After taking a few weeks to consider this year's recruiting class, the Freshman Haze has returned. Each week, I'll look at seven freshmen who are either playing well or making some news. In the first week, I decided not to look at the big names. Everyone already knows about Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle. I will write about them later. For now, I thought I'd look at a septet of players off to nice starts.
Jordan Mickey, forward, LSU Tigers
Coming into the season, it was Jarell Martin who was the top-ranked prospect on the Tigers. Martin's season got off to a rough start as he sprained his ankle in the first minute of the first game. Martin returned Friday, but his spot has already been taken by Mickey, a 6-foot-9 shot blocker who has been contributing on offense as well. He has blocked 19 shots through four games and has averaged 14.8 points and 9.8 rebounds against somewhat underwhelming competition. Mickey has three double-doubles and should be a fixture in the starting lineup next to Johnny O'Bryant.
Marcus Foster, guard, Kansas State Wildcats
Rodney McGruder is gone. Someone had to step in and score for the Wildcats and thus far it has been the 6-2 native of Wichita Falls. Kansas State may already have three losses, including an opening loss to Northern Colorado. Foster was held to eight points, including missing all six of his 3-point attempts, in that game, but has taken off since. He came back with with a season-high 25 points, with four threes, in a win over Oral Roberts. He is averaging 15.4 points and 2.2 3-pointers and should continue to score well.
Isaiah Taylor, guard, Texas Longhorns
There was a mass exodus of players from Austin after the 2012-13 season. Somehow, coach Rick Barnes remains, but his team lost its top four scorers from a 16-18 year. The Longhorns have already won four games this season over an undistinguished quartet, but young guys are getting an opportunity. Taylor is a 6-1 point guard playing with fellow point Javan Felix. While Taylor was held to two points in a win over Houston Baptist on Nov. 18, he had scored in double digits in the first three games. He holds averages of 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
Sindarius Thornwell, guard, South Carolina Gamecocks
It has been a long time since South Carolina has had any success on the hardcourt. While the Ole Ball Coach has been patrolling the gridiron, Frank Martin is trying to rebuild the Gamecock hoops squad. The team has not made the Big Dance since 2004 (and hasn't won a tournament game since 1973), but it may have a piece in place in the 6-5 Thornwell. He scored a season-high 20 points in a loss to Baylor on Nov. 12 and averages a team-high 14.7 points to go with 3.8 rebounds. Thornwell excels at attacking the basket and should rack up easy points at the line.
Jon Severe, guard, Fordham Rams
For the last three years, Fordham basketball has been known for two things: a lot of losses and big numbers from forward Chris Gaston. The 6-7 forward has taken his game to Poland, but the team still has some fantasy-worthy players. Guard Branden Frazier is playing well (22.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists), and Severe adds plenty of shooting power. The 6-3 guard has taken 10 3-pointers in all four games. He hit seven in the opener, but missed all of his long-range shots on Nov. 15 against Lehigh. He has scored at least 16 points in all four games and is averaging 21.5.
Cameron Payne, guard, Murray State Racers
Like Fordham, Murray State lost a star in Isaiah Canaan who was drafted by the Rockets in the second round. They needed a guard to step in and thus far in the early season, Payne has obliged. The 6-2 point guard from Memphis has played at least 30 minutes in four of five games and averaged 14.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.2 steals. Even when he isn't scoring well, he provides a nice number of assists. Therefore, Payne never really has an off game.
Quadir Welton, forward/center, St. Peter's Peacocks
This report is guard heavy, but we will get back to where we started - the frontcourt - with the final selection of the inaugural edition of the Freshman Haze. Welton is a 6-7 power player for the Peacocks averaging 9.5 points and 7.5 rebounds through four games. He opened the season with a double-double in the loss to Long Island and helped the Peacocks break into the win column Nov. 23 with nine points and seven rebounds against Fairleigh Dickinson. While his numbers may sound modest, it is very hard to find a productive freshman center, and he could provide better stats if he can figure out how to stay away from fouls.