Question of the Week: Which NCAA men’s basketball freshman is having the best season so far?

By Dan Martucci

Maroon-News Staff

Joel Embiid is definitely the player to watch in the upcoming March Madness tournament. This 7’0″, 250-lb. center for the Kansas University Jayhawks has so much potential, he makes fellow freshman Andrew Wiggins look like old news. The hype around Wiggins was absurd at the beginning of the season; even I thought he was going to be absolutely insane at Kansas. The bottom line is that he just hasn’t performed like we all know he can. Wiggins has been averaging 16.0 ppg with 6.0 rpg; while these stats are really good for a college basketball player, they’re not for one that has been hyped up as much as he has. Embiid has been a solid player from the start, and the potential he has is unparalleled in the game right now. Not only is he a physical specimen, but he is also new to the sport of basketball! He started playing the 2011, and now he is averaging 11.2 ppg and getting 7.7 rpg.

Embiid, like Wiggins, is a player that could potentially go in the first round of the NBA draft next year.  When thinking about the most impressive freshman players in college basketball right now, Embiid is at the forefront of my mind because of his unique background and the numbers he has put up this year. I am looking forward to watching him continue to dominate in the anticipated tournament; it will also be interesting to see if Wiggins can up his game just a little more to the level we all know he is capable of playing at. 

By David Josselsohn

Maroon-News Staff

Jabari Parker. Duke has suffered through a rough patch recently, including a heart-breaking loss at the hands of Syracuse last Saturday, but that shouldn’t take away what this kid from Chicago has done to start the year. While other highly touted prospects like Andrew Wiggins have had disappointing seasons, Parker has shown us flashes of brilliance. He is immensely talented, boasting an incredible combination of both athleticism and size and a knack for finishing around the basket. The one place for improvement in Parker’s game is his jump shot, especially off the dribble. That shouldn’t be a worry, though, as that can be solved with some long hours in the gym. The scouting report on LeBron James used to be to let him have outside jumpers, but he has solved that issue, and I believe Parker will as well.

Parker has also handled himself well as a team player. Despite fouling out of Saturday’s game against Syracuse, Parker could be seen cheering and encouraging his team on throughout the overtime period. For a kid that will be one of the first picks in the upcoming draft, if he chooses to leave school, it’s wonderful to see him pulling for his teammates. How Duke fares this year will have little bearing over Parker’s draft status, but that should not matter to him.

Finally, Parker has played within himself. He hasn’t been a ball hog, looking only to stuff the stat sheet and widen the eyes of NBA scouts. He has deferred to his sidekick, Rodney Hood, a transfer from Mississippi State, when he has needed to. Hood is averaging numbers this year that couldn’t be achieved if Parker was dominating the ball excessively.

By Zander Frost

Maroon-News Staff

I don’t think there’s any answer but Joel Embiid. The Cameroonian big man came into his inaugural Jayhawk season looking like a high lottery pick, but the offensive progress and proficiency he has displayed has elevated him to must-watch status. The consensus seems to be that he has now leapfrogged his teammate, Andrew Wiggins, as the projected number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, should he depart Kansas.

The laudations are wonderful, but let’s talk about what makes him so elite. Per Kansas athletics, the 19-year old stands  at 7’0″  and weighs in at 250 lbs. At essentially ideal athletic center size, Embiid’s ability to run the floor, defend his position and consistently contribute at both ends of the floor has shown America a player that is far less raw than previously thought; Embiid began playing basketball at age 16. He is a prototypical superstar big man, and even earned a Bill Self comparison to Hakeem Olajuwon.

Perhaps the Olajuwon comparisons are the biggest part of the recent frenzied hype over Embiid, and who can really blame anyone for that? Olajuwon, a fellow African center, is one of the greatest centers to ever touch a basketball and a first ballot NBA Hall-of-Famer. Although this sounds a bit like uneducated stereotyping, similar to the Daisuke Matuzaka comparisons that happen every time a new MLB pitcher comes out of Asia, in this case the comparison does seem to fit. Heck, earlier this season Embiid performed the signature Olajuwon “dream shake” against the University of New Mexico. You can almost see the possibility of Embiid blossoming into an Olajuwon-esque player every time he touches or blocks the ball, and that is worth salivating over.

Embiid is truly the most impressive, and exciting, freshman in the NCAA. Here’s to seeing him continue it in the tournament.