Larry Sanders averaged 4.9 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman in 2007-08

They say youth is wasted on the young. I just think those of us in the post-30 crowd hate that The Jersey Shore has taken over MTV. When I was a college freshman, I could run a sub-5:00 mile, sleep three hours a night and had great hair (true story). Of course, I didn’t know what I was doing half the time, and I didn’t care.  The experience, one painful lesson at a time, was all worth it. It made me better personally and professionally (at least, that’s what I’m going with).

There are six freshmen on this year’s VCU Men’s Basketball team. Statistically speaking, the Rams are the 10th-youngest team in the country. They’re all great basketball players. They wouldn’t be here otherwise. But there are going to be mistakes, plenty of youthful mistakes. Enough to cause Shaka Smart to lose some of his hair…wait…let’s move on.

The point here is that these guys are all great talents, it’s just a matter of getting the best out of them. It’s going to take time. You’ll see it some nights and others you might shake your head. It’s rare to find a guy ahead of the curve, who can come in and dominate right away. Just like I didn’t come in and just dominate the blogging game. It took years of experience to be this awesome.

Even the best players have struggled as freshmen. There’s so much to learn and it’s more than just basketball. It’s class. It’s social interaction. It’s living away from home. It’s all that and more. That’s why, every time I hear someone talking about this year’s talented freshmen class as if they were going to be Michigan’s Fab Five, I roll my eyes. It rarely works that way.

Bradford Burgess hit a go-ahead 3-pointer to beat Richmond as a freshman, but was hardly as star.

Of course there are exceptions. Kendrick Warren bulldozed the competition right from Jump Street. He’s probably the best VCU freshman ever. Then you look at a guy like Eric Maynor. Many people consider him the best player in VCU history. He averaged 4.8 points a game as a freshman. Sure, he was starting by the end of the year, but his game was far from a finished product.

So, before you start predicting 15 points and seven rebounds a game for one of this year’s freshmen, have a look at this first. These are the best freshman seasons at VCU from the last 10 seasons. Only Johnny Story, Mike Anderson, T.J. Gwynn and Rob Brandenberg (not yet, anyway) are not 1,000-point scorers. Some of them were very good players and played significant roles. None of them, however, was a dominant force as a freshman:

BEST FRESHMAN SEASONS (2001-2011)
2001-02:
Dom Jones: 8.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg (CAA All-Rookie)
Johnny Story: 7.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg (CAA All-Rookie)
2002-03:
Nick George: 8.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg (CAA All-Rookie)
2003-04: B.A. Walker: 7.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg (59 3-pt FG)
Jesse Pellot-Rosa: 6.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg
2004-05:
Jamal Shuler: 2.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg
Michael Anderson: 1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg
2005-06:
Eric Maynor: 4.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg
2006-07:
T.J. Gwynn: 4.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg
2007-08:
Larry Sanders: 4.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg (CAA All-Rookie)
Joey Rodriguez: 5.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg
2008-09:
Bradford Burgess: 7.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg (CAA All-Rookie)
2010-11:
Rob Brandenberg: 4.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg

Pretty remarkable, right? Almost every one of these guys ended up being a star for the Rams, but none of them was as a freshman. So, while some of this year’s six rookies could provide a big spark off the bench or even crack the starting lineup, chances are that they won’t be a star…yet. Give them time.

TRIVIA: The last VCU freshman to average better than 10 points per game in a season was Shawn Hampton in 1998-99. He averaged 10.3 points that year for a 15-16 VCU squad.

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