Happy New Year! 2013 is the Year of the Water Snake, according to my quick Google search. Without doing further research, my guess is that the Year of the Water Snake will be propitious for everyone. Isn't every year supposed to be propitious? In any case, many people like to say that freshmen are no longer new when they reach the second semester. This week, we'll concentrate on some freshmen from the Big 12 before fanning out to some of the smaller conferences.
Isaiah Austin, center, Baylor Bears
The Bears had a lot of frontcourt talent leave after last season, which opened the door to plenty of playing time for the 7-foot-1 Austin. He has taken advantage and shown an ability to control the game from the paint and the perimeter. Even in the losing effort against Gonzaga on Friday, Austin had 20 points and eight rebounds. He is hitting 33.3 percent of his 3-pointers along with 14.5 points and 8.6 rebounds. Other than Jeff Withey, he might be the best big man in the Big 12.
Ricardo Gathers, forward, Baylor Bears
Gathers, a 6-8 wide body, has not been afforded as many minutes as Austin, but he has made his 260-pound presence felt. The forward had a double-double in his lone start Nov. 11 against Jackson State. In his last two games, Gathers has thrown his muscle around and committed nine fouls in just 29 combined minutes. The Louisiana native will remain a bench piece this season and likely won't increase his averages of 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds. He could be a player to watch in future seasons.
Javan Felix, guard, Texas Longhorns
With Myck Kabongo on the sidelines because of his violation of NCAA policy (players may not take any benefits, those are reserved for the coaches and athletic directors), Felix has been thrown into the fire. After a few rough games, the 5-10 New Orleans native has played pretty well. He had a 20-point game in the win against Texas State Dec. 15 and averages 6.5 assists, which leads the Big 12. Kabongo will have served his time by Feb. 23 and should get into the starting lineup quickly, but Felix should be productive through the majority of the season.
D.J. Johnson, forward, Kansas State Wildcats
Through the very early going, Johnson looked like he was going to be an impact rebounder for the Wildcats. The 6-8, 250, forward from St. Louis provided 29 rebounds in his first four games. He has slowly watched his playing time dissipate and has only played 13 combined minutes in his last three games. Kansas State is not deep in the frontcourt, so if Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams get into foul trouble, Johnson could get more playing time.
Derrick Colter, guard, Duquesne Dukes
Since I started playing fantasy college basketball, Duquesne has been a surprising source of statistical goodness. Under previous coach Ron Everhart, the team had studs like Damian Saunders, Shawn James and T.J. McConnell (who transferred to Arizona after last year). Colter, a 5-11 point guard, may not be as good as those players, but he is on a nice run. In his last six games, Colter averaged 18.0 points. He scored 25 points in consecutive games, a win over Western Michigan and a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Colter is converting just 40.4 percent of his field goals and 29.3 percent of 3-pointers, but he should be a freshman to watch in A10 play.
Shaquille Goodwin, forward, Memphis Tigers
Under coach Josh Pastner, the Tigers have brought in four McDonald's All-Americans. None has done much with Memphis. Pastner is a good recruiter, but he may not be much of a coach or developer of talent. Or maybe Memphis is just getting the last MAAs available. Goodwin is another big forward (6-9, 246) to live up to his namesake. He has started the last nine games. His best game was a 20-point, nine-rebound game in a win over Ohio on Dec. 5. Fouls have been an issue and Goodwin has fouled out of four games, including three out of his last four.
Venky Jois, forward, Eastern Washington Eagles
The Eagles have not been relevant on the fantasy scene since Rodney Stuckey left. At 3-9 this year, they may continue looking to the future. Jois, a 6-7 forward from Australia, may be able to move EWU forward. Jois has six double-doubles and averages 13.6 points and 9.4 rebounds. He had 22 points and 13 rebounds, both season highs, in the Nov. 30 win over Cal State Fullerton. After a bit of a slow start, Jois has collected at least 10 rebounds in six of his last eight games. He could have a bright future in the Big Sky.