I have news from the Freshman Haze headquarters (which consists of me). This will be the last regular edition of the Haze in which I profile seven new freshmen. I am running out of new players to profile (though there are many, many first-year players who will not grace this space). Next week, I will begin the countdown of the 21 best freshmen in the country, starting with 15 through 21. I'll take a statistical snapshot after next weekend and put all of the stats into a spreadsheet and rank the players. I've done it before and the results are always interesting. Let's tlook at the last seven players to make the pool.
Phil Forte, guard, Oklahoma State Cowboys
The 5-foot-11 Forte is in Marcus Smart's shadow, both literally and figuratively. Smart gets more of the publicity and starts for the Cowboys, but Forte has played a nice role in the Pokes' largely successful season. In his last six games, the Texas native has scored 14.8 points, including a season-high 26 points and six 3-pointers in a win over West Virginia on Jan. 26. While Smart might move on to the NBA after the season, Forte should stick around for a few years and be a solid scorer throughout.
Ronnie Johnson, guard, Purdue Boilermakers
Good teams generally don't rebuild. They just restock. The Boilermakers, after years of leaning on three excellent players, are rebuilding. They are middle of the pack in the Big Ten and can be rather confusing because three of their top five players are named Johnson. Ronnie is the freshman of the trio and averages 9.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists. The 6-0 guard has provided 12.0 points in his last three games and can certainly improve on 3-point shooting (16.1 percent on the season from long range).
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, guard, Georgetown Hoyas
Sometimes it takes an injury or suspension for a freshman to get playing time. With the Hoyas, it was sophomore forward Greg Whittington who was taken out of play because of poor academics. The Hoyas are 6-1 without Whittington and Smith-Rivera has taken the biggest leap in minutes. The 6-3 guard has jumped from high teens to high 20s in minutes. He has averaged 9.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in his increased role and had 16 points in the lone loss against South Florida on Jan. 19. With Whittington not on the radar, DSR should continue to produce decent numbers.
Marcus Georges-Hunt, guard/forward, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Like Purdue, Georgia Tech is in the midst of a rebuilding season. The Yellow Jackets have only one NCAA Tournament appearance in the last five years, and this year won't break the streak. However, hope for the future can be held to Georges-Hunt, a 6-5 swingman from Georgia. He averages 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds but has slowed a bit in ACC play. Georges-Hunt scored in double digits in seven of his first eight games but has been held to less than 10 points seven times since Dec. 19. The good news is that he has been hitting the boards with 6.8 rebounds in his last four games.
Rodney Purvis, guard, North Carolina State Wolfpack
Purvis was the most hyped of the Wolfpack recruiting class, but he has not really met expectations on the packed North Carolina State squad. He has started all but two games and has averaged 29.4 minutes, but the 6-3 guard has not had an opportunity to break out with Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie controlling the offense. Purvis had a chance to start at point guard with Brown out last Saturday, but compiled 13 points and two assists in the loss to Miami.
Stacy Davis, forward, Pepperdine Waves
For the West Coast Conference to make strides in the argument of best conference near the Pacific Ocean, then teams like Pepperdine have to regain their former glory and be more competitive. While the Waves won't be in the mix this year, players like Davis could bring happiness back to Malibu. The 6-6, 235, bruiser recently lost his starting spot, but came off the bench in the last two games to provide 35 points and 22 rebounds. He slumped in January, which cost him his spot at the tip, but he continues to produce and averages 10.7 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Waves.
Gavin Thurman, forward, Missouri State Tigers
Thurman is in the opposite situation of Davis. He spent the first two months of the season coming off the bench, then joined the starting lineup six games ago. In his starts, he averaged 14.5 points, 1.8 3-pointers and 4.3 rebounds. The 6-6 wing is not shy about taking shots and provided a season-high 21 points in a loss to Wichita State on Jan. 23. He doesn't provide much in terms of defensive stats (four steals, two blocks on the season). But if your team needs points from a freshman, check out Thurman.
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