When looking at the top newcomers, a lot of people focus on the top diaper dandies. This season, there are plenty of freshmen making a big-time impact. My favorite is Dajuan Wagner, the catalyst at Memphis.
There are certainly others to watch, like Notre Dame guard Chris Thomas, the former Mr. Basketball in Indiana. There's T.J. Ford of Texas, the orchestra leader who could become the first freshman to lead the nation in assists. You have to love Jason Conley of VMI and Minnesota's Rick Rickert too.
|Georgia's Jarvis Hayes was all smiles after scoring a career-high 30 in a win at Kentucky last month.
What about newcomers who are not freshmen? There are lots of stars who came from the juco ranks, became eligible after transferring or sat out last season.
So here's my All-Newcomer team...
Let's start down in Lubbock, Texas. Bobby Knight has done a super job with Texas Tech, a team that won just nine games all of last season. One player who has helped rejuvenate the program is wing forward Kasib Powell, who came from the juco ranks. Powell is a solid scorer from the wing and a strong defensive player.
One reason Marquette has been a big surprise in Conference USA this season is the presence of Dwyane Wade. Early on, Wade set the tone with 30 points in the Great Alaska Shootout win over Tennessee. The Great Alaska MVP was key in wins over Indiana, Gonzaga and DePaul (35 points). The 6-foot-4 driving, slashing star sat out last season but practiced with the team as a partial qualifier. Wade has been superb from day one. He is so exciting and so versatile, also contributing on the glass.
Oklahoma has a number of newcomers to watch, led by explosive juco transfer Ebi Ere. The Sooners have the kind of talent capable of making a run to the Final Four. Ere has been a force.
St. John's, after a disappointing early start (including a loss to Manhattan), has posted a number of key wins. Victories over the likes of Wake Forest, Connecticut and Miami have come mainly because of guard Marcus Hatten. The former Tallahassee Community College star (the same school that gave the Red Storm Bootsy Thornton) is tough on the perimeter. Hatten also has tremendous penetrating ability and can take over the game in crunch time, putting points on the board in a hurry.
Georgia has been one of the nation's biggest surprises, and the presence of Jarvis Hayes has helped. Hayes, who along with twin brother Jonas has made a major difference, contributed big-time in wins over Kentucky and Florida earlier in the season. Hayes came from Western Carolina, and he has given Jim Harrick a significant scoring threat on the baseline.
There you have it, five guys who have been impact newcomers and big-time performers this season.