As the college basketball world becomes increasingly focused on freshmen and finding the next Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, or Kevin Durant, it’s only natural to take a look at the cream of the Big Ten’s incoming freshmen class.
That being said, there are always freshmen that will be impact players come March. You won’t find John Wall or Derrick Favors this year but you will find some very good players that should have an immediate impact at their schools.
This list is not supposed to be the five best freshmen but the five that will have the greatest impact for their teams. Obviously if there is not enough playing time available, it will be tough for a guy to make a name for himself.
Royce White – Minnesota – 6-8 – 249lbs – Video
White is the gem of the Big Ten freshmen class – a 5-star SF – but he’s also facing misdemeanor charges of theft and fifth-degree assault after attempting to shoplift at the Mall of America. He is suspended indefinitely at this point but there is little doubt that he will be contributor at some point this season. [Update: According to Myron Medcalf, White is a suspect for ANOTHER robbery on campus.]
Regardless of his legal issues, White is described as an instant impact player who is a physical presence capable of finishing on the block as well as knocking down the occasional three point shot. White has the potential to be a dominant player in the league who can play inside and out, but he has to get his head on straight and stay out of trouble.
DJ Richardson – Illinois – 6-3 – 185lbs – Video
DJ Richardson scored 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting including 5 triples to break the game open for the Illini in their season opening win over Quincy. Richardson is a 6 foot 3 shooting guard who has the talent and athleticism to make an instant impact. He will be relied upon to score but Bruce Weber also expects him to be a lockdown defender after the loss of Chester Frazier.
Last year’s Illinois team lacked the threat of a true wing scorer. McCamey could score at times, but he was very inconsistent and most of their offense relied on Davis and Tisdale inside. Richardson, along with fellow incoming freshman Brandon Paul, should diversify the Illinois attack.
Christian Watford – Indiana – 6-9 – 220lbs – Video
This appears to be the year where Indiana finally makes their way back to respectability and Christian Watford, along with fellow big time recruit Maurice Creek, will lead the way. The 6-foot-9 wing can score the ball both inside and out, and he will definitely get his chances on a team that desperately needs talent. Although he’s a bit skinny, he has a very strong ability to finish in traffic, and his pull up jumper is a strong weapon. He’s also money from the charity stripe – 16 for 17 in two exhibition games. Watford has looked good in the early going and seems to be a safe bet as an instant impact freshman.
Drew Crawford – Northwestern – 6-5 – 185lbs
Crawford might not be as highly regarded as some of the other freshmen in the conference but he should be a contributor for the Wildcats. The 6 foot 5 guard/wing is a bit of a work in progress but he continues to develop his game and started the Wildcats exhibition game. Crawford should give the Wildcats a more athletic scoring option that they have lacked in previous years.
Maurice Creek – Indiana – 6-5 – 200lbs – Video
Bloomington’s other instant impact freshman, Creek is a guard who can score points in a hurry, and also the guy who made Tom Crean tweet when he was deemed eligible. He has tremendous shooting range, above average size, and impressive athleticism for a guard, allowing him to get to the basket with ease, where he’s a very effective finisher. Creek’s main issue is his still developing handle and his tendency to occasionally rely too much on the three point shot. Regardless, Creek should start for the Hoosiers and has already posted impressive stat lines in both of Indiana’s exhibition games.
Brandon Paul (Illinois): The other heralded Illinois freshman should start alongside DJ Richardson. Paul is a scorer and you might remember him after some of his shootouts against Michigan freshman Matt Vogrich. There is definitely playing time available in the Illinois backcourt with the departures of Chester Frazier and Trent Meachum. Paul just missed the list.
Darius Morris (Michigan): Morris looks to have the point guard position sewn up in Ann Arbor, the question is how will he perform.
Rodney Williams (Minnesota): Easily the most athletic newcomer in the conference, Williams just has to work on developing his game and finding playing time in Minnesota’s crowded roster.
Garrick Sherman (Michigan St.): Big man will get his chances with Suton’s departure but there are not enough minutes to go around with Roe, Green, Nix, and Herzog around him.
Derrick Nix (Michigan St.): It remains to be seen which freshman big man is the better player in East Lansing but neither of them should get enough minutes to make a major impact barring injures.
DJ Byrd (Purdue): Byrd is no doubt a good player, but there just isn’t room for a freshman to shine on Purdue’s roster.
Tim Frazier (Penn St.): One of the more ballyhooed freshmen to come to Penn State in recent years but he is playing behind Talor Battle.
Justin Cobbs (Minnesota): He’s not the razzle dazzle prospect that White and Williams are but he has the potential to make an instant impact in the backcourt at Minnesota.
Jordan Hulls (Indiana): Yet another highly regarded Hoosier, Hulls led his highschool team to an undefeated season and a state championship in Indiana.