For those who may have been concerned about Jabari Smith hitting a wall late in his freshman season after a handful of relatively low-key performances in late January and early February, he issued a strong response last week. Auburn's star forward poured in a career-high 31 points in a win over Vanderbilt and then scored 28 of his team's 62 in a loss at Florida on Saturday.
The two games mark Smith's two highest scoring outputs of the season and put the clamps on any speculation that he may have already maxed out during what figures to be his lone season of college basketball. Smith's performance last week, which was highlighted by an 11 of 15 mark from 3-point range, earns him CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week honors.
It's the first time Smith has taken home the award this season, though he's been in the running numerous times. Smith has been steady but has rarely peaked with consecutive big games in the same week like he did against the Commodores and Gators.
Jabari Smith was LIGHTS OUT ♨️♨️@jabarismithll is the first @AuburnMBB player with 30 points on 60% shooting in an SEC game since 2014! pic.twitter.com/DtX9KBVBx1— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 17, 2022
Inexplicably, he did not touch the basketball on the Tigers' final possession at UF as Auburn suffered its third loss of the season. But that wasn't Smith's fault. He was great last week and has been excellent all season for a team with legitimate national title aspirations.
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.
Previous FOTW winners
- Nov. 30: Paolo Banchero, Duke
Dec. 7: Reyne Smith, Charleston
Dec. 14: Aminu Mohammed, Georgetown
Dec. 21: Kendall Brown, Baylor
Dec. 28: Paolo Banchero, Duke
Jan. 4: Malaki Branham, Ohio State
Jan. 11: Blake Wesley, Notre Dame
Jan. 18: TyTy Washington, Kentucky
Jan. 25: Caleb Houstan, Michigan
Feb. 1: Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State
Feb. 8: Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga
Feb. 15: Trevor Keels, Duke
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball this season.
1. Paolo Banchero | Duke
Stats: 16.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.7 APG
Banchero's 3-point percentage has dipped below 30% for the season, and he's shooting just 37.8% from the floor over Duke's last six games. Though he's clearly a special player and a contender for ACC Player of the Year, it's not clear that he's taking strides as the season progresses like Chet Holmgren. Though Banchero has been steady all season, his lead on Holmgren and Jabari Smith is shrinking.
2. Jabari Smith | Auburn
Stats: 16.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 43.3% 3PT, 1.7 APG
Smith turned in an absolutely masterful week with 31 points in Auburn's 94-80 win over Vanderbilt and 28 in a 63-62 loss at Florida. The 6-foot-10 forward hit 11 of 15 from 3-point range over those two games and showed once again why he's in the running to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. The Tigers did not get him the ball on the final possession of their loss to the Gators. But that's not Smith's fault.
3. Chet Holmgren | Gonzaga
Stats: 14.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.4 BPG, 44.6% 3PT
The silly stat lines from Holmgren during Gonzaga's unbeaten run through WCC play continue to rack up. He finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks in a win over Pepperdine on Wednesday. He finally had an off game Saturday against Santa Clara but still recorded a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
4. Blake Wesley | Notre Dame
Stats: 14.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.3 SPG
Wesley put together an excellent week with an 18 point performance in a win over Boston College and 24 in a loss at Wake Forest. The 6-5 guard hit 6 of 11 from 3-point range against the Demon Deacons to give his team a shot in a hostile environment. He is averaging 17.6 points on 50% shooting over Notre Dame's last five contests. It's no surprise the Fighting Irish are 4-1 over that span.
5. TyTy Washington | Kentucky
Stats: 12.4 PPG, 4.1 APG, 35% 3PT
Washington's leg injury suffered Feb. 12 against Florida limited him in UK's loss at Tennessee last week and kept him out of the Wildcats' win over Alabama on Saturday. When healthy, he is key for Kentucky on both ends as he can play on or off the ball while also embracing challenging defensive assignments.
6. AJ Griffin | Duke
Stats: 9.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 48.5% 3PT
Griffin has made at least two 3-pointers in each of Duke's last four games, all of which have been victories for the Blue Devils. It's the first such four-game stretch for Griffin, who is proving to be among the nation's best outside shooters. The 6-6 wing is more than just a shooter, too, and his versatility is putting him in the lottery pick conversation.
7. Kennedy Chandler | Tennessee
Stats: 13.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, 2.3 SPG
Chandler and fellow freshman point guard Zakai Ziegler combine to average 4.2 steals per game, which makes Tennessee's defense a real pain to play against. Chandler continues to be a consistent offensive threat for the Volunteers as well. He finished with six assists and no turnovers in UT's win over Kentucky last week.
8. Trevor Keels | Duke
Stats: 12.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.5 SPG
Keels struggled against Wake Forest last Tuesday but has been solid overall for Duke since returning from a leg injury on Jan. 31. The physical 6-4 guard is shooting 46.2% from 3-point range over Duke's last six games to help give the Blue Devils another consistent outside threat alongside the likes of Griffin, Joey Baker and Wendell Moore.
9. Malaki Branham | Ohio State
Stats: 11.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 45.9% 3PT
Branham had a monster week in a loss to Iowa and a win over Indiana. The 6-5 guard went 9 of 13 from the floor in both games, finishing with 22 against the Hawkeyes and 27 against Ohio State. It can be feast or famine for Branham, but he's feasted enough in Big Ten play to challenge Bryce McGowens for Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
10. Jalen Duren | Memphis
Stats: 11.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.3 BPG
Duren is averaging 13.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks over the last seven games for Memphis and is a big reason why the Tigers are back in the NCAA Tournament conversation following some midseason woes. He's a lock for AAC Freshman of the Year and is clearly one of the league's best bigs.