DII basketball: 5 freshman starters who have made an impact heading into conference play
In 1979, a highly enthusiastic college basketball analyst described a sensational college freshman basketball player by uttering the words "DIAPER DANDIES, BABY!!!"
The phrase has been part of the college basketball lexicon ever since.
Every year in college basketball, a group of talented freshman, like Oklahoma's Trae Young, take the world by storm, making an immediate impact on their team’s success.
But the impact freshman is not exclusive to the DI realm. Here are the best freshmen in Division II.
Malik Hardy, Guard, Nova Southeastern
The Sharks are off to a program-best start, sitting at 9-1 and ready for a big test in No. 9 Barry on December 30. A large part can be attributed to new head coach Jim Crutchfield and their star guard David Dennis, who transferred in from West Liberty with his old coach.
But don’t sleep on Hardy’s contributions to this hot start. The 6-foot-2 true freshman currently leads all DII basketball freshman in scoring with 20.8 points per game. He’s also chipping in 4.9 rebounds per night. Hardy is a pretty efficient shooter from everywhere on the floor, hitting 54.2 percent of his 2s, 48.9 percent of his 3s and 91.9 percent of his free throws. The Sharks are currently the second highest scoring offense in DII, scoring 103.2 points per night. Hardy will be key if Nova Southeastern wants to continue this run to the postseason.
Michael Glen, Forward, Colorado Mines
Glen stepped into the staring lineup for the Orediggers on Day 1 and has continued to produce for the No. 12 team in DII basketball. The 6-foot-7 freshman has been a key contributor in the Mines 11-1 start.
"Michael has been a huge impact player for us as a true freshman this season," Assistant athletic director of communications Tim Flynn told NCAA.com. "He plays at the 4, where we graduated our rotation -- first-team all-RMAC Caleb Waitsman and Murphy Gershman -- so he's had to shoulder a lot of minutes early.
"You can see him getting better every game, which is exciting. Michael is long and super-athletic, and defensively plays bigger than his 6-foot-7 size. Definitely our top defensive guy in the paint, he's a solid shot blocker and a plus rebounder, and he creates matchup issues offensively because he can confidently shoot from anywhere on the court. When teams key in on our 5 it frees him to do things and we capitalize on it.
"I've been really impressed with the poise he's shown so early in his career. It's especially hard to play as a true freshman at Mines due to the academic adjustment. Most of our guys get redshirted their first year as a result."
Thus far, Glen has made 12 starts, averaging 24.3 minutes per game. He stuffs the stat sheet, putting up 8.3 points per game and ripping down 6.2 rebounds per night, which ties him for most on the team. Though he’s been a little inconsistent at the charity stripe, he came up big in the Orediggers final game before break, going 6-for-6, including sinking the two that gave them the cushion needed in a thrilling 79-77 win.
Gaige Prim, Forward, West Texas A&M
Prim has put up big numbers for the No. 11 Buffs, averaging 10.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He already has bolstered his resumé, taking home a Lone Star Conference Defensive Player of the Week Award on November 21st.
@PrimGaige is the Player of the Game today for @WestTXD2Hoops in a 99-69 win over ENMU! Prim scores 18 pts, grabs 11 rebs, & dishes out 3 assists. Young freshman playing like a seasoned vet in a big @LoneStarConf game. pic.twitter.com/c8YSgcl25O— Lucas Kinsey (@LucasKinseyWT) December 3, 2017
“He’s big around the rim,” West Texas A&M Sports Information Director Kit Strief told NCAA.com. “He’s been a very impactful freshman, obviously. He already has a couple of double-doubles this year. I think the coaching staff is very pleased with him, and consider him a surprise get, being from Colorado and that other schools in Colorado didn’t recruit him like that.”
Prim has made an immediate impact splitting time as a starter and a reserve, especially after the Buffs lost senior Tommy Gove to injury.
“I think they thought he had the potential to be really good,” Strief said. “But they are pleasantly surprised being as successful as he has been. He’s a force. He’s still learning, obviously as a freshman. But he’s had some big games, and he’s stepped up at big times.”
