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14 mid-major freshmen off to great starts

Who said the breakout freshmen was reserved for the high majors?

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Even in this parity-filled college basketball season, freshmen have taken center stage.

But as you well know by visiting this here website, Vernon Carey Jr., Anthony Edwards and others aren’t the only young ones who have plopped right into the college game and soared. The freshmen phenom is rarer at the mid-major level, but the players below have experienced a seamless transition to the next level and been an important part of their respective teams.

Here are 14 impact freshmen at mid-major schools. Since we cover, literally, hundreds of mid-major freshmen, let us know who else deserves mention.

Josh Kunen, Forward, San Francisco

The Australian big man has been an important of another good Dons team. He’s started the majority of USF’s games, and has had second greatest impact down low behind senior Jimbo Lull. Kunen has averaged a double double over the Dons’ past two games (11.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG), a pair of quality wins over Pacific and Santa Clara that broke a three-game losing streak.

Drew Timme, Center, Gonzaga

The blue chip recruit has not disappointed for the country’s No. 1 team. Timme had a hot hand offensively to start the season, and has continued with consistent production in the post (9.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG). He’s been the Zags’ best offensive rebounder, and was arguably the team’s best player the last time out in a dominant win at Loyola Marymount (10 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists). His potential to develop as the season goes is one of the many reasons the Bulldogs yet again figure to be a terror come March.

Orlando Robinson, Forward, Fresno State

Robinson has been the Bulldogs’ best player over the past three weeks, which included a 23-point, 14-rebound outing in a win over San Jose State. Bulldogs’ coach Justin Hutson told the Fresno Bee that Robinson’s desire has helped propel him through the transition to the college game. Currently, that has him playing at an all-league pace since Mountain West play began (30.0 MPG, 13.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG).

Yuri Collins, Guard, Saint Louis

Collins has stepped in and immediately helped orchestrate a solid offense to complement the Billikens’ tremendous defense. Lucky for the world, our own Kyle Cajero wrote a great piece on the impact Collins and fellow freshman guard Gibson Jimerson have had in the Gateway City earlier this year.

Tanner Holden, Wing, Wright State

Holden has eased into a big role on another flying Raiders team. Alongside Bill Wampler, Loudon Love and Cole Gentry, Holden has emerged as a reliable scorer and rebounder (10.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG). He’s been a key part of Scott Nagy’s rotation on a team that figures to push its win total into the 20’s. A hot start bottomed into an early-season lull, but Holden has found his confidence again, and has scored in double figures in over half of the Raiders’ league games.

Ellis Magnuson, Guard, Eastern Washington

Speaking of great Kyle Cajero work, he covered breakout Eagles point guard and assists whiz Ellis Magnuson last week. Read the words, watch the dazzling passes, walk away impressed.

Tyzhaun Claude, Forward, Morehead State

The freshman big man has been a big part of the Eagles’ 3-1 start to OVC play, grabbing double digit rebounds in three of their four league games. He’s been a monster on the defensive glass, posting the best defensive rebounding rate in OVC play (30.6%) and 27th in the country over the whole season (26.9%). It’s been a wild start in the OVC, and the Eagles must hope Claude can help them capture the league’s NCAA bid for the first time since 2011.


It’s the first team-wide cop out. Matt McCall has leaned into a youth movement as he tries to rebuild the Minutemen into an A-10 contender. UMass has three freshmen scoring in double figures in center Tre Mitchell (14.8 PPG), guard T.J. Weeks (14.7 PPG) and guard Sean East (11.9 PPG). With one of the least experienced teams in the country (342nd, per KenPom), the Amherst faithful must hope that trio can lead bright days ahead.


Assuming roster continuity, the Hatters have a solid duo to build on for years to come. Their two leading scorers are freshmen — Rob Perry and Mahamadou Diawara — who led the way during Stetson’s first conference victory at Kennesaw State on Jan. 4. Diawara has been a tremendous rebounder and efficient offensive player despite heavy usage in his debut college season.

Holy Cross

The Crusaders are going through a very rough season, but, like others on this list, can pin their hopes on brighter days ahead because of youth. The freshmen duo of Drew Lowder (14.1 PPG) and Joe Pridgen (15.4 PPG) have led the team in scoring and were at the heart of a win over Navy last Sunday. First-year coach Brett Nelson surely hopes the gobs of playing time the pair have gotten this year will pay off down the road.