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Mid-major freshmen who starred in their debuts

A pair of 20-point performances, plus several breakout star candidates

Lousiana-Lafayette v Creighton Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

One of the underappreciated effects of the transfer portal is the trickle-down of freshmen. Players previously inaccessible to mid-major programs are now being turned away at high majors in favor of experienced transfers.

This has led to plenty of high-level freshmen at the mid-major level. Even then, these players are mostly unknown until they step on the court, and they don’t get the hype they deserve. Here are a few players that starred in their freshman debuts.

Garrett Johnson, George Washington: 21 points, 9 rebounds

Johnson’s story is an inspiring one. Just six months ago, he finished his ninth round of chemotherapy for a tumor in his hip. He made his collegiate debut Monday. The sharpshooter drained five threes. GW made a point of getting him the ball in catch-and-shoot situations.

LeJuan Watts, Eastern Washington: 15 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals

Eastern Washington turned to the physical freshman in his debut against Utah, one of the biggest teams in the country. Watts practiced with the Eagles’ Big Sky regular season champion team last year while redshirting. His maturity showed, hitting mid-range shots, winning second-chance points and providing a different element.

Dylan Williamson, Towson: 15 points, 3 assists, 2 steals

Williamson rose to the occasion in a tough road matchup in Colorado. The freshman led the Tigers in scoring. Williamson showed off his burst in ball-screen situations to beat his primary defender and to get to the rim. He also showed some craft in the paint and knocked down two triples.

Tyler Perkins, Penn: 15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals

Head coach Steve Donahue and star guard Clark Slajchert had high praise for Perkins at Ivy League media day. He backed up the hype by asserting himself in all facets of the game immediately. Perkins showed off excellent passing vision in transition, running Penn’s fast break with comfort and ease.

Thomas Batties, Harvard: 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks

Harvard’s impressive freshman class was the driving force behind the opening night win over UMass Boston. Batties controlled all 94 feet, draining threes, finishing in the paint and swatting shots. Malik Mack and Luca Ace-Nasteski also scored in double figures in their college debuts for the Crimson.

Seydou Traore, Manhattan: 12 points, 11 rebounds

Traore showed off a well-rounded skillset at six-feet, seven-inches by leading Manhattan to an upset win over Bryant. He dominated the glass, while also scoring off the dribble, in transition and in the paint.

Ahmad Henderson II, Niagara: 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists

Henderson led Niagara in scoring as the Purple Eagles nearly upset Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. If it wasn’t for fellow freshman Markus Burton taking over the game for the Irish, Niagara may have walked out with a win. The five-foot-ten-inch guard was not shy with his shot or his body, getting in the lane to grab rebounds.

Joshua Hughes, Evansville: 12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks

The Aussie freshman played just 17 minutes and made his presence known. Hughes cleaned the glass and got to the line, while also swatting three shots for a team that couldn’t keep opponents out of the lane last year. He added an element to the Aces’ game that wasn’t there last year, pushing them to an upset win over Miami (OH).

Cam Manyawu, Wyoming: 13 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists

At six-feet, nine-inches, Manyawu brought a physical high-post presence to the Cowboys’ senior-heavy lineup. Wyoming used him as a secondary playmaker, making reads to pass from post positioning. He leveraged his playmaking into efficient scoring as well, while also establishing dominance on the defensive glass.

Kyrone Alexander (15 points, 4 rebounds) and Matai Baptiste (11 points, 5 rebounds) Boston University

Despite the Terriers’ loss to Northeastern, the two freshmen shined bright as the team’s two top scorers. Alexander showed off his natural scoring talent, hitting six of nine shots for 15 points, while Baptiste’s defensive impact was notable for all of his 20 minutes.

Tyler Harris, Portland: 17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists

Harris needed just nine shots to score 17 points in Portland’s win against Long Beach State. A NorCal state champion at Granada High School this past winter, the six-foot-eight-inch Harris possesses guard skills, but also the physicality to win on the glass.

Braden Housley, Southern Utah: 22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists

Housley redshirted last year, but he immediately stepped into a major role for Rob Jeter at SUU. He functioned as the primary ball handler for the Thunderbirds and nearly led them to a road win over Cal State Bakersfield. Housley got into the lane amongst the trees, hitting a few contested layups.