Freshman rankings: Kentucky's Tyrese Maxey is Freshman of the Week; Pac-12 places four in Frosh Watch
The Wildcats' Maxey was great vs. Louisville and four of the six best freshmen in college basketball are in the Pac-12
Welcome back 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'll start by announcing the national Freshman of the Week honoree. The cycle for FOTW runs Tuesday-Monday.
CBS Sports / USBWA Freshman of the Week
TYRESE MAXEY, KENTUCKY: A simple choice to close out 2019, given Maxey was outstanding and crucial in Kentucky's home victory over then-No. 3 Louisville on Saturday. The Wildcats' 78-70 overtime win was witness to Maxey's career high, a 27-point showing -- plus seven boards. Maxey was efficient as well: he made nine of his 14 attempts and was 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Interestingly enough, it had been nearly 11 years since a Kentucky player scored more vs. Louisville; Jodie Meeks put up 28 on the Cardinals on Jan. 4, 2009.
Oh, and his 27 was the most by a freshman Wildcats vs. Louisville ever.
Nice week, Tyrese.
Given that Christmas was last week, all teams had only one game max in the seven day span for Freshman of the Week, so Maxey's performance stuck out above all others. He also course-corrected, having shot himself out of his 1-of-16 3-point slump that he was mired in prior to the U of L game.
With Maxey playing at that level, Kentucky's outlook completely changes and the Wildcats look like a team capable of defeating anybody.
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through the first nine weeks of the season.
1. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke
Key stats: 18.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg | Last week: No. 1
Duke has played its last two games without all-everything guard Tre Jones and has still managed to avoid defeat, a testament to how steady Vernon Carey's production has been. He's averaging 19.25 points, 8.0 boards and 2.0 blocks per game in the month of December as the Blue Devils have risen to No. 2 in the polls. Against Brown this week, he managed 19-and-6 in just 26 minutes and has emerged as one of the most consistent post threats in college basketball.
Key stats: 18.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.2 apg | Last week: No. 2
Wondering why you haven't heard or seen more of Anthony Edwards, or been exposed to him the way you were other highly touted freshman in the past half-decade? While it's not exactly the Markelle Fultz effect, here's a problem for Georgia so far: the Bulldogs are a fine-enough 9-3 overall. But the three toughest games they've played have all been losses ... by an average of 15.7 points. So Edwards has been thriving behind the curtains a bit. Higher-profile game comes Saturday, as CBS will air Georgia vs.No. 9 Memphis at 1 p.m. ET.
3. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona
Key stats: 16.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 124.3 ORtg | Last week: No. 5
Arizona's in the midst of a near-two-week break from games, so no changes for Zeke Nnaji (or Nico Mannion) in terms of stats. On Wednesday you'll be able to occupy your New Year's Day lounging by reading more on the Wildcats, as Norlander will have some perspective on why this season is unlike any other Sean Miller's ever had.
4. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Key stats: 17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 3.8 bpg | Last week: No. 6
As his blocked-shots count continues to rise, so too does Onyeka Okongwu's NBA Draft stock. Okongwu is emerging as one of the best and brightest all-around post players in the freshman class because of his shot-swatting ability, and he's been a stud as a scorer, too. He leads USC this season averaging 17.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game and is second among all freshmen in shots blocked per game in the country at 3.2.
Key stats: 19.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 30.1 PER | Last week: No. 8
The Pac-12 freshman of the year race is going to be great. Nico Mannion, Zeke Nnaji, Onyeka Okongwu and Isaiah Stewart are the best freshman quartet the league's seen in a decade-plus. In last week's Diamond Head Classic, Stewart was excellent again. He averaged 25.5 points and 10.5 rebounds on 62% shooting. Washington beat Ball State and Hawaii but lost to Houston in the tournament's title game on Christmas Day. Stewart has six double-doubles in 13 games and you'll hear and see a lot more of him in 2020.
6. NICO MANNION, Arizona
Key stats: 14.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 113.6 ORtg | Last week: No. 3
Nico Mannion is yet to record a block in his college career. Can he go the whole season? Probably not. An opportunity will present itself at some point. As we turn to Pac-12 play, one of the biggest things to watch with Arizona and its viability to beat out Oregon to win the league will be Mannion's 3-point shooting. He's only 6 for 29 from 3-point range in his last five games, which has dropped him down to 34.9% from deep overall.
Key stats: 16.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg | Last week: No. 7
Kofi Cockburn followed up one of his biggest duds of the season with one of his biggest booms with 26 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against North Carolina A&T in a win. He remains a force on both ends of the floor and ranks second on the season among all Big Ten players in offensive rebounding rate.
8. COLE ANTHONY, UNC
Key stats: 19.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.6 apg | Last week: No. 4
There's been some scuttlebutt in the scouting community that Cole Anthony's recovery from knee surgery could put him out further than the initial four-to-sox week timeline. Some are even (haphazardly at this stage) wondering if Anthony winds up never playing again at UNC. Don't count us among those in that camp. And a small sign of encouragement: Anthony with the bodies at practice earlier this week.
9. LANDERS NOLLEY, Virginia Tech
Key stats: 17.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 apg | Last week: No. 10
Landers Nolley's dead-eye 3-point stroke have him tracking as one of the most unexpected breakout stars of the season, and his impact for a better-than-expected 10-3 Virginia Tech team speaks for itself. He's been versatile enough that Mike Young's used him all over the place on both ends of the floor, from guard to center. His 34.0% usage rate leads all freshmen.
Key stats: 15.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.0 spg | Last week: No. 9
Indiana took its first loss since Dec. 7 over the weekend, but Jackson-Davis wasn't the reason for it. He shot 8-of-11 from the field, scored 20 points, grabbed six boards and continued his pace as one of the most efficient scorers this season. Among all freshmen, he ranks second in field goal percentage (66.4%) and ranks top-25 in the country in the category among all players.
Previous FOTW winners:
- Dec. 3:
- Dec. 10:
- Dec. 17:
- Dec. 24:
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