Mike Conley Jr. has proven to be an excellent addition to the Ohio State basketball team this season, averaging 10.1 points and 6.4 assists per game (the latter mark tied for fifth in the nation) as a freshman. After struggling in the NCAA tournament opener against Central Connecticut State, he has averaged 18 points and 4.5 assists in the Buckeyes last four victories, propelling the team to tomorrow’s championship game showdown against Florida.
Conley is great, no doubt. But is he in the discussion for greatest freshman point guard ever?
Gene Wojciechowski seems to think so. In his column today on ESPN.com, presented as a multiple-choice test on stories involving the Final Four, Wojo talked about Conley’s virtually flawless performance last night against Georgetown before briefly touching on his chances of returning to Ohio State for his sophomore season. Wojo thinks Conley is headed to the NBA, and gives two reasons:
“ The guy might be the best freshman point guard, well, ever, and, oh, his dad recently opened up his own shop as a player agent.”
Based on Conley’s stats this season and his performance in the tournament to date, that comment isn’t as outlandish as it first seemed. But it’s not a simple discussion. I admittedly don’t watch much college basketball, but a very little research turned up several freshman guards who put up excellent stats and were as important to their teams as Conley is to the Buckeyes.
Check out a few of the possibilities after the jump.
Magic Johnson, Michigan State (1977-78) – Johnson averaged 17.0 points and 7.4 assists per game as a freshman for the Spartans, leading the school to the Midwest Regional final of the NCAA tournament, where it lost to eventual national champion Kentucky, 52-49.
Isiah Thomas, Indiana University (1979-80) – Thomas averaged 14.6 points and 5.5 assists per game in his first season with Bob Knight’s Hoosiers. The team lost to in-state rival Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen, 76-69.
Bobby Hurley, Duke University (1989-90) – The NCAA’s record holder for career assists, Hurley averaged 8.8 points and 7.6 assists per game for the Blue Devils as a freshman. Duke advanced to the national championship game against UNLV, losing 103-73.
Jalen Rose, University of Michigan (1991-92) – A member of the most celebrated freshman class in college basketball history, Rose averaged 17.6 points and 4.0 assists per game as a freshman. The Wolverines lost to Duke in the finals, 71-51.
If anyone else follows college basketball more closely and has any more possibilities (or wants to refute any of these), feel free to leave them in the comments below.
(All individual statistics are from Basketball-Reference.com