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Stock Watch: Freshman Edition

Tue, 01/06/2009 - 11:17pm


By Aran Smith

While this year's freshman class has certainly been a disappointment, after a slow start a number of players are beginning to hit their stride. This class may lack great star power, but there are a number of players with excellent long term potential. Here's a look at who's rising and falling among college freshmen two months into the season.

Rising

Greg Monroe 6-10 234 PF Georgetown Fr.

 
 


Greg Monroe
AP Photo
 
Facing imposing 7-3 center Hasheem Thabeet in his first ever Big East game, Greg Monroe showed poise and maturity rarely seen in a freshman. Monroe ignited a 15-1 start for the Hoyas, and though UConn would climb back into the game, behind Monroe and junior Dajuan Summers, Georgetown was able to pull the upset.

With Thabeet guarding him for most of the contest, Monroe hit 2 hook shots and 2 three pointers on his way to 16 points on 6-10 shooting. He outplayed Thabeet, who struggled scoring just 4 points, but was able to grab 7 boards and 7 blocks.

Monroe's ability to pass and make plays facing the basket off the dribble make him an intriguing prospect at his size. Georgetown is the perfect system to make use of his outstanding passing ability, and with Monroe operating from the high post, teams are finding it difficult to defend his pinpoint back door passes.

Monroe has also shown some solid shooting range, and though he'll need to polish his post skills, he's showing development in that area as well.

On the season, Monroe is averaging 13.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg 2.1 apg, and 1.8 bpg.

On Monday against Notre Dame, Monroe scored 21 points on 9-17 shooting, all high marks for him on the season.

While his explosiveness and athleticism isn't at an elite level, he's very fluid and shows an intriguing skill set which could make him a lottery pick in this years draft if he continues to play at his current level.

He should look to prove that he can bang inside with elite level college post players, but in a down year talent wise, he's beginning to solidify himself as one of the top bigman prospects on the college level.

Luke Babbitt 6-7 220 SF Nevada Fr.

 
 


Luke Babbitt
Photo: John Byrne/Nevadawolfpack.com
 
Sweet shooting forward Luke Babbitt had his coming out party in Nevada's match up with North Carolina last week showing a deft ability to create (and convert) quality shots for himself. He showed absolutely no signs of intimidation or fear going up against Tyler Hansbrough, matching the First Team All American step for step. Babbitt had 22 and 7 to Hansbrough's 22 and 3.

Babbitt turned down the opportunity to play for elite programs to stay home and enjoy immediate stardom in Reno. Nevada is quickly becoming a consistent NBA producing school with recent players such as Nick Fazekas, Ramon Sessions and JaVale McGee.

Averaging 14.7 ppg, Babbitt leads the team in scoring, having reached double digits in 12 of the teams first 14 games. Luke shows a lot of potential as a shooter, and although he hasn't taken a high number of 3 pointers this season (11-31), his pure shooting stroke and flat top are reminiscent of another small forward who played his (NBA) career on the West Coast, Chris Mullen.

Babbitt is currently asked to play closer to the basket but over time will be able to extend his range and consistency. He has the heart, toughness and talent to potentially become a late lottery pick by next year.

Ed Davis 6-9 225 PF North Carolina Fr.

Davis has been this year's Marvin Williams coming off the bench as a freshman to provide energy for North Carolina. Although it's highly unlikely that he will be a top 2 pick like Marvin was, or even a one-and-done lottery pick.

It's very possible that he will end up being the best pro of anyone on the current UNC team. His great length and leaping ability combined with unusually polished skills and touch for a freshman give him a good deal of intrigue. Davis has been a key addition for North Carolina. In just over 20 minutes per game, Davis has averaged 7.5 ppg, 8 rpg and 1.7 bpg.

Next year with Tyler Hansbrough gone, Davis and Deon Thompson will pick up the slack along with the return of Tyler Zeller. Davis has a chance to be a lottery pick in the next 2-3 years if his body and game continue to improve.

 
 


Kemba Walker
AP Photo
 
Kemba Walker 6-1 180 PG UConn Fr.

After starting off the year with two 20 plus point performances in his first three games, Kemba has come back to earth, now sharing the point guard responsibilites with AJ Price. Walker shows a great deal of potential but he still must prove that he can run a team given the opportunity to do so full time.

Walker is averaging an impressive 10 ppg on 53 fg%, 82 ft% and 42 3%. His 1-1 a/to ratio needs improvement. He has the entire package but needs point guard development and time. He too will have a shot to be a lottery pick in 2010 or 2011.

Willie Warren 6-3 195 PG Oklahoma Fr.

Warren is a combo guard with freakish explosiveness and strength. He has made a smooth transition to the college game, quickly becoming the Sooners number two option. He single handedly kept them in the Arkansas game scoring 35 points, at times looking unconscious shooting the ball from deep (7-11). This was coming off of a 31 point performance against Rice.

Warren is averaging 16.2 ppg on solid shooting numbers (50% fg, 76% ft, 37% 3p). At times he can be too aggressive looking to get his own offense, but his 1.7 a/to rate affirms his improving passing and decision making ability. He's still got a ways to go developing his point guard skills, but he's a talented kid who should find a spot in the first round in the next few seasons.

Paul George 6-7 190 SG/SF Fresno St. Fr.

Along with Babbitt and Davis, George made his first appearance on the 2010 mock draft this week. George is a late bloomer who went under recruited and has found a home at Fresno State. He's a quality outside shooter with great length and explosiveness. He grabbed the nation's attention with his well circulated YouTube dunk against St Mary's early in the season and has since backed that up with steady play.

George still must develop his body and continue to improve his all around game but appears on his way to becoming a first round pick in the next 2-3 seasons.

