First Look: Big Ten Freshmen 2010-11

Dylan Burkhardt

The Big Ten might have more returning talent than any other league in the country but that’s not to say there won’t be superstars in the latest crop of freshmen. Last year’s freshmen class didn’t have near the star power of year’s past but this year’s conference champion might be determined by which freshmen stars are ready to perform.

First, here’s a team-by-team look at the freshmen classes across the league:

Team Commits Rivals Scout ESPN
Ohio St. 6 3.83 4.00 94.17
Illinois 3 4.00 4.33 94.67
Michigan St. 4 3.75 4.25 93.50
Purdue 3 3.67 3.25 91.33
Wisconsin 4 3.00 3.25 90.25
Michigan 4 3.00 3.00 90.00
Penn St. 3 2.67 2.67 88.33
Indiana 3 2.67 2.67 83.00
Minnesota 6 2.50 2.50 85.50
Northwestern 1 3.00 3.00 88.00
Iowa 4 3.00 2.25 83.75

*Unranked prospects are given a two star rating or 70 on ESPN.

Ohio State has the top class in the league as they have the top end talent (Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas) and the depth (six players) to make a serious impact. Illinois is close on their tail with a solid trio of prospects with size and athleticism. Michigan State is the third team that belongs in the top tier with a class highlighted by Keith Appling and Adreian Payne.

The middle tier breaks down pretty evenly into Purdue, Wisconsin, and Michigan. These schools have 3 or 4 prospects that are respected but they lack the top 25 high end talent. Penn State, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Iowa fall pretty clearly into the bottom group.

The next question is, individually, who are the freshmen that have the ability and opportunity to make an impact. Last year I predicted Royce White, DJ Richardson, Christian Watford, Drew Crawford, and Maurice Creek would make the all freshman team. White never played a game and Creek missed conference play with an injury, but the other three were all consensus picks on the end of season team.

Jared-Sullinger[1]images[1]Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Michigan State’s Keith Appling

Jared Sullinger – Ohio State – 6-9 PF – The consensus top recruit in the Big Ten, Sullinger is a load to handle in the paint, literally: he was measured at 6-foot-9 286 pounds this summer. Sullinger will patrol the paint from day one and very well could be the freshman of the year.

Keith Appling – Michigan State – 6-2 G -  Chris Allen’s transfer was Keith Appling’s lottery ticket. With Kalin Lucas in the lineup, Appling will be able to do what he does best: score the ball. Eventually he will need to be a point guard but right now he will be in his comfort zone. The opportunity is there and from what I’ve seen, Appling will take advantage.

Jereme Richmond – Illinois – 6-8 WF – The Illini have the guards with Demetri McCamey, DJ Richardson, and Brandon Paul and they have the bigs with Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale. But Jereme Richmond adds a new element with his size, floor game, and athletic ability.

DeShaun Thomas – Ohio State – 6-7 F – David Lighty spent most of last season playing the four for Ohio State, this year he’s likely to be the point guard. This naturally leaves plenty of opportunity in the front court Thomas isn’t a towering presence at the four but his inside-outside game, strength, and athleticism make him the perfect fit for the position at this level.

Tim Hardaway Jr. – Michigan – 6-5 WG – Hardaway doesn’t have the recruiting pedigree as several other players in the league but he has plenty of opportunity. Solid players that are thrust into the limelight ahead of schedule typically end up on all-freshman teams. Hardaway got a lot of looks during Michigan’s European tour and appears to be the best bet in Michigan’s freshmen class.

Watch List

Jershon Cobb – Northwestern – G – Cobb is one of the highest rated recruits in Northwestern history and he will step right into Northwestern’s dynamic backcourt between Michael Thompson and Drew Crawford.

Adreian Payne – Michigan St. – PF – Long athletic forward that will try to get minutes in MSU’s crowded frontcourt. He might be one of the best NBA prospects on this list but needs to turn talent and ability into production.

Terone Johnson – Purdue – G – With Kramer and Grant gone, Purdue needs bodies in the backcourt. Kelsey Barlow showed flashes last year but Terone Johnson will be given a chance.

Meyers Leonard – C – Illinos – Another near 7-footer on the Illini roster. Leanard will probably get a year of experience with Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale in the post.

Lenzelle Smith, Jr. – Ohio St. – G – Ohio State will likely have open auditions for the point guard spot. Smith is more of a combo guard but he will likely get his shot.

Evan Smotrycz – Michigan – PF – The type of skilled, shooting, combo forward that John Beilein loves. Smotrycz has the potential to be the next John Shurna, Kevin Coble, Robbie Hummel type but the question mark is how Big Ten ready his game is.

There are undoubtedly players that I overlooked so don’t hesitate to leave a comment with players that are overlooked on this list.

