The last time one of these was put together, no attempt was made at ranking the players which made for more of a "Sittin' on a Fence" type edition. However I'm up for a little pot-stirring controversy so we are introducing the mid-season CIS Top 10 Freshmen ranked in order along with honorable mentions. Also, we'll talk about some very high-potential first-year eligible players who happen to find themselves on fourth-and-fifth-year laden rosters so PT for now is hard to come by - which may only delay national recognition for these players until a year or more down the road.
The highest concentration of high-quality freshman resides in the Eastern time zone, specifically in the OUA East and QUBL. The "Q" features three very good first-year players - all with CEGEP experience while OUA East features four players who rank in my Top 10 - all 4 players are just out of high school. Noteable conferences without immediate impact-producing first-year eligible classes include Canada West and AUS - however there are numerous high-potential guys who are very likely to make big impacts in the CIS before their careers are done in both of these conferences.
CISHoops.ca Top 10 Freshmen of the first half (first-year eligible players only)
#1 Phil Scrubb, 6'3" wing, Carleton... Scrubb is the leading scorer on the #1 ranked team in the country and, outside of a couple of mediocre efforts, has been the most consistent offensive threat for the Ravens. Scrubb uses his body very well getting into the lane (averages 6 free throws per game), gets to the rim, has a tremendous mid-range game including a Tony Parker-like tear-drop and makes defenders pay for going under ball screens well past the three point line. At 15.6 ppg, 38% 3's, 85% free throws, 3.8 rpg and less than 2 turnovers per game, his overall numbers are terrific on the only remaining undefeated team (vs. CIS schools) in Canada.
#2 Jahmal Jones, 6'0", point guard, Ryerson... The prize of arguably the top first-year eligible recruiting class in Canada, Jones very early on showed what all the hype was about, making great decisions at high speeds and showing an uncanny ability to finish creatively. Jones leads all freshman with 18.8 points per game, adds 5.1 rebounds per game, 3.5 assists per game in 35 minutes per game while shooting 41%, the best overall numbers of any freshman in Canada. However, Jones' Rams are only 2-6 thus far in league play and in my opinion point guards are ultimately judged by one thing: winning. Jones gets his chance to match up with Scrubb and another top OUA East-based freshman from uOttawa (see below) in the first weekend of the OUA East regular season in early January in Ottawa.
#3 Simon Bibeau, 6'3", wing, McGill... The Redmen lost their top 2 scorers from last season and are in a rebuilding phase with several young players, so Bibeau has been handed much responsibility from the get-go and for the most part has not disappointed for 3-2 McGill, currently in third place in the QUBL. Bibeau is very good reading and coming off screens with range beyond the three point line and is learning what it means to defend and rebound at the CIS level. Averaging 15.2 ppg, 4th among freshmen in the CIS, while shooting 39% from downtown and playing a team-high 31 minutes per game, Bibeau has a bright future as an above-average scorer in the CIS.
#4 Pat Donnelly, 6'8", forward, Laurier... A blend of size, strength and skill with equally-good perimeter and low post skills, Donnelly has helped the Golden Hawks become one of the better teams in the OUA and has helped make the Laurier front line one of the best and deepest in the CIS. Very good on the offensive glass, Donnelly averages 14.9 ppg on a team where the offense is geared towards getting shots for 6'5" Kale Harrison (23 ppg) and 6'6" sophomore Maxwell Allin (14.8 ppg). Donnelly grabs 8.4 rpg while shooting 41% in 28 minutes per game and has thus far proven to be the top freshman in the OUA West.
#5 Johnny Berhanemeskel, 6'3", guard, Ottawa... Probably the best pure shooter in the freshman class, Berhanemeskel has made big shots for the Gee-Gees from virtually the opening tip to the season when he made 5 3's in the first half of a Labour Day weekend game against Cincinnati. Owner of a quick release and unbridled confidence, Berhanemeskel is also decent off the dribble getting to the rim and plays with much energy. With the hamstring injury to 6'6" Warren Ward and the recent loss to a heart problem of 6'3" Luc Minani, Berhanemeskel has been thrust into a leadership role offensively and at 15.5 ppg including over 3 3's made per game in 30 minutes per, the slender guard from Ottawa Lester B. Pearson has delivered, earning deserved mention among the very best freshmen in Canada.
#6 Will McPhee, 6'3", wing, UNB... The only player from a thin AUS freshman class in the mid-season Top 10, McPhee is a smooth shooting native of Australia who averages 14.5 ppg (team-high) in 24 minutes per game while shooting 44% from downtown. Although the V-Reds tripped up a bit on the final weekend of the first half, suffering a pair of home losses against higher-ranked AUS opponents, expect McPhee to lead the resurgence of UNB's program in the coming seasons.
