It’s not a new term. In fact, it’s an old one – The Freshman Wall. Some hit it, some don’t.
It may be an old wives’ tale these days or old news for a bunch of fresh faces.
It usually happens in the second half of the college basketball season, near February sometimes earlier.
Again … sometimes.
“Not any more because those guys are wired differently,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said when asked if he believed in the hitting the wall theory for freshman these days. “They have different expectations and they have such a bigger role now than before.”
But he did say, “They may have more peaks and valleys.”
He should know given all the one-and-dones and early-exits that have come through the program in recent years.
He proceeded to mention Kobi Simmons (11.7 points, 2.1 rebounds) has seen those highs and lows and may be going through one now. One weekend big another not so much.
That could happen to anyone, but he’s a freshman so one would figure inconsistency and, well, that famed wall that may or may not exist.
“Against Stanford and Cal, he was a big reason we won,” Miller said about Simmons. “He is a big reason why we have the record we have, but the last two games haven’t been his best. But that’s the valley that he’s in. He can climb out of it.”
Lauri Markkanen (15.9 points, 7.4 rebounds) has seen fewer valleys. On Wednesday, he was named to the John R. Wooden top 25 college player list. He’s short of sensation save for a foul out and some foul trouble.
“Learning how to manage his fouls is next up for him and we have to help him with that as well,” Miller said. “He’s trying hard to be a better defender so me makes harder plays around the rim, on the ball, tries to draw charges, but there’s a time and a place, depending on how many fouls you have, to do those types of things.”
Miller said Markkanen will get better in time. He pointed out it took teammate Dusan Ristic 2 ½ years to get used to it.
“Time and place” are important, Miller said, when trying to draw a charge.
Rawle Alkins (12.3 points, 5.6 rebounds) seems to have picked up “time and place” well enough to be that steady force Arizona needs. He’s less foul prone, an issue that was apparent two months ago.
“Rawle’s not a freshman mystery anymore,” Miller said. “They know what he can do.”
Arizona goes into tonight’s game with Arizona State as an 18-point favorite.