Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Top Freshmen in the Big Sky

Last year, we had a top heavy freshmen class. Guys like Venky Jois, DeWayne Russell, and Joel Bolomboy had huge impacts early. This year, no one is really putting up numbers like those guys were, but there are a ton of solid contributors who will be great players in the future in this conference. I thought about ranking them, but there's not enough separation between guys to really do rankings, because it will change a hundred times between now and the end of the season. Instead, let's take a quick look around the league at some of the freshman and what they do well, to familiarize ourselves with the next cast of Big Sky stars.

- Jeremy Senglin (Weber State) - Senglin has played a lot of minutes as a true freshman in a successful program, and has represented himself well. He has a nice outside shot (36% threes), while also showing an ability to finish and make free throws. He is a solid passer with a 17.9 A Rate, though he needs to improve to become above average as a playmaker. He takes good care of the ball for a freshman. Guys like Jordan Richardson and Davion Berry shoulder a lot of the ballhandling load, but Senglin is the next backcourt star.

- Jordan Wilson (Northern Colorado) - Wilson will be in the discussion for freshman of the year, as he has played a big role on a solid team. He keeps defenses honest with his outside shot, and has become more assertive looking for shots as the year has gone along. He does a nice job taking care of the ball and staying in control, with a 16.1 TO Rate. His quickness allows him to be a good on-ball defender, and he makes life tough for opposing PGs. As he gets more and more comfortable, he should be a star in the conference and one of the most enjoyable players to watch in the Big Sky.

- Mario Dunn (Montana) - Dunn came into the year with big hype, and he hasn't disappointed, taking on bigger and bigger importance for the Grizzlies. He doesn't shoot the ball from the outside much, and will have to work on increasing his range. However, he is a good finisher (54% on twos), and has shown a nice ability to get to the line (although he only shoots 57% on free throws). He also has the potential to be an elite defender at the Big Sky level. The talk before the year was that Montana had found their next star in Dunn, and that is not any less true halfway through the Big Sky season.

- Ognjen Miljkovic (Eastern Washington) - He missed some time at the beginning of conference play, and he was missed by the Eagles. Like other Eagles, he has range to the three-point line, and is an effective shooter for his size/position. He is also a good rebounder, grabbing 16.5% of available defensive rebounds. He is becoming a versatile offensive weapon for the Eagles, and it wouldn't surprise me if he is EWU's second leading scorer next year (after Tyler Harvey).

- Quinton Hooker (North Dakota) - Hooker is not asked to do a lot for North Dakota, but he is a solid contributor with a bright future. He needs to work on his outside shot, but he has made 17/36 from inside the arc. Like other UND players, he has been adept at forcing turnovers, with a 3.2 steal percentage, which is in the top 170 in the nation. He has also shown an ability to be a playmaker, with a solid 22.3% Assist Rate. He is a good rebounder as well for his position. His role will be much bigger next year when all the seniors graduate, and he is getting a lot of valuable experience.

- Kris Yanku (Northern Arizona) - Yanku always seems to be steady and in control, such as when he made the game-winner last Saturday. He is not a great finisher yet (he shoots 37% on his two-point attempts), and will need to get stronger to finish plays at the rim. He turns it over a bit much, but that is a problem for a lot of NAU players. However, Yanku is a playmaker, and I think he could lead the conference in assists at some point in his career. He is also a crafty defender, with a 3.0% steal percentage. He has great moxie for a freshman.

Other solid contributors:
- Richad Gittens (Weber State)
- Kyndahl Hill (Weber State)
- Eric Stuteville (Sacramento State)
- Trey Kennedy (Southern Utah)
- John Marshall (Southern Utah)
- Ako Kaluna (Northern Arizona)

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