We’re in the finishing stretch of the regular season; unfortunately, I don’t exactly enjoy a regular season-ending because it signals the end of the season, although March Madness is electric. It’s been a tumultuous season for everyone involved in programs, with many tribulations. Some guys who have worked relentlessly to get to this point in the season will show their talent. Here’s a list of ten freshmen that could burst onto the scene in the final stretch of the season from teams outside the power seven.
Tyree Ihenacho, North Dakota
2020-21 stats: 8.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.1 APG
I love watching Summit League hoops, one of the better leagues to eye-in on with the endless amount of scoring. There’s a diamond in the rough there with North Dakota. That guy is 6’4 freshman, Tyree Ihenacho.
Ihenacho’s a true do-it-all guy, a shooter with very good athleticism with rebounding ability off-the-charts for a guard. There’s so much to love with the young guard for UND. It’s been a struggle this season for the Fighting Hawks, but a good takeaway from it is what you have with Ihenacho.
Bryce Monroe, Sam Houston State
2020-21 stats: 9.6 PPG
Jason Hooten’s Bearkats team is fun to watch. They play with the pace, shooting threes, which encapsulates what current day Basketball is, and I’m here for it.
SHSU has a star player with Zach Nutall, which overshadows guys like Demarkus Lampley & Monroe. And Nutall’s fun to watch without a doubt, but man, there’s endless amounts of talent with Monroe.
Monroe’s 5’11 170 pound frame is often turned off, but he knows how to play Basketball. There are some things you cannot teach, like pure talent & speed, something Monroe possesses.
Monroe’s shooting 36% from deep in his first year playing college ball. The Bay Area native posted a career-high 26 points last week against Southeastern Louisiana. Pay attention to the future star guard in the Bearkats’ quest for winning the Southland.
Alec Oglesby Cleveland State
2020-21 stats: 4.4 PPG
Dennis Gates has dove headfirst into the JUCO market, which got his team’s brunt where it is, with guys like Torrey Patton, Tre Gomillion, D’Moi Hodge & Craig Beaudion. Gates was able to find a sneaky player for the future & present with 6’5 guard/wing, Alec Oglesby, a lights-out shooter.
The Gainsville native is loaded with 3-and-D potential, the kind of thing that is hard to find a top-end kind of guy these days. The kind of thing that will have NBA scouts enamored one day with Oglesby’s talent.
I envision Oglesby will improve other areas of his offensive game throughout his career, but you can’t question 41% from three. Oglesby enjoyed a career game against Detroit last week with 15 points.
Kyler Filewich, Southern Illinois
2020-21 stats: 6.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG
If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you know how enamored I have been by Filewich’s game all season. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native is so talented in the paint for SIU. The freshman is far from a polished player, but there’s so much untapped potential right there.
The strength & foot-work Filewich shows on a nightly basis at a 57% clip shows me what his future can be.
It’s been far from a banner season for the Salukis, but they’ve been able to find the big-man of the future in Filewich.
Ace Baldwin Jr, VCU
2020-21 STATS: 5.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.6 APG
You’ll see the most successful team on this list is the Virginia Commonwealth Rams and their point guard, Ace Baldwin Jr. I’m sure many of you reading this have watched this talented team play. Baldwin was a prospect outside the top 200 in the 2020 class and played such a valuable role for Mike Rhoades this season.
Baldwin’s passing vision is special, being able to make off-balanced passes, fantastic outlet passes, runs the transition game at a high-level, while also being an elite-level defender. Baldwin’s an elite ball-thief grabbing 2.1 steals-per-game, making him ultra dangerous in the press when Coach Rhoades deploys it.
Baldwin won’t go out and drop 20 in a game right now, but he’s slowly emerged as a real scoring threat.
Steven Ashworth, Utah State
2020-21 stats: 6.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.4 APG
The issue entering the season for Utah State was how do you replace the best player in program history, Sam Merrill? That question remained unanswered early in the season, with a rough beginning stretch to the year. Ashworth’s emergence really began near the start of conference play.
And Ashworth’s proven to be a stone-cold sniper this season, shooting nearly 37% from deep. Ashworth has a quick stroke allowing him to get off difficult shots with ease. Another interesting stat with Ashworth is he’s 36-40 from the free-throw line, a guy you can trust at the end of games for an NCAA Tournament level team.
Kelton Talford, Winthrop
2020-21 stats: 5.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG
Pat Kelsey has a ridiculously deep roster this season, and with the emergence of Talford, that only enhances it. Talford doesn’t play a ton of minutes, only 13 MPG, while scoring nearly six-per-game is phenomenal if he were playing starter minutes. Hypothetically, let’s say 26 minutes, Talford would be averaging in the 11 PPG range during his freshman campaign.
Talford’s recruitment is a prime example of why recruiting rankings don’t mean anything at all. The 6’7 freshman wasn’t ranked by 247sports, Rivals, ESPN, or Scout but was rated a 2* by the verbal commits rankings. There’s stardom in Talford’s future. Not only this season, but Talford will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in Winthrop’s potential tournament run.
Sheldon Edwards, Valpo
2020-21 stats: 8.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG
It’s crazy that Edwards ended up playing for Valpo. A very good program without a doubt, but this is a player with ACC-level athleticism playing in the Missouri Valley; you know what that means? Edwards will only improve throughout his career.
Edwards is a 6’4 combo guard that primarily plays the two this season, with Daniel Sackey running the lead guard spot. Edwards had a pretty underrated season and should have made known widely known in the Drake series. That surprisingly didn’t occur. Edwards was an integral piece in the upset of Drake in game two–and led the charge in the first game with a career-high 22 points.
It’s a lost season for the Valpo Basketball team. The future remains bright for Matt Lottich, looking to regain the program’s prominence in the Homer & Bryce Drew days. Edwards will lead resurgence alongside big-man sophomore Ben Krikke.
Tymu Chenery, Quinnipiac
2020-21 stats: 10.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG
MAAC fans, meet your next superstar. He resides at Quinnipiac and goes by the name of Tymu Chenery. So what makes Chenery so special? A 6’6 versatile positionless player with unlimited potential.
Chenery is 6’6 170, shooting 39.7% from deep with providing elite defense. A true two-way player is what you watch with Chenery in the MAAC. That’s a special player that will make noise in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference until he inevitably skyrockets up NBA Draft Boards in the next few seasons.
Of all players on the list, Chenery has the highest potential of anybody I have listed. It’s not often you find a guy with Chenery’s size & athleticism playing in the MAAC. It is very reminiscent to former Quinnipiac star Cameron Young, although Chenery is a tad more athletic & long.
Damari Monsanto, East Tennessee State
2020-21 stats: 11.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG
For much of the list, I tried to keep the threshold at 10 PPG or lower. I can’t exclude Monsanto from this list despite being over that mark; he’s been simply tremendous since conference play began. The last four games have been rough for Monsanto. However, we can skate past that for the sake of this piece. In fourteen conference games, Monsanto is averaging 13.5 PPG (with the past four dropping that total a fair amount.
Monsanto is a perfect stretch-four. In today’s game, you have to possess shooting ability to maximize your potential. Monsanto has that & continues to show it off.
The ETSU Buccaneers look to snag another automatic bid this season in the NCAA Tournament, similarly to last season before COVID, unfortunately, derailed the season. ETSU figures to be in the mix once again, and Monsanto will be a vital part of that equation.