By Kevin Sweeney
Freshmen around the country are wrapping up final exams and officially completing their first semesters of college. So which mid-major freshmen are getting all A’s for their first semester on the basketball floor? Here are some of the top-performing mid-major youngsters throughout the country:
Jordan Dingle (Penn)
Stats: 17.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, .453/.367/.542
Dingle opened his career with 24 points and 7 rebounds on the road against Alabama and hasn’t looked back. Dingle is exactly the type of guard every mid-major should be recruiting: a true combo guard who can create for himself or others, light it up from downtown, and get to the rim. His presence in the backcourt has given a massive boost to a Penn team that desperately needed one more dynamic creator, as he has allowed Steve Donahue to surround super-skilled big man AJ Brodeur with tons of guys who can space the floor.
DeAndre Williams (Evansville)
Stats: 16.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.7 apg, .724/.476/.786
It’s still somewhat unclear what Williams’ eligibility looks like thanks to a spotty high school transcript, but Walter McCarty would love to have Williams suiting up for the Aces as long as the NCAA will let him. After being forced to sit out last season, Williams has made his presence felt so far at UE and in the process has become a legitimate candidate for Missouri Valley Player of the Year. The headliner performance was a 37 point, 10 rebound outburst against Miami (OH) in which Williams shot 17-18 from the field, but Williams has shown the ability to impact the game in so many ways since beginning his career in November. With Williams’ athleticism, versatile offensive game, and defensive upside, Williams may start getting pro looks sooner rather than later.
TJ Weeks, Tre Mitchell, and Sean East (UMass)
– Weeks: 14.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.6 apg, .422/.485/.719
– Mitchell: 13.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, .467/.229/.60
– East: 10.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.0 apg, .478/.381/.826
Matt McCall needed a dynamite recruiting class after a disaster of a year two in Amherst, and early returns are very promising. Landing prep teammates Weeks and Mitchell was a massive coup– Mitchell was the most highly-touted of the bunch, but Weeks has looked every bit the part of a future star in due time. As Mitchell continues to improve his body, his diverse offensive game should continue to shine through. Weeks is an absolute sniper– shooting 49% from downtown on the young season. Becoming more well-rounded on the offensive end is the only thing separating him from being a star. Meanwhile, don’t forget about East, a heady PG who looks like a steal after being overshadowed in high school by Romeo Langford. The Minutemen are a different team when East is on the floor running the show.
Jahmir Young (Charlotte)
Stats: 10.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, .423/.382/.731
After starring at elite HS program Dematha Catholic and on the AAU circuit for Team Takeover, it was obvious that Young would be a major contributor for Ron Sanchez and Charlotte. Still, his early emergence for a 49er team that has started strong has been impressive to watch. He may not be the biggest or most explosive player on the floor, but Young is everything you want in a mid-major PG– smart, crafty, and always in the right place at the right time. His beyond-his-years floor game has made him an invaluable piece of the rotation for Sanchez: Young is second on the team and 10th in the CUSA in minutes per game.
Joshua Morgan (Long Beach State)
Stats: 9.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, .712/.000/.586
I got the chance to watch several of Morgan’s games when the Beach played at Wooden Legacy over Thanksgiving weekend and came away very impressed. For a lanky 6-11 kid whose recruitment was very quiet, it’s incredibly impressive how coordinated and smooth Morgan is around the rim. He’s a great lob finisher and rim runner who is thriving in his role right now. He also has made an immediate impact defensively for LBSU thanks to his ability to protect the rim, averaging over 2 blocks per game in just over 25 minutes per contest.
Tyson Walker (Northeastern)
Stats: 10.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 3.6 apg, .460/.385/.667
Walker came in highly regarded in northeast recruiting circles and has shown why so far this season. The talented playmaker has served as the perfect complement to elite scoring guard Jordan Roland in the backcourt, finishing well around the rim, distributing, defending, and even hitting some outside shots. As is expected with freshmen PGs, turnovers have been a problem at times. That said, with how well Bill Coen develops talent, expect Walker to iron out those early miscues and turn into an absolutely terrific player in Beantown.
Charles Pride, Benson Lin, and Michael Green (Bryant)
– Pride: 11.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, .500/.370/.765
– Lin: 8.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, .357/.345/.583
– Green: 8.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, .385/.222/.842
Given his track record, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone to see Jared Grasso bring in a recruiting class like this in his first full cycle in Smithfield. During his time under Tim Cluess at Iona, Grasso time and time again found under-the-radar gems while also not being afraid of going into a crowd to land coveted kids. He stole Charles Pride from a host of bigger mid-major programs, a move that has paid immediate dividends thanks to Pride’s three-level scoring ability. Lin popped to the Bulldogs late after decommitting from Manhattan and has earned a pair of NEC Rookie of the Week honors so far, flashing his ability to hit outside shots and craftiness around the rim. Finally, Green is the type of undersized ballhandler that can thrive in the NEC, a speedy kid who is terrific with the ball in his hands and whose outside shot should come along in time. The Bulldogs look every bit the part of an NEC title contender, and if Grasso can keep this group together long-term: watch out.
Amari Davis (Green Bay)
Stats: 16.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.5 apg, .581/.000/.614
The early-season numbers from Davis are a little remarkable. A 6-3, 170 pound guard, Davis has attempted just two three-point shots but is shooting 76% at the rim and 58% overall from the field. Whether he can keep up this rather ridiculous finishing rate is certainly a question worth asking, but having a guy who gets downhill as often as Davis does is a major asset for a team that plays as fast as Green Bay does. Development as a shooter could make this kid special.
Marcus Domask (Southern Illinois)
Stats: 13.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, .490/.420/.842
Domask was originally committed to John Brannen at Northern Kentucky, but the coaching carousel left him looking for a new home. Bryan Mullins is probably thanking the basketball gods for that, as Domask looks the part of a major long-term piece for the Salukis. The 6-6 wing/forward has excelled in nearly every statistical category– shooting the ball extremely well from downtown, showing some creation ability off the bounce. He also can defend multiple positions, a major weapon in modern basketball. I’m excited to track Domask’s growth under Mullins given how strong the new head coach’s track record is with player development dating back to his time on staff at Loyola.