From Cade Cunningham to Jalen Suggs to Adam Miller, college freshman have exploded out of the starting gate | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / January 23.
  • From Cade Cunningham to Jalen Suggs to Adam Miller, college freshman have exploded out of the starting gate

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    There’s an old expression that “The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.”

    Yet in this modern one-and-done environment, many top college basketball freshmen don’t become sophomores because they leave for the NBA Draft.

    Just two days into this season, several certain or possible one-and-dones have put on a show and looked nothing like freshmen.

    Here’s a quick list of some of the top performances:

    Cade Cunningham, Okalhoma State.

    The projected No. 1 pick finished with 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting with 10 rebounds in his first game and young Oklahoma State fended off UT Arlington 75-68 in a season opener on Wednesday. The 6-foot-7 point guard posted Oklahoma State’s first 20-10 game since 2018.

    Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga

    Now projected as the No. 18 pick in 2021 per ESPN.com, Suggs scored 17 of his 24 points in the second half and added eight assists with just one turnover as No. 1 Gonzaga handily defeated No. 6 Kansas, 102-90, on Thursday in the Fort Myers Tip-Off. And he did all that while being guarded by Marcus Garrett, the reigning national defensive player of the year. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to imagine Suggs playing a big part in a national championship run by the Zags and then getting chosen in the lottery.

    Greg Brown, Texas

    The 6-9 freshman from Austin made headlines in April by choosing his home-state school over Auburn, Kentucky, Memphis and Michigan and the NBA G League. Now the projected No. 16 pick in 2021 per ESPN, he had 11 points and 10 rebounds with 5 turnovers in Texas’ season-opener, making headlines with this dunk.

    Adam Miller, Illinois

    The 6-foot-3 guard from Morgan Park (IL) and the Mac Irvin Fire AAU was still flirting with Michigan after committing to Illinois in November, but coach Brad Underwood eventually landed him on campus. And it’s a good thing he did. Miller scored 19 points in the first half on Wednesday in his Illinois debut and then broke the program record for most points by a freshman in their first game, finishing with 28. On Thursday, Miller went for 15 in a rout of Chicago State.

    Andre Curbelo, Illinois

    The native of Puerto Rico and former Long Island Lutheran star is averaging 13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists as No. 8 Illinois has put up 219 points in its first two games. On Thursday, he put up 18 points and 7 rebounds against Chicago State.

    β€œHe’s the consummate lead guard, he’s a guy that makes everybody around them better,” Underwood told me in February. β€œHe’s as good a passer as I’ve seen at the high school level. β€œI’ve compared him to Trae Young a little bit in that area. He doesn’t shoot it like Trae yet but [he] has uncanny vision.”

    Josh Christopher, Arizona State

    The 6-5 Christopher teased Michigan fans before pledging to Bobby Hurley and the Sun Devils in April. After putting up 11 points and 4 rebounds against Rhode Island on Wednesday, Christopher went for 28 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists as No. 18 Arizona State lost to No. 3 Villanova in the Empire State Classic final on Thursday. He’s a human highlight reel and is now projected at No. 11 in the ESPN mock draft.

    Cliff Omoruyi, Rutgers

    The highest-rated recruit to choose Rutgers in more than a decade, the 6-11 Omoruyi went for 14 points and 11 rebounds while putting on a dunkfest in Rutgers’ season-opening win against Sacred Heart on Wednesday. Omoruyi chose Rutgers in March over Auburn and Arizona State, opting to stay home in New Jersey in part because of the pandemic. Now he’s one of the most exciting players Rutgers has had in recent memory.

    Cam Thomas, LSU

    The 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Oak Hill (VA) Academy chose LSU over UConn, Auburn and UCLA last November. In Thursday’s win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Thomas scored 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting with four 3-pointers along with two assists and two steals.

    Day’Ron Sharpe, UNC

    In a 79-60 win over College of Charleston on Wednesday the 6-10 former Montverde (FL) Academy big man finished the game with a double-double scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. ESPN has him at No. 22 in its mock draft.

    Dawson Garcia, Marquette

    The Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year went led Marquette with 19 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds in the season-opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He went 5-of-8 from the field and 8-of-10 from the line while flashing an ability to facilitate and board.

    B.J. Boston, Terrence Clarke, Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky

    Boston, now the projected No. 3 pick in 2021, went for 15 points and 7 boards in his debut, while Clarke, now at 15, had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Jackson tallied 9 points and 4 rebounds.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.