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FOX Sports: Lauri Markkanen a top-five freshman in college basketball

Lauri Markkanen drives against Cal State Bakersfield in the Arizona Wildcats' win on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (Associated Press)

So far through the Arizona Wildcats’ young season, forward Lauri Markkanen is leading his team in nearly every statistical category, and is among the best freshmen in the country.

Fox Sports compiled a list of the top-five freshmen in college basketball, and Markkanen was inserted at No. 4.

Is Markkanen on the way to the best season by an Arizona freshman, ever? May sound crazy, but it’s not out of the question. Sure Arizona has had good ones, especially recently, like Derrick Williams and Aaron Gordon, but Markkanen is making his way into that conversation. He’s a 7-footer with a unique and advanced skill set, and he’s been incredibly effective through three games. Markkanen is averaging 20.3 points and 6.7 rebounds, while connecting on 5 of his 11 three-point attempts and shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.

Markkanen’s numbers have been nothing short of robust this season. The Wildcats have played a game since FOX Sports’ Evan Daniels made his list, and in it Markkanen scored 17 points and reeled in 13 rebounds, bringing his average to 19.5 points per game while shooting 55.6 percent from the field, including 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. His rebounding average bolstered to 8.3 per game.

His fundamentals have been stellar as well, averaging only 0.8 turnovers a game to go along with his 95.7 percent from the charity stripe (22-of-23).

Markkanen ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring, and incredibly the three players ahead of him are all freshmen as well. UCLA forward T.J. Leaf and California guard Charlie Moore are each scoring 20.3 points per game and Washington guard Markelle Fultz leads the conference with 27 points per game.

Markkanen’s best performance to date was against CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 15, a game Arizona won 78-66. He put up 26 points on a scorching 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) shooting from the field and a perfect 9-of-9 from the line.

The others on the top-five freshmen list included Kentucky guard Malik Monk at No. 5; UCLA’s tandem of Leaf and guard Lonzo Ball filling the three and two spots, respectively, and Fultz topping the list.

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