Normally, there might be a few freshmen that earn enough time to make a significant impact, and usually they are guards. Last year, the three freshmen with the biggest impact were Dylan Garrity of Sacramento State, James Douglas of Northern Arizona, and Tevin Svihovec of Northern Colorado.
This year, there are four guys that stand out as having a big impact, and two of them are freshmen. What's more, the big men are really good, and at least a couple of the freshmen have a chance to be all-conference players. The top three in particular you could put in any order and be able to make a case. Further, a freshman leads the conference in scoring, rebounding (Jois and Bolomboy are one and two), blocked shots, and second in steals. The guys up top are having great seasons.
Let's rank them.
1. Venky Jois (Eastern Washington) - 13.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.3 BPG
All he has done so far in his first season is shoot over 50%, score 13 per game, and lead the Big Sky in rebounding and blocked shots. He has a good handle for a big man, which allows EWU to do a lot of things through him. He scores well on the low block, plays a ton of minutes, and looks to me like he will be the emotional leader of the team for his four years. All in all, you can't really ask for a better debut season than what Jois has brought so far.
2. DeWayne Russell (Northern Arizona) - 16.3 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.4 RPG, 2.0 SPG
After a blistering start, he has cooled down a bit but is still a very productive player. He leads the conference in scoring, as he is already really good at getting to the FT line and shooting 37% from long range. He presses at times, but that is not unexpected for a freshman who is being asked to do as much as Russell is doing. Defensively, he has quick hands, and he is second in the conference in steals. He is a great building block for Jack Murphy.
3. Joel Bolomboy (Weber State) - 7.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.9 BPG
On a per minute basis, it's tough to argue that Bolomboy has been the best freshman in the Big Sky. He is third in the country in DR% (29.0) and 18th in OR% (15.8). He has simply been incredible on the boards. He is second in the Big Sky in rebounds per game. His block rate is a superb 7.7% as well. So why is he only third? Here is the percentage of their team's minutes played for the top three:
Jois - 84.2%
Russell - 81.5%
Bolomboy - 54.9%
Through no fault of his own, he doesn't get the minutes the guys above him get. That puts him third on the list, though I could see him moving up by the end of the year.
4. Marcus Colbert (Montana State) - 5.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.1 APG
It's rare to say this about a freshman, but I think he has been a calming influence at the PG spot for the Bobcats. While Antonio Biglow was suspended, Colbert got more playing time, and the team went 4-1 and turned around their season. He is an unselfish player, and I think that rubs off on the rest of the team. He doesn't put up big numbers, but he doesn't take bad shots and has a good grasp of the offense.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Reuter (Eastern Washington), Daniel Hill (Eastern Washington), Greg Tucker (Northern Colorado)
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