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.
At the beginning of the season, it seemed like Kentucky's Julius Randle and Duke's Jabari Parker were going to battle for this award every week. Randle was putting up double-doubles with ease, while Parker was demonstrating why many thought he was the most complete offensive player in the country. Randle won the first honor of the season, but Parker countered by receiving the nod in weeks two and three.
Since then, though, there has only been one week when either player won the award, and that was back in December. Randle wasn't scoring as much as we was earlier in the season, and Parker had gone through a bit of a shooting slump.
Last week, though, the battle was back on. Parker's team went just 1-1, but he was fantastic, averaging 18.0 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 13-for-22 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point range. In most weeks, that would be good enough.
But last week wasn't most weeks – and Randle's two-game performance gives him the nod for Freshman of the Week. In two games, Randle averaged 16.5 points and 14.0 rebounds, while shooting 9-for-15 from the field and 15-for-16 from the free-throw line.
First up was a trip to Ole Miss, and Randle absolutely dominated. He finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds, making 14 trips to the free-throw line (while only missing one foul shot). He was unstoppable for the most part, nabbing a double-double before halftime – his 14th double-double of the season. Randle even iced the game on a short jumper with less than two minutes remaining that extended Kentucky's lead to eight points.
The first time Kentucky faced LSU this season, Randle struggled. He was just 3-for-11 from the field and finished with six points and five rebounds. It might have been his worst game of the season. On Saturday afternoon, he wasn't great offensively, finishing with just eight points, but he battled LSU's talented frontline to the tune of 15 rebounds – and the winning basket in the final seconds. Moreover, Randle guarded Johnny O'Bryant late in the game, forcing the LSU big man into costly turnovers and mistakes. His leadership was also on display.
Randle has clearly gotten past the struggles that plagued him early in the SEC season. He has double-doubles in three of his last four games, and is averaging 14.5 points and 13.3 rebounds in that span.
On the season, the highly-touted prospect is averaging 15.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.
Other standout freshman performances this past week included: Jabari Parker, Duke (18.0 points, 10.5 rebounds in two games); Andrew Wiggins, Kansas (20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds in two games); Isaiah Taylor, Texas (26 points, seven rebounds, eight assists vs. Iowa State); James Daniel, Howard (38 points vs. Hampton); E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island (20.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg in two games); Andrew Rowsey, UNC-Asheville (20.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.5 apg in two games); Elijah Wilson, Coastal Carolina (22.5 points in two games); Martez Harrison, UMKC (22.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 5.5 apg in two games), Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington (14 points, 10 assits vs. Oregon State).
- 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
- Jan. 28: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
- Feb. 4: Jordan Mickey, LSU
- Feb. 11: Marcus Foster, Kansas State
- Feb. 18: Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Wayman Tisdale Award Watch
Stats: 19.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 48.5 FG%, 38.2 3PT%
Comment: Parker strengthened his hold on the No. 1 spot against Tyler Ennis and Syracuse over the weekend, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 6-for-8 from the field and 3-for-3 from behind the arc. Earlier in the week, despite a loss to North Carolina, Parker went for 17 points and 11 rebounds. He seems to have gotten past his shooting slump.
2. Tyler Ennis
Stats: 11.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 5.7 apg, 2.1 spg, 35.1 3PT%
Comment: Syracuse suffered its first two losses of the season last week, and Ennis had perhaps his worst game of the season against Duke over the weekend. He went just 2-for-13 from the field, but did dish out six assists. Ennis seemed to be pressing and uncomfortable for the first time all season. He had 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the loss to Boston College.
Stats: 16.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 45.2 FG%, 35.8 3PT%
Comment: There aren't too many people saying Wiggins is overrated anymore. He continues to roll through the Big 12 down the stretch, averaging 20.0 points and 6.0 rebounds last week in wins over Texas Tech and Texas. Moreover, Wiggins had the game-winning layup against the Red Raiders. Heading into Monday night's game, Wiggins had tallied at least 16 points in five straight games.
Stats: 15.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 53.3 FG%
Comment: Randle is another one who seems to have gotten past his freshman bump in the road and is now back to his early-season form. He started with 25 points and 13 rebounds in a dominant performance against Ole Miss, getting to the free-throw line for 14 attempts (he made 13). Against LSU, Randle had just eight points – but those included the winning basket in the final seconds – and also grabbed 15 rebounds.
5. Joel Embiid
Stats: 11.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 62.5 FG%
Comment: It looks like the game off to rest his injuries did Embiid well. He bounced back from some struggles with 18 points and eight rebounds against Texas Tech, and then finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and six blocks to help control the paint against Texas. As long as he stays healthy and out of foul trouble, Embiid is a difference-maker in March.
Next in line: Marcus Foster, Kansas State; Jordan Mickey, LSU; Aaron Gordon, Arizona; Bobby Portis, Arkansas; Isaiah Taylor, Texas; Noah Vonleh, Indiana; James Young, Kentucky; Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington; Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina; E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island
Freshman leaders: Points: James Daniel, Howard (22.0 ppg); Rebounds: Julius Randle, Kentucky (10.3 rpg); Assists: Khalil Felder, Oakland (6.0 apg).