After a 2021-22 freshman class that produced two second-team All-Americans and a third-team All-American — a trio that would ultimately end up as the top three picks in the 2022 NBA draft — there was a pretty high bar for the high school class of 2022 to hit at the college level.
Because of the increasing number of players opting for the G League Ignite or Overtime Elite over college, this season’s freshman class was a bit watered-down at the top. It certainly wasn’t without a considerable amount of talent, though: ESPN’s mock draft entering 2022-23 featured 20 incoming college freshmen in the first round.
And in terms of NBA draft stock, this class of freshmen has mostly lived up to the hype at the top: Seventeen college freshmen are still in the latest ESPN top 30 NBA draft rankings, and very few, if any, top-20 recruits have failed to make an impact.
But the deeper you go into the final ESPN 100 for the 2022 class, the more you’ll find fewer first-year impacts than before. Entering Tuesday’s games, only 19 ESPN 100 recruits are averaging double figures in scoring. Twelve of those were top-25 recruits — meaning only seven of the players ranked between 26 and 100 are putting up double figures in points so far this season.
As the season progresses, certain first-year players will get more comfortable at the college level, and playing time and production will come along with that. But with the new year, and conference play, approaching, it’s time to take stock of 2022-23’s freshmen so far.
*Most stats as of Dec. 21
Best of the Best
Alabama’s Brandon Miller makes the steal and gets the dunk
It was evident pretty quickly that Miller was the best freshman in college basketball this season. He had 20 points in the second game of his career against Liberty, then scored at least 18 points in each of his next four games — including 24 points and nine rebounds against Michigan State on Thanksgiving night. Miller took his game to another level last week, scoring 24 and grabbing eight boards in a win over Memphis, then dropping 36 points in a loss to Gonzaga. Averaging 19.3 points (first among all freshmen) and 8.7 rebounds (fourth among freshmen) and shooting 44.2% from 3.
With first-rounders Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun gone to the NBA, Bill Self needed scorers. Jalen Wilson has been one of the biggest breakout stars in the country, but Dick has solidified himself as a truly elite freshman and a potential lottery pick. At 6-foot-8 with terrific outside shooting ability, he had 23 points in the season opener and has backed that up with consistently stellar performances. Averaging 15.8 points and 4.5 rebounds and shooting 49.2% from 3, and coming off a 20-point effort in a blowout win over Indiana.
All fall, the word coming out of Durham was that Filipowski wasn’t overly impressive in practice and that he could struggle to adapt to the physicality and speed of college basketball. Well, the “word” was incredibly wide off the mark. Filipowski opened his college career with three straight double-doubles and had scored in double figures in every single game — until Tuesday’s loss to Wake Forest. He had 17 and 14 against Kansas, 19 and 15 against Oregon State, 16 and seven against Ohio State. Averaging 14.4 points and 8.9 boards.
Jackson throws it down vs. South Carolina State
Jackson originally committed to North Carolina last spring, but then decommitted a couple of months later and wound up signing with South Carolina — and reclassifying to play for the Gamecocks immediately. It’s going to be a lost season for the Gamecocks (they’ve already lost to George Washington and East Carolina), but it won’t be through any fault of Jackson’s. He’s second among all freshmen in scoring, hitting at least 11 points in every single game and going for at least 20 on four occasions. Averaging 17.0 points and 6.6 rebounds.
One of the best scorers in the 2022 recruiting class, George put up huge numbers on Baylor’s summer trip to Canada, only growing the hype for his freshman campaign in Waco. He has had some big games, including 23 points against Norfolk State in the second game of his career and 20 points against Virginia in Las Vegas. George was also terrific in Baylor’s win over Gonzaga, scoring 18 points. Ranks ninth among all freshmen in scoring and is averaging 15.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
He doesn’t have the big numbers of some of the other freshmen on this list, but Wallace has been one of the best two-way first-year players in the country — and more prolific outings appear to be coming. Observers have been calling for John Calipari to give Wallace more freedom, and Wallace is coming off the best game of his career, going for 27 points and nine assists in the Wildcats’ win over Florida A&M on Wednesday. Was averaging 10.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.4 steals and shooting 44.7% from 3 entering that game.
