Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2008 at 12:18 a.m.
Through the early portion of Southeastern Conference basketball play, one fact is clear — freshmen are making an impact.
Coaches, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes out of confidence, have not been afraid to keep their first-year players on the court in pressure situations.
The freshman duo of Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas combined for 40 points and 12 assists in Florida's 90-83 win at Alabama.
Freshman center A.J. Ogilvy had 25 points and six rebounds in Vanderbilt's 80-73 win against South Carolina.
Ole Miss freshman point guard Chris Warren nearly led the Rebels to an upset at Tennessee, finishing with a team-high 24 points.
Of the 12 teams in the league, eight start at least one freshman.
"I think in one respect, our (league's) non-conference record wasn't as gaudy because so many teams had to rely on younger guys and there's always an adjustment," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "Maybe some games that were lost could have been won with more experience. But it's obviously a great freshman class and it speaks well for our league in the future."
The 6-foot-11, 250-pound Ogilvy has helped spark Vanderbilt's undefeated start. Ogilvy ranks third in the league in scoring at 19.1 points per game and is tied for ninth in rebounding at 7.3 per game.
Ogilvy came to Vanderbilt from Sydney, Australia, where he was a member of the country's under-18 national team.
"He's a natural down there," Stallings said. "He's had great coaching. Fundamentally sound. Great body. Great feel. And he's not a guy who fashions himself as a jump shooter. He really enjoys playing in the post and he's good at it."
Calathes, Lucas and Warren are among freshmen running their teams at the point. Calathes leads the SEC in assists at 5.9 per game, with Warren second at 5.7 per game.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said Warren arrived early for summer classes and made an immediate impression on the coaching staff.
"He does everything he's supposed to do above and beyond the call," Kennedy said. "As we went in during the spring and fall and he continued to progress, we realized this kid has a chance to play right away for us."
Many teams are starting freshmen out of necessity. Georgia coach Dennis Felton was forced to move freshman forward Jeremy Price into the starting lineup after guard Mike Mercer and forward Takais Brown were lost for the season for disciplinary reasons.
"I think the teams that can play more veterans will have an edge," Felton said. "But how quickly some of the younger players develop could have an impact on how teams finish in February and March."
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