NEW YORK – Add Syracuse's Donte Greene to the rapidly growing list of freshmen who seem to be taking over college basketball.
Greene was clearly the best player at the Preseason NIT despite not playing in the championship game.
Greene scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Syracuse's 79-65 loss to Ohio State. He followed up that performance with his first double-double, racking up 25 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks to power the Orange to a 91-85 win over Washington in the consolation game on Friday. Those performances earned him Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week award for the week ending Nov. 25.
"We wanted to try and come out and show our fans in (New York) City that the 'Cuse has a good team," said Greene, who was the only player not in the final to be voted to the Preseason NIT All-Tournament team. "I felt good. This is the first time I've been here since I won the MVP award in the Jordan game (Greene won co-MVP honors after scoring 20 points in the Jordan Brand All-American Classic on April 22). I felt really comfortable out there."
Just how good Syracuse is remains to be seen (Texas A&M crushed Ohio State 70-47 and the three teams Washington beat are a combined 3-11), but Greene has certainly proven himself. The graceful 6-foot-9 forward looked unguardable at times in Madison Square Garden. He made fadeaway jumpers on the baseline, blew past defenders off the dribble and stepped back to nail a few 3-pointers (he was 4-for-12 from beyond the arc).
"(Donte) can shoot the ball on the outside and he can put the ball on the floor," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He's going to be a good player. He already is."
Greene has now strung together three consecutive 20-plus point games, dating to his 25-point performance in the Orange's 80-63 win over Fordham on Nov. 16.
But Greene - like many other freshmen - has been overshadowed by a host of big-name rookies who are off to stellar starts. Highly regarded prospects like Kansas State's Michael Beasley, Indiana's Eric Gordon, Memphis' Derrick Rose USC's O.J. Mayo and UCLA's Kevin Love (each was ranked in the top six of the 2007 class by Rivals.com) have lived up to their hype.
The lack of attention doesn't bother Greene, who says he would prefer it remains that way.
"O.J. and Kevin have been two of the top players in our class since the seventh grade," said Greene, who was ranked No. 9 by Rivals. "They can have the spotlight. I'll stay under the radar and do my thing. Hopefully the scouts will see that."
Grabbing the attention of NBA personnel shouldn't be a problem for Greene. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who often shies away from praising his younger players, believes we have yet to see the best from the rising star.
"He was really good tonight, especially in the first half," said Boeheim after the win over the Huskies. "I think he'll keep growing."
If that's the case, Greene won't be able to stay under the radar much longer. Like Mayo and Love, he could be a household name among college basketball fans by the time the Orange return to Madison Square Garden for the 2008 Big East Tournament March 12-15.
Regardless of what transpires between now and then, Greene will enter that event with plenty of confidence. In his first three games at MSG (counting the Jordan game), Greene has scored at least 20 points and is averaging 22 points a game.
OTHER NOMINEES FOR FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK:
G Patrick Mills, St. Mary's
The Australian point guard pushed the Gaels to an upset of then-No. 12 Oregon. Mills scored 37 points, including 13 of 14 free throws. He also had five assists and just one turnover in 37 minutes as the Gaels beat the Ducks 99-87. Mills followed up with 11 points and five assists in a victory over Nicholls State that ran the Gaels' record to 5-0.
G LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor
The 6-4 shooting guard scored 17 points in each of two victories last week as the Bears got off to a 5-0 start. He shot 65 percent (13 of 20), including 50 percent from 3-point range, and averaged 5.5 rebounds.
Augustin was named the most valuable player of the Legends Classic after the Longhorns crushed New Mexico State, 102-87, and Tennessee, 97-78, to win the tournament.
The 5-11 point guard averaged 24 points, nine assists, 3.5 rebounds and three steals in the semifinals and final. He shot a sizzling 62 percent (18 for 29) from the field, including 50 percent (6-for-12) from 3-point range. He penetrated at will and created open looks for teammates or scoring opportunities for himself.
G A.J. Abrams, Texas
Benefiting from the great play of backcourt mate D.J. Augustin, Abrams shot the lights out in the semis and final of the Legends Classic. He scored 31 points with nine 3-pointers against New Mexico State and added 21 points with three 3s against Tennessee. He made 19-of-30 shots (63.3 percent) in the two games.
F Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
The big man led the Tar Heels to the title at the Las Vegas Invitational, averaging 24 points and seven rebounds in victories over Old Dominion and BYU. He shot 61.5 percent (16 for 26) and got to the free-throw line 19 times, converting 16.
Plaisted had a pair of monster games against top-10 teams to establish the Cougars as a force out West. His play also caused him to move up some NBA Draft boards.
The 6-11 junior center led BYU to a first-round upset of Louisville, 78-76, at the Las Vegas Invitational. He had 21 points on 10 of 16 shooting and added 12 rebounds. In the championship game against top-ranked North Carolina he continued his stellar play, torching the Tar Heels for 24 points and 17 rebounds. BYU led with less than 7 minutes to play before UNC rallied for a 73-63 victory.
G Mike Green, Butler
The Bulldogs' senior point guard was named the most outstanding player at the Great Alaska Shootout last week after averaging 20 points, 6.7 assists and four rebounds per game. Green helped Butler win the tournament title. He shot 7-for-8 from 3-point range.
F Will Thomas, George Mason
In three games at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, the 6-7 senior led the Patriots to victories over then-No. 18 Kansas State and South Carolina and averaged 18.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Thomas had 22 points and 11 rebounds and played all 40 minutes in the 69-68 victory over the Gamecocks.
C Jason Thompson, Rider
Did you know the Rider big man was the only returning player to average more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game last season? He has picked up where he left off. He averaged 23 points and 10.7 rebounds last week as the Broncs went 1-2 at the Old Spice Classic.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rivals.com Basketball Editor Bob McClellan contributed to this report.