There might not have been a more impressive Thanksgiving week performer than Black, who shined at the Maui Invitational. In three games out in Hawai’i, the 6-7 point guard averaged 22.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists, shooting 40% from 3. He had 26 points and six assists against both Louisville and Creighton. Black’s numbers have slipped slightly since Nick Smith Jr. returned to health, but he had 15 points and four assists in Saturday’s win over Bradley. Averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
Jim Boeheim couldn’t stop raving in the preseason about Mintz, putting him up with any freshman he has had over the past couple of decades. The 6-3 guard from the D.C. area has made Boeheim look prescient, averaging 15.6 points and 4.0 assists through 13 games. He’s always been at his best driving into the paint off the bounce, and teams haven’t been able to stop him yet. Mintz is coming off a 24-point game against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, his fourth 20-point performance of the season. He’s also been active defensively, averaging 2.3 steals.
Howard has been a clear stock-booster in the opening six weeks of the season, scoring in double figures in all but one game so far (and he scored nine in that outlier). The son of Michigan coach Juwan Howard had 21 points and five 3s in the first game of his career and had made multiple 3s in every game this season — until last weekend against Lipscomb, when he still scored 19 points. Howard is 6-8 and is one of the best shooters in the class, averaging 15.5 points and shooting 40% from 3.
Sensabaugh seemingly hasn’t slowed down since breaking out as a high-major recruit in the summer of 2021. He has a powerful frame, can score at all three levels and simply overwhelms smaller defenders on the wing. The 6-6, 235-pound forward is coming off a 22-point, eight-rebound, three-assist performance against North Carolina last weekend — his fifth game with at least 17 points. And he has scored in single digits just once this season. Averaging 14.9 points and 3.7 rebounds and shooting 47.6% from 3.
While Zach Edey has deservedly received most of the credit for Purdue’s AP No. 1 ranking, it’s been the Boilermakers’ all-freshman backcourt providing the balance to his interior dominance. Loyer entered the program with more high school hype, and he has lived up to it, averaging 13.2 points on the season and 15.6 points and 3.6 assists over his past seven games. As the lone true point guard in the program, Smith needed to shoulder more responsibility from day one, and he’s been the missing piece for the Boilermakers, averaging 9.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists and shooting 40.6% from 3. Coming off 10 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists against Davidson.
Hendricks has been the most productive freshman in the AAC this season, opening his career with 23 points in the first game, and barely slowing down since. He has two double-doubles and two 20-point efforts, has scored in double figures in all but two games this season — and is averaging 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 50% from 3. All while logging more than 33 minutes a night.
Despite not starting a single game all season, the former three-star recruit has provided a needed spark offensively for the Badgers. Essegian got off to a slow start, playing just seven minutes against Green Bay in the third game of 2022-23. But over the past eight games, his role has increased, and he’s been producing at a high level. During that span, Essegian is averaging 12.6 points and 3.9 rebounds and shooting 44.4% from 3.
The local 7-2 center has made an impact for the Huskies far more quickly than anyone expected. Clingan showed flashes early, but then had a statement performance against Iowa State in the Phil Knight Invitational title game, going for 15 points and 10 boards in 18 minutes. He backed that up with an ESPN Player of the Week-worthy showing in early December, averaging 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in just 17.0 minutes against Florida and Long Island — while shooting 18-for-19 from the field in those two games.
Brandon Miller is the headliner, but Clowney has made a considerable impact during his first few months in Tuscaloosa. Before missing Tuesday’s game against Jackson State with an illness, the 6-10 big man had been on a tear. Over his previous four games, he was averaging 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds and shooting 58.3% from the field and 40% from 3. That stretch included 16 points and 11 boards against Houston and 22 points against South Dakota State.
A highly touted point guard in high school, Isaacs committed to Texas Tech in September 2021, decommitted two months later in early November 2021 — then recommitted and signed with the Red Raiders two weeks later. And Mark Adams is certainly glad he opted to head to Lubbock. Isaacs has started all 10 games for Tech, averaging 10.3 points and 2.7 assists and shooting 38.5% from 3.
Oregon State has already doubled its win total from last season, and Pope’s immediate impact is a major reason for the improvement. The unranked four-star recruit from Oakland leads the Beavers in scoring (13.8 PPG) and assists (3.3 APG), while shooting better than 36% from 3. Pope has scored in double figures in all but two games this season, including a 23-point effort against Portland State in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament.
