Freshman rankings: Duke’s Vernon Carey Jr. is Freshman of the Week, finishes No. 1 in 2019-20 Frosh Watch


This is the final edition of the Frosh Watch, our weekly ranking of the 10 most impressive freshmen in college basketball. CBS Sports once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award to present this every-Tuesday feature. The USBWA will announce the winner of its Wayman Tisdale Award on March 24.

Freshman of the Week: Vernon Carey, Duke

Carey caps his remarkable freshman regular season by winning his third Frosh of the Week honor, more than any other freshman in this class. He also went nearly wire-to-wire this season as the No. 1 player in our weekly rankings and finishes at No. 1 in our final update of the season.

Carey put the exclamation point on his breakout year by hanging 25 points and 10 boards in Duke’s win over rival North Carolina over the weekend. UNC simply had no answers for how to combat Carey’s size in the paint, and as the game got late, his physicality over-matched the Tar Heels.

“I thought Vernon Carey was sensational,” said UNC’s Roy Williams. “Vernon took over the game.”

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Frosh Watch

These are the top 10 freshman performers for the 2019-20 regular season.

1. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke

Key stats: 17.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 34.1 PER | Last week: No. 1

Roy Williams, after falling to Duke, pointed to Carey as the difference in the game, saying he took over. Indeed he did. After UNC pulled to within 55-54 in the second half to make it a game, Carey scored six straight points and added 13 points over the final 11 minutes of action to distance Duke past UNC.

“He’s big, he has great hands, great toughness, he turns quickly, he has got great spring, makes free throws,” said Williams. “I mean, I recruited the Dickens out of him as hard as I could for two years. He’s really, really good. I think he has had a great, great year for them and one of the better players in college basketball.”

2. ANTHONY EDWARDS, Georgia

Key stats: 19.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.8 apg | Last week: No. 2

Georgia locked up a losing record (15-16) by dropping its final two regular season games, but the Frosh Watch does not discriminate against bad teams. And Edwards was clearly a top-two freshman all season, given his microwave scoring ability and propensity to pop off like a pogo stick like he did against Florida — among many other teams.

3. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC

Key stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 61.8 eFG% | Last week: No. 3

Okongwu steadily rose up our rankings all season and finishes tied for the highest mark all season at No. 3. That’s a testament to his talent and also his impact on a now-surging USC team, which enters Pac-12 play on a three-game winning streak having knocked off Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA — all top-five teams in the conference. He capped his regular season on a high note in the same way USC did, too, posting 16 points, six boards, two blocks and two steals in taking down UCLA and keeping the Bruins from clinching the regular season title.

4. ISAIAH STEWART, Washington

Key stats: 16.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.1 bpg | Last week: No. 5

While Washington’s season was hit or miss, Stewart was a consistent force, posting double figures in either scoring or rebounding in each of his final 15 games dating back to two months ago. In two games this week, for instance, he averaged 15 points and 9.5 boards as the Huskies — incredibly — knocked off Arizona State and Arizona on the road through their sweep of the desert. If any team can get hot in the Pac-12 and make a run, it might be Washington the way Stewart continues to dominate on both ends of the court.

5. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona

Key stats: 16.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 116.6 ORtg | Last week: No. 4

Nnaji won Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors this week, the league announced. And while he finishes third among Pac-12 players in our final rankings, there’s no denying his season-long impact for the Wildcats was immense. He was an energy guy who contributed with consistency on the offensive glass and scored it with efficiency.

6. PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis

Key stats: 15.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg | Last week: No. 8

Only two freshmen finished the season averaging a double-double: Precious Achiuwa and James Wiseman  — both from Memphis. Wiseman played just three games before he ran into NCAA trouble, but Achiuwa played in all 31 of the Tigers’ games, averaging 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. He goes into the postseason on a high note, too, averaging 17,7 boards and 20.3 points per game over his final three regular-season outings.

7. COLE ANTHONY, UNC

Key stats: 19.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.1 apg | Last week: NR

Despite missing nearly two months during the season due to injury, Anthony finishes at No. 7 in our rankings after a late-season surge in which he led this UNC team — the one Roy Williams dubbed as his least-talented — to a 3-1 record to close the regular season. During that stretch, Anthony averaged 20.3 points and 5.5 assists per game as the Tar Heels find themselves with momentum entering the ACC Tournament.

8. TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS, Indiana 

Key stats: 13.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 120.2 ORtg | Last week: No. 6

Indiana has gone as Jackson-Davis has gone, evidence being the Hoosiers lost just once all season when he posted at least 10 points and 10 boards in a game. He was held to just six points and eight boards in IU’s regular0season finale loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, but his efficiency around the rim and smarts as a post presence left no doubt he was a top-10 freshman all season.

9. JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech

Key stats: 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 42.6 3-pt% | Last week: No. 10

Ramsey’s sharpshooting ways leaves him third among all Big 12 players in 3-point percentage and second among all freshmen in the league. So fittingly, in Texas Tech’s failed upset bid on Saturday against Kansas, his only six points came courtesy of shots from downtown. As the Red Raiders march into March, though, he’ll be a critical piece on offense to keying any run if Tech has another in it.

10. KOFI COCKBURN, Illinois  

Key stats: 13.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 53.2 2-pt%  | Last week: No. 7

Illinois overcame its midseason swoon to win five of its final six, with Cockburn posting double-figure scoring outings in each of those dubs. He’s been as vital to the Illini’s success as any non-Ayo Dosunmu player. It’s one thing to be 7-foot and 290 pounds, but another to know how to wield it. Cockburn had the smarts and skill all season to do both.

Previous FOTW winners:





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