Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis has shattered Shaquille O’Neal’s SEC freshman record for blocks and has put forth a great first season in Lexington – great enough to make our list of the Top 10 freshman centers of all time.
Where does Davis fall among the best, and who joins him on the list? We examine.
Note: Freshmen not allowed to play until 1972-73 season. Michael Beasley, Tyler Hansbrough, Eddie Griffin and Derrick Coleman were all forwards.
10. Alonzo Mourning (Georgetown, 1988-89)
Like the other Georgetown player on this list, Mourning’s stats aren’t overwhelming (13.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG) because he had so much talent around him on a team that went 29-5. But here’s the only number you need to know: 5.0 BPG. A center is the backbone of a team’s defense and Mourning blocked 169 shots as a freshman in just 34 games.
T-9. Jared Sullinger (Ohio State, 2010-11)
Sullinger, a 6-foot-9 post player who relies on his skill rather than athleticism, took the Big Ten by storm during his first season with the Buckeyes in 2010-11. The Columbus native thrived in the pressure cooker of his hometown, averaging 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds for Ohio State, which went 32-2 but was eliminated from the NCAA tournament with a loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Still, being the star player on the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament as a freshman is pretty darn impressive.
T-9. Greg Oden (Ohio State, 2006-07)
It’s so hard to separate these two Buckeyes. We’re surprised that Oden’s arrival at Ohio State wasn’t met with a parade. A celebrated recruit, the eventual top pick in the 2007 NBA draft didn’t make his Buckeyes debut until December thanks to an injured wrist. He was hampered by the injury for much of his lone season in Columbus – doing much of his offensive damage with his off hand. It didn’t hurt the Buckeyes, who rode Oden all the way to the national title game. They lost to Florida, but Oden – who averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks for the season – had a ridiculous 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in the game.
8. Joe Smith (Maryland, 1993-94)
It’s crazy to think Smith was still in the NBA last year, as he set the college basketball world on fire by averaging 19.4 PPG and 10.7 RPG for a program still reeling from the death of Len Bias. Oh, and he did it all while shooting 52% from the field. Not only did Smith lead the Terps to their first NCAA tournament since Bias’ death, he went on to completely revive Maryland basketball.
7. Patrick Ewing (Georgetown, 1981-82)
The stats (12.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.2 BPG) won’t blow you away but Ewing was never going to put up huge scoring numbers while splitting the ball with Eric “Sleepy” Floyd. He was a defensive monster that swatted everything in sight, even if it was a clear goal tend. Largely because of Ewing, the Hoyas went from a first round exit in the 1981 tournament to the title game the following year – and possibly a national title if it weren’t for an errant Fred Brown pass.
6. Kevin Love (UCLA, 2007-08)
As the story goes, a young Love – the son of former Oregon and NBA star Stan Love – studied tapes of great passing centers like Bill Walton and Wes Unseld and infused that into his game as a freshman phenom at UCLA. His lone season was memorable for the collective swoon of basketball purists, who loved him for his throwback outlet passes. Bruins fans loved Love, so to speak, because he averaged 17.5 points and 10.6 rebounds, won Pac-10 Player of the Year, was named First Team All-American and led UCLA to the Final Four. What a year.
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