Seven impacted by injury
Arguably the best NBA prospect in college basketball this season, Smith missed the first six games of the season while managing a knee issue — and the school announced Wednesday that he was out indefinitely with the same issue. He has played only five games this season. In his first three full games, Smith averaged 19.7 points and 3.0 assists before scoring five points in 20 minutes last weekend.
Whitmore, one of the top NBA draft prospects in the class, missed the first seven games of the season after suffering a broken thumb in the fall. But the 6-7 forward has made an instant impact since returning to the court, averaging 13.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in his first four games — with Villanova winning all four, after starting the season 2-5.
The top two recruits in the 2022 ESPN 100, neither player was ready for the start of the season. Lively missed preseason time and the season opener against Jacksonville with a calf injury, while Whitehead suffered a broken foot in August and didn’t make his debut until the fourth game of the season. Neither has hit the ground running, although both began to show flashes in early December — before both were ill Tuesday and missed Duke’s loss to Wake Forest.
Jalen Hood-Schifino shows off vision with nice dish vs. Elon Phoenix
After a stellar first month to his Indiana career, Hood-Schifino missed three games with a back injury — right around when the Hoosiers began a downturn in form. He has returned for the past two games, however, averaging 14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists against Kansas and Elon. His size and multifaceted skill set make him a difficult matchup.
Before Westry’s arthroscopic knee surgery in October, Bruce Pearl talked him up as a potential starter from day one. But Westry missed the first two games of the season and has had to settle for a bench role since returning. The versatile 6-6 perimeter player should see more minutes in his Auburn future.
A top-50 recruit from DeMatha (Maryland), Rice was expected to push for immediate minutes in the Hokies’ backcourt but has an ankle injury and has yet to play. In his stead, Sean Pedulla has been one of the biggest breakout stars in college basketball — meaning Rice might have to make his biggest impact this season off the bench.
Eight mid-major stars
Aidan Mahaney beats halftime buzzer with deep heave for Saint Mary’s
As the season approached, buzz spread quickly about Mahaney and his expected impact for Randy Bennett’s program. He proved himself very quickly, scoring 25 points in the season opener against Oral Roberts. Mahaney has hit double figures in eight straight games, including 20 points against both Vanderbilt and San Diego State. He moved into the starting lineup four games ago and doesn’t seem likely to be moving back to the bench anytime soon. Averaging 13.8 points and shooting 41.3% from 3.
Pepperdine consistently has intriguing young talent, and Porter is the latest example. He’s a younger brother of Michael Porter Jr. and Jontay Porter, and as a result he entered college with some hype. Through 11 games, the 6-11 big man is averaging 10.4 points and 7.4 rebounds, and he has tallied double figures in three straight games. He has two double-doubles, against Cal State Fullerton and Grand Canyon, and has made 12 3s.
Even if Belmont won’t be quite the juggernaut in the MVC that it was in the OVC, a freshman putting up significant numbers early for the Bruins is a good sign. Tyson has shown signs of being a matchup issue thanks to his 6-7 size and his ability to step out and make shots: he’s shooting 44.2% from 3 on 3.6 attempts per game. He has scored double figures in all but one game this season and is coming off a 17-point, seven-rebound effort against Chattanooga.
Jason Preston, Mark Sears… AJ Brown? The Florida native could be the next star guard to come out of Jeff Boals’ program. He missed the first few games of 2022-23 with an injury, but over his past five appearances, Brown is averaging 14.4 points while shooting 56.3% from the field and 45.5% from 3. Boals moved him into the starting lineup against Stetson last weekend, and he made three 3s en route to 13 points and four boards.
The 7-1 freshman from North Carolina leads his class in rebounding, grabbing 11.0 boards per game, while also blocking 2.6 shots. Handlogten has four double-doubles on the season, including in his past two games, and is shooting better than 62% from the field. His father, Ben, played professionally for a decade in the United States and overseas, including 38 games over two seasons with the Utah Jazz.
