For the past two years, the Conference Chatter blog has put together a list of the top 10 freshmen basketball players in the Big 12 at mid-season.
Who will capture the mid-season honor this year?
It's not atypical for freshmen to be leading their respective squads. Jared Sullinger for No. 2 Ohio State. Terrence Jones for No. 13 Kentucky. Kyrie Irving, before injury, for No. 1 Duke. Will Barton for 12-4 Memphis.
In fact, nbadraft.net predicts the top 5 picks in the 2011 NBA Draft to be freshmen.
This season in the Big 12, which has five teams ranked in the top 25, several freshmen are making a distinct impact.
Please note: These picks are primarily based on proven production, and not as much on a prospect's potential ceiling.
Now introducing Conference Chatter's third annual top 10 rookies in the Big 12:
10. Jaye Crockett, Texas Tech
It's been a disastrous season in Lubbock (8-9 overall), but the 6-foot-7 forward has played rather well for a freshman, averaging 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Most important, perhaps, has been Crockett's accuracy (50.7 percent) from the field.
9. Phil Pressey, Missouri
Had it not been for a fractured finger, which sidelined the 5-10 freshman for four games, Pressey may have been higher on the list. As it is, Pressey, a four-star Rivals.com recruit coming into the season, showed flashes of his potential with 15 points and 11 assists against Central Arkansas on Dec. 18, 2010. But that was before the injury. Now that he's back and playing, how much will the injury affect him?
Pressey is averaging 4.5 points and 2.2 assists in 19.7 minutes per game this season.
8. Kourtney Roberson, Texas A&M
How about the Aggies this year? Mark Turgeon's surprising squad is 15-1 and ranked No. 14 in the country. Roberson, a 6-9 forward, is averaging 6.0 points and 4.4 boards per game. Roberson is only getting 12.5 minutes per game, but he's making them count, as evidenced by an impressive 59.4 percent field goal percentage. Roberson provides sturdy depth off the bench for an A&M squad that could challenge for the Big 12 title.
7. Cameron Clark, Oklahoma
The 6-6 guard/forward has started all 16 games for a struggling Oklahoma squad (8-8) going through a transition phase. Clark, ranked by Rivals.com the 34th-best freshman in the country coming into the season, has averaged 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He's caught fire lately with 15.75 points per game in his last four outings.
6. Andre Roberson, Colorado
The 6-7 versatile guard doesn't start, but has averaged 20 minutes and 6.5 points per game. Most impressive, though, is his ability to crash the glass. Roberson has produced an eye-popping 7.5 rebounds per game, and has landed double-digit boards in five games already. Tremendous for a freshman.
5. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
Ejim, a 6-6 forward who attended Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. (same prep school as KU's Thomas Robinson and 2011-12 KU commit Naadir Tharpe), has pieced together a startling freshman campaign, going for 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per night. His 54.7 field goal percentage is terrific. It would rank in the top five of the Big 12 standings, except Ejim is barely under the requisite of five field goals made per game (4.5).
4. Josh Selby, Kansas
Selby's only played in seven games for the Jayhawks, or else he would have likely been ranked higher on the list. In the few games he's been on the court, he's been a difference-maker. His most memorable game remains his first one, a 21-point effort in which he drilled the go-ahead three-pointer to preserve a KU victory over USC.
Curiously, Selby is shooting better from three-point range (45.9 percent) than he is from two-point distance (39.7). He has to become more aggressive and improve his shot selection from inside the arc. Once he does, that will create more opportunities at the foul line, where he has excelled (19-for-22, 86.4 percent). His two creative layups on Wednesday at Iowa State, both times from the right wing where Selby made a move in mid-air to avoid an incoming defender, proved that he has legitimate slashing ability. Once Selby adopts more of a mind-set to attack the rim, his two-point field goal percentage should improve.
The 6-2 guard is averaging 13.4 points, 3.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game for the No. 3 Jayhawks, and should continue to improve as the season progresses. Once he reaches his potential, look out.
NBADraft.net currently projects Selby the No. 11 overall pick in the summer's NBA Draft, while DraftExpress.com pegs him at No. 12.
3. Cory Joseph, Texas
Last season, Texas started 17-0, but went 7-10 the rest of the way in large part because it didn't have an effective point guard. Joseph, a 6-3 point who Rivals.com ranked the No. 8 freshman in the country heading into the season, gives the Longhorns a legitimate floor general.
His averages of 11.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game are nice, but Joseph's maturity is unique for a freshman. It could be argued Joseph is the most mature freshman in the Big 12, due to his 1.96 assists-to-turnover ratio, fifth-best in the Big 12 and tops among conference rookies.
Joseph also appears extremely calm for a freshman. I think back to the game-winner he drilled against North Carolina with 1.4 seconds to go in Greensboro, N.C. Joseph's highlights from the Carolina game remind me of a young Mario Chalmers, a guy who can get into the lane with ease and shoot the soft floater over the outstretched arms of rotating post men.
Texas (13-3, 1-0 Big 12) is dangerous this season, and Joseph is a big reason why.
2. Tristan Thompson, Texas
Say what you will about Texas coach Rick Barnes, but the guy recruits as well as anyone. Landing Joseph and Thompson has turned around a UT program that seemed in utter dismay last March when Texas lost to Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament.
Thompson has started 14 of 16 games for Barnes, and averages 12.7 points, 7.8 boards and two blocks (third in the Big 12) per contest. It would behoove opposing teams to make an effort to box out the 6-8 forward. Thompson's 4.1 offensive rebounds per game lead the conference.
One area he must improve before he's a dominant force on both ends of the floor: foul shooting. Thompson visits the charity stripe quite a bit (117 times). He's converted only 57 free throws for an anything-but-stellar 48.7 percent. For the amount of times he gets to the line, he probably should be averaging two to three more points per game.
1. Perry Jones, Baylor
Catch him while you can, because it will be the only season the 6-10, 220-pound forward/center plays college ball. Sure, Jones is a solid scorer (13.3 points per game), but he's an efficient scorer. His 56.7 shooting percentage ranks second in the Big 12 (only to KU's Marcus Morris and his ridiculous 60 percent clip from field) for players who make at least five field goals per game. Jones is also a heck of a rebounder (7.4 per game).
And he's maturing. He had 20 points, six boards and five steals on Jan. 8 at Texas Tech. In two conference games, Jones has scored 20 and 25 points. In watching a few Baylor games, his court vision is excellent. Jones is a gifted passer for a big man. His jump shot from 15 feet away from all around the court looks smooth.
Jones stays away from the three-point line (only 1-of-8), but that doesn't need to be a part of his game until he reaches the NBA. Bears teammate LaceDarius Dunn leads the league in three-pointers made per game (4.17). Jones is best served sticking with his offensive talents inside the arc, particularly with that high field goal percentage.
Jones and Quincy Acy form one of the most exciting dunking tandems around. The Bears (12-3) are off to a solid 2-0 start in conference play and should be a top-tier Big 12 team this season.
NBADraft.net predicts Jones to be the top overall pick in this year's NBA Draft, while DraftExpress.com pencils in Jones at No. 2.
That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.