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December 9, 2011

Yahoo! Sports: UK freshman proving best in class

The nation's top-ranked recruiting class has lived up to billing.

Kentucky signed three of the nation's top five prospects in the 2011 recruiting class. All three moved right into the starting lineup and have posted scoring averages in double figures to help Kentucky soar to the top of the national rankings.

Anthony Davis, a 6-foot-10 forward rated as the nation's No. 2 recruit, leads the Wildcats in rebounding (9.1) and ranks among the nation's top shot blockers. He delivered one of the signature plays of the first month of the season Saturday by blocking John Henson's shot in the closing seconds of a 73-72 victory over North Carolina.

"If he didn't block the shot, we lose the game," Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters afterward.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist arrived at Kentucky as the nation's No. 3 recruit. Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6-7 forward, has started every game and ranks third on the team in rebounds (7.1) and fourth in scoring (12.1).

Guard Marquis Teague, the No. 5 prospect in the 2011 class, also has started each of Kentucky's first eight games. He is averaging 10.3 points per game, making him one of five Wildcats with a scoring average in double figures. He also leads Kentucky with 4.1 assists per game.

Of course, Kentucky didn't sign all of the five-star prospects from the 2011 class, even if it might seem that way on occasion.

We look at how each of the Rivals.com's top 26 recruits from 2011 has fared thus far in the first edition of the Five-Star Freshman Tracker. Players are listed in the order of their recruiting ranking. Season averages are through Tuesday's games.

1. Duke G Austin Rivers
Season averages: 15.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 31.3 minutes
Buzz: Rivers has provided consistent double-figure scoring, including a 20-point performance in an 82-75 victory over Michigan and a 22-point effort in an 85-63 loss to Ohio State. Rivers leads the Blue Devils in scoring. He still has room for improvement, though. Rivers entered Wednesday with a .652 free-throw percentage and an equal number of turnovers and assists (18).

2. Kentucky F Anthony Davis
Season averages: 12.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 4.5 blocks, 27.5 minutes
Buzz: Davis frequently is mentioned as a potential No. 1 overall pick in next year's NBA draft. He has spent the first part of his freshman season showing why scouts think so much of him. He nearly recorded a triple-double against St. John's: 15 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks. He already has three double-doubles and ranks second nationally in blocks.

3. Kentucky F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Season averages: 12.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.1 blocks, 29.4 minutes
Buzz: Kidd-Gilchrist delivered perhaps the best performance of his young career Saturday with 17 points and 11 rebounds in a 73-72 victory over North Carolina. He scored in double figures in six of UK's first eight games. Kidd-Gilchrist also has pulled down at least nine rebounds in four of those games.

4. Florida G Brad Beal
Season averages: 15.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.1 blocks, 33.3 minutes
Buzz: Although he's 6 feet 3, Beal has emerged as a force on the glass. He pulled down 10 rebounds in three of Florida's first seven games. Beal had seven points and five turnovers Friday in a 72-68 loss to Syracuse after scoring in double figures in each of Florida's first six games. Beal must take better care of the ball, as he already has three five-turnover performances.

5. Kentucky G Marquis Teague
Season averages: 10.3 points, 4.1 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 30.1 minutes
Buzz: Teague has been a bit up-and-down. He committed six turnovers each against Kansas and Old Dominion. But he has taken better care of the ball lately. Over his past four games, Teague has 22 assists and only five turnovers. Teague's shooting has been inconsistent. He was 9-of-32 from the floor in his past three games.

6. Oklahoma State F LeBryan Nash
Season averages: 11.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 23.9 minutes
Buzz: Nash is still searching for consistency. He went scoreless and played just 11 minutes in a 59-57 loss to Virginia Tech. In his next game, he had 21 points in a 59-56 victory over Tulsa. But Nash followed that up by committing seven turnovers in an 80-58 triumph over Langston (Okla.). Nash has done a good job of drawing fouls; he attempted at least 11 free throws in two of his first six games.

7. Baylor F Quincy Miller
Season averages: 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 27.3 minutes
Buzz: Miller got off to a hot start before an ankle injury caused him to sit out one game and limited him in a three-point performance against Northwestern. Miller scored at least 17 points in four of Baylor's first five games. He had a double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds) against UT Arlington.

8. North Carolina F James Michael McAdoo
Season averages: 5.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 14.3 minutes
Buzz: McAdoo has played well in limited minutes, though he hasn't played as many as 20 minutes in any game. Even in a backup role, McAdoo has had at least four rebounds in seven of his first nine games. He scored 10 points each against Mississippi Valley State and Evansville.

9. Pittsburgh F Khem Birch
Season averages: 4.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 15.0 minutes
Buzz: As expected, Birch has contributed mainly as a defender and rebounder. He delivered double-digit rebounds in consecutive games against Penn and Robert Morris. He had a double-double against Penn (15 points, 10 rebounds), but that's the only time he has scored in double-figures so far. He blocked six shots against Robert Morris.

10. Connecticut F DeAndre Daniels
Season averages: 6.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.1 blocks, 23.1 minutes
Buzz: Daniels scored 11 points against Wagner in his second game and followed that up with a 15-point effort against Maine three days later, but he hasn't reached double figures since. His playing time has dipped as Connecticut's schedule has toughened. He played 15 minutes against Florida State and six minutes against Arkansas.

11. Arizona G Josiah Turner
Season averages: 7.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 21.3 minutes
Buzz: Turner has struggled to live up to expectations. He is shooting just 37.5 percent from the floor, and he has scored in double figures twice. He was suspended from Arizona's game Wednesday at Florida because of a violation of team policy.

