Thursday, October 1, 2009

Buy 12, get 12 free: Impact freshmen

In yesterday's 12 @ 12, we looked at the top dozen impact freshmen in the country. That just wasn't enough to cover all of the bases. Here is a look at 12 more guys that should make a significant impact this season as college rookies.

1. John Henson, North Carolina – It was hard leaving the 6-11 combo forward off the original 12 @ 12 list yesterday. The reason? Ed Davis, Deon Thompson and Tyler Zeller. Henson will play and play a lot but the seasoned veterans will play more early and Henson’s strength will still be a question mark this season. But that, of course, doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the true elite NBA prospects in the college game right now.

2. Xavier Henry, Kansas (pictured) – There are no secrets about his scoring ability. For four years straight on the national circuit, Henry pumped in points and points and points. That is exactly what he’ll do for one of the best teams in the country. Henry won’t be asked to be the go-to guy either. That will be the first time in his young career. And that could be exactly what he needs to be a big-time contributor this season.

3. J’Covan Brown, Texas – There is a belief coming out of Austin this pre-season that Brown, not Bradley, will have a bigger impact this year. I, for one, am not as high but do see a need for the value that Brown brings. He can score. He can defend. He’s tough. He’s athletic. He’s also hard-headed. In some cases, that is exactly what a team needs. For the Longhorns, he’s the perfect answer in a backcourt that needs some depth, skill and scoring.

4. D.J. Richardson, Illinois – The Illini lost three starting guards from last year’s team and replaced them with three intriguing in-state prospects. Richardson is the king pin of the bunch. The Peoria native can defend, score and play all over the floor. He fine-tuned his game at Findlay Prep last year and he should be ready to step right into a starter’s role and shine. Don’t be surprised to see him develop into one of the premiere winners in the Big Ten.

5. Lamont Jones, Arizona – There is a need for scoring in Arizona’s backcourt and there aren’t many players that can throw up shots quite like Jones. He has a quick trigger and great range on his jumper. Arizona needs a shot in the arm and Jones should provide it. There is a reason why he was committed to Southern Cal, Virginia Tech and Louisville. Schools from coast-to-coast wanted him and wanted him bad. The reason? He can really pump in the points. Don’t be surprised to see him score over 14 a game this year.

6. Alex Oriakhi, Connecticut – Watch the rough and tough power forward and you get a feeling that Jeff Adrien might be back in Storrs. There is a need for a player like Oriakhi at UConn right now and his knock you around, take your ball from you and make your cry bully behavior on the low blocks is exactly what Jim Calhoun needs alongside a freakish athlete like Stanley Robinson.

7. Tommy Mason-Griffin, Oklahoma – The Sooners will hand TMG the keys to the car and ask the Houston native to press the gas to the floor this year. Small in stature but big on confidence, Mason-Griffin ended his high school career well and knows the studs on the OU roster as well as you’d want your freshman point guard to know his team. TMG should start every game and be one of the top assist men in the Big 12.

8. Noel Johnson, Clemson – When Terrence Oglesby decided to leave college after his sophomore year for a pro career overseas, the Tigers needed to replace his perimeter offense. Boy did they. Oliver Purnell and his staff were able to pluck Johnson from the ripe Georgia recruiting fields and could even have an upgrade at the two guard position with Johnson. He can do a lot of things in the backcourt. While Milton Jennings is the marquee player (he was a McDonald’s All-American), Johnson will be the most important freshman on the Clemson team this year.

9. Roberto Nelson, Oregon State – Someone has to score points for the Beavers. Lucky for Craig Robinson, that is what Nelson does really well. Oregon State is enjoying more recruiting notoriety with Robinson now at the helm and Nelson was one of the first major scores. He’ll be asked to do a lot and if he scores upwards of 16 points a game, don’t be surprised.

10. Nolan Dennis, Baylor – Scott Drew has had successful for consecutive years with a multiple guard lineup. That was mostly out of necessity. This year with Dennis, a former Memphis commitment, the Bears can throw a number of big guards on the floor and not only confuse defenses with skilled offensive players but also do something that the Bears haven’t done a good job at in the past – defend in the backcourt.

11. Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech – The focus is on another freshman in Atlanta this year. Maybe you’ve heard of him – Derrick Favors? Yeah, he’s good. But Udofia means more in the grand scheme of things. Why? Udofia is a leader, a winner and a competitive and aggressive player. That is what the team lacked last year. His attitude is already rubbing off on the team. Udofia will glue all of the talent together. That is hard to measure in the box scores.

12. Dane Miller, Rutgers – Does this one surprise you? It shouldn’t. The 6-7 forward will play nearly 28 minutes a game this year because of his versatility. Miller is one of the most versatile players in the 2009 high school class and he is yet to tap into his high-level talent. Don’t be surprised to see his name on the Big East Freshman of the Week list several times this year.

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