Last fall there was a lot of speculation on this years MAC West freshmen class. With Central Michigan adding Trey Zeigler interest in this class elevated, and why not. After all, when was the last time a player of this caliber entered the league. Fans wondered, what could a 4 Star freshmen with offers from UCLA, MSU, and UM lead a MAC team to?
As we pass the halfway point of the conference season Broncoblitz looks at the freshmen class, and adds a dose of reality to the over hyped speculation that may have come with this class.
Ball State brought in three freshmen. Jesse Berry, Chris Bond, and Matt Kamieniecki. From a WMU standpoint Kamieniecki seemed to be the big steal, but as Steve Hawkins told me later, "While we'd have liked to have had Kamieniecki, he played enough pick up games with us to see that it would be awhile before he'd see serious minutes at the four." Kamieniecki is averaging 2.1 ppg, Bond is averaging 6.6 ppg, and Berry is averaging 8.8 ppg with a high of 18.
BSU has gotten off to a solid start, leading the MAC West with a 6-3 record and a 14-8 overall.
The Chips came into this year as the golden class of the MAC. And why not, with Trey Zeigler anchoring the class, and several returning veterans, the Chippewas looked like a team that would compete for the MAC West. Picked by almost every media outlet as the team to challenge Ball State, the Chips have been the polar opposite of what was expected.
While Zeigler has been the expected star, he has struggled to involve his teammates, and has found himself struggling to get his points. The trend as of late has been for teams to throw the kitchen sink at Zeigler and let the others produce and for the most part it has worked. The Chips are a dismal 6-17 with a 3-7 record in the MAC.
Zeigler's supporting cast has been spotty at best with high profile recruit Collin Voss scoring at a 1.6 ppg game clip. After the Chip starting PG left the team, Derek Jackson has stepped in averaging 6.1 ppg, with a high of 19.
If I rank this class based on stats it's still one of the best in the MAC West, but when ranked on pure production of wins and losses, it has not been good.
Not a lot to say about this group. Eastern is not a team that has been dependent on freshmen. Adrian Burton is the only frosh seeing real time, and Burton is averaging 3.6 ppg.
The Huskies see regular playing time out of Kyree Jones and Nate Rucker. Jones is averaging 4 ppg and Rucker is chipping in a healthy 7.6 ppg game with a high of 14. Rucker's size and strength should help NIU for the next three years.
It's hard to evaluate a team going nowhere that is totally dependent on freshmen. Moreover, it's hard a evaluate a group of freshmen that get beat a crop of transfers waiting in the wings. But from a pure statistical standpoint this class is solid. Delano Dear averages 8.9 ppg with a high of 19. Reese Holiday averages 10.2 ppg with a high of 17, and Hayden Humes is averaging 6 points per game, and dropped 19 on Western Michigan, in the Rockets only MAC win.
It would have been easy to dismiss this years WMU freshmen class. Granted Juwan Howard had the pedigree and the name, but for most, Howard was window dressing for MSU star Keith Appling at Detroit Pershing. As many found, this kid can play. A high IQ basketball player who knows how to get a shot off, knows his limitations, has a barrel full of confidence, and can involve others. Howard has shown himself to be a winner first and a basketball player second. Howard seems to show up big on nights when it's most needed.
Juwan is averaging 9.2 ppg with highs of 24, 22, and 21. A deadly three point shooter, Howard has been a difference maker.
Matt Stainbrook. Who knew? Stainbrook was recruited as an overweight post up player with potential, but probably in need of a redshirt year. Well Stainbrook dropped some weight, showed a variety of scoring options, and has gone on to start 20 of 21 games. He has averaged 9.2 ppg with a high of 18, and one double double.
More important, these two freshmen have helped vault a team picked for 4th in the MAC to being a contender for the MAC West and the MAC Championship at the halfway mark. The Broncos stand at 5-3 in the MAC and 12-9 overall. I think most Bronco fans would agree, that without the production of this freshmen duo, the Broncos would likely be setting on a losing record and out of the race.