On a loaded preseason No. 3 Houston team that won 32 games last season and advanced to the Elite Eight, the addition of five-star Jarace Walker -- even after losing four starters -- was a rich-gets-richer situation for the Cougars. But it was unclear given how upperclassmen-heavy the roster was and how Houston has typically skewed old just how much impact he could make upon arrival and whether he'd be a difference-maker.
What silly skepticism that looks like in hindsight.
Walker has been one of the top rookies in the sport all season putting up big numbers as a scorer and rebounder and that peaked this week with a career-high 25 points for the Cougars in a much-needed AAC win over Cincinnati. That followed up a 17-point, four-rebound outing vs. UCF days earlier as he continued his late-season breakout as one of the focal points of Houston's two-way attack.
Walker for his efforts is this week's Freshman of the Week -- his second such honor -- becoming the third player on the season to earn the distinction at least twice.
Let's dive into the rankings this week.
Freshman of the Week: Jarace Walker, Houston
Welcome back to the Frosh Watch, our weekly ranking of the five most impressive freshmen in college basketball. CBS Sports has once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award to present this every-Tuesday feature. Each week we'll start by announcing the national Freshman of the Week honoree. The cycle for FOTW runs Tuesday-Monday.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson only recently moved Walker into a more expanded role in league play -- he hadn't played 30 minutes in a conference game until the Jan. 22 game vs. Temple -- and Walker rewarded his coach's faith with big production in two games this week. Against UCF on the road he played 35 minutes, scored 17 points and grabbed four boards in a cozy 11-point win.
Walker followed that outing up with a career-high 25 points on 10 shots only three days later in helping lead the charge in a 75-69 comeback win over Cincinnati. He finished 10 of 14 from the field and made two of his four 3-point attempts while adding seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Another day, another huge Jarace Walker game— The Box and One (@TheBoxAndOne_) January 29, 2023
Showed the floater early, then was versatile & impactful in Spain PNR. Worked out of post-ups. Hit some really tough late-clock shots late. Did so much on O while being consistently solid on D
Love his game for the NBA. Top-10 target pic.twitter.com/ccdTeqZybS
Houston trailed for more than 31 minutes against the Bearcats but in the closing stretch took over and arrived when it was needed. That included five points and two rebounds from Walker in the final five minutes.
"Jarace is just getting more comfortable and more confident," Sampson said after the win vs. Cincinnati. "You can see it."
Now, without further ado, let's jump in to this week's rookie rankings -- with a brief pit stop highlighting the previous Freshman of the Week winners this season:
- Nov. 22: Anthony Black, Arkansas
- Nov. 29: Fletcher Loyer, Purdue
- Dec. 6: GG Jackson, South Carolina
- Dec. 13: Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas
- Dec. 20: Brandon Miller, Alabama
- Dec. 27: Cason Wallace, Kentucky
- Jan. 3: GG Jackson, South Carolina
- Jan. 10: Jarace Walker, Houston
- Jan. 17: Brandon Miller, Alabama
- Jan. 24: Brice Sensabaugh, Ohio State
Frosh Watch: Top five freshmen rankings
It wasn't the best week for Miller or for Alabama, which narrowly avoided a home loss to Mississippi State and was then wrecked at Oklahoma. But even on an off week, the 6-foot-9 freshman reached double figures twice, helped on the boards and collected five steals. Miller has scored 10 or more in all but one game this season, leads all freshman nationally in scoring and is the SEC's leading scorer by a wide margin. While 3-point shooting remains his calling card — Miller is hitting 46.4% from beyond the arc against SEC foes — his overall versatility makes him one of the most dynamic player in the country, regardless of class.
Filipowski is on a tear over his last seven games, averaging 19.9 points, 11 rebounds and 1.3 blocks over that span. He put up 18 points on an efficient 6-of-9 shooting in the Blue Devils' 86-43 beatdown at Georgia Tech on Saturday. Also encouraging about Filipowski's recent play has been the return of his 3-point shot. The 7-footer has hit at least one 3-pointer in each of the past five games and is shooting 34.8% beyond the arc in that span. Filipowski defends well on the perimeter for a player of his size and has uncommon offensive tools for such a tall player.
Over Kansas' last four games, Dick is shooting just 23.1% from beyond the arc but has still managed to average 15.3 points during that span because he's made 54.2% of his 2-pointers. Even when opponents chase him off the 3-point line, he still has the athleticism and skill to find other ways to contribute. Dick has collected at least one steal in all but two games this season and has made at least one 3-pointer in all 21 Kansas games, in spite of his recent slump. Dick has played his role of sidekick to Kansas star Jalen Wilson to perfection.
George turned in another big week with 20 points in a win over Arkansas on Saturday and 17 in a lass at Texas on Monday. Efficiency is not George's calling card and that was evident as he made just 13 of 37 shots (35.1%) in those two contests, but George is nonetheless an offensive spark plug. He particularly excels at getting to the free-throw line and has made 95 of 118 shots (80.5%) from the charity stripe this season. He's shot nearly twice as many free throws as anyone else on the Baylor roster and has surpassed 20 points a whopping nine times this season..
Ohio State is on a horrific slide of seven losses in eight games, and Sensabaugh is not totally absolved of blame as he continues learning how to play defense. But the dynamic 6-6 forward continues to stand out as one of college basketball's top offensive weapons. In Saturday's loss at Indiana, he finished with 23 points on 9 of 17 shooting, including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Since entering the starting lineup on Dec. 8, Sensabaugh is averaging 19.7 points on 51.1% shooting with a 47.6% mark from 3-point range. Sensabaugh is walking bucket.