Chart toppers: Fantastic freshman boys' basketball players, courtesy Fred Kroner
Not all freshmen get the chance to play varsity during their first year in high school. St. Joseph-Ogden, for example, has a talented ninth-grade group that qualified for state in consecutive years in junior high. That class will be heard from in the future, but it can’t yet break into a varsity-laden lineup. At other schools, there’s a need for freshmen to play immediately. Here are five who’ve had the chance and have excelled during the first half of the boys’ basketball season:
The 6-foot-2 forward burst onto the scene with 13 points in his varsity debut and has reached double figures in 12 of his first 14 games, including a 24-point outing against Neoga. “He has a very good shot and can get to the basket,” Arcola coach Chad Graves said. Seaman leads the team in scoring and is hitting 74 percent of his free throws, sinking 37 of his first 50. He ranked in a tie for 15th last week among the area’s scoring leaders.
The 5-9 point guard ranks sixth in the area in assists (4.2 average) and has scored in double figures in two of his last three games. His high game was 19 points against Armstrong-Potomac. Simmons has been joined in the starting lineup, at times, by another freshman, Gannon Hughes. “From a skills standpoint, we knew he could make an impact,” Schlarman coach Gary Tidwell said. “He is adept at handling the ball, and he hit the ground running.”
The 5-10 shooting guard wasn’t on the varsity team when the season began but was promoted when the roster thinned out. He scored 18 points in the first game he played appreciable minutes and is now either starting or coming in as the sixth man. “He is one of my players who has been able to score, and we’re looking for him to score,” Blue Devils coach Brian Russell said. Koeberlein has scored in double figures in six of his last 10 games.
He got a taste of varsity action in the fall, starting the Warriors’ final three football games at quarterback. The 6-foot off guard is working into a more prominent role in basketball, too. He has scored in double figures in four of his last six games, including a career-high 16 points against Warrensburg-Latham. “He has a very good midrange game,” Tuscola coach Matt Franks said. “He’s just as aggressive with his left hand. He’ll have a good career for us.”
Like teammate Seaman, Fishel has been a starter from the outset of the season. “Wyatt is our primary ball handler and gets us into our offense,” Graves said. “He has good quickness and is a very good defender.” Fishel has reached double figures in four of his last nine games, and he had 12-point games against Neoga and Tri-County. The freshmen are part of a youthful Purple Riders team that also features a sophomore double-figure scorer, Nick Hudson.
Among those close to warranting a spot on the five-player list are Clinton’s Jacob Overton, a 5-7 guard who put up 15 points against South Fulton, and Villa Grove’s Gilbert Nieto, a part-time starter who reached double figures twice in a three-game late-December span.