This site is supported by donations

Like what you see? Click the button below to donate and access exclusive content.

  • Solid breakdown, Dylan. One correction, Northwestern’s freshman is named Jershon, not Justin.

  • Brick

    Do redshirt Freshman count? I think Blake could end up making a big impact this year. He is going to get a ton of minutes and he has the size to do some things around the basket.

  • Eric

    Talor Battle’s brother isn’t worth a mention? Buie’s been rated higher than Battle coming out of HS.

  • I’ll be interested to see Melsahn Basabe of Iowa. He should get plenty of opportunities and if McCaffery can speed up Iowa’s offense as he plans Basabe could put up some good numbers.

  • aMaized
  • Bill

    Excited to see Tim Hardaway play. Looks like he’s ready to contribute this year. If the bigs can contribute could be a suprise year if everyone is on the same page and healthy. 17 days till practice starts. Love watching a coach build a program hopefully they have a good year.

  • Kenny

    Seems that manny made the preseason roster. I am happy for him. Hope that he will make the final cut.

  • Manny is a non roster invite… Not sure what exactly that means as I’m not well versed in NBA hoops. Any explanations?

  • fresh

    michigans main focus this year should be broken down into something like this…..1) probably the most important is playing tough defense….because of their inexperience it may be hard to run the offense at times however focusing hardcore on defense could potentially change the outcome of certain games when the offense is struggling…….2) being not only good cutters but show good meaningful passing as well, its hard to say what the offense will be capable of but assuming that we arent going to have a large amount of people beating folks off the dribble crisp passing and movement will be key as well………..i think that if they focus on those 2 areas in particular they could be a really solid team ……….thats only if they can shoot at a fairly consistent rate

    very interested to see how this season shapes up and who will step up

  • Tweeter

    non-roster invitee’s are players that are brought into fall camps but are not part of the 15 man roster for the particular team. They do not have guaranteed contracts but I believe they do get paid something for being there. Chances are usually pretty slim that they will make the team as most teams either have a fully filled 15 man roster or are at least one spot away. But it gives a player a chance to build some practice-habit rep across the league and maybe get a few minutes of playing time in the preseason.

    Looking at the Cavs roster it appears they have 15 guys, but one is a rookie from the Congo so its possible he will be left over seas for this year, and they will use that spot on someone else. They did also invite four other players.

  • winnerscircle

    I am going out on a limb and say Tim Hardaway , Evan Smot, Blake M , Colton Christian and Jordan Morgan will contribute more than many think . They all have played and performed against good competition . Jon Hoford is also one who could impress …

    The think is people look too much into star rankings . Some star ranking are based on height , potential and athleticism.

    I remember when Smot committed , a certain board went on a all out massacre on JB , complaining about him signing untalented Nobodies …

    Not to mention , they did the same with Hardaway J.R , Jordan Morgan , and CC .

    Now that they see that these kids can play they hop on the band wagon big time . I think are class this year including redshirts will surprise some .

    They played pro teams tough (except one game ) . That is definately something to look at . I know some fans are going to be negative nancies no matter what , but just cause a kid is AA doesn’t mean he will star …

    Ask Kevin Tolbert , Brian Butch , Eric. Boateng ,Lance ( played for Duke ) something , Taylor King , Jackie Manuel , and numerous AA flops . I am not suggesting the players mentioned above will flop but I am simply saying more Stephen Curry’s , Manny Harris ‘s , Peedi Sims , Alan Anderson , BRJ’s , Gordon Haywards andECT will emerge and play better than AA’s. .

    Anybody remember Manny and Gray outplaying the AA back court of Georgetown ?? Evan Turner …

    Just saying I wouldn’t put too much into rankings . Most of these kids get 25 to 30 shots a game to average anywhere from 23 to 30 points . I am looking forwad to our team work and disicipline beating higher ranked teams .

    Wesley Johnson was not highly rated and ranked butgot drafted number 4 … look at Epke Udoh . Paul George.

    I can’t wait until the season starts . We are gonna really surprise ….

  • I thought we had done better than this, rankings-wise, in the eyes of the experts. Brian over at mgoblog had a link to an ESPN story that had us at #23 nationwide:

    Would that STILL leave us middle of the pack, B10, or do those rankings refer to how we project for next year?

  • TheYooper

    Off topic, but apparently my brother at UM has an eerily similar schedule to Jordan Morgan. Last week he saw him in a bathroom and on the street at midnight. Today he saw him in the morning and after lunch at the bus stop and in another bathroom.

    Jordan Morgan…..potential stalker?

  • Brian W

    Sam Webb talked about Dom Pointer’s recruitment and UM’s strong interest in him this morning on the recruiting round-up. You can hear the podcast at: