The December slate in college basketball is basically a breather after a big opening in November. The regular beat of conference play opens in January, but teams play a game per week (and sometimes two) through December. This coming week, in particular, is pretty slow in terms of good games. You are going to have to be creative to find something good to watch (like Tuesday's Big 5 battle between St. Joe's and Villanova).
Let's look at some freshman who have surprised pleasantly after the first month of the season.
Jakarr Sampson, forward, St. John's Red Storm
For the second straight week, a member of the Red Storm has made the Haze. Last week, it was shot-blocking center Chris Obekpa, and this week it is the 6-foot-8 Sampson. He originally signed with St. John's to play in 2011-12, but had to spend a year in prep school. Clearly, the year preparing helped the power forward because he has scored at least 11 points in his last eight games. Sampson has two double-doubles in his last three games, including a 15-point, 17-rebound performance against NJIT on Dec. 1. The Red Storm have just two more December games before conference play starts Jan. 2 at Villanova.
Olivier Hanlan, guard, Boston College Eagles
Like St. John's, Boston College had a new roster last year, and the squad has added freshmen to the somewhat established sophomores. The Eagles have lost five of their first nine games, but Hanlan, a 6-4 Canadian, has shown the ability to score in bunches. To finish November, he had three straight games of 19 or more points with a career-high 22 against Penn State on Nov. 28. Hanlan has since dropped off for a combined 17 points in his two December games, but he will get as many minutes as he can play, and get plenty of shots to boot.
Nick Stauskas, guard, Michigan Wolverines
Sticking with Canadians, we have a pleasant surprise for the Wolverines. The big names of the Wolverine recruiting class were supposed to be Glenn Robinson III (who has provided 12.2 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds) and Mitch McGary (5.7 points and 5.2 rebounds), but it has been the 6-4 Stauskas leading the way with 13.7 points. The 3-point specialist is a perfect fit for coach John Beilein's perimeter-heavy offense and he is knocking down an unsustainable 60.5 percent of his long-range shots. Stauskas has started the last three games and scored in double digits in every game since the opener. Not bad, eh?
Joshua Fortune, guard, Providence Friars
The Friars have problems with depth, especially in the backcourt. With Vincent Council (hamstring) and fellow freshman Kris Dunn (shoulder) out, coach Ed Cooley has had to lean on Bryce Cotton (who also injured his knee, but battled through it) and Fortune. The 6-4 native of Hampton, Virginia, has played all but 13 of the available minutes in Providence's nine games (and a season-low 32 minutes in the opener). In that time, he has provided 9.7 points, 3.7 assists and 1.6 steals. Dunn is supposed to return for the Friars' next game Dec. 18 and Council should be back soon after that, but find Fortune where you will – for the time being.
Semaj Christon, guard, Xavier Musketeers
Christon has also played heavy minutes, but the Musketeers, unlike the Friars, do not have health issues. The 6-3 Cincinnati native came off the bench in the first game against Butler but has been a steady presence in the starting lineup the last seven games. Christon has scored at least 12 points in each of his starts and has topped 20 points twice. He is adept at getting to the line (5.8 free throws per game), but has slumped from the line (just 6-of-14 in his last two games to cause his free throw percentage to fall to 69.6 percent). Christon leads Xavier in scoring (15.8 points on 51.7 percent), assists (5.4) and steals (1.3)
Raeford Worsham, guard, Arkansas State Red Wolves
Worsham moved into the starting lineup for the Red Wolves' last game and showed coach John Brady that he had made the right move by scoring 18 points in the win over St. Bonaventure. The 6-5 guard had scored in double digits in three of his previous four games, including 18 points of 9-of-10 shooting from the field against Central Arkansas. The Red Wolves dropped their first two conference games against Florida International and Florida Atlantic. Worsham's minutes have been on the steady incline and he could be a player to watch in Sun Belt conference play.
John Brown, forward, High Point Panthers
The wait for Brown has been worth it. After spending two years to get his academic house in order, the 6-7 jumping jack has finally been allowed to play for the Panthers. He is showing that all of the studying has helped his game with team-leading averages of 17.6 points and 6.1 rebounds. Brown has also been a terror on the defensive end with 2.1 steals and 2.4 blocks. Against Wake Forest on Dec. 5, Brown had 27 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocks. He has scored at least 22 points four times and will likely be a dominant player in Big South play, which starts Jan. 5 at Winthrop.