Connor Cagley, Big Sports Radio Basketball Writer
January 21, 2023
This is article four in a six part series on 2022 freshman class performance.
As conference play heats up across the country, we are examining how the 2022 freshman class is performing relative to expectations since the beginning of the season. We are seeing a differentiation of performance as the freshmen find out that results are more important than their ranking prior to arriving on campus. The groups of players can be broken down into three basic groups: those that are exceeding expectations, those that are meeting expectations, and those that are underwhelming.
This installment focuses on four players who are underwhelming relative to expectations.
Yohan Traore came into the season expected to be a versatile, playmaking big off the bench with a chance to prove himself as starter material for the Auburn Tigers. So far, he’s averaging 11 minutes with 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds a game. While those 11 minutes don’t seem like much for a player coming into the season as the 24th ranked recruit, his minutes are actually decreasing as conference play goes on.
His side-to-side mobility may limit him at all levels moving forward. In addition, his foot speed may limit him to playing as a center only despite coming into the season with expectations of being a combo big. Another area he’s struggled is shooting from deep. He’s shooting 15.8% from the three and 8 for 21, or 38.1%, from the free throw line.
The one positive of his three point shooting is that at least he has the confidence to keep shooting them. He can hopefully build on that next year should he return to college ball. And, hopefully, he does because, as it stands right now, it does not seem a good strategy for him to go to the NBA.
Point guard Kylan Boswell was originally a member of the 2023 recruiting class, but decided in the spring that he wanted to enroll early at the University of Arizona. His low playing time – 12.9 minutes a game – is not surprising since Arizona has been roughly around the top ten for the entire season. His time on the floor, however, hasn’t been as impressive as one would have hoped.
Nineteen games into the season Boswell is averaging just 2.9 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The main challenge with his play is that he’s shooting just 32.8% from the field, and 28.2% three point percentage. During his time on the circuit and in high school play, he’s been an impressive shooter. There is plenty of time for him to improve at the college level, but it hasn’t happened yet outside of his free throw percentage (13/13 on the season).
Center Ernest Udeh is another who was highly regarded coming out of high school. He came in as the 31st ranked recruit. Thus far into the season, his play has not earned him more minutes. He’s played in 12 of Kansas’s 18 games, averaging just 7.1 minutes a game. In those minutes, he’s averaging 2.1 points and 1.8 rebounds while shooting 64.7% from the field.
Since Big 12 play has started, Bill Self has been more comfortable putting sophomore Zach Clemence and freshman Zuby Ejiofor on the floor to back up KJ Adams, Jr. in the post.
Udeh still has a lot of potential with his build and overall coordination, but it’s hard to imagine this is where he expected to be coming into the season. Self is one of the better coaches for developing post talent, so – barring Udeh transferring out – there’s hope for better days ahead.
Illinois’ small forward Ty Rodgers came into the season after an impressive stretch for Team USA basketball. As a result, expectations of him were probably elevated higher than his 59th place ranking would suggest. The concerns about his jump shot were already noted, so the reason he’s underwhelming is that he hasn’t been able to assert himself defensively and as an energy guy on the offensive glass for second chance points.
Earlier this week, he clearly had his best performance against a power five team. He finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds. He’s shooting a higher percentage from the floor during conference play than what he shot in out of conference play which is an interesting development. The opposite usually holds true for most freshmen.
While his three point jump shot will likely be fleshed out prior to his sophomore season, it would still be nice to see him get back to being comfortable with mid-range jumpers like he was able to do at the high school level. He could then build from there.
The next installment in this series of six will focus on four players who are meeting the expectations of them coming into the season.
Links to past installments: