Frosh Watch: Washington's Isaiah Stewart is Freshman of the Week; Duke's Vernon Carey leads freshman rankings
Our weekly look at the best of college basketball's young pups has some movement in the top 10
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
Isaiah Stewart, Washington: Long overdue pub for Isaiah Stewart, who is quietly keying Washington to its best start since 2014. Stewart edges out Arizona's Zeke Nnaji and Austin Peay's Jordyn Adams on the heels of a three-game week in which he averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds in three Huskies wins.
Stewart's impact as an energy guy and rim protector don't always show up in the stat sheet, but this week it did, a clear sign he's making quality progression in his first season in Seattle. In a win over Seattle last week he scored 27 points and grabbed 13 boards, then followed it up a week later with a 26-and-12 showing Monday against Hawaii. He entered the season squarely on the NBA's radar and has done nothing but dominate up to this point. More FOTW honors are coming his way if he continues to play at this level.
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through the first eight weeks of the season.
1. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke
Key stats: 18.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 38.8 PER | Last week: No. 2
Vernon Carey, who had 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting plus 10 boards and two blocks in only 23 minutes vs. Wofford on Dec. 19, steps into the No. 1 spot for the first time this season. He ranks top-five among all freshmen playing at least 20 minutes per game in these categories: points, rebounds, blocks average, in addition to PER and KenPom offensive rating. He is the focal piece for Duke's offense. He has been the best freshman in college basketball from game No. 1 until now. No guarantee he holds on to it, but if he maintains his current pace, he will.
Key stats: 19.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.1 spg | Last week: No. 1
A reminder to readers that the Frosh Watch is not tabulated and voted on by Matt Norlander and Kyle Boone based upon player of the year-type criteria. Freshmen don't need to be on winning teams in order to help their standing here. It's mostly about consistency, value and statistical impact. Because of this, we're almost at the stage where Anthony Edwards is a lock for top-five status wire to wire. A glimpse of him vs. SMU
3. NICO MANNION, Arizona
Key stats: 14.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 1.2 spg | Last week: No. 4
In Arizona's biggest game of the season earlier this month, against Gonzaga, Nico Mannion went a woeful 3-of-20 shooting and struggled to find a groove in a nationally-televised game. A week later, he scored 19 points as the Wildcats fell to St. John's. He's had more highs than lows this season and even with questions about his athleticism shading his NBA prospects, his feel for the game and ability to find open men at the college level has him holding steady at No. 3.
4. COLE ANTHONY, UNC
Key stats: 19.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.6 apg | Last week: No. 3
Cole Anthony is going to slip weekly, and should be out of the Frosh Watch by mid-January because of being out due to the MCL surgery and recovery. His traditional stats are good, but here's a worrisome sign: Anthony's ORtg per KenPom is a pasty 92.9, which is among the lowest of the 40-or-so freshmen we track for the Frosh Watch each week.
5. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona
Key stats: 16.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg | Last week: No. 5
Consider that slump kicked for Zeke Nnaji, who after failing to reach double figures twice in three games to open December has now averaged 20 points and 14 boards in his last two games. Nnaji's best overall game of the season came Saturday against St. John's, too, and despite the loss he scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He's still a work in progress but his production and impact on both ends of the floor is pushing Mannion as Arizona's most impactful player this season.
6. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Key stats: | Last week: No. 9
After earning FOTW honors last week, Onyeka Okongwu rewarded our vote of confidence with a four-block, 10 point outing against LSU -- the fifth time this season he's recorded at least four blocked shots in a game. He continues to emerge as USC's most intriguing NBA prospect and its most productive player. He leads all freshmen this season in shots blocked per game and ranks fifth in points per game.
Key stats: | Last week: No. 8
Kofi Cockburn's been a monster in the paint for Illinois all season, but he was a no-show Saturday in its loss to Mizzou, logging a season-low two rebounds. That's a blip on the radar for how his season has gone thus far, though. He's been a revelation for the Illini as a two-way force and we're expecting he'll bounce back ahead of Big Ten play on Jan. 2.
Key stats: 18.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 120.4 ORtg | Last week: No. 10
We're of two minds when it comes to how strong (or weak) this freshman class is. If Isaiah Stewart is No. 8 -- or even seventh -- then it's really not that bad. Stewart continues to match his preseason hype. He is definitely Washington's best and most consistent player to this point. And he's the only thing worth watching right about now, as UW is playing in the Diamond Head Classic -- the only games happening until Dec. 27 in college hoops. He went for 24 and 10 vs. Hawaii (but did foul out) on Monday night.
Key stats: 15.0 PPG, 8.98 rpg, 2.3 bpg | Last week: No. 6
Indiana's better-than-expected 11-1 start can be attributed in large part to Trayce Jackson-Davis playing at a really high level on a nightly basis. That start continued this past week in a tight win over Notre Dame, in which he scored 14 and added seven boards and a pair of blocks. The way he impacts the game on both ends of the floor has lifted the Hoosiers. If he continues to develop at this rate he'll be the best freshman in the Big Ten by season's end.
10. LANDERS NOLLEY, Virginia Tech
Key stats: 17.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.5 apg | Last week: No. 7
Nolley is taking advantage of Mike Young's system. Remember, Young made a lot of guys happy in college over the years by coaching smart offense at Wofford, most recently Fletcher Magee. Now Nolley's getting the nod to the tune of 6.4 3-pointers shot per game, making 44.2% of them. What's more, he's already commanding respect out there, it's allowed him to be a solid distributor. Virginia Tech is going to get some upsets in the ACC in January and February.
Previous FOTW winners:
- Dec. 3:
- Dec. 10:
- Dec. 17:
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