Monday, February 21, 2011

Freshmen of influence: the state's top newcomers

Today's news that Richmond's Genevieve Okoro was named the Atlantic 10's Rookie of the Week got us thinking about which newcomers from the state's schools have made the biggest impact in 2010-11. There's still a chunk of season left, but if we had to rank them now:

1. Ataira Franklin, Virginia
Numbers: 8.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Honors: Marriott Cavalier Classic All-Tournament team; ACC Rookie of the Week (Feb. 14)
 - Has emerged as the Cavaliers' go-to player during a conference season by posting strong numbers that become eye-popping when viewed in context with the rest of her team. In ACC games, Frankin's 12.5 ppg is more than 4 points higher than the next highest-scoring Cavalier (Ariana Moorer, 8.2 ppg).  And her 20 3-pointers are equal to the next four Cavaliers combined and only 5 less than all of her teammates combined. And the best thing about Franklin is her accuracy. Against opponents in the rugged ACC the rookie is shooting 50 percent from the field, 51.3 percent from 3-point range and 94.1 percent from the free throw line.We haven't done the research, but we'd be surprised there's another other Division I regular in the country with percentages of 50, 50 and 90 in conference play.

2. Monet Tellier, Virginia Tech
Numbers: 8.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Honors: Hokie Garden Classic MVP; ACC Rookie of the Week (Dec. 20)
Like Franklin, Tellier has shown signs of being a foundation player, the type you can build a program around. Like most freshman, Tellier has been prone to bouts with inconsistency. But when she's on, look out. She lit Vanderbilt up for 23 points in the Hokie Garden Classic final and last week scored 17 straight points for the Hokies en route to another 23 at N.C. State.

3. Jumpin' Genevieve Okoro, Richmond
Numbers: 6.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg
Honors: Two-time Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week (Dec. 13, Feb. 21)
Okoro's numbers - she's Richmond's No. 2 rebounder - take on greater significance when you realize she's only averaging 17.4 minutes per game, 7th among Spiders. A key to Okoro's limited PT is the fact that she leads Richmond with 76 fouls and has fouled out of a team-high 6 games. Once Okoro learns how to limit her fouling - or at least not make it so obvious - she appears on her way to becoming one of the most productive players in her conference.

4. Emily Frazier, Liberty
Numbers: 4.2 ppg, team-high 2.6 apg
Honors: Two-time Big South Freshman of the Week
Has started 22 of 25 games and has supplied a steadying influence rarely asked from a freshman. Then again, Frazier isn't your typical freshman. The home-schooled Magnolia, Texas native completed her high school graduation requirements early and enrolled at Liberty in January, 2010. In other words, she'd been indoctrinated in the Lady Flames program a full 10 months before she ever appeared in a game.

5. Kaitlyn Mathieu, William and Mary
Numbers: 9.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg
Honors: Cancun Thanksgiving Classic All-Tournament team; two-time CAA Rookie of the Week (Nov. 29, Dec. 20).
Announced herself as a force during a torrid five-game stretch in late-November/early-December during which she averaged 15.8 points and 8.6 rebounds. Has cooled a bit since, particularly on the boards, but is still capable of making a major impact - witness her 14-point, 9-rebound effort in Sunday's victory over Georgia State.

Other freshmen of note

- Rae Corbo, Norfolk State - Started 18 games and ranks second among Spartans with 9.9 ppg and is tied for the team high with 2.8 assists. Earned MEAC Rookie of the Week honors...hey, maybe she should have cracked our Top 5.

- Nicole Hamilton, Hampton - Feast-or-famine shooter who started out white-hot - earning MEAC Rookie of the Week honors in consecutive weeks in January - but has struggled to find the mark of late.

 - Nia Evans, Virginia Tech - Has started 12 games and is averaging 4.9 ppg.

 - Jackie Brewer, VCU - Flashed potential as a productive scorer in November and December but has seen her minutes dwindle since Andrea Barbour became eligible.

 - Bria White, Longwood - Ranks 5th among Lancers in scoring at 6.3 ppg.

 - Rachel Gordon, Norfolk State - Second on her team in rebounding (5.9 rpg); has shown the potential to be an effective scorer as well.

 - Special mention to Richmond's Kristina Puthoff-King, who was averaging 6.3 ppg through 12 games, including two starts, before going down for the season with a knee injury. Another Spiders freshman, two-sport star Becca Wann (3.1 ppg), will also be sidelined the rest of the way with a knee injury.

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