CBS Sports’ weekly update on the best freshmen in America keeps Vernon Carey Jr. at No. 1
Welcome to the Frosh Watch, our weekly ranking of the 10 most impressive freshmen in college basketball. CBS Sports has once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award to present this every-Tuesday feature. Each week, we open with the national Freshman of the Week honoree.
CBS Sports / USBWA Freshman of the Week
JADEN SHACKELFORD, ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide’s 6-3 newbie out of Hesperia, California, was outstanding in a 1-1 week for his team. Shackelford averaged more points in his past two games than any major-conference freshman in the country: 27.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals. He did so against ranked competition; Alabama played against No. 11 Auburn and No. 25 LSU in the past week.
Shackelford made seven of Alabama’s 22 3-pointers in the loss to Auburn, a game in which he finished with 29 points. That game was witness to 59 3-point attempts from Alabama, which set a major-conference record for 3-pointers attempted from one team in one game. After that, Shackelford came out strong over the weekend, dropping 26 in the win against LSU. He shot 40% (12-of-30) from 3-point range in the past two, keeping the Crimson Tide’s bubble chances (faintly) alive thanks to the win over LSU.
Coach Nate Oats is in his first season with the Tide, arriving after turning Buffalo into a mid-major Goliath. Sophomore Kira Lewis and juniors Herb Jones and John Petty are players with big ceilings, but Shackelford’s talent and penchant to hit shots makes Alabama’s future an encouraging one.
These are the top 10 freshman performers through 16 weeks of play.
1. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke
Key stats: 17.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 34.0 PER | Last week: No. 1
Duke’s big man is No. 4 in the latest ranking for KenPom player of the year, ranked ahead of Dayton’s Obi Toppin and Seton Hall’s Myles Powell. No other freshman is in the top 10. Duke only played once since last week’s Watch update, the 94-60 shellacking of Notre Dame. Carey went for 21 points against the Fighting Irish, posting an offensive rating of 143, which is his third-best this season (144 vs. Cal, 156 vs. Wofford). The most recent edition of the Court Report .
2. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona
Key stats: 16.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 60.8 eFG% | Last week: No. 2
Carey’s cushion for No. 1 in the Frosh Watch is slimming. Nnaji was in consideration for this week’s FOTW after putting up 21.0 points, on 61% shooting, and 8.0 rebounds in Arizona’s road wins over Stanford and Cal last week. His 12 double-doubles lead the Pac-12. I’ll have much, much more on Zeke Nnaji in Wednesday’s Court Report.
Key stats: 19.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.9 apg | Last week: No. 3
Edwards continues to put up high-volume statistics on a poor team. Georgia ranks 100th or worse in these six metrics: KenPom, NET, Sagarin, BPI, Torvik and Strength of Record. The Bulldogs have lost eight of their past nine and sit at 12-13, 13th in the SEC. Edwards is going to follow the Markelle Fultz path and parlay (maybe) being the No. 1 pick out of having a one-and-done season that was only memorable in how bad his team performed.
Key stats: 17.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg | Last week: No. 4
Stewart’s not that far removed from Edwards. The Huskies actually have a worse record (12-14) than Georgia! UW hasn’t won since Jan. 16. The 6-foot-9 Stewart continues to carry Washington to fruitless ends. He ranks No. 2 in Pac-12 free throw rate, No. 4 in block percentage and No. 7 in offensive rebound percentage. The Huskies lack the shooting around him to beat almost anyone these days, however.
5. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Key stats: 16.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 32.3 PER | Last week: No. 5
Okongwu stays static after missing USC’s last two games due to concussion protocol. The enticing power forward still ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 in effective field goal percentage (58.8) and No. 2 in block percentage (9.4). Okongwu can return for USC’s next game: a big one Thursday at Colorado.
Key stats: 15.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg | Last week: No. 7
The Tigers’ season is slipping away and fast-tracking to the NIT. On Sunday, Memphis could not win on the road against a shorthanded Connecticut team that lost big man Akok Akok to an Achilles injury early in the first half. Memphis has dropped three in a row, is 17-8 and it’s no fault of Achiuwa’s: he averaged 19.0 points and 15.0 rebounds in his past two games.
7. LANDERS NOLLEY, Virginia Tech
Key stats: 17.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.6 apg | Last week: No. 9
Though Virginia Tech is going to have to scramble to even make the NIT, Nolley’s numbers across the board continue to keep him easily in the Watch. He’s the only freshman in college basketball averaging at least 16 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He’s played at least 27 minutes in every ACC game, and has had more than three fouls only once.
Key stats: 13.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.9 bpg | Last week: No. 6
Indiana is in the danger zone in terms of the bubble, and unfortunately Jackson-Davis is coming off maybe his worst game of this freshman season. In IU’s embarrassing loss at Michigan on Sunday, the 6-foot-9 frosh from Greenwood, Indiana, managed just five points and two rebounds in 27 minutes. His big moment is still to come, though. The Hoosiers probably would not even be on the bubble if Jackson-Davis wasn’t on the roster.
Key stats: 13.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 25.1 PER | Last week: No. 8
Cockburn has 10 double-doubles in 25 games, those 10 being the most of any Illinois freshman in school history. He’s also fifth in all of college hoops — freshmen, that is — in double-doubles. And what’s more, Cockburn’s been a big help on the offensive boards as of late, snagging four per game on average since Jan. 11.
Key stats: 11.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 27.2 PER | Last week: NR
Welcome yet another impressive big man to the Frosh Watch, as Tshiebwe makes his debut. With his inclusion, that makes for eight of the 10 best freshmen this season being big men. Now that’s an unrecognized storyline everywhere else but here. Tshiebwe has been a key for West Virginia (three-game losing skid aside). He ranks No. 3 nationally in offensive rebound percentage (17.9) and is No. 2 in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding percentage (26.7).
Previous FOTW winners:
- Dec. 3:
- Dec. 10:
- Dec. 17:
- Dec. 24:
- Dec. 31:
- Jan. 7:
- Jan. 14:
- Jan. 21:
- Jan. 28:
- Feb. 4:
- Feb. 11:
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