Roundtable: Rookie Surprises

The college regular season winds down this weekend, and next week features many conference tournaments, followed by the national tournament the week after that.

That said, we asked our national recruiting team this question:

Reflecting on this season, and thinking back to our final 2014 rankings, who were some freshmen who surprised you — in either direction — this season?

Brian Snow: For me, the main freshman that surprised me is D'Angelo Russell. It wasn't real difficult to figure out he was good, but never did I see him being one of the top 3-5 players in all of college basketball this year.

Russell has exceeded my expectations with his decision making as well as his ability to make plays under pressure. I always knew he would be a player, just didn't think he would be this good, this soon.

Evan Daniels: I think the most obvious one is D'Angelo Russell. Even though we had him ranked relatively high at No. 13 overall in the class, I don't think anyone on our staff thought he would be contending for a top five spot in the NBA draft after his freshman season.

He's playing terrific basketball and has made rapid advancements to his game. In the other direction, I thought Cliff Alexander would produce more for Kansas. Now his numbers aren't bad by any means for a freshman, but I thought he'd play with a little more consistency for the Jayhawks and be an enforcer for them.

I never thought he was the No. 1 prospect in the 2014 class, like some did, but I did think he was a legitimate top 10 player and a guy that would be a force in the college game just because of his size, strength & athleticism.

Josh Gershon: I didn't see D'Angelo Russell enough so while that's probably an obvious answer, it isn't as much for me. I think Devin Booker being a potential lottery pick after his freshman season is a big surprise.

Knowing he was young for his class - he didn't turn 18 until Oct. 30 - would have helped but I'm still not sure I would have expected him to have the kind of year he's had. Players with Booker's size and shooting ability at the position don't grow on trees, and he's definitely overachieved from expectations as a freshman.

Rob Harrington: D’Angelo Russell is the obvious choice as greatest positive surprise, but Romelo Trimble (now just “Melo”) has turned in an eye-opening season as well. We debated on staff whether he actually could play point, but never did anyone expect him to transition so easily. He’s leading a breakthrough Maryland team in points, assists and steals, and he has accomplished that while shooting 38 percent on threes. Trimble enjoyed a No. 29 national ranking, but even so he has far outpaced expectations.

On the downside, in addition to Cliff Alexander, No. 23 Kameron Chatman’s freshman campaigned has proved highly disappointing. He has played in every game but is averaging under four points per contest, shooting 31 percent from the field and 21 percent on threes. I expect him to bounce back next season, but this year has been tough for him.

Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this report

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