12. Georgia G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Season averages: 13.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 30.0 minutes
Buzz: Caldwell-Pope has been a sure bet to score in double figures and pull down a handful of rebounds in every game. He scored 16 points each against Notre Dame and Cincinnati. He also had four steals against Cincinnati. Caldwell-Pope still must improve his shooting.

13. North Carolina F P.J. Hairston
Season averages: 8.2 points, 1.6 rebounds, 12.0 minutes
Buzz: Hairston has helped improve North Carolina's 3-point shooting, a major team weakness last season. He has shot 46.2 percent (18-of-39) from 3-point range, and went 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and scored 19 points against South Carolina. Hairston was 3-of-5 on 3-pointers and tallied 15 points against UNLV.

14. Washington G Tony Wroten
Season averages: 13.0 points, 3.7 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 24.0 minutes
Buzz: Wroten has been the Huskies' sixth man with veteran Abdul Gaddy manning the point. But Wroten has played starter's minutes and is third on the team in scoring. He's had his freshman moments this season (2-of-9 shooting in a win over FAU, 13 turnovers and eight assists combined in the Huskies' three losses), but he should be a key playmaker once he adapts.

15. Indiana F Cody Zeller
Season averages: 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.6 steals, 1.6 blocks, 27.1 minutes
Buzz: When Zeller committed to Indiana, he looked like the transformative player Tom Crean had been seeking in the rebuilding process. So far, Zeller has delivered. The Hoosiers are 8-0, but their best wins are over Evansville, Butler and North Carolina State. Their biggest test thus far comes Saturday against Kentucky. Indiana may not win that game, but it will be an opportunity to show real progress.

16. Mississippi State F Rodney Hood
Season averages: 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 34.3 minutes
Buzz: Short-handed Mississippi State has needed Hood to play a ton of minutes. He leads the team in minutes played, and is shooting 54.1 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-poitn range. He has struggled against some of the better teams on the schedule, scoring 10 points against Texas A&M, nine against Arizona and seven against West Virginia.

17. Memphis F Adonis Thomas
Season averages: 10.4 points, 3.7 rebounds
Buzz: Thomas is another freshman who's a bench player in name only. He's third on the team in scoring, but his season has been a little uneven. Statistically, he's Memphis' best 3-point shooter (10-of-21) but most of that came in one game against Austin Peay, when he went 5-of-6. In the next game, Thomas went 0-of-4 from beyond the arc against Miami, though he had 10 rebounds.

18. Arizona G Nick Johnson
Season averages: 10.8 points, 2.4 rebounds
Buzz: Arizona's freshman class is off to a rough start with C Sidiki Johnson transferring and G Josiah Turner suspended for Wednesday's game against Florida. Nick Johnson has been a bright spot, at least from an intangibles standpoint. Coach Sean Miller has praised his attitude and work ethic. Arizona went to a smaller lineup recently, giving him a chance to shine. He scored 19 points against New Mexico State in his first start of the season.

19. Oregon G Jabari Brown
Season totals: 12 points, 11 turnovers, one assist in two games
Buzz: The Jabari Brown era at Oregon didn't even make it to Thanksgiving, as Brown elected to transfer after two games. He will take an official visit to Missouri.

20. Michigan State F Branden Dawson
Season averages: 7.4 points, 4.0 rebounds
Buzz: Dawson's season started on a good note with six points and five rebounds in the first half of the opener against North Carolina. But he suffered a knee injury and hasn't been quite the same. He's finally starting to shake that injury and also one to an ankle. He's expected to be a high-level rebounder when he's fully adjusted to the college game.

21. Louisville F Chane Behanan
Season averages: 10.4 points, 8.9 rebounds
Buzz: Behanan has, at times, looked like injury-riddled Louisville's best player; at other times, it's clear he must improve. He has struggled defensively, but he has three double-doubles, including one in the overtime win over Vanderbilt.

22. Kentucky F Kyle Wiltjer
Season averages: 6.4 points, 3.0 rebounds
Buzz: Wiltjer has been one of the odd men out as Calipari has favored a shorter rotation. He has been UK's seventh man. When he has played extended minutes, Wiltjer has produced. In 28 minutes against Penn State, he scored 19 points.

23. C Norvell Pelle, no school
Season averages: N/A
Buzz: Pelle was ruled academically ineligible at St. John's and has re-opened his recruitment for the 2012 season. San Diego State is considered a major factor.

24. Alabama G Trevor Lacey
Season averages: 6.4 points, 3.4 rebounds
Buzz: Lacey has been a valuable player for the Crimson Tide. He's a shooting guard by trade, but he has backed up Trevor Releford at the point. Lacey started the season in a slump, shooting 15-of-41 from the field and hasn't done much to lift Alabama's dismal 3-point shooting (Lacey is 6-of-22 from 3-point range).

25. Arkansas G B.J. Young
Season averages: 15.4 points, 4.1 rebounds,
Buzz: Arkansas is a young team, especially now that F Marshawn Powell has been lost for the season with a knee injury. Young scored 28 points in the loss to Connecticut and has scored double figures in every game since the second outing of the season.

26. Texas G Myck Kabongo
Season averages: 10.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 28.4 minutes
Buzz: Kabongo has been stronger on defense than on offense. He struggled mightily late in November, when he was 4-of-15 from the field in a three-game stretch, including two losses. He has improved in recent weeks, which will be a key for a young Texas team.


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