A few weeks ago I took a look at the Grizzly Men’s basketball programs and previewed it for the upcoming season. The biggest point of contention over on Egriz, and comments on this blog had to do with incoming freshman Vaughn Autry. As normal when ever I do preseason preview the most heat discussion come from my comments on the freshman. A few years back when I did a similar preview on a message board I got terse email from a mother of an incoming freshman, who was cranky because she thought I disrespected her kid. I indicated they would play that year but I did not think he would start. I NEVER PREDICT A FRESHMAN WILL START.
The first part of this post will address how I look, realistically, at incoming freshman. My second post I will address my thought on why I said what I did about Mr. Autry.
First off, and I have said this over and over, I always shoot low for expectations in regard to freshman. I would always prefer to have a freshman surprise me than to disappoint me. I learned this from a former D-1 coach who told me he got this from former President Regan. He told me that by lowering expectation it takes some pressure off of the freshman, and puts them in a position where they are looking to prove themselves to the coaches and fans and not trying to meet unrealistic expectations. There is a fine line between not hyping expectations and not disrespecting the talents of the athlete granted.
True freshman are notorious for being inconsistent. Between college life, longer season, increased physical demand college ball, travel and college classes all of these things really take a toll on a freshman and it very difficult from my point of view to determine which ones are better suited to adjust to College life and basketball. Here are a few examples of what I mean.
College Life/Independence – I had the opportunity to talk again with the mother mentioned above a few years later, about our conversations. Her kid did play quite a bit as a true freshman, but she told me she could tell by the way they played their freshman year what was going on with their kid. Bad test (shorting shots), fight with friend (long iron) upcoming tests/finals (turnovers) these are the ones I can remember but she had more. I am not sure how true they are but it does illustrate the point that adjusting to independence and college life takes a while, and it does not matter how good of a basketball player you are until you get your head around it can affect your game.
Travel- On road trips have you noticed the freshman who play well the first game of a road trip and lousy the second. Bobby Howard was this way his freshman year. He would look all world, the first game of a road trip, but not so good on the second, and if there was a third game … look out. The travel schedule takes a lot to get used to and can really wear a student down.
Increased Physical Demands of College Ball- This applies to every college sport. If you know an incoming freshman talk to them or check out their Facebook page around the first couple of week they are on campus and you will hear something like this. “Holy #@%& I thought I was in shape, but they are serious here I can not move” 90% of all incoming freshman really do not have a clue as to the physical demands and requirement it takes to play a college sport. On the other hand freshman who do show up having put the work in over the summer stand a much better chance of contributing and being more consistent through out their freshman year. Sarah Strand of the Bobcat Women’s program comes to mind here. I can give you a much longer list of high school super stars that did not put in the work and had a disappointing freshman year.
I could go on, but I think, I have bored you enough. Freshman athletes are adjusting to a lot of crap, and even though colleges are getting better and better at helping them make the adjustment, getting consistency is still a crap shoot. That is why when ever I do a preview I will really down play the impact of freshman.