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December 7, 2021

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UNLV basketball:

How does Rebels’ Bennett stack up against nation’s elite freshmen?

UNLV vs. Oregon

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

The UNLV student section unveils an articulated cutout of forward Anthony Bennett during the Rebels’ game against Oregon on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, in the Global Sports Classic. Oregon upset the 18th-ranked Rebels 83-79.

If youth is wasted on the young, guys such as UNLV’s Anthony Bennett didn’t get the memo.

The Rebels’ leading scorer and rebounder is one of a handful of the nation’s elite freshmen in college basketball this season, but just how do his numbers compare with his competitors?

That’s what we’re doing here, not ranking but offering a look at some of the best young players in the country. All six of these guys were on the midseason watch list for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award. Though most of them play different positions, there’s something to be learned by diving into their stats and performances to see just who has had the most success transitioning to the college game.

As is the case now with elite young talent, most of them will play next season in the NBA after being drafted as lottery picks. Who has the best chance to lead his team on a deep NCAA Tournament run, and which guy should be the first drafted in June?

You be the judge.

Note: Players listed in alphabetical order. A bolded stat means he leads the listed players in that category.

    • Anthony Bennett

      Pos/H/W: F, 6-8, 240

      Age: 19

      Rivals ranking: No. 7

      Projected 2013 NBA draft pick: No. 4 (ESPN.com), No. 5 (nbadraft.net), No. 8 (draftexpress.com)

      Box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      28-28 27.1 53.6 37.2 70.7 8.4 1 2 1.3 0.8 17

      Advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      67.5 114.9 27.1 29.1 58.2 11.9 21 9.3 15.6 4.6 1.6

      Kenpom comparison seasons: James Johnson (Wake Forest), 2008; Tobias Harris (Tennessee), 2011

      Breakdown: As long as the shoulder injury from Saturday isn’t serious, Bennett is in great position to finish the regular season with a great run. After going to UNR this Saturday, UNLV plays its final two regular-season games at home and then stays in the Thomas & Mack Center for the Mountain West tournament. Bennett’s a slightly better player at home, and with his days in Rebel red likely numbered, he’ll have a chance to go out on a high note.

      While he leads only one category among this list of notable freshmen, Bennett is second or third in several of them, and his ORating would rank near the top 10 in the country if he used a slightly higher percentage of UNLV’s possessions. While he was a top 10 recruit from Findlay Prep coming in, Bennett was only a fringe candidate to leave for the NBA after one season. Now it’s all but guaranteed, thanks to a season that will be difficult for the next classes at UNLV to surpass.

    • Jahii Carson, Arizona State

      Pos/H/W: G, 5-10, 175

      Age: 20

      Rivals ranking: No. 33 (in 2011)

      Projected 2013 NBA draft pick: N/A

      Carson's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      28-28 36.6 45.7 30.6 71.9 3.1 5 3.4 0.1 1.1 17.5

      Carson's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      90.3 101.8 28.4 26.6 49.2 0.8 8.4 29.3 19.4 0.2 1.3

      Bennett's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      28-28 27.1 53.6 37.2 70.7 8.4 1 2 1.3 0.8 17

      Bennett's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      67.5 114.9 27.1 29.1 58.2 11.9 21 9.3 15.6 4.6 1.6

      Kenpom comparison seasons: Trey Burke (Michigan), 2012; Derek Needham (Fairfield), 2010

      Breakdown: The redshirt freshman is a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable Pac-12 season for the Sun Devils. Carson’s scored double figures in all but one conference game while also leading the team in assists.

      He’s a workhorse for the team, averaging nearly 37 minutes per game and taking a large chunk of the shots, too. The thing that makes Carson different on this list is he’s got a future in college basketball the next three seasons, whereas everyone else likely will hear their name called early in June’s NBA draft.

    • Ben McLemore, Kansas

      Pos/H/W: G, 6-5, 195

      Age: 20

      Rivals ranking: No. 34 (in 2011)

      Projected 2013 NBA draft pick: No. 1 (ESPN.com), No. 1 (nbadraft.net), No. 2 (draftexpress.com)

      McLemore's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      27-27 32.1 49.7 42.6 87.6 5.4 1.9 2 0.8 1.2 16.2

      McLemore's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      79.2 120 22.7 25 58.4 5.9 12.5 12.8 16.7 2.8 2.3

      Bennett's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      28-28 27.1 53.6 37.2 70.7 8.4 1 2 1.3 0.8 17

      Bennett's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      67.5 114.9 27.1 29.1 58.2 11.9 21 9.3 15.6 4.6 1.6

      Kenpom comparison seasons: Bradley Beal (Florida), 2012; Chase Budinger (Arizona), 2007

      Breakdown: After sitting out a season because of academic issues, the redshirt freshman burst onto the national scene early this season. McLemore saved Kansas at home with a game-tying 3-pointer against Iowa State and took over in overtime, finishing with 33 points. He also scored 30 against Kansas State in the victory that snapped the Jayhawks’ three-game losing streak.

      The knock against McLemore is he’s a reluctant star. A freshman who starts alongside four seniors, including Cheyenne High grad Elijah Johnson, McLemore would often prefer to be a role player who can fade in and out. But that’s not enough for KU, which has now come to rely on the shooting guard’s sweet stroke.

      Along with Bennett, McLemore has probably made the largest leap up NBA draft boards this season and could even go No. 1 overall.

    • Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

      Pos/H/W: G, 6-6, 225

      Age: 19

      Rivals ranking: No. 1

      Projected 2013 NBA draft pick: No. 3 (draftexpress.com), No. 6 (nbadraft.net), No. 8 (ESPN.com)

      Muhammad's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      24-22 30.2 45.9 43.2 72.8 5.1 1 1.8 0.1 0.7 18.2

      Muhammad's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      65.8 109.3 28.6 31.2 51.1 9.8 8.9 6.6 11.2 0.3 1.3

      Bennett's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      28-28 27.1 53.6 37.2 70.7 8.4 1 2 1.3 0.8 17

      Bennett's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      67.5 114.9 27.1 29.1 58.2 11.9 21 9.3 15.6 4.6 1.6

      Kenpom comparison seasons: DeMar DeRozan (USC), 2009; Bill Walker (Kansas State), 2008

      Breakdown: The Bishop Gorman grad went to UCLA with more attention than anyone else on this list and arguably more than any other Division I player. After missing the first three games while he was under NCAA investigation, Muhammad joined the Bruins out of shape and overweight. As he began to work back into playing shape, fans saw the same slashing and scoring ability he showed as a Gael.

      Muhammad and other top-prospect freshmen Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams have struggled to deliver on lofty preseason expectations, making them not dissimilar from UNLV’s group of newcomers. Both teams, and specifically Muhammad and Bennett, owe some of the extra attention and criticism they’re forced to deal with to Kentucky’s John Calipari, who last year won a title with mostly freshmen.

      Calipari made it possible to win at the highest level with a rotation heavy on inexperience, though this season is proving that’s likely the exception rather than the norm.

    • Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

      Noel’s season ended Feb. 12 when he tore an ACL against Florida. However, his numbers and future prospects are worth comparing with the other freshmen

      Pos/H/W: C, 6-10, 228

      Age: 19

      Rivals ranking: No. 2

      Projected 2013 NBA draft pick: No. 1 (draftexpress.com), No. 3 (ESPN.com), No. 4 (nbadraft.net)

      Noel's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      24-24 31.9 59 0 52.9 9.5 1.6 1.9 4.4 2.1 10.5

      Noel's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      70.2 109.2 18.2 15.8 59 10.4 21.9 9.2 19.1 12.8 3.9

      Bennett's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      28-28 27.1 53.6 37.2 70.7 8.4 1 2 1.3 0.8 17

      Bennett's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      67.5 114.9 27.1 29.1 58.2 11.9 21 9.3 15.6 4.6 1.6

      Kenpom comparison seasons: Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), 2010; Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), 2011

      Breakdown: It was very difficult to watch Noel’s Kentucky teammates have to carry him off the court after he hurt his knee while trying to make a defensive play in transition. It stirred up more debate about the NBA’s rule forcing these kids to go to college in the first place.

      The good news was that it doesn’t seem like it affected Noel’s draft stock very much. ACL injuries are becoming increasingly easy to treat and rehab from, so Noel isn’t expected to suffer too much. Those suffering are college basketball fans, who will likely no longer see him play and dominate in the paint.

      Noel is the best defender on this list, blocking 12.8 percent of opponents’ shots when he’s on the floor and changing what the Wildcats can do defensively the same way Khem Birch can have that effect for UNLV.

    • Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

      Pos/H/W: G, 6-4, 225

      Age: 18

      Rivals ranking: No. 10

      Projected 2013 NBA draft pick: No. 2 (ESPN.com), No. 2 (nbadraft.net), No. 7 (draftexpress.com)

      Smart's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      26-26 32.9 40.6 30.4 78 5.7 4.3 3.2 0.8 2.9 15

      Smart's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      80.3 105 27.6 23.7 46.1 5.9 13.8 27.8 20.7 2.6 5.2

      Bennett's box score stats

      GP-GS Min FG% 3FG% FT% Rbs Ast TO Blk Stl Pts

      28-28 27.1 53.6 37.2 70.7 8.4 1 2 1.3 0.8 17

      Bennett's advanced stats (via kenpom.com)

      %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl%

      67.5 114.9 27.1 29.1 58.2 11.9 21 9.3 15.6 4.6 1.6

      Kenpom comparison seasons: James Harden (Arizona State), 2008; Javaris Crittenton (Georgia Tech), 2007

      Breakdown: After going through the numbers and performance from freshmen across the country, there are a couple of things that seem pretty clear: Noel is the best post player of the group and Bennett is the best combo forward. And since the “stretch four” forward is such a wanted commodity in the NBA right now, it’s easy to see why Bennett has gotten so much attention from pro scouts.

      What’s not clear is naming the best guard of the group, a title to which Smart, McLemore and Muhammad could all lay claim. While the latter two are better shooters, Smart is a fierce competitor and took down McLemore’s Jayhawks with 25 points and a backflip in Allen Fieldhouse (neither guy played well in the rematch).

      So that’s the debate you’re really left with. Among the bigs, Bennett is clearly the best one left standing.

      Click to enlarge photo

      Findlay Prep's Dominic Artis.

      Other notable freshmen:

      Dominic Artis (right), Oregon

      Isaiah Austin, Baylor

      John Brown, High Point

      Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

      Glenn Robinson III, Michigan

      Nik Stauskas, Michigan

    Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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