You might notice a bit of a change in our Freshman Watch column this season. We have teamed up with the Wayman Tisdale Award, and so our Freshman of the Week is now the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week. And our Freshman of the Year rankings are now the Wayman Tisdale Award Watch. What is the Wayman Tisdale Award? It's selected annually by the United States Basketball Writers Association and given to the best freshman in the country. The award will be announced in March, and handed out in April in Oklahoma City.
For the third straight week, a Kansas player is the winner of the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week.
And this time, it's the one we expected the entire season.
Andrew Wiggins entered college with more hype than any player in recent memory, compared to the superstars of the NBA, from LeBron James to Kevin Durant to Paul George. All the comparisons were unfair to Wiggins, who showed his supreme talent time after time on the high school and AAU levels -- but was entering a balanced Kansas team that also features at least two or three other possible first-round picks. As a result, the expectations were skewed in the preseason.
For most freshmen, averaging 15.8 points and 6.0 rebounds -- while also showing flashes of being a lockdown perimeter defender -- through three months of the season would be terrific. For Wiggins, some people look at as a disappointment. They're waiting for him to truly break out and be the next-level talent they heard about back in October.
If last week is any indication, that could be coming soon.
In two games last week, Wiggins averaged 22.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists, as Kansas knocked off Baylor and TCU. The highlight was his performance against TCU, in which Wiggins went for 27 points, five rebounds and five assists, knocking down two 3-pointers and shooting 8-for-13 from the field. That was on the heels of a 17-point, seven-rebound effort in a home win over Kansas. In the contest with the Bears, most of Wiggins' offense came via the free-throw stripe; he showed the same inconsistent aggressiveness and assertiveness that he's demonstrated at times this season. But he certainly showed the ability to take over a game against TCU.
Things are looking positive for Wiggins. He has scored at least 17 points in four of his last five games, including going for 22 against Kansas State and the outstanding 17-point, 19-rebound performance against Iowa State two weeks ago.
Other standout freshman performances this week included: Isaiah Taylor, Texas (27 points vs. Baylor); Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington (32 points vs. Oregon State); James Daniel, Hampton (31 points vs. Florida A&M); Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina (26 points, four assists vs. Georgia); Derrick Walton, Michigan (19 points, five assists, six rebounds vs. Michigan State); Devin Wilson, Virginia Tech (26 points, four assists vs. Notre Dame); Jordan Mickey, LSU (14 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks vs. Missouri); QJ Peterson, VMI (25 points, six rebounds vs. High Point); Marquan Botley, Florida Atlantic (23 points, six 3-pointers vs. Harvard).
- Nov. 12: Julius Randle, Kentucky
- Nov. 19: Jabari Parker, Duke
- Nov. 26: Jabari Parker, Duke
- Dec. 3: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
- Dec. 10: Chris Perry, South Florida
- Dec. 17: Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma
- Dec. 24: Jabari Parker, Duke
- Dec. 31: James Young, Kentucky
- Jan. 7: Marcus Foster, Kansas State
- Jan. 14: Wayne Selden, Kansas
- Jan. 21: Joel Embiid, Kansas
Wayman Tisdale Award Watch
Stats: 18.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 47.1 FG%, 38.6 3PT%
Comment: It looks like Parker has broken away from the freshman wall he hit earlier in conference play. Monday's game against Pittsburgh will be taken into account for next week's rankings, but Parker averaged 15.5 points and 14.5 rebounds in two games last week. He was more aggressive offensively, not settling for long 2-pointers. He did shoot just 8-for-25 from the field, though.
2. Tyler Ennis
Stats: 12.0 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.5 spg, 40.5 3PT%
Comment: Ennis had just one game last week, a road win at Miami (Fl.) in which he finished with 14 points, five rebounds, four assists -- and two turnovers. The crazy thing is that those two turnovers (which for most guards is terrific) raised his season average in that category. Yes, he's been that impressive and sound this season.
Stats: 16.6 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 54.3 FG%
Comment: As the Kentucky perimeter freshmen continue to improve and become a bigger part of the offense, Randle's shots have gone down -- but he's still producing. Despite taking just 14 shots in two games, Randle averaged 13.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists last week. A couple of trips to LSU and Missouri will be interesting this week.
4. Joel Embiid
Stats: 11.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 66.7 FG%
Comment: After a breakout week that saw Embiid win Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Week honors, Embiid quieted down with averages of 13.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in two games. He still demonstrated why he is becoming a viable No. 1 pick in June's draft. He gets another crack at Iowa State on Wednesday.
Stats: 15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 45.0 FG%
Comment: We could be on the verge of a big stretch for Wiggins. Against Baylor and TCU last week, Wiggins averaged 22.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He wasn't all that assertive against Baylor last Monday, but he dominated TCU, knocking down 3-pointers, getting to the free-throw line. He needs to keep the momentum going this week.
Next in line: Aaron Gordon, Arizona; Jordan Mickey, LSU; Bobby Portis, Arkansas; Noah Vonleh, Indiana; Marcus Foster, Kansas State; James Young, Kentucky; Josh Hart, Villanova; Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
Freshman leaders: Points: James Daniel, Hampton (21.2 ppg); Rebounds: Julius Randle, Kentucky (10.5 rpg); Assists: Kareem Canty, Marshall (6.4 apg).