Each year, a crop of incoming freshman make a huge impact on the face of college basketball. A year ago, it was Kansas’s Andrew Wiggins and the virtually the entire starting five at Kentucky that included the likes of Julius Randle and James Young. This season, some new faces are helping programs like Duke and Arizona maintain their presence among the college basketball elite. Here’s a look at an All-Freshman lineup featuring the 2014-15 season’s best.
Jahlil Okafor, Duke C
At 6-11, Okafor brings back memories of the post players of yore. He is big, strong, and has a deft touch with inside. Okafor leads the Blue Devils in both scoring (18.7 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 rpg). He is shooting 67 percent from the floor and is one of the big reasons why Duke is 17-3 and ranked No. 4 in the country. Okafor is easily the best freshman in the country and a likely No. 1 selection in next year’s NBA Draft should he declare. He has amazing court presence for a big man and is far from one-dimensional. Okafor alone makes Duke a No. 1 seed come tournament time.
Kevon Looney, UCLA F
The Bruins are young and inexperienced, but head coach Steve Alford will return the program to greatness. One of the keys to building a consistent winner at UCLA will be Looney, a versatile 6-9 forward, who averages a double-double. Looney scores 13 points and grabs just over 10 rebounds a game for the Bruins. He has proven he can take control of a game when he scored 27 points and had 19 rebounds in a double overtime win over Stanford on Jan. 8.
Stanley Johnson, Arizona F
The sixth-ranked Wildcats are one of the nation’s top offensive teams in the nation averaging nearly 76 points per game. Their leading scorer? The 6-7 Johnson, a proven scorer in a lineup that is loaded with players that can fill it up. Johnson also leads the team in rebounding, averaging 6.9 boards per game. He has the unique ability to get himself to the free throw line where he shoots 72 percent. Johnson will no doubt be counted on to lead Arizona (19-2, 7-1) into the NCAA tournament where they are a likely No. 1 seed.
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State G
Next to Okafor, Russell is probably enjoying the best season of any freshman in the country. The 6-5 guard averages 19.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. Russell is truly electric and is the reason that the Buckeyes (16-5, 5-3) are even relevant in the Big Ten. He has had numerous big games including the 27-point, 14-rebound performance in a loss to Iowa on Jan. 17. Russell followed that performance by dropping 33 points on Northwestern. Ohio State will likely be a team to look out for in the NCAA tournament all because of Russell, who could be the Big Ten’s Player of the Year.
Melo Trimble, Maryland G
Maryland basketball is back and 6-2 Melo Trimble is a big part of the Terrapins success. Now ranked at No. 16, Maryland is 18-3 and 6-2 in the Big Ten and Trimble is their leading scorer. He averages 16.3 points per game on a Terrapins team that has plenty of scorers (Jake Layman and Dez Wells). Trimble also averages nearly four rebounds and three assists a game for head coach Mark Turgeon. Despite being just a freshman, Trimble leads the team in minutes played, averaging 33 per game.
Off The Bench
What would a great basketball team be without its bench? Karl Anthony-Towns and Devin Booker part of another phenomenal freshman class at No. 1 Kentucky. Booker is the team’s second-leading scorer with 10.8 points per game despite playing just a half each contest. The 6-11 Anthony-Towns plays just 19 minutes a game and averages 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. Also off the bench would be a pair of Kansas freshman, Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre. The two Jayhawks, like their peers at Kentucky, barely play a half each game but contribute greatly. The 6-8 Alexander scores 8.6 points a game and averages 5.9 rebounds. Oubre, who many believe could be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft, averages 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in a little over 18 minutes a game.