Freshman playing in the Western Athletic Conference have been few and far between in recent years. In 2019-20, GCU guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. was the Freshman of the Year. Utah Valley’s Wyatt Lowell was Freshman of the Year in 2018-19 despite averaging 4.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.
So, as you can see, there haven’t been a lot of freshman standouts in recent memory. But, that could quite possibly change in 2020-21. Grand Canyon and California Baptist boast of freshman duos that will have immediate impacts. Chicago State brought in a 7-footer who adds size the Cougars haven’t had in a long time. Seattle U head coach Jim Hayford is high on a few of the freshman he will have on his bench.
Safe to say that coaches are building a little more for the future than in seasons’ past. And just a little disclaimer, this list is made up of true freshman rather than redshirt freshman. Some players like New Mexico State’s
Rashaun Agee and Marcus Watson – New Mexico State
Is it any surprise that there are players from New Mexico State on this list? Let’s start with Agee. The 6-7 forward out of Chicago redshirted last season. Prior to coming to Las Cruces, Agee was a four-year starter at Bogan High school, averaging 20.3 points, 14.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks his senior year. Agee was named to The Chicago Sun-Times All-City First-Team along with a bevy of other awards.
Watson is a 4-star recruit and was the nation’s No. 45 overall player and No. 8 shooting guard in 2018-19. Watson originally committed to Oklahoma State of the Big 12 but never suited up for the Cowboys before ending up in Las Cruces. Watson is a 6-6 combo guard with a lot of versatility and athleticism who makes the Aggie bench a little deeper.
Jayden Stone and Liam Lloyd – Grand Canyon
Let’s start with Stone. A 6-4 guard out of Perth, Australia who played his high school ball at Sunrise Christian in Bel Air, KS that was a McDonald’s All-American nominee in 2019-20. Stone averaged 21.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a junior at Sacred Heart Catholic High School in Alabama. Stone was the 23rd-ranked high school shooting guard according to ESPN. And Sunrise Christian Academy was the fourth-ranked team in the nation in 2019-20.
“I have known Jayden for a couple years and have always enjoyed watching him play,” GCU head coach Bryce Drew said. “His shooting ability and offensive skill quickly stand out when watching him play. He is a great fit for for our program and campus.”
Lloyd hails from Spokane, WAC where he averaged 23 points, six assists and six rebounds. The 6-5 shooting guard was a two-time state champion who shot 41 percent from 3-point land and whose father, Tommy, coaches at national powerhouse Gonzaga.
“Where Liam really excels is the intangibles,” Drew said. “I was a coach’s son. He is a coach’s son. So he has grown up with it his whole life. He’s known the ins and outs of college basketball since a young age. He’s a proven winner. He has a great feel for the game.”
Malik Wade and Te’Jon Sawyer – California Baptist
Whenever head coach Rick Croy is asked about his new roster, Malik Wade and Te’Jon Sawyer are two names he always mentions. Wade is a 6-8 forward that graduated from the NBA Academy in Mexico City in 2019. Croy is excited about the maturity, athleticism and the versatility that his freshman forward has. Wade is a 2-star recruit according to Verbal Commits but is expected to contribute big minutes in his first season at the Division I level.
Sawyer is a 6-8, 270-pound forward out of Richmond, CA. The Tri-County Athletic League Rock Division MVP averaged 13.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 62.2 percent from the field. Sawyer led Salesian Prep to back-to-back North Coast Section Team Championships.
20’ 6’8 Te’Jon Sawyer Salesian league mvp Great finisher around the rim. D1’s take a look one of the best available bigs left in the state. pic.twitter.com/vX3PjxGOFq
— JOSH C. (@Josh_calbert) February 25, 2020
Lou Demuth – Chicago State
When was the last time anyone saw a 7-footer at Chicago State? It’s been a while. But, Lance Irvin has the big guy he has been missing in his first two seasons on the South Side. Demuth is 7-0, 235 pounds out of Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. In the 2019 FIBA U20 Division B European Championship, Demuth averaged 14.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Demuth also shot 53.3 percent from the field in the tournament.
“Lou Demuth is a 7-0 center from Luxembourg that has a lot of FIBA basketball experience, most recently he played on the Luxembourg U20 team, where he averaged 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds,” Irvin said. “One thing that I thought we needed at the end of last year was another post player with experience, toughness and an offensive skill set. Lou checked off all of those boxes. Lou is a smart player that has a good feel and understanding for the game. Lou will be a very good player for us at Chicago State.”
2020 class Luxembourgish center Lou Demuth (’00) has committed to Chicago State, per sources.
Demuth, a 7'0 big man who has been playing for Grengewald, averaged 14.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship Division B. pic.twitter.com/OHo0fCEqyB
— Eurohopes (@Eurohopes) May 17, 2020
Seattle’s Own Freshman Five
It remains to be seen which one of the five freshman at Seattle will have the biggest impact. Vasja Pandža, Viktor Rajković, Robert Hutchens, Kobe Williamson and Mathew Levis all are in the mix for minutes for Jim Hayford. Four of the five are guards while at 6-6, Rajković is more of a small forward.
Levis averaged 11.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists at Jesuit High School in Portland.
Williamson is a 6-8 guard out of Melbourne, Australia. At Haileybury College in Melbourne, Williamson averaged 20.2 points, 17.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 blocks during the 2019 season. In fact, Williamson has been a member of the U17 Australian National Team.
Pandža played for The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut in 2019-20. Prior to that, Pandža played at the Kiski School in Pennsylvania where he averaged 19 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists, leading the school to a pair of state playoff appearances.
Rajković was a dual-sport athlete and averaged 20.4 points and 11.3 rebounds at the Branson School in 2018-19 earning himself the San Francisco Chronicle’s Metro Player of the Year. In 2019-20, Rajković played at Golden State prep before signing with Seattle.
Hutchens hails from Arroyo Grande High School in Arroyo Grande, CA. The 6-4 freshman averaged 19.5 points per game leading the Eagles to a 28-6 record and a Division 3 Central Section Championship. Hutchens was a first-team All-League and first-team All-State selection.