Freshmen players developing early impact

Published: Friday, January 14, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2005 at 12:42 a.m.
It's early. But so far, freshmen are showing anything but jitters in their first season of Southeastern Conference play.
The evidence:
  • Auburn freshman guard Toney Douglas lit up Florida for 32 points, including a buzzer-beating 25-foot three that sent the game to overtime. Douglas joked after the play he used to practice the shot "in my backyard."
  • LSU 6-foot-8 freshman forward Glen Davis, who coach John Brady compared to Charles Barkley in the preseason, dominated inside against South Carolina, finishing with 28 points and 14 rebounds in a 79-64 win.
  • Freshman Corey Brewer finished with a career-high 14 and picked Auburn senior point guard Ian Young twice in the final minute in Florida's 84-78 overtime win. Freshman Al Horford chipped in with 8 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Kentucky freshman point guard Rajon Rondo scored a career-high 18 in the Wildcats' 69-54 win over Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena.
    Douglas came into the week leading the SEC in scoring at 18.8 points per game. If he holds onto the lead, Douglas will be the first freshman to lead the SEC in scoring since LSU's Chris Jackson in 1987.
    "Toney is a unique type of player," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "I think he still has a long way to go and that's exciting. He can flat-out score the ball."
    Coaches around the league have been impressed with Douglas' ability to sink mid-range jumpers. He hit a 14-footer to open the game Wednesday against Florida and sank a 15-footer to begin the overtime period.
    "He makes the tough ones, but has a harder time with the open ones," Lebo said. "In today's game, you don't see many kids with a mid-range game. Toney's got it."
    Said Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes, whose team faces Auburn on Saturday: "The closest guy I can picture him being is Tony White from Tennessee. Not only can Douglas shoot the three, he has a mid-range jumper that you don't see much anymore."
    Davis, a McDonald's All-American, is emerging as in inside threat. At close to 310 pounds, Davis has a soft touch around the basket for a player with a wide frame.
    "Glen is getting better, and improving with his scoring," Brady said. "I thought against Alabama he had his best complete game. He was able to catch the South Carolina players on his hip and use his strength."
    A bit wild early in the season, Rondo has adapted to Kentucky coach Tubby Smith's rigid system. He's playing the point alongside transfer Patrick Sparks, who was a point guard at Western Kentucky and moved over to the shooting guard spot to accommodate Rondo.
    Rondo has been stellar on defense, averaging 2.6 steals per game. Offensively, Rondo and Sparks are trying to get on the same page.
    "They are still learning," Smith said. "We are all learning. They both have to guard a taller player all the time. Patrick has had to make the biggest adjustment, because he is naturally a point guard, he has to sacrifice his position so Rajon can play the point. They have developed a pretty good camaraderie."
  • HOME SWEET HOME: Tennessee picked up a much-needed home win, snapping Mississippi State's 16-game road win streak by a slim 64-63 margin at Thomson-Boling Arena.
    The Vols, who lost by 25 points at home to cross-state rival Vanderbilt last weekend, made coach Buzz Peterson sweat this one out. Tennessee led by 16 at halftime, but needed a Lawrence Roberts miss at the buzzer to secure the win.
    "We knew they were going to make a run, with a great player like Lawrence Roberts," Peterson said. "It was important that we got off to a good start."
    Mississippi State played without senior forward Winsome Frazier (Miami High), a player who Florida recruited. Frazier is out at least two months with a broken foot.
    "We learned that we were going to miss him," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "We didn't execute well or get any points in transition."
  • SO MUCH FOR MILESTONES: Alabama coach Mark Gottfried didn't think much of his 200th career win Tuesday night, when the Tide won at Arkansas 64-61 after Razorbacks point guard Eric Ferguson front-rimmed a tying 3-point attempt with 1.5 seconds left.
    Gottfried was more satisfied with picking up a road win after Alabama lost to Vanderbilt in its road opener.
    "Our players are learning how to be mentally tough," Gottfried said.
    Kevin Brockway can be reached at (352) 374-5054 or by e-mail at
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