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Pac-10 Freshmen

February 16, 2003 Columns No Comments

Youngsters Precious on the West Coast, too

by Nicholas Lozito

When people mention this season’s freshman class, the names Rashad McCants, J.J. Redick and Matt Walsh get more mention than Gary Coleman’s at a “Where Are They Now?” convention. They seem to forget, or be unaware of, a flock of freshmen who have made names for themselves in the Pac-10 Conference. So if your radar for college basketball’s next superstar doesn’t stretch past the Mississippi, here is a quick list of youngsters to watch out for.

Richard Midgley, California: When three-year starter Shantay Legans opted to transfer to Fresno State just prior to the season, head coach Ben Braun was forced to look for a replacement. His first option was A.J. Diggs, a defensive specialist, who started the Bears’ first nine games. But after a loss to Kansas and a narrow win over a slumping San Francisco club, Braun turned to Midgley to give his team a boost. The 6-foot-1 Englishman responded by leading California to a win at rival Stanford.

Midgley, born in Burgess Hill, England, moved to California in 1999 and played two years of hoops at Modesto Christian High School. But due to the fact that he played two years of high school ball in England, he was not granted a fifth year of high school eligibility and was forced to sit out last season. Despite the year off, Braun stuck with the kid, and now he reaps the benefits.

Midgley is the Golden Bears No. 4 scorer at 9.3 points, while shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 46.3 percent from 3-point range. But competition at the point lies ahead, and he comes in the form of high school senior Ayinde Ubaka, who is ranked the No. 5 senior point guard by ESPN.

Nate Robinson, Washington: Nate “The Great” provided Fox Sports Northwest viewers with the play of the year in a Jan. 18 win over No. 24 Stanford. After Washington forward Doug Wrenn’s lay-up trickled off the front of the rim, it looked as if Stanford was in for an easy defensive rebound. But out of nowhere, the 5-foot-9 Robinson soared through the paint like Superman in purple, proceeding to strike down on the rim with great vengeance. And that’s no (pulp) fiction.

He may be small in size, but Robinson, who also starts at cornerback for the Washington football team, has been a big factor for the Huskies in conference play. Robinson currently averages 12.2 points and 3.9 boards in 23.9 minutes. He provides great intensity off the bench and only needs an outside shot to fulfill his basketball repertoire.

Ike Diogu, Arizona State: There is no question that Diogu will win Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors. The question is why in the world the 6-foot-8 power forward chose Arizona State. Sun Devil coach Rob Evans must have pitched his fork when Diogu, ESPN’s No. 21 prospect, signed on the dotted line.

According to a Q&A done on ASU’s athletic web site, the Garland, Texas native says he came to Arizona State because of, “coach Evans and the Pac-10.” What about coach Olson and the Pac-10. What about coach Lavin and the Pac-10. What about coach Ernie Kent and the Pac-10. Braun? Montgomery?

Well, turns out Ike was right. The freshman has averaged 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds while leading the Sun Devils to a current fourth place in the Pac-10 standings. Arizona State is also in prime position to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.

Lamar Hurd, Oregon State: If you haven’t heard the word on Hurd, listen up. Or, umm, read good. Hurd is my kind of point guard.

At 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, the New Caney, Texas native is tall, long, rail thin and capable of breaking down any defense at will. His height allows his to see the entire court and provides him with the ability to finish in the lane. His wingspan reeks havoc on opposing guards. His slender frame allows him to slice through defenders like a hot knife through butter.

People are already calling him the best thing in Corvallis since Payton. And why not, Beaver fans need something to cheer about since football coach Dennis Erickson left town.

Hassan Adams, Arizona: The 6-foot-4 guard from Los Angeles was thrown in the mix early when shooting guard Will Bynum chose to ditch Tucson for Georgia Tech. Adams has responded by averaging 10.6 points for the No. 1-ranked Wildcats. He hit his stride earlier in the season in the absence of Luke Walton.

Adams strengths are the size and athleticism he brings to the guard position. He is big and strong enough to bang inside for rebounds, and fast and quick enough to run the break or break down a defender. A more consistent outside shot will bring this freshman’s game to an elite level, making him the top candidate to take over the point for Jason Gardner next season.

So, in a year when the Pac-10 has taken some severe blows. Namely the collapses of Oregon and UCLA, there is reason to believe in a bright future. Then again, I was pretty hyped about Bynum too.


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