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Freshman Haze: Counting Down the top Frosh

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.

The hits won't stop until we hit the top of the charts. We have reached song 14, a long distance dedication to all of the great first-year players who did not make the list. Players such as Shabazz Muhammad, Rasheed Sulaimon and Isaiah Austin had nice freshman seasons, but they did not have a particular strength or were not good enough across the board to make the top 21. In case you wondered, the ;lowest-rated freshman I profiled was South Florida center Jordan Omogbehin, who is very large but did not see much playing time. Before I lose steam, let's look at numbers 14 through eight. Next week, we'll unveil Freshman Haze Freshman of the Year.

14. Kyle Anderson, guard, UCLA Bruins

Anderson was one of my favorite freshmen to watch because he has the gift of passing. The 6-foot-9 point forward is not an explosive athlete and is not a greater shooter, but he has vision to spare. While the Bruins do have Larry Drew II to run the point, Anderson averaged 3.7 assists to go with 9.6 points and 8.8 rebounds. He only hit 19.2 percent of his 3-pointers, but used his quick hands to nab 1.7 steals. It will be interesting to see whether NBA GMs find Anderson a draft-worthy prospect. He reminds me of a less athletic Julian Wright, who did not make it at the pro level.

13. Jahii Carson, guard, Arizona State Wildcats

Carson has been the engine that pushed the Wildcats back into the upper half of the Pac-12. Despite losing three of its last five games, Arizona State has already had a nice bounce-back season. Carson is leading the team with 17.7 points and 4.9 assists. The 5-11 point guard is not big in stature, but he is always on the go, go, go. Like other freshman, Carson is not a strong 3-point shooter (just 30.0 percent), but he can get to the basket and score on mid-range jumpers. He might be a bit short for the NBA, so he may stick around for multiple years.

12. Jordan Adams, guard, UCLA Bruins

It is a bit of a surprise that Adams and not Muhammad graces this list. The 6-5 swingman opened the season with four consecutive 20-point games while the more heralded freshman sat. He eventually moved into the starting lineup (next to Shabazz) and continued to score. Compared to his more heralded teammate, Adams hit a higher percentage of his free throws (82 percent), provided more assists (1.8 per game) and had many more steals (1.9). Should Muhammad move on, Adams could be the featured scorer for the Bruins next season and be a major star.

11. Shawn Long, forward, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Long is right in my backyard here in Lafayette, La. The team had a big turnover from last year, and Long was a recruit from Mississippi State who never played for the Bulldogs. He still is considered a freshman and has had a very nice year in the Sun Belt. For the season, he averages 15.6 points and 10.3 rebounds with 2.0 blocks. Long is not afraid to shoot from deep, but has only made 32.6 percent of his 3-pointers. He should be the centerpiece for the Ragin' Cajuns for the next three years.

10. Anthony Bennett, forward, UNLV Runnin' Rebels

I watched Bennett last weekend and gave my review. To boil it down, he is a good player, but he didn't strike me as a dominant player as some of his early numbers would suggest. The Mountain West Conference schedule has slowed him somewhat, and Bennett has been held to single-digit points three times, including eight points in the loss at Air Force last Wednesday. He bounced with 21 points, including a season-high four 3-pointers, and 12 rebounds in the win over San Diego State. Bennett is likely one-and-done.

9. Michael Kessens, forward, Longwood Lancers

Even the smallest schools can yield excellent freshmen. Longwood reclassified for Division I just five years ago and joined the Big South last year as a full-fledged member. Nik Brown, a 6-3 guard, was expected to be the freshman to watch, but Kessens have been the big producer. The 6-9 freshman from Switzerland has been a devil on defense and has provided enough scoring to be a fine fantasy player. He averages 12.6 points on 54 percent from the field, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks. Like other small school players, Kessens should produce well for years to come.

8. Nerlens Noel, center, Kentucky Wildcats

Let's shed one final tear for the short, happy collegiate career Noel. We'll never forget his huge flat top. It's a shame that Noel will likely never play in the NCAA tournament. The defensive menace should go pro even if he spends his rookie year rehabilitating the torn ACL he suffered last week in the loss to Florida. He wasn't Anthony Davis, but he was really good. As expected, he blocked 4.4 shots to go with 9.5 rebounds. Noel's offensive game did not show much polish, but he was able to score on his athleticism and his raw hook shot. He should still be a top-5 pick and could end up being the best NBA player of a fairly mediocre draft class.