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November 28, 2007
NEW YORK ? Add Syracuse's Donte Greene to the rapidly growing list of freshmen who seem to be taking over college basketball.
Greene was clearly the best player at the Preseason NIT despite not playing in the championship game.
Greene scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Syracuse's 79-65 loss to Ohio State. He followed up that performance with his first double-double, racking up 25 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks to power the Orange to a 91-85 win over Washington in the consolation game on Friday. Those performances earned him Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week award for the week ending Nov. 25.
"We wanted to try and come out and show our fans in (New York) City that the 'Cuse has a good team," said Greene, who was the only player not in the final to be voted to the Preseason NIT All-Tournament team. "I felt good. This is the first time I've been here since I won the MVP award in the Jordan game (Greene won co-MVP honors after scoring 20 points in the Jordan Brand All-American Classic on April 22). I felt really comfortable out there."
Just how good Syracuse is remains to be seen (Texas A&M crushed Ohio State 70-47 and the three teams Washington beat are a combined 3-11), but Greene has certainly proven himself. The graceful 6-foot-9 forward looked unguardable at times in Madison Square Garden. He made fadeaway jumpers on the baseline, blew past defenders off the dribble and stepped back to nail a few 3-pointers (he was 4-for-12 from beyond the arc).
"(Donte) can shoot the ball on the outside and he can put the ball on the floor," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He's going to be a good player. He already is."
Greene has now strung together three consecutive 20-plus point games, dating to his 25-point performance in the Orange's 80-63 win over Fordham on Nov. 16.
But Greene - like many other freshmen - has been overshadowed by a host of big-name rookies who are off to stellar starts. Highly regarded prospects like Kansas State's Michael Beasley, Indiana's Eric Gordon, Memphis' Derrick Rose USC's O.J. Mayo and UCLA's Kevin Love (each was ranked in the top six of the 2007 class by Rivals.com) have lived up to their hype.
The lack of attention doesn't bother Greene, who says he would prefer it remains that way.
"O.J. and Kevin have been two of the top players in our class since the seventh grade," said Greene, who was ranked No. 9 by Rivals. "They can have the spotlight. I'll stay under the radar and do my thing. Hopefully the scouts will see that."
Grabbing the attention of NBA personnel shouldn't be a problem for Greene. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who often shies away from praising his younger players, believes we have yet to see the best from the rising star.
"He was really good tonight, especially in the first half," said Boeheim after the win over the Huskies. "I think he'll keep growing."
If that's the case, Greene won't be able to stay under the radar much longer. Like Mayo and Love, he could be a household name among college basketball fans by the time the Orange return to Madison Square Garden for the 2008 Big East Tournament March 12-15.
Regardless of what transpires between now and then, Greene will enter that event with plenty of confidence. In his first three games at MSG (counting the Jordan game), Greene has scored at least 20 points and is averaging 22 points a game.
OTHER NOMINEES FOR FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK:
G Patrick Mills, St. Mary's
G LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Rivals.com Basketball Editor Bob McClellan contributed to this report.