Arguably the best 3-point shooter among freshmen this season, Paveletzke has scored in double figures in all but two games. He had 19 points and five assists against LSU in late November and has hit 20 points on two occasions. He’s shooting 51.6% from 3 and averaging 15.3 points and 4.1 assists for the Terriers. Hailing from Wisconsin, he’s coming off a 23-point, 10-assist effort against NAIA program Montreat College.
Nelly Cummings’ transfer to Pittsburgh last spring opened up a starting spot, and Smith has taken full advantage. The 6-0 guard from Seattle is averaging 10.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists and shooting nearly 45% from 3. He opened his career with 20 points against Buffalo and had 17 points against Auburn earlier this month.
The top scorer among mid-major freshmen, Calmese can flat-out fill it up. What makes his 16.4 points per game perhaps even more impressive is the fact that he has just three games with eight or fewer points. He had 31 against Our Lady of the Lake, 27 against Western Carolina and 25 against Texas State, and he has made three or more 3s in five of his past seven games. Lamar is going to struggle this season, but the 6-2 guard from Arizona will be a bright spot.
Top-50 recruits waiting their turn
Outside of Gradey Dick, Coach Self has opted to lean on players with experience in the Kansas program — or at least players with experience at the college level. He also has shortened his rotation to around seven players per night, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for Udeh and Rice. Both players have shown flashes, though — Udeh had 10 points against Seton Hall on Dec. 1, and Rice went for 19 against Texas Southern the game before — and there will be more opportunities for the duo in the future.
Boswell didn’t decide to reclassify until early July, then missed most of the offseason recovering from a foot injury. An extended role in Year 1 was always unlikely: Tommy Lloyd also brought back Kerr Kriisa and Pelle Larsson from last year, then went into the portal and landed veterans Courtney Ramey and Cedric Henderson Jr. At least three of the four could be gone next season, though, so Boswell’s time in Tucson will come.
With Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler gone, it looked as if Traore would have a clear path to a potential starting role early at Auburn. But senior forward Jaylin Williams, who started every game in 2020-21 before moving back to the bench last season, reemerged as a consistent starter under Coach Pearl. Traore has played double-figure minutes in every game but one, though, and scored 11 points against Winthrop in November.
Tarris Reed Jr. gets block on one end, and-1 on the other
Reed, one of the best defensive players in the 2022 class, was unlikely to see anything resembling a starting role as a freshman in Ann Arbor. After all, he’s backing up Hunter Dickinson, one of the best big men in the country. On the plus side, he’s getting every minute when Dickinson isn’t on the floor. He had six points and six rebounds against Minnesota earlier this month and, as of Thursday, has blocked a respectable 10 shots in 109 minutes.
Ward flipped his commitment from Xavier to LSU after the coaching changes at each school, but he was also one of 10 newcomers to sign with Matt McMahon’s program. Someone was going to get lost in the shuffle, especially when seven of those newcomers were juniors or seniors. Ward has played only once in the past five games.
Wright has been the first frontcourt player off the bench for USC most games, but the Trojans are leaning heavily on their top six players — the starting five plus sixth man Reese Dixon-Waters. Wright was one of the better rebounders in the 2022 class, and he’s physically ready for the college game; minutes have just been hard to come by so far.
In terms of back-to-the-basket ability, whether scoring in the post or finding teammates with a pass, there were few players in the 2022 class at Kohler’s level. He’ll make an impact during his time in East Lansing, and he already had six points and seven boards against Alabama in November. But junior Mady Sissoko won the starting center job, and he’s flanked by inside-outside forward Joey Hauser in the frontcourt.
The plan has always been for Diongue, a 7-footer from Senegal, to come along slowly, developing his body and adding strength and weight. Mouhamed Gueye is the team’s anchor up front, and despite Dishon Jackson‘s absence, Kyle Smith has gotten mileage out of DJ Rodman and Carlos Rosario at the forward spots. After three straight DNPs, Diongue did see seven minutes off the bench against Baylor last weekend.
As with Kohler, there are few doubts that Andrews will make a significant impact soon enough at the college level. He has shown he’s capable of providing solid minutes in the backcourt, scoring seven points in 15 minutes against Baylor and going for 11 points and six assists in Denver. Unfortunately for Andrews, he’s stuck this season behind senior Tyger Campbell, one of the nation’s best and most experienced point guards.