With opening night of the 2019 college basketball season ending, this year’s freshmen class certainly did not disappoint in their first taste of NCAA action. We finally got to witness Duke’s Big Three on national television against Kentucky and their top-notch freshmen, as well as Kansas’ dynamic duo against Michigan State in the State Farm Champions Classic on ESPN. UNC’s Nassir Little, Indiana’s Romeo Langford, Oregon’s Bol Bol, and LSU’s Naz Reid all participated in their first games of their young college careers.
Duke Wins Big Over Kentucky
I think everybody knew Duke’s freshman trio of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish would be the college basketball version of a super team, but I don’t think anybody could have predicted they would absolutely dominate Kentucky in the way they did. Duke won last night 118-84 in a game that did not look competitive at any point in the contest. Williamson, Barrett, and Reddish combined for 83 of Duke’s 118 points, only 1 point shy of the Wildcats’ TOTAL score of 84.
The number one overall recruit, RJ Barrett, led the way with 33 points on 13-26 shooting and 3-7 from three, showing a knack for getting into the lane and scoring in a variety of floaters, acrobatic finishes, and dunks to go along with 6 assists and 4 rebounds. Perhaps the most anticipated debut of any college athlete since Ben Simmons, Zion Williamson from Spartanburg, SC put on a show for all those in attendance, totaling 28 points on 11-13 shooting with one three, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block in which he literally caught the ball in mid-air. Can we all agree that Zion is not just a dunker? He created shots at the rim for himself at will either finishing with his patented thunderous dunks or an acrobatic layup over the defense, and knocked down a pull-up long two-point jumper.
On the opposition, Keldon Johnson was an absolute stud in his first collegiate game, scoring 23 points on 50% shooting and knocked down a corner three in the first half. The 7th overall recruit will take over Kevin Knox’s role from last year as Kentucky’s primary option.
Other freshman stat lines:
Cam Reddish: 22 points (6/14, 3/8), 2 rebounds, 3 assists
Tre Jones: 6 points, 7 assists
Tyler Herro: 14 points (4/11, 1/6), 9 rebounds, 5 assists
EJ Montgomery: 8 points (4/6), 6 rebounds
Kansas Freshmen Win Close One Over Spartans
The freshman duo of Quentin Grimes (8th overall) and Devon Dotson (24th overall) looked like one of the best backcourts in all of the NCAA last night. Grimes, a projected lottery pick in the 2019 draft, posted 21 points on 7/14 shooting, while six of those made field goals were from three point range. His partner Dotson racked up 16 points on 6/11 from the field and 3/5 from beyond the arc. On a night where star forward Dedric Lawson had an off night (5/18 shooting), the two freshmen were able to lead the Jayhawks over a very good Michigan State team, 92-87, in a game that came down to the wire.
Duke and Kansas should be the undeniable top two teams in Division I basketball heading into next week, and they are two very early favorites to lock down top seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Nassir Little Effective of the Bench
UNC took down Wofford, 78-67, in a game they should have won by much more. Roy Williams’ Tar Heels are led by upperclassmen Luke Maye and Cam Johnson and sophomore Garrison Brooks, but there is a freshman named Nassir Little that needs more time to leave his mark on this Tar Heels team. In only 20 minutes in his collegiate debut, the 6th overall recruit shot 3/5 from the field and 1/2 from three en route to 7 points to go along with 3 assists and 2 rebounds. Armed with a very strong physical body at 6’7, 220 pounds, Little is a phenomenal open floor athlete and finisher at the rim with a developing outside jump shot. In Jonathan Wasserman’s first Bleacher Report 2019 Mock Draft he projected Little to go fifth overall behind Williamson, Barrett, Reddish, and Bol Bol (more on him later). If the Tar Heels want to have a successful season, Little must have a larger role on this team.
Romeo Langford Balls Out In Debut
Indiana easily handled Chicago State 104-55 last night in the much anticipate debut of top-five recruit, guard Romeo Langford. At 6’6, 195 pounds, Langford has the perfect NBA body for the shooting guard position. An Indiana native, Langford chose Indiana over Kansas to give head coach Archie Miller his first top-tier recruit at Indiana. In 26 minutes, Langford notched 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists in the team’s manhandling of Chicago State. Not known for his three point range, Langford will make his money at the rim both in the half-court and transition, and his mastery of the lost art of mid-range scoring. The wing should easily be a top ten pick in the 2019 draft for an NBA team looking for a scoring guard.
Son of NBA Great Secures His First Double-Double
Bol Bol, the fourth overall recruit in the Class of 2018 and son of the tallest player in NBA history Manute Bol, earned his first double-double of his young college career with 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds in just 23 minutes of an 84-57 rout of Portland State. He struggled from the field, only knocking down 4 of his 12 field goals, while not attempting a three, but more than made up for it on the defensive end with 3 blocks. At 7’2 with a 7’8 wingspan, it would not be a surprise to see Bol lead the country in blocked shots. Bol has legitimate unicorn potential with a sweet-looking outside stroke and is currently projected 4th overall on Wasserman’s mock draft.
Naz Reid and LSU Dominate
Naz Reid, a Roselle Catholic product, was the 12th overall recruit in the Class of 2018 for good reason. At 6’10 and a powerful 240 pound frame, Reid is a tremendous athlete for his size with an impressive faceup game. In 21 minutes of his LSU debut, the freshman cashed in on 6/13 from the field, knocking down one three leading to 17 points, as well as 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Another freshman projected in the top 10 of next June’s draft, Reid will pair with sophomore Tremont Waters and fellow freshman Javonte Smart to make a run in the SEC this season.
Pictures Courtesy of:
University of South Carolina ’21