By Wes McCurtis
Fullerton Calif., November 24, 2016 – Freshmen stole the spotlight during day one of the 2016 Wooden Legacy held in Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton. In today’s college basketball landscape, freshmen are often relied upon to produce in key moments. Here are four impact freshman to watch in this year’s tournament:
Guard Lonzo Ball, UCLA – Named to the 50-person watch list for both the Naismith Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award, Ball entered the tournament averaging 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 9.0 assists per game while shooting an efficient 61.1 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from long range. Ball put his all-around game on display, recording a team-high 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting and game-high 11 assists in the Bruins 99-77 victory over Portland.
Forward TJ Leaf, UCLA – The tournament as the Pac-12’s fourth leading scorer (20.3 points) and fifth leading rebounder (10.0), Leaf has proven to be one the nation’s most dependable and efficient offensive threats, shooting a remarkable 72.7 percent from the field this season. Leaf helped pace the Bruins with 14 points and nine rebounds in their opening game victory over Portland.
Forward Robert Williams, Texas A&M – A force off the bench this season for the Aggies, Williams entered the Wooden Legacy averaging a team-high 2.7 blocks per game, while leading the second unit in scoring at 9.0 points per game. “He’s just adjusting to the level. He can make plays that a lot of guys can’t. He can shot block and run the floor, we’ve just got to get him tuned in more. He’s young, really talented, and a big force for us offensively and defensively,” said Coach Billy Kennedy. Williams showcased his tremendous athleticism and versatility in the Aggies’ 95-73 victory over Cal State Northridge. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting with a game-high 4 blocks and 7 rebounds.
Forward Khadim Sy, Virginia Tech – The enforcer for the Hokies this season as the Hokies are anchored by their guards, Sy stands at an imposing 6-10, 240 pounds and handles the dirty work inside for Virginia Tech “Those returning guys were the guys getting beat in the head last year on rebounding,” said Coach Buzz Williams. “Now our guys, when they take up space and go in there don’t feel like they’re alone in the fight.” While playing only 15 minutes per game, Sy entered the tournament averaging 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds. He recorded a team-high 4 offensive rebounds and 10 total rebounds with 4 points in Virginia Tech’s 92-72 victory over New Mexico.