Calendars are about to switch over to February, and the stretch run is about to kick in for every team in the country. The push for conference titles and post-season berths will be kicked into high gear, and players will bring their best efforts to the hardwood night in and night out.
With the end of the season near, it’s time to think about individual awards in the NCAA. Starting at the end of February, we will be opening the fan-voting for the 2nd Annual Fan-Voted All-American awards.
But, we also hand out our own hardware here at College Court Report. With that, it’s time to put out some watch lists to give you an idea of where we are leaning in terms of overall awards. Each day of the week, we will update a different Watch List for different awards.
Here is the first edition of the Freshman of the Year Watch List. Overall, four of the ten players are from mid-major programs, while there’s no surprise as to who is #1 to kick off award season here at College Court Report.
Take a scroll down to see who cracks the Top 10 in the first edition of CCR Freshman of the Year Watch List, to be updated every Thursday.
#1: Ben Simmons – LSU Tigers
Stats: 19.8 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.0 bpg
Ben Simmons has been one of the top players in college basketball ever since he stepped on the hardwood for the first time in an LSU jersey. Even though the team results haven’t matched up with the individual production of Simmons, he has lived up to the pre-season hype, and has proven why he will most likely be the #1 pick come NBA Draft time (that is, IF he declares early). Simmons can do it all for the Tigers. He has the size of a power forward with the ball-handling skills and shooting ability of a guard. A player of his calibre comes around once in a blue moon, and barring any major surprise, Simmons will come away with the award.
#2: Jamal Murray – Kentucky Wildcats
Stats: 17.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.3 spg
Murray gave Kentucky fans a big gift before the season started, re-classifying to 2015 and choosing to play for the Wildcats. After bursting onto the scene at the 2015 Pan American Games while playing for Team Canada, Murray has kept up his strong play while with Kentucky. He has been streaky from the floor at times as a freshman, but consistency will develop as he gains more experience. His quickness and shooting ability make him a highly-coveted prospect at the next level, and he is playing some strong basketball this season.
#3: Brandon Ingram – Duke Blue Devils
Stats: 17.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.5 bpg
As a whole, the season has been full of ups-and-downs for the Duke Blue Devils. Amidst some turbulence in 2015-16, the play of Brandon Ingram has remained relatively consistent, and he has been compared to Kevin Durant on several occasions. Despite his lanky frame, Ingram is an imposing force on both ends of the floor. He can shoot from distance or finish at the rim on offense, and is a strong rim protector on defense. If he can fill out, and add some size to his frame, he will be a star in the NBA for years to come.
#4: Malik Beasley – Florida State Seminoles
Stats: 17.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 apg
The recruiting class of 2015 was one of the best in recent years for the Florida State Seminoles, as it brought in some high-profile talents. One of those players is Malik Beasley, who has emerged as a viable number one scoring option for the Seminoles. The addition of Beasley and fellow freshman Dwayne Bacon has taken some of the pressure off of Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and the team is slowly starting to put things together. Beasley has put up some solid numbers in 2015-16, and if he can help lead the Seminoles to a strong finish on the season, he could very well climb the rankings.
#5: James Thompson IV – Eastern Michigan Eagles
Stats: 15.5 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.6 bpg
The top mid-major freshman on our list resides in the MAC, and calls Ypsilanti, MI his home. James Thompson IV has been a strong addition to the front court for Eastern Michigan, and he gives the Eagles a go-to option in the paint. He has recorded 12 double-doubles as a freshman, including two straight (as of Jan. 28). He put up a career-high 32 points against Marygrove on Nov. 25th, and then grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds the next time out. Thompson is a double-double threat on a nightly basis, and is well-deserving of a spot on our list.
#6: Henry Ellenson – Marquette Golden Eagles
Stats: 15.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg. 2.0 apg, 1.5 bpg
The highest-rated recruit to go to Marquette in recent years is living up to the pre-season hype. Henry Ellenson has averaged a double-double in his first season with the Golden Eagles, and has been a key cog in their resurgence in the Big East. After a down year in 2014-15, Ellenson has brought a sense of optimism to the program, even if it’s only for one season. His name isn’t mentioned as much as others on the national scale in comparison to others on our list (Simmons, Ingram, Murray), but his talent is undeniable.
#7: Jordon Varnado – Troy Trojans
Stats: 15.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.2 bpg
Even though the Troy Trojans enter Thursday night’s game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers having lost three straight, and sitting at 6-14 overall, they have a star in the making in their front court. Jordon Varnado has quietly put together an impressive campaign with the Trojans, and has kept them in games on a nightly basis. His best game of the season came on the road against the Seton Hall Pirates, when he put up 25 points and 11 rebounds.
#8: Tookie Brown – Georgia Southern Eagles
Stats: 17.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.1 spg
The Georgia Southern Eagles are one of the NCAA’s youngest teams, but their youngsters have a ton of talent, and Tookie Brown is leading the way. Brown is the team leader in points and assists per game, while shooting a team-best 42.2% from the floor. The Eagles put points on the board (78.1 ppg), and Brown has been a big reason for their offensive outbursts. Look for Brown to stuff the box score on a nightly basis down the stretch.
#9: Dejounte Murray – Washington Huskies
Stats: 14.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.7 spg
In 2015-16, the Washington Huskies have relied heavily on freshmen, and people wondered how well they would adapt to playing at the Division I level and having that kind of pressure on them. By looking at the play of Dejounte Murray, the guard has made a smooth transition to the next level, and is playing some great basketball. With his size (6’5”), he can battle in the paint for rebounds, or stretch the floor with his shooting abilities. Murray is the team leader in rebounds and is tied for the team lead in assists, and has been a key piece in the Huskies’ 5-2 start in Pac-12 play (good for 2nd place).
#10: Brian Parker – Marist Red Foxes
Stats: 16.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.4 apg
The dark horse in the race for CCR Freshman of the Year is Marist guard Brian Parker. Playing in the MAAC, he often gets overshadowed by the likes of the Iona Gaels, the Monmouth Hawks, and the Siena Saints. Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s time to pay attention to the Red Foxes, because Parker is a star in the making. Parker is second on the team in scoring, and first on the team in both rebounds and assists. Despite Marist’s 4-14 record, watch the Red Foxes, because you’ll want to see them play before it’s too late.
Dedric Lawson – Memphis Tigers
Jaylen Brown – California Golden Bears
Dwayne Bacon – Florida State Seminoles
Derick Newton – Stetson Hatters
Tyler Hall – Montana State Bobcats
Here is the schedule for each day of the week, and which watch list will be put out on that day.
Monday: CCR Player of the Year Watch List
Tuesday: CCR Breakout Player of the Year Watch List
Wednesday: CCR Coach of the Year Watch List
Thursday: CCR Freshman of the Year Watch List
Friday: CCR Mid-Major Player of the Year Watch List
*All statistics as of Wed. Jan. 27, 2016