Thirty-Two Impact Freshmen, Part One

October 20th, 2011
After going over the teams expected to win their regular season titles, we move on to talking about the top freshmen in each conference. Will all automatically take over and become the stars of their respective teams and leagues? It's tough to say at this point in the season, but that doesn't mean that we can't discuss it. Below are the picks for each of the 32 conferences.

America East: James Kennedy (Boston University)
With Jake O'Brien lost for another season due to injury first-year head coach Joe Jones may need to call on the 6'6" forward for important minutes. The Boston native helped lead Cushing Academy to a 21-7 record last year.

Atlantic 10: Dezmine Wells (Xavier)
While many expect Kenny Frease to be back with the team at some point in the near future, Xavier can make up for the height they lack in the frontcourt with sheer talent. Wells is one reason why, as the 6'5" small forward can flat-out make things happen on the floor.

ACC: Austin Rivers (Duke)
Not sure if there's much that hasn't been said about the Winter Park, Florida native. Duke needs to account for the loss of Nolan Smith in the backcourt, and while there are some experienced options returning to Durham they aren's as explosive as Austin. He should also benefit from the team's summer trip to China and Dubai, as Duke gained 10 practices to prepare for the journey.

Atlantic Sun: Rashawn Rembert (East Tennessee State)
ETSU lost three starters, and not only were they all guards but they were also the top three leading scorers. That means plenty will be needed from a shooting guard like Rembert, who averaged more than 20 points and seven rebounds per game at Sickles High in Tampa.

Big East: Andre Drummond (Connecticut)
Remember when Drummond was slated to spend a year at Wilbraham & Monson with friend and Connecticut Basketball Club teammate Kris Dunn (Providence commit)? That all changed in August as the 6'11", 275-pound Drummond decided this was the right time to join the UConn program. Joining forces with Alex Oriakhi and Tyler Olander will give the Huskies one of the country's best frontcourts.

Big Sky: Gelaun Wheelwright (Weber State)
The team that most people expect to win the Big Sky does have seven players returning from last year's team, not to mention a healthy Damian Lillard. But there's always room for someone else to step up, and that player could be the Centennial (CA) High product. Wheelwright averaged 18.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a senior.

Big South: John Brown (High Point)
Scott Cherry landed a good on in Brown, who was named 1A Player of the Yeah in the State of Florida. Brown averaged 17.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game as a senior, and the Jacksonville native has the ability to be the conference's best freshman.

Big Ten: Cody Zeller (Indiana)
The 2011 class is the first of two recruiting classes that many expect Indiana head coach Tom Crean to use as a springboard back to where many expect IU to be on the college landscape. One key cog is forward Cody Zeller, who averaged 24.6 ppg, 13.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for a Washington (IN) High team that won the 3A state title.

Big 12: Le'Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State)
When's the last time a recruit of this caliber has shown up in Stillwater? It's safe to say that a player the quality of Le'Bryan Nash doesn't come around every day, and his arrival could make the Pokes a factor in the Big 12 race. Nash was a McDonald's All-American last year and to say the least has an NBA-ready build (and skill set) right now.

Big West: Reese Morgan (Cal Poly)
The Mustangs ranked 338th nationally in scoring with an average of 59.3 points per game, so to say the least they could use a boost in the scoring column. Enter Reese Morgan, who scored more than 2,400 hundred points in his high school career at Peninsula High in San Pedro, California. Morgan averaged 27.3 points per game as a senior.

CAA: Erik Copes (George Mason)
The freshman forward/center from Philadelphia pairs up with senior Ryan Pearson, and it isn't far-fetched to think that this duo could rank among the best frontcourts in the CAA. Copes was a player Paul Hewitt was able to get in the summer, a near steal for a senior of his caliber.

Conference USA: Adonis Thomas (Memphis)
In addition to their roster full of returnees Memphis should have a good feeling about this season due to the arrival of Memphis native Adonis Thomas. The Melrose High product ranked among the top players in the country in the 2011 class, and his ability to run the floor and finish above the rim will make Memphis even better.

Great West: Shane Benton (North Dakota)
The Fighting Sioux welcome back a host of contributors from a team that won the first Great West conference tournament as well as a game in the Tournament, but Benton has the ability to crack the rotation. The 6'3" guard is a product of Linn-Mar High school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he was a teammate of North Carolina commit (2012) Marcus Paige.

Horizon: Roosevelt Jones (Butler)
With Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack both moving on the Bulldogs need players to step up as offensive options. One of those possibilities could be Jones, a small forward from O'Fallon, Illinois who can do a variety of things on the floor. As a senior Jones averaged 17.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

Ivy: Wesley Saunders (Harvard)
Tommy Amaker and his staff have brought in a very good recruiting class for this season, but the question is just how much the preseason Ivy League favorites will need to call on them. One option to play may be the 6'5" Saunders, who averaged a double-double as a senior at Windward High in Los Angeles. He's a very good athlete who also played volleyball in high school.

MAAC: Juan'ya Green (Niagara)
The MAAC will have some good freshmen entering the league (a crop that would have been bolstered by Siena's Imoh Silas and Lionel Gomis if cleared by the NCAA), but one who will have to step up from the start is Philadelphia native Juan'ya Green. The Purple Eagles like to attack teams with their guards, and as a scorer who can also handle the ball Green fits the system.

Next: MAC through WAC