Freshman rankings: USC's got a bona fide baller in Onyeka Okongwu, who is the CBS Sports Freshman of the Week
The Pac-12 has four of the top 10 freshmen in our weekly Frosh Watch
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
Onyeka Okongwu, USC: Illinois' Kofi Cockburn had a solid week, but Okongwu has been just on the outskirts of the Frosh Watch and breaks through in a big way thanks to a game-high 28 points and 12 rebounds in USC's 87-76 win over Long Beach State on Sunday. The Trojans are a different team this season thanks to Okongwu's immediate impact on both ends of the floor.
In the victory vs. the Beach, Okongwu notched his fifth double-double of the season. He was 13 for 19 from the field. Just a monster. He's got a case as the best freshman in the Pac-12 -- and now has been established, clearly, as one of the 10 best freshmen in the sport.
Okongwu's already had five games with at least 20 points. He's won Pac-12 Freshman of the Week twice. He's putting up 18.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Oh, and there's the 3.1 blocks on average as well. Efficient and not afraid of the attention. Get to know him -- USC might make the NCAA Tournament this season because of him.
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through the first six weeks of the season.
Key stats: 19.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.0 APG | Last week: No. 1
Georgia's Anthony Edwards is holding steady in the top spot despite a dud in the desert. Against Arizona State in Georgia's first true away loss of the season on Saturday, he finished with 13 points, four rebounds and two assists, all below his season averages. It was just the third time all season he was held without a 3-pointer. And on a Bulldogs team that revolves around his skill set, an off night for him is nearly a guaranteed off night for his team.
2. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke
Key stats: 18.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.3 BPG | Last week: No. 2
Fresh off an impressive road win over Virginia Tech, Duke is in the midst of a two-week layover but is set to return to action on Wednesday. Still, Vernon Carey retains his No. 2 spot, with no other big man challenging to leap him. He's the only freshman in college basketball (among those who have played four or more games) to be averaging at least 18.5 points and 9.2 rebounds on the season.
3. COLE ANTHONY, UNC
Key stats: 19.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG | Last week: No. 3
North Carolina's first full game without Cole Anthony on Sunday resulted in UNC's worst loss of the season: to unranked Wofford. Anthony leads all ACC freshmen this season in scoring and steals, and without him, the Tar Heels don't have the goods to be as good as what they typically are. Anthony has a right knee injury that has sidelined him indefinitely, and UNC may be preparing for the possibility of playing No. 2 Gonzaga on the road Wednesday without him.
4. NICO MANNION, Arizona
Key stats: 14.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, 114.6 ORtg | Last week: No. 4
Mannion clings to the No. 4 spot this week after what will probably be the worst game of his college career. In Arizona's 84-80 home loss to Gonzaga on Saturday night, Mannion was a miserable 3-of-20 from the field. Credit to Gonzaga's Ryan Woolridge for outstanding man-to-man defense, but Mannion also had at least five shots not go in that would normally fall. It was a rough night and certainly one he won't forget; it will merely fuel him. Mannion played 36 minutes and also committed four fouls, but he did also dish 10 assists.
5. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona
Key stats: 15.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 69.1 eFG% | Last week: No. 5
While Nico Mannion had his worst game as a Wildcat vs. Gonzaga, Zeke Nnaji had his best freshman performance vs. the Zags. The budding talent finished with 16 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks. He was key to Arizona getting out early and never had a dip, even as everyone else around him struggled.
"You've gotta realize how hard it is to get 17 rebounds and 16 points in this kind of game," Arizona coach Sean Miller said Saturday night. "He returned back to form tonight. I think that's a really good sign for our team. I have to go a better job for getting him better opportunities on offense, of off rolls in the middle of the lane, not just in the post. If you look at his 10 shots, he probably got four or five by himself on second shots. That's not enough and that's my responsibility and we have to correct that for sure."
Nnaji's biggest strides need to come not just on defense, but with his assignments and defense rebounding. Grabbing nine boards on that end was a single-game high for him.
Key stats: 15.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 134.2 ORtg | Last week: No. 7
This week's Frosh Watch has copious amount of quotes from the Miller brothers on their star freshmen. Above, Sean on Nnaji. Here, Archie Miller on Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis, who has the highest Offensive Rating of any eligible freshman in the country.
"I think at some point in time he's got to become a little more refined on offense," Miller told CBS Sports last week. "Right now if you throw him the ball, it can turn into a bumper car fest out there, it's just rugged. But I think as he gets smarter with how to play out of the post, around different players, if he gets smarter playing maybe opposite of the post, as he gets better at it, we're going to have to play [through] him. His natural gifts of going and getting the ball are as good as it gets. He just goes and gets balls that other guys aren't going to get.
"He doesn't finish great yet, but I think as he gets more touch he's going to score. The thing he does as well as anybody and this has always been the case with him: he gets fouled. He always gets fouled. He's a lefty, he turns back into you all the time, he's awkward because he's not shooting with his right hand when he's supposed to. And he is physical. For a young dude, he is so physical down low. But he's still got room to grow. Defensively, there's times you look out there and you're like, 'He has no idea what he's doing.' But he covers up for that stuff in terms of all his other stuff. The biggest surprise in him is that he's on the fly. He doesn't get down on himself and keeps humming. He's got a great way about him. He's a great teammate, he's easy to like."
7. LANDERS NOLLEY, Virginia Tech
Key stats: 18.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 40.7 3P% | Last week: No. 6
Consistency has been the lone knock for Virginia Tech's Landers Nolley this season, but this past week he put together arguably his best two-game stretch all season. In wins over Gardner-Webb and Chattanooga, he averaged 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, all while making six of his 17 3-point attempts. Those showings were needed to lead the Hokies out of their three-game skid and back into the win column.
Key stats: 15.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 29.9 PER | Last week: No. 9
Kofi Cockburn's status as a NBA Draft prospect is in limbo, due to his offensively limited game (or what it projects to be) and his throwback style as a traditional power forward. But in college? Dude's a monster and is easily one of the 10 best players in the Big Ten already. He's already won Big Ten Freshman of the Week four times, which is already the most in school history. His 10.5 rebounds per game is tops among all freshmen. And he was critical in Illinois' huge home win over then-No. 5 Michigan last Wednesday, going for 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
9. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Key stats: 18.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.7 BPG | Last week: unranked
USC's Onyeka Okongwu finally gets his debut in the Frosh Watch. He's been simply too good to ignore. In his best all-around showing of the season Sunday, he scored a career-high 28 points and added 12 boards and three steals in a win over Long Beach State. Most impressive, Okongwu did it all while his best skill -- blocking shots -- went largely unused. Okongwu is No. 2 among all freshmen this season in shots blocked per game and has four games this season in which he's notched four-block performances, including an eight-block game in his college debut and a seven-block game last week against TCU.
10. ISAIAH STEWART, Washington
Key stats: 17.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.8 bpg | Last week: No. 8
We have rounded into a strong top 10 here, and we know that's the case because Stewart could be argued to be as high as No. 6 at this point. He only got bumped down because Cockburn, Ogunkwu and Jackson-Davis all continued to have good-to-great performance. Meantime, Stewart was idle. Washington's most recent game was the Dec. 8 home loss to Gonzaga. Next up is a home game vs. Seattle on Tuesday night. Stewart should come close to improving on his already-great 61% shooting clip from 2-point range.
Previous FOTW winners:
- Dec. 3:
- Dec. 10:
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