FORT WAYNE – Freshmen were a big part of the narrative entering the college basketball season.
And first-year players have remained in the forefront of the conversation with Aaron Gordon leading No. 1 Arizona, Tyler Ennis being a big part of No. 2 Syracuse?s success and Jabari Parker of Duke and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas still attracting plenty of attention.
The Big Ten has plenty of freshmen making contributions to their team?s success. Here is a look at some of the freshmen helping their teams in the conference:
Noah Vonleh, Indiana
The 6-foot-10 forward has garnered the most national attention, earning a spot on the Wayman Tisdale freshman of the year midseason watch list. Vonleh has been named the Big Ten freshman of the week six times as he averages 12 points and 9.6 rebounds in 25 minutes a game for the Hoosiers.
?I would say he?s improving rapidly,? IU coach Tom Crean said during Monday?s coaches teleconference. ?I would think the steps for him are to continue to understand how much we want to go to him, continue to play out of double teams, continue to pass the ball and re-post, continue to trust his jump shot because it?s very good, continue to play through fatigue and run the court on both ends and just continue to develop the way that he is because he?s having fun, and we?re having fun coaching him and he?s improving all the time.?
Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan
The 6-1 guard faced the difficult task of filling the void left by Trey Burke departure for the NBA. Walton has done well, starting 18 of 19 games and averaging 8.3 points and 2.7 assists. He has earned Big Ten freshmen of the week honors twice, including this week after his career-high 19-point performance in an 80-75 win over No. 7 Michigan State on Saturday.
?He?s been really good at taking it day to day, ?Yeah, I made a lot of mistakes today coach, but I?m going to be better? type of attitude,? Michigan coach John Beilein said. ?It?s shown sometimes that he is really gaining confidence. It?s also shown on some occasions that he still is learning. But at any rate, he has a chance to be a very good leader and quarterback for this team for a long time.?
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
The 6-7 forward has earned the Big Ten freshman of the week award twice and is averaging 6.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 15.9 minutes coming off the bench for the Badgers.
?He is such a delight to be around, yet when he competes, everything else goes out the window,? Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. ?He competes as hard as anybody we?ve ever had.
?There?s really not much that he doesn?t bring to us. He?s filled in at different positions, played guys at 6-2 and played guys 7-feet tall, and just wants to know what he can do next.?
Stanford Robinson, Indiana
The 6-4 guard has played a bigger role since the start of conference play, going from 13.6 minutes a game to 22.6 and has started the last two games. He is averaging 7.5 points in Big Ten play.
?What stands out to me is his competitiveness,? said Illinois coach John Groce, who watched Robinson go from five points in 19 minutes in an 83-80 overtime loss to the Illini on Dec. 30 to scoring 10 in 29 minutes in Sunday?s 56-46 win for the Hoosiers.
?You can tell he likes challenges whether that?s guarding Ray Rice or going to the glass. His effort level and consistency with that is abnormal for a freshman. ? He looks like a guy that would be very fun to coach.?