throw line frequently, where he’s shooting 91% so far. It is still early, but Markkanen has already shown glimpses of a future lottery selection.
Tres Tinkle, PF (Oregon State)
Tinkle has been outstanding for an Oregon State team that will probably finish near the bottom of the Pac-12. The Beavers do not have a lot of talent, but Tinkle has shown early on that he is among the top players in the conference. The sophomore forward is averaging 20.2 points per game, while also being a presence on the glass (8.3 RPG). Tinkle recorded his second double-double of the season against Fresno State on Friday, with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 steals. He also made 13-15 free throws to cap off an impressive evening. Tinkle also scored 19 points three days earlier against Tulsa. Oregon State may not be due for a spectacular season, but Tinkle gives them a go-to scoring option and will be a difficult matchup for opponents. Unfortunately Tinkle injured himself breaking ab one in his non-shooting wrist in his last game and could be facing surgery. He will have an MRI Monday and could miss up to 4-6 weeks.
Chimezie Metu, PF (USC)
The sophomore forward was expected to take a big leap forward in his second year with the Trojans and emerge as a possible first-round prospect. While, he had an excellent first three games to the new season, he struggled to find any rhythm offensively this week. In two games this week, Metu only attempted 11 shots from the field and amassed only 11 points in two games. On Friday against Tulsa, Metu only played 25 minutes as a result of foul trouble and committed 4 turnovers as well. Metu is also only shooting 42% from the field this season and has also not shown much improvement in his passing ability from the low post. There is a lot to like about his potential, but USC will need him to pick it up for them to have the season they’re hoping for.
Top 5 Freshmen to Watch
1. Markelle Fultz, PG (Washington)
Fultz came into the season as a possible number one overall selection in this year’s draft, and he’s proving that he's definitely worthy of consideration. Fultz has the size, length, athleticism, and skillset to play both guard positions at the next level. He has a highly advanced offensive repertoire, showing the ability to score from all three levels and is a terrific playmaker as well. He will be a matchup nightmare for any guard in the conference due to his athleticism and versatility. There isn’t a guard in the conference, maybe the country, with more upside than Fultz, which is why scouts will be clamoring to see him all season.
2. Lonzo Ball, PG (UCLA)
Ball has already shown everyone why scouts were drooling over his passing ability coming out of high school. What is just as noticeable is his ability to take care of the ball, despite leading the conference in assists. Ball has excellent size for a point guard. At 6’6” he is able to see the floor over smaller guards and shoot over the top. While he is not an elite level athlete, his size and length will compensate for this most of the time. Ball is also a very capable shooter, and even though his mechanics are a bit unorthodox, he shoots a high percentage from the field and is more than respectable from outside. Ball could easily be a top five selection in June.
3. Lauri Markkanen, PF (Arizona)
Markkanen is one of the more intriguing freshmen in college basketball. At 7’0” he already has great size for an NBA big man, and his skill set would fit perfectly in today’s game that covets skilled big men with the ability to stretch the floor. Markkanen has shown a polished post game and solid footwork on the low block. Markkanen can also really shoot the ball from the outside for a post player, which is a skill that NBA execs covet today. He’s a solid athlete as well and could develop into a very good defensive player with more experience. Becoming a lottery pick is well within his range this season.
4. TJ Leaf, PF (UCLA)
Leaf has the skillset any coach would want in a college four-man. He can stretch the floor, with range all the way out to the three-point line, and he can take bigger defenders off the dribble Leaf also has great touch around the basket. Leaf is also an excellent vertical athlete and can finish above the rim with ease. He is comfortable in the post, where he has good footwork, and he is a terrific passer for a big man. Leaf is also already an excellent rebounder due to his size and athleticism, and he should become even better over time as his frame fills out. Due to Leaf’s size, unique skill set, motor, feel and versatility.
5. Kobi Simmons, PG/SG (Arizona)
Simmons is an extremely explosive point guard, who can get to the basket and finish with either hand. He is very creative with the ball and excels at finding teammates off the bounce. Simmons is especially dangerous in the open floor where he can finish above the rim. He has the potential to be an elite defender due to his elite combination of size, quickness, and athleticism. He’s a good shooter off the dribble, and while he is not the most consistent from outside, he shows some promise. The biggest x-factor for Simmons is his decision-making with the ball. He can be a bit turnover prone and erratic, but when he plays under control, he is a special talent.