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Last year’s freshman class in Pac-10 is missed, big time

Citizen Staff Writer



No Bayless. No Mayo. No Love. No love at all. The Pac-10 basketball freshmen have had one big problem this season. That is, they are not last year’s basketball freshmen, which merely was the greatest collection ever in the league.

The best of the freshman best are gone, save for Arizona State’s James Harden, and the Pac-10 sure does miss them.

Imagine Arizona getting 20-plus points and 40 minutes a game from Bayless, rather than a combination of mostly Zane Johnson and Kyle Fogg. We wouldn’t be wondering how in the world the Wildcats are going to squeeze into the NCAA Tournament.

Imagine USC with Mayo, back with veteran guards and post man Taj Gibson. A lot of offense, a lot of defense.

Imagine UCLA with Love, having a legit shot for its fourth consecutive Final Four. That’s not going to happen because the Bruins no longer have the post offense to pull it off.

What? Did you expect that kind of freshman impact every season?

“It’s just out of whack,” USC coach Tim Floyd said of the expectations on the league’s freshmen. “I just don’t see where it is as down as people say it is.”

Perhaps the fault lies not in our freshman stars, but in ourselves.

The expectations might have been out of whack. But that’s what we all do these days – raise expectations. From coaches who can now legally recruit seventh-graders, to recruiting sites that hand out star ratings that are swallowed as gospel, to the media that always want to write about The Next Big Thing.

Many kids are glorified before they dribble a ball on campus, and then vilified if they can’t do it as well as Michael Jordan.

I mean, UCLA had the supposed best recruiting class in the nation, but only shooting guard Jrue Holiday is a main contributor, and he has been considered somewhat of a disappointment. He is averaging 9.4 points a game.

“He has been given a lot of responsibility,” said UCLA coach Ben Howland.

“He’s usually guarding the other team’s best wing player, and that is not easy in this league.

“There are some very good freshmen in this league right now, including ours.”

For sure, there are pockets of standout freshman play in the conference.

And Washington’s pocket-sized guard, Isaiah Thomas, surprisingly, is the best of the bunch. He didn’t have the incoming hype several other league newcomers did, basically because he is 5 foot 8.

“I tell you, Isaiah has had as big an impact as any of the freshmen of a year ago,” Floyd said.

Arizona will get its first look at Thomas on Thursday night when the league-leading Huskies play in McKale Center.

“The one thing about this young man, he’s fearless,” said UA coach Russ Pennell. “He comes in believing he belongs. He’s energetic. I love the way he plays.”

Thomas has been better than the more touted Holiday and DeMar DeRozan of USC. Those three, plus Washington State forward Klay Thompson, are the four full-time freshman starters in the league.

Thompson has the NBA dad – Mychal Thompson – while Thomas just sounds like he does. You probably know the story by now.

Thomas’ father, James, is a big Los Angeles Lakers fan, and was so sure they would win the 1989 NBA Finals over Detroit that he made an unusual bet with a friend. If the Pistons won, he agreed to name his next son after Detroit’s star point guard.

At least the name is spelled slightly differently. The NBA Hall of Famer goes by Isiah.

In any case, Thomas is the leading scorer among Pac-10 freshmen. The only other newbie in the top 20 is DeRozan, who is 18th at 12.3 points per game.

Last season, freshmen accounted for four of the top seven scorers in the Pac-10.

The season before that, four of the top 11 scorers in the conference were freshmen – Cal’s Ryan Anderson, Arizona’s Chase Budinger, Washington big man Spencer Hawes and Oregon little man Tajuan Porter.

Of those eight players, only three are still in the league. The others gave up a combined 14 seasons of eligibility.

There will always be an NBA market for skilled athletes like Holiday and DeRozan, but maybe this time the league’s freshmen can become sophomores, and perhaps even juniors.

A little time and a little patience could go a long way.

Anthony Gimino’s e-mail:




G Isaiah Thomas, WASH 16.3 2.9


• DeMar DeRozan, USC 12.3 5.2

• Klay Thompson, WSU 11.5 4.3

G Jrue Holiday, UCLA 9.4 3.8

C Michael Dunigan, ORE 9.5 5.3

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