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Freshman Haze: The Bench is the Pitts

Perry Missner

Missner covers the NBA, college football and college basketball for RotoWire. A veteran fantasy sports writer, Missner also serves as treasurer for the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

This week on the Haze we are not doing medium. We have large players and small players, but nothing that would be considered in between. Basketball is dominated by wings, especially those who can pass and rebound, but the pint-sized players still have a place in the game (well, the college game at least). Big players will always find a home on the court as well, even if they are not overly skilled.

James Robinson, guard, Pittsburgh Panthers

The slow start in the Big East may have cost the 6-foot-3 Robinson his starting spot, but he is still a main cog in the Panthers' rotation. Robinson came off the bench for the first time this season Saturday in the loss to Rutgers, but played 25 minutes. The freshman from famed DeMatha High School has really struggled with his shot. In his last six games, Robinson has made just 34.3 percent from the field and he has not hit a 3-pointer in his last four games. Consider it an adjustment period for the young guard who will find his way eventually.

Yogi Ferrell, guard, Indiana Hoosiers

Like Robinson, Ferrell has struggled from the field, but his problems can be traced to the beginning of the season. The 6-footer is hitting just 34.6 percent of his field goals and 27.3 percent on 3-pointers. Fortunately, Ferrell can do more than shoot. He leads the Hoosiers with 5.4 assists and had 10 dimes in the win over Jacksonville on Dec. 28. In the last six games, he has also taken nine steals, so his confidence on the defensive perimeter is growing.

Stefan Jankovic, center, Missouri Tigers

We now move to the big part of the program. Generally, big players take longer to develop as they are young men who are just getting used to their size. Jankovic is a 6-11 Canadian who has not received a great amount of playing time. He had issues with fouls in the early going, accruing at least four whistles in his first three games. Jankovic started the Dec. 17 game against South Carolina State and provided 11 points. He has shown range on his jumper by hitting five 3-pointers in his last four games. While he is blocked by Alex Oriakhi for more playing time this season, Jankovic could be a name to keep in the back of your mind for next year.

Jordan Omogbehin, center, South Florida Bulls

I wish my vocabulary were better so I could accurately describe the 7-3, 334, Omogbehin from Nigeria. Huge? Massive? Ginormous? I saw the Bulls play Youngstown State last month and even in four minutes, Omogbehin made his presence known with three boards. He is a redshirt freshman after missing last season with a knee injury, and it remains to be seen whether he has any skills aside from his girth. In his best game of the season, he had six points and six rebounds Nov. 20 against Bradley.

Shawn Long, forward, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Long's freshman status is somewhat in doubt because he is listed as a sophomore by ESPN and Yahoo, On the Ragin' Cajuns official site, Long is a redshirt freshman and that is good enough for me. The 6-9 forward spent time at Mississippi State last year, but never played for the Bulldogs. Long already has eight double-doubles. On Saturday against FIU, the Morgan City native had his worst game with two points in 10 minutes before fouling out. He should bounce back Thursday against South Alabama.

Tilman Dunbar, guard, Navy Midshipmen

We flop back to small for our last two first-year players. The 5-10 guard has provided at least 12 points in six of his last seven games, including a season-high 20 points in the Dec. 5 win over Monmouth. He is not a 3-point threat and has only attempted eight long-range shots. Dunbar is effective when attacking the basket and shooting mid-range jumpers. He also averages 5.3 assists, but offsets that positive with 3.2 turnovers. As Patriot League play starts, you can expect Dunbar to take a nice jump in value.

DeWayne Russell, guard, Northern Arizona Wildcats

Russell is another miniature guard who is putting up nice numbers in his first year in the desert. The Peoria, Ariz., native was a big-time scorer in high school and has not missed a beat as a Wildcat. He averages 16.6 points and has topped 20 points four times. Russell is not a great 3-point shooter at just 35.8 percent, but he can get to the line (5.4 free throw attempts per game) and makes his freebies (84.2 percent). NAU may not be terribly competitive this season. With Russell around, things will be exciting and the future looks good.

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