#7 Alexandre Bernard, 6'4", forward, UQAM... Less touted in the pre-season than Citadins other two impact freshmen forwards, Bernard has been electric offensively around the rim, especially leading the charges on the offensive glass for fourth-place UQAM. Bernard averages 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in just 25 minutes off the bench and is shooting 60%, giving the Citadins three young stud forwards to complement what in year's past had been a smaller, perimeter-oriented group.
#8 Phil Labongo, 6'4", wing, Calgary... The second impact recruit in two seasons to leave Winnipeg for Calgary, Labongo has benefited from the loss due to injury in the Dinos rotation of 5'10" Jarred O-Jackson, who should return in the second half. Labongo is at his best in transition and when the game is up tempo and averages 9.2 points, 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 46% in just 22 minutes per game. Labongo is the top producing first year eligible player in Canada West, which has several high potential freshmen, many of which currently are biding their time in more veteran-laden rosters.
#9 Jordan Gauthier, 6'3", wing/forward, Ryerson... Another top-level freshman in coach Roy Rana's first official recruiting class, the native of Windsor has ben tremendous for the Rams, scoring almost 14 ppg, getting on the glass (6.3 rpg) while shooting 44% in 26 minutes per game. Gauthier, Jones and 6'8" Bjorn Michalsen, who missed all but one minute of the first half of conference play due to a serious mouth injury, form the foundation of the Rams plans for the next 4 to 5 seasons.
#10 Hugues Ryan, 6'5", wing/forward, Laval... The best pure shooting forward in the freshman class, Ryan has fit in very well with the veteran-laden Rouge et Or, when right arguably the best overall perimeter shooting team in the CIS this side of Carleton. Ryan is able to play off Laval's veterans without having to look for or create his own shots and clearly he has been deadly accurate when looks have come his way: he is 10 for 15 (67%) from beyond the arc in QUBL play and shoots a sizzling 75% overall from the floor and 80% from the line. Ryan averages 11.6 ppg and appears on track to be the next great player at Laval.
Honourable Mention (in alphabetical order):
6'7" Taylor Black, McMaster, 9.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 45%, 24 mpg. - tremendous perimeter and inside offensive skills
6'5" Geoff Doane, UPEI, 10.5 ppg, 26 mpg, 38% 3's - underrated coming into CIS but a winner after leading his high school team to Nova Scotia provincial championship
6'5" Peter Scholtes, Western, 9.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 45%, 25 mpg - big matchup problem at the 3 or 4 spot
5'10" Julien Smith, Cape Breton, 7.7 ppg, 14 mpg - fits in very well with Capers up tempo, pressure "d" oriented system
6'7" Phillipe Tamba, UQAM, 10.8 ppg, 8 rpg, 28 mpg - another solid freshman big man for the Citadins
Others considered include: 6'5" Eli Mara, Trinity Western (4.4 ppg in 11.3 mpg), currently playing behind a slew of upperclassmen including 6'2" Tristan Smith and 6'1" Daniel Horner who are sharing much of the time at the guard spots for the Spartans currently. Mara, who has excellent perimeter skills and is likely to be able to run the point in a way similar to how Laurier is using 6'6" Maxwell Allin this season, should push for all-CW status before his career is over... 6'6" Tommy Nixon, UBC (5.1 ppg in 10.5 mpg), another tremendous athlete with eye-opening talent both getting to the rim and on the defensive end, another blue chipper who is biding his time getting to battle a stable of top CIS players each day in practice with the #2 ranked T-Birds... 6'0" Reese Pribilsky, Victoria, a pure point guard who is maturing rapidly while playing behind Matt Cullen and Ryan MacKinnon and already sports a solid 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio with 33 assists in just 11 games while playing about 15 minutes per game. Pribilsky is the Vikes point guard of the future... 6'3" Cedric Kasongo, Brock, who averages 7.7 points per game for the firewagon Badgers and has made several key late second hoops to help Brock push out to a 5-3 record... 6'3" Tychon Carter-Newman, Laurentian, an athletic wing who has quick enough feet to keep top OUA guards in front of him and adds 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in 21 minutes but must improve on a 40% free throw rate... 6'4" Terry Thomas, St. FX, wing who has above-the-rim athleticism and was one of the keys for X in the pre-season but has seen his time diminish in AUS play as the veteran-laden X-Men (top 6 rotation players in 4th or 5th year plus several more solid young players) maintain their perennial spot in the CIS Top 10. 6'7" Zack Brisebois, Concordia (4.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg in 25.4 minutes per game); adds defense and rebouding to a group filled with scorers already... 6'7" Vincent Lanctot-Fortier of UQAM (9.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a starter in 22 mpg) probably has the best longer-term potential of the Citadins Big 3 forward freshmen.