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January 26, 2009
Monday tip: Who's the best freshman so far?
One of the story lines headed into this season was how the freshman class didn't stack up to the past two.
We're halfway through this season, and it's fair to say that this freshman class isn't as good as last season's – or the previous season's. But by no means is it bereft of talent.
We asked basketball writers Mike Huguenin and Jason King for their takes on the best freshman so far this season. Their picks show that this season's freshman class is a good one.
MIKE HUGUENIN: Memphis' Tyreke Evans
Memphis lost three starters off a team that made it to the NCAA title game last season, and those three starters also happened to be the Tigers' top three scorers. But coach John Calipari has been able to plug in touted freshman Tyreke Evans in the backcourt, and the results have been good.
Memphis is 16-3 and Evans, who chose Memphis over hometown Villanova, is the Tigers' leading scorer and third-leading rebounder. Evans has good size (6-6/220) but is a spotty perimeter shooter. Thing is, he knows that, so he doesn't force outside shots. He can overpower smaller guards and get to the rim. In addition, he has a solid mid-range game.
His ball-handling and passing skills need to improve, but unlike a lot of touted youngsters, Evans actually plays good defense. He averages almost three steals per game, thanks to a near 7-foot wingspan.
Evans scored the final seven points for Memphis in its 54-52 win at Tennessee on Saturday. Get used to that. While Evans isn't as talented as Derrick Rose, the Tigers' uber-freshman last season, he still will be the guy Memphis looks to down the stretch the rest of the way.
Aminu averages 12.6 points and 8.8 field-goal attempts per game. Those numbers easily could be higher, but the good thing about Aminu is that he hasn't tried to do too much on a Wake Forest squad filled with stars. In other words, Aminu has sacrificed individual success for the good of the team. The result has been a 16-1 record for Wake Forest, which was ranked No. 1 before last week's loss to Virginia Tech.
Scouts have been impressed with the maturity Aminu has shown at such a young age; some are predicting he'll be a lottery pick in this summer's NBA draft should he choose to leave school after his freshman season. They also love his team-high 8.6 rebounds per game, his 54.3 shooting percentage – and the knowledge that he's only going to get better.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.