Chandler Jacobs, Dallas Baptist
Dallas Baptist made a big jump in the rankings this past week, jumping seven spots to No. 17. Part of that is thanks to a 10-1 record. Part of that is also thanks to true freshman Chandler Jacobs.
Jacobs has been a force all year, moving into the starting lineup five games ago. He scored a season high 33 points in his second game as a starter and closed out the early season slate with a 21-point performance.
"Chandler is an incredibly athletic scorer," Thomas Donely, an assistant in DBU's SID department, told NCAA.com. "He regularly fills up the highlight reels with the way he gets to the basket and finishes. That's more his game offensively, but he can knock down threes if left open. We've been hit with injuries and illnesses, and he's really taken advantage of that."
Since jumping into the starting lineup, Jacobs is averaging 20.6 points, making his 14.6 points per game on the season second best for DBU. He’s super efficient from the floor, sinking 62.5 percent of his field goals which ranks him No. 30 in all of DII. Jacobs has also sunk nine of his 17 3-pointers since becoming a starter. The 6-foot-2 guard can also be a presence on the boards, recording 10, 9, and 8 rebounds in a three game stretch.
Dalton Bolon, West Liberty
Bolon is the lone redshirt freshman to make the list, but it’s hard to ignore his offensive contribution for the No. 4 team in DII basketball.
As usual, West Liberty is a high-octane, scoring machine. Bolon has started in all of the Hilltoppers' 11 games. He's putting in 16.7 points per game for a team that leads DII scoring 113.0 points per night. The 6-foot-4 guard has helped on the boards, pulling down 5.5 rebounds a game. Per Don Clegg, West Liberty's SID:
"As the leading 3-point shooter, second-leading scorer and leading rebounder on an undefeated Hilltopper team that currently leads the nation in scoring and 3-point field goals, Dalton certainly fills the bill as an "impact freshman."
A big, strong shooting guard with virtually unlimited range, Dalton has been incredibly consistent in his first collegiate season. He's hit double-figures in 10 of his first 11 games (he had 9 points in the other one).
His highlights include a season-high 26 points in a 123-90 win at Davis & Elkins on Nov. 14 and his first career double-double four days later in a 130-100 win at Glenville State. Dalton's length and non-stop motor have also made him a key factor as the "up" man in WLU's rejuvenated full-court pressure defense, which ranks first or second nationally in steals, turnovers forced and turnover margin heading into the New Year."
The five freshman above have made their presence felt primarily in the starting lineup. But don’t discount the contributions of these key reserves.
Mason Mraz, Clarion -- If Mraz keeps up his pace, he will be the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. The 6-foot-3 guard is third on Clarion in scoring (13.9 points per game) and rebounding (4.1 rebounds per game). He's started his last two contests, dropping 26 points before the break. His days as a reserve may be over.
Luke Rudy, Christian Brothers -- Christian Brothers is back in the Top 5 for the first time since 2004. The 6-foot-5 swingman is averaging 9.4 points per game for the No. 4 Bucs, which is fourth on the team. He's also shooting 45.6 percent from 3-point land, sinking 26 already on the season, which ranks him second on the team.
Ryan Hawkins, Northwest Missouri State -- The 6-foot-7 forward is logging 17.2 minutes per game, adding 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game for the No. 1 Bearcats.
CJ Fleming, Bellarmine -- The 6-foot guard plays 19 minutes per game for the No. 3-ranked Knights, chipping in 6.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists a game.
Adam Rivera, Arkansas-Fort Smith -- Rivera is one of just two freshman on the Lions. The big 6-foot-7 forward logs 16.6 minutes per night, adding 7.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Brent Pergram, Wheeling Jesuit -- The Cardinals 5-foot-11 guard started his last game, his first start of the season, and responded with a season high seven assists. In his 11 games, he's playing 20.5 minutes a night and averaging 6.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists for No. 21 Wheeling Jesuit.
Rog Stein, Lake Superior State -- The Lakers are making some noise, fresh off a victory over then-No. 5 Ferris State. The freshman reserve forward played one of the biggest games of his young career, going 5-for-5 from the field and ripping down three boards. On the season, Stein is scoring 5.4 points per game on 59.2 percent shooting, while averaging 3.8 rebounds a night.