Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Ranking college basketball’s best freshmen: USC’s Isaiah Collier earns first Freshman of the Week honors

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The 2023-24 college basketball season is in the early stages but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to what some of the best first-year players in the sport have been up to.

It’s no surprise that USC star freshman Isaiah Collier has already taken the college basketball world by storm. Collier was the No. 2 overall prospect by 247Sports and has used his unique blend of size, speed and strength to already become one of the best true point guards in the sport.

Collier isn’t the only freshman playing winning basketball for his team. Baylor wing Ja’Kobe Walter couldn’t have had a more impressive debut with the Bears. Walter scored 28 points and grabbed six rebounds in a win over Auburn on the second day of the regular season. In total, there are five different conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) represented on our initial rankings.

Let’s jump into our first rankings and get to our first CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week for the the 2023-24 college basketball season

Freshman of the Week: Isaiah Collier, USC

Welcome back to the Frosh Watch, our weekly ranking of the five most impressive freshmen in college basketball. CBS Sports has once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award to present this every-Tuesday feature. Each week we’ll start by announcing the national Freshman of the Week honoree. The cycle for FOTW runs Tuesday-Monday.

The sample size for the Week 1 winner dates back to the start of the season. In Collier’s first collegiate game, he stole the show in a win over Kansas State. Collier scored 18 points and dished out six assists and he followed up that performance with a 19-point showing before scoring 23 points and 24 points in games against UC Irvine and Brown last week. Collier is a true point guard who possesses elite passing abilities, but he’s also not afraid to drive to the hoop with aggression. Collier currently ranks No. 2 in the Pac-12 in scoring behind Washington star Keion Brooks Jr

Frosh Watch: Top five freshman rankings

1. Isaiah Collier, USC

Stats: 21.0 PPG | 3.8 APG | 3.0 RPG 

Collier prior to arriving on campus was viewed as more of a true facilitator, but his athleticism and scoring were on full display. Collier routinely took it coast-to-coast for a bucket and he is the perfect backcourt mate to USC star Boogie Ellis. In order for Collier to take the next step in his development he will have to cut down on his turnovers. In four games, Collier has turned the ball over 21 times. That’s quite alarming, but it’s also important to take it with a grain of salt, as he’s still adjusting to the college game. Collier has a good of a chance of anyone to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. Look for him to raise his assist numbers when the schedule starts to pick up.

2. Ja’Kobe Walter, Baylor

Stats: 18.0 PPG | 4.8 RPG  | 45.5% FG

Walter had one of the most impressive debuts in Big 12 history against Auburn. Walter’s 28 points was the fourth-most by a Big 12 freshman in their debut, only trailing Kansas State’s Michael Beasley (32), Oklahoma State’s James Anderson (29) and Oklahoma’s J.R. Raymond (29). Walter scored 15 of his 28 points in the second half to help the Bears pull away. In his most recent outing last Tuesday, Walter scored 23 points and grabbed four rebounds in a blowout win over Kansas City. Walter ranked No. 4 on the top impact freshman list put out last month and he’s moving up the leaderboard.

3. Rob Dillingham, Kentucky

Stats: 16.0 PPG | 4.2 APG | 4.6 RPG

When you think of a Kentucky freshman on this list, you might be gravitated to think that player would be Justin Edwards or DJ Wagner. After all, both of those players ranked in the top-three of the impact freshman rankings. For them to not be on this list is less of a knock on them and more of a testament on how good Dillingham is playing to start the season. He’s scored more than 12 points in all five Kentucky games thus far and went 4 of 5 from beyond the arc in a narrow loss to No. 1 Kansas. Dillingham ranked as the No. 21 overall prospect in the 247Sports recruiting cycle and he’s raised his stock tremendously in the early days of the season.

4. Stephon Castle, UConn

Stats: 14.5 PPG | 6.5 RPG | 3.5 APG | 66.7% FG

Major disclaimer: Castle has played in only two games for the reigning national champions this season. Castle is someone that projects as a high level player for the Huskies and he certainly showed it during the first two games of the season. Castle scored 17 points and added eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in a blowout win over Stonehill. Castle is currently dealing with a knee injury and is reported to be out for the next two-to-four weeks. When March comes, Castle will be one to watch. 

5. Carlton Carrington, Pitt

Stats: 18.0 PPG | 6.3 APG | 5.5 RPG

Carrington is looking like a potential breakout candidate in this class. The No. 91 player from the 2023 recruiting cycle by 247Sports has been a stat stuffing machine for the Panthers. In his collegiate debut, Carrington became the first Pitt player in more than two decades to record a triple-double in a game and became only the second freshman since 1987 to record a triple-double in his debut. Carrington only logged 29 minutes and recorded 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He has scored at least 17 points in all four of his games this season. Carrington might not be a better NBA prospect than some of the highly touted players not listed, but he sure is playing better than them as of this moment.

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