Impact is defined as, “to affect or influence, especially in a significant manner.”
The major recruiting services have done their job in rating recruits based on their high school performance. But we can all think of times when the top-rated recruits aren't necessarily the players who make the biggest impact at the college level.
So to gear up for college basketball season, we're going to take a look at a few freshmen who will have an immediate impact. But first, what exactly do we mean by "impact" freshmen?
What is an impact freshman?
Making the biggest "impact" doesn't necessarily mean a player is the "best" - there's a matter of who else is on the roster, how well their skill set fits the system they're playing in, and even whether they actually get along with the coaching staff that recruited them once they're forced to follow their orders in practice.
But most of all we're looking a players who are likely to make an immediate contribution to their team in their freshman year. That's not to say that other players won't get better over the course of four years or even that these players have the most "potential" or "upside" but that these players will do the most to help their team win games right now.
We begin by looking at Pat Summitt's latest addition.
Ariel Massengale, 5’6”, PG, Tennessee Lady Vols
If you look at the teams that have won championships at Tennessee, what’s the one absolute that all the teams have had? Most would deduce, a very dominant player and that is true. But there was something else too, a strong and willing leader at the point guard position and Ariel Massengale seems to fit that build and will have an immediate impact at Tennessee.
Going back to Tennessee’s first national championship in 1987, there was Dawn Marsh. In 1989, you had freshman Dena Head who in turn led the Lady Vols to another championship in 1991. What about the 1996 National Championship team that was led by Super Freshman, Chamique Holdsclaw? Most would surmise that she was named the Most Outstanding Player, but it was actually starting point guard Michelle Marciniak who was given that honor.
Then after the graduation of Marciniak, Kellie Jolly (now Kellie Harper) filled that void, and Tennessee won two more National Championships in 1997 and 1998. What’s even more impressive is the fact that she led Tennessee’s greatest team in 1998 to an undefeated record of 39-0. And even the Candace Parker-led teams didn’t win the whole thing until Shannon Bobbitt arrived on campus.
Massengale is potentially that missing link at point guard that Tennessee has lacked the past few years. Her arrival will allow SEC Freshman of the year, Meighan Simmons to move to her natural position, shooting guard. It will free up Shekinna Stricklen from having the responsibility of playing point guard and allow her to concentrate on the wing. Most notably will be the leadership presence that Ariel will bring to a team that’s been laden with talent, but has underachieved for the past three years according to many pundits.
After talking with Maria M. Cornelius of InsideTennessee.com, she offered this insight on Massengale, "She will have an immediate impact at Tennessee. She understands the role of point guard from both sides of the ball and has impressed the entire coaching staff with her savvy and knowledge. She missed nearly the entire month of October after sustaining a concussion in practice and then stepped in as if she had not missed a day. Despite not having had a chance to scrimmage with the team, she entered the first exhibition game on Nov. 2 and called the offenses and set the defense.
"That live action was her first chance to actually be on the court with her teammates in a game situation, and she was able to take control. The next day at practice she chirped a little at an upperclassman for not going game speed in a drill. To say the coaches were thrilled would be an understatement. Ariel may be a freshman but she has wisdom and want-to beyond her years. She will etch her name in Lady Vol lore."
There’s an old axiom that says, “The point guard is an extension of the coach on the floor.” And it seems that Pat Summitt has found that point guard in Massengale.