These fabulous freshmen are at the head of their class
Posted: Friday February 2, 2007 2:56PM; Updated: Friday February 2, 2007 3:59PM
Courtney Paris or Candace Parker. Nothing seemed to prompt more arguments last season than the debate of who was the best freshman in women's college basketball.
There was Paris, dominating the paint and posting one double-double after another at Oklahoma.
And there was Tennessee's Parker, who is not only the most versatile player in the game, but also pulls off more dunks than a Krispy Kreme donut.
There hasn't been quite that level of hype surrounding this year's freshman class. There are, however, quite a few who are contributing heavily to their teams. Herewith, five freshman worthy of recognition:
Stanford's Jayne Appel hasn't cracked the starting lineup, but she's putting up starter-like numbers for the Cardinal. The 6-foot-4 Appel is third on the team in scoring with 12.6 points a game. She trails a couple of pretty big names in player of the year candidates Candice Wiggins and Brooke Smith. With 37 blocks, she's no slouch on the defensive end either.
UConn expected Tina Charles to make an immediate impact, and she hasn't disappointed. She's already made her way into the record books. The nine shots she blocked last weekend against Notre Dame broke the UConn and Big East freshman marks. And with six double-doubles, the second most by a UConn rookie, Charles has put herself in some pretty good company, matching former Huskies star Svetlana Abrosimova.
There certainly won't be any arguments over the freshman of the year in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Xavier's Amber Harris seems to have that locked up. The 6-5 forward has already earned the conference rookie of the week honor nine times. Harris, who turned down powerhouses like Tennessee in favor of Xavier, is making her mark on the national scene, too. Her 3.6 blocks a game is third best in the country.
Georgia's Ashley Houts hasn't had the luxury of easing into the college game. She's started all but three contests and is one of two players logging 31 minutes a game. Thanks to Tasha Humphrey and Cori Chambers, though, Houts hasn't had to provide a ton of offense. (Of course, Thursday night's buzzer-beater against LSU was pretty impressive). But in true Georgia-guard fashion, she's turning into a defensive force on the perimeter. Houts has 53 steals in 21 games.
She's no Cappie Pondexter, and she hasn't come close to the national record 113 points she put up once in high school, but Epiphanny Prince has taken over as Rutgers' leading scorer. Prince, who averages 14.8 points, is also her team's leader in steals. Just as important, though, is her ability to hang onto the ball. She's also helped Rutgers recover from a slow start as the Scarlet Knights have won eight of their last nine.
The Race Is On
Oklahoma appeared to be in control of the Big 12 race until this week. The Sooners dropped two straight games, losing to Texas A&M and Texas. That's created quite a logjam atop the standings. Oklahoma is one of four teams with just two losses in conference play. Nebraska represents the North Division in the bunch. Baylor and Texas A&M have just two losses as well.
"The [Big 12] race is on," said Texas coach Jody Conradt, whose team is in the middle of the pack at 4-4. "This week changed everything. OU is not sitting out there undefeated, and everyone else has the ability to be in contact with them. This conference is just unbelievable in how deep it is."
Oklahoma isn't the only top team having a rough week. Defending champion Maryland has dropped two straight games, too. Sunday's loss to North Carolina might not have been such a surprise, but losing Georgia Tech can't be easy to take. No offense to the Yellow Jackets, but they aren't exactly first team to beat in the ACC.
Maryland will have to find a way to take care of the ball if it wants to repeat as national champion, something that's been done only by USC, Tennessee and UConn. The Terrapins had a combined 45 turnovers against UNC and Tech.