NCAA Men: Top 5 Aussie Freshmen 2018/19

Pre-season Top 5 NCAA Division I Freshman Aussie men | Credit: Shelley Creative

There are more than 20 Australian freshmen heading over to the US for their first college season in 2018/19, with more than a third having been involved in Australian junior national team squads over the past 2 years.  It was a tough ask to select just five pre-season standouts, with three Queenslanders, and surprisingly no Victorians, making the final cut.

5 | Aiden KRAUSE | UC Irvine

As the fifth-youngest player in Division I men’s basketball this season, Aiden Krause could well become the Anteaters’s glue guy this season.

A star on the Australian junior national stage, Krause was part of the fourth placed side at the 2018 Under-20 Australian Champions where he averaged 9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2 assists per game on a talented side. However the 6’4 guard from Queensland has plenty of experience in representing Australia on the world stage.

He helped Australia earn silver at the 2018 Albert Schweitzer Tournament behind Germany, posting 13 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, before then taking part in the 2018 NBA Global Camp in Treviso, Italy. He would then follow-up to help Australia claim a maiden gold medal at the FIBA Under-18 Asian Cup, qualifying for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in the process. In that latter event, he averaged 7.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game en route to the title.

A tough, hard-nosed player, Krause is a consummate team player and does what his team needs in order to win. With an ability to get to the rim, he is an accomplished perimeter shooter as well, doing most of his best work off the ball.

Krause has every opportunity to work his way into the main rotation right from the outset on a side looking to go one better than their second place at the 2018 Big West Tournament, and earn a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

4 | Alex MUDRONJA | Saint Mary’s

Alex Mudronja is the latest in a long line of Aussies to make the trek to Moraga, California to play for Saint Mary’s, and he could well make an immediate impact too.

The 6’5 South Australian point guard arrives at the Gaels as a mature and savvy play maker with a high IQ and silky skills. In 2017 he was a member of Team Asia-Pacific at the prestigious 2017 adidas Nations in Houston, Texas and has since elevated his game to new levels.

He was arguably the best player for the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence team in the SEABL during the 2018 season before departing early for Saint Mary’s. Across his 10 games he averaged a then team-best 15.6 points on 47.9% shooting, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He earned a Player of the Week award in Round 5 in posting 20.5 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal in two victories.

At the 2018 Australian Under-20 Championships, Mudronja led South Australia to a near-upset of Victoria and was possibly the player of the tournament. In delivering an outstanding 23.2 points at 60.9% from the field and 47.1% from beyond the three-point arc, with 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game, Mudronja put his state on his back and nearly carried them all the way to a national title.

With an ability to take good care of the ball, he has a knack for being able to penetrate, draw contact and find open team mates. While is play making capability is exceptional, he is also an effective scorer. The Gaels have not just added another Aussie, Mudronja has the talent and skills to effectively replace Emmett Naar, although he often draws comparisons with one of the all-time Gael greats in Matthew Dellavedova. With Saint Mary’s back court already loaded, it will be interesting to see how quickly the point guard emerges from the pack.

3 | Deng GAK | Miami

Having represented Australia at the 2015 FIBA Under-19 World Cup where he averaging 4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocks for the Emus in finishing seventh, he will get his chance to join forces with Dejan Vasiljevic on court this season for the Hurricanes.

Gak was a highly regarded prospect coming out of Blair Academy (New Jersey), as he was ranked as the 94th best prospect by ESPN. Gak also had scholarship offers from blue chip programs such as Duke and Kansas before committing to Miami. He then sat out the 2017/18, maintaining four years of eligibility and his status as a red-shirt freshman this season.

Originally born in Cairo, Egypt, before moving to South Sudan, then ultimately Sydney, the 6’10 pivot made the move from Sydney to New Jersey in 2015 to attend Blair Academy. The move proved to be a highly successful one, given Gak’s high recruitment value.

Possessing an impressive 7-foot-5-inch wingspan, he has great length and versatility on the floor that has caused many to refer to him as a high upside player with NBA potential.  He will now look to finally translate that potential for a Hurricanes team looking to return to the NCAA Tournament and create some noise.

2 | Kody STATTMAN | Virginia

Krause’s Queensland and Australian junior team back court partner Kody Stattmann is a flat-out scoring machine and is set to play at Virginia in the ACC this season.

Standing at 6’7, Stattmann averaged 31 points to lead the Australian Emus to a gold medal at the 2017 FIBA Oceania U17 Championships in Guam. He also averaged 4.4 steals and was duly named to the tournament’s All-Star Five at that event. Returning to the Australian team for the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Cup, Stattmann posted 12.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, saving his best in the tournament final against New Zealand where his scored 17 points.

Stattmann was a dominant force at the 2018 Australian Under-20 Championships for Queensland, leading his team in scoring and second overall behind Mudronja with 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as his side finished fourth.

A ‘lanky’ wing, Stattmann is a pure shooter and knows how to score, and in a hurry too. He is also an underrated passer, and these two skills combined will make him a valuable addition to the Cavaliers roster.  A natural three, he could also pinch hit at the four, and to lift to the next level, he will have to improve his defense and lateral movement. While he is one of the most talented Aussies entering NCAA Division I ranks this season, he may well find it tough to break into the regular rotation immediately at Virginia.

1 | Samson FROLING | Creighton

Sam Froling is the younger brother of Harry who cut short his college career at Marquette to turn professional with the Adelaide 36rs, but also SMU senior Alicia and Keeley – the latter who is playing professionally in the WNBL with the University of Canberra Capitals.

With experience in playing at the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend in the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp, and again at the 2018 NBA Global Camp in Italy,  Froling played alongside Krause and Stattmann at the 2018 Australian Under-20 Championships – a tournament in which Froling was a beast for Queensland in averaging a double-double of 19.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. But Froling demonstrated he was more than a dominant rebounder and interior scorer, showcasing an ability to stretch defenses with his three-point shooting but also great passing – also dishing out 4.5 assists per contest.

Froling’s ability to more than hold his own against men was on show during the first half of the 2018 SEABL season. Playing with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence before departing for Creighton, adding 11.4 points and 7.3 rebounds across 9 games.

A versatile big man who can play inside-out, Froling was the most efficient player for Australia on their way to winning a debut 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asia Cup. The 6’11 forward averaged an impressive 14.2 points on a sizzling 64.4% from the field, while he also connected on an incredible 71.4% from long-range (5-7 3PT across 6 games), with 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots per game.

Froling also dominated the competition at the 2018 Albert Schweitzer Tournament, delivering an eye-catching 20 point and 10 rebound double-double in the final against Germany. He finished the tournament as Australia’s leading scorer, rebounder and most efficient player in averaging 14.9 points (eighth in the event) and 8.3 rebounds (fourth) and an efficiency rating of 17.6 (sixth) per game.

Froling joins fellow Australian Jacob Epperson in the Blue Jays front court – the latter who red-shirted last season. Froling’s unique and versatile skill set coupled with his 6’11 frame means he will be a valuable addition to the rotation this season. He has a chance to make an immediate impact.

Damian Arsenis

Written by

A patriotic and passionate follower of all things #AussieHoops. With a Master of Marketing, I am a Life Member of the Warrandyte Basketball Association, Level 2 qualified coach and referee, podcaster, and proud father of three girls.

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