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Insider

Five underrated freshmen to watch in conference play

12/30/2014

Conference play is upon us, and there are many freshmen who are playing at high levels and helping their teams win.

We know the household names by now: Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner and Cliff Alexander, our top three players in the 2014 recruiting class, are getting plenty of attention. Other freshmen who are off to a great start are Stanley Johnson (Arizona) D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) and Melo Trimble (Maryland), all McDonald’s All-Americans.

We rank, grade and evaluate the country's best high school prospects. With every class there is value, depth and the assumption that prospects will perform according to their rank and evaluation over time.

Below is a group of five freshmen who were not McDonald's All-Americans or ranked in our top 25, but are playing up to their top-100 billing. If you don’t know their names and their games, now is the perfect time to get acquainted.

Robert Johnson, Indiana

ESPN 100 rank: 47

We know that James Blackmon Jr. is leading the Big Ten in scoring, but the Hoosiers would not be where they are without Johnson. At 6-foot-3, Johnson is one of five players on Indiana shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. He contributes to winning in many ways -- 9.5 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game, 3 assists per game (second on team) but still has a few too many freshmen turnovers that need to be cleaned up. When I first watched him play in high school, it was his is poise and toughness that caught my attention. Now he brings those traits along with a strong work ethic.