 
 


Demar Derozan
Photo: Icon SMI
 
Demar DeRozan 6-6 210 SG USC Fr.

After struggling mightily over the first month of the season, Derozan has finally gotten more comfortable and is beginning to string a number of positive games together.

His numbers on the season are still under whelming: 11.8 ppg (49% fg, 62% ft). But with such a huge ceiling due to his world class athleticism, he's still getting mentioned as a possible late lottery pick by scouts.

Before USC's 4 point overtime loss to Oregon State, in which he had 10 points, Derozan had 4 straight games with quality production including two 18 point games, one 17 point game and one 14 point performance. He shot at or above the mendoza line (50%) in each.

While some scouts feel he will run the risk of becoming the next Gerald Green if he leaves this year, he'd be a very intriguing pick in the late lottery to mid first round area. A second season at USC would benefit him greatly, but many feel he won't stick around to see.

Jrue Holiday 6-3 205 PG/SG UCLA Fr.

Averaging a modest 10.3 ppg, 3.0 apg, and 3.9 rpg, Holiday has been steady though unspectacular. He's got a polished set of skills and makes excellent decisions, never rushing or trying to do too much. He has a very mature game, taking what the opposition gives him.

UCLA's defensive oriented system keeps players from putting up big numbers so his stats should be adjusted to a degree.

While Holiday could leave this year and would likely be a top 15-20 pick, he's another player who benefit greatly with a second season in college. His best move would be retuning to UCLA and becoming the full time point guard next season with Darren Collison's departure to the NBA. A season developing his skills at the lead guard position in college would enhance his long term potential for the NBA.


Trey Thompkins 6-9 247 PF Georgia Fr.

 
 


Trey Thompkins
AP Photo
 
Though not overly tall or athletic, Thompkins has terrific offensive skills with the ability to shoot 3 pointers as well as a polished face the basket and post game. He's a small 6-9, but his 7-foot plus wingspan gives him the length to play bigger.

Thompkins has been one of the most productive freshmen in the country averaging 13.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 1.7 bpg. His 56% (15-27) 3 point shooting to accompany those numbers shows the versatility he possesses. He shows the ability to put the ball on the deck and create offense.

Thompkins is currently projected to be a top 20 pick in the 2010 draft.



Falling

Devin Ebanks 6-8 185 SF West Virginia Fr.

Ebanks is a long, smooth athlete with nice potential, but right now his offensive game is severely limited. He's had a few bigtime rebounding games showing his raw athletic ability but looks lost off the ball and hasn't shown any ability to make plays aside from crashing the glass or getting out on the break and scoring in transition.

Against UConn on Tuesday night, Ebanks had just 4 points on 2-8 shooting. His averages of 7.8 ppg and 6.8 rpg on 44% fg are certainly a disappointment from a top 10 freshman recruit.

Ebanks was projected as a possible 2 year lottery guy but with a lot of work to do on his body and all around game, it's more likely he's a 3-4 year player, with the upside to get into the first round or possibly the lottery if he develops.

BJ Mullens 7-0 275 C Ohio St. Fr.

 
 


BJ Mullens
AP Photo
 
While one freshman (Monroe) is quickly ascending up draft charts, another (Mullens) finds himself moving in the opposite direction. Mullens has more long term potential, but is further away skill wise and despite flashes of excellence, has a long ways to go to put it all together.

With NBA team's increasing "produce now" approach to the draft, a player such as Mullens, who likely needs a few years before being a consistent contributor, is less appealing.

Mullens has been solid when he's gotten minutes, but that has been his biggest challenge. He's averaging just 17.5 minutes per game on the year. His intensity and work habits in practice obviously need to improve. Mullens came in as the top freshman prospect, and while he remains the top long term prospect in the class, he's a long ways from being the top player.

Averaging 6.9 points and 3.8 boards isn't exactly setting the world on fire. However, his shooting numbers and overall contribution has been good when he's seen minutes.

He still needs a lot of work on his post skills as at times he turns into defenders, instead of taking open angles to the basket. Too often smaller players are able to guard him using position and getting him off balance, when he should be able to use his size, speed and athleticism to his advantage and dominate them.

While Mullens likely would be a top 10 pick based on potential if he were to leave this season, it's in his best interest to return to school and improve his skill level in the nurturing environment of college basketball, as opposed to playing in the D league or riding an NBA bench and playing garbage minutes.

On the positive side, on Tuesday night Mullens had a strong showing with 16 points and 6 boards against conference rival Michigan State. It was his third double digit figure game of the year and he will look to springboard off of this performance and gain consistency through the rest of the season. OSU has dropped 3 of 4 after starting the season off with 9 straight wins, so they will need Mullens to mature as they head into the heart of conference play.

Tyreke Evans 6-6 220 SG Memphis Fr.

Evans came in with almost impossible hype and although he has been one of the most prolific scoring freshmen in the country, his game still needs a lot of work. He's had a number of games where he has shot Memphis completely out of the game. His ball handling and turnovers continue to be a detriment.

His jumpshot in particular needs a lot of work as a lot of the time he fades away on it, and his shot mechanics are erratic. He should look to tighten his release some and go straight up instead of fading away on it nearly every time.

Evans has played particularly well recently but against inferior competition going for 27 and 25 in back to back games against Northeastern and Lamar. On the year, he's averaging 16.9 ppg on 45% fg . His 5.3 rpg and 4.1 apg are certainly impressive, but his 3.9 turnovers per game and 28% from 3 are not.

It's apparent that he needs more time in college to fill out his game before attempting the jump to the NBA. He's a talented player but still too raw and wild to make a successful jump to the league.
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