Two years ago, if someone had said Juan’ya Green would be averaging nearly 20 points per game for Niagara as a freshman, it would have sounded pretty surprising.
Not that he was averaging 20 a night, but the university.
During Green’s junior year of high school at Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), he had offers from Temple, Maryland, Villanova and others, with interest coming from plenty more ACC, Big East and Big Ten programs.
Then Green got injured and schools slowly began backing off.
“It was kind of frustrating,” Green said by phone. “After I got hurt, I tried to work my way back up.”
Niagara continued to go after the prolific Philadelphia guard, and it paid off in a major way. Green chose the Purple Eagles over Temple and VCU.
Green and fellow Philadelphia product Ameen Tanksley wanted to play together, which was perfect for Niagara.
“I just went with what my gut was telling me,” he said.
Green, a powerful 6-foot-3 guard, ranks second in the country in scoring among freshmen. He’s averaging 19.9 points, while also dishing out 3.2 assists and grabbing 3.3 rebounds.
Everyone knew a player of Green’s talent would be a huge asset right off the bat for head coach Joe Mihalich, but this start surprised everyone.
“I just expected to get a lot of time and play hard all the time,” Green said. “I think I’m playing good, but I could get better at things.”
The most impressive part of Green’s season so far is his minutes played. He has played at least 34 minutes in every game, reaching 39 or more minutes on five occasions. Not surprisingly, he leads the nation’s freshmen in minutes, with 37.6 per game.
That would be great for any player, but it’s even more eye opening for a newcomer.
“I’m not sure [how I do it]. It’s very tiring,” Green said with a laugh. “I got used to it. I go as hard as I can in practice. It gets me prepared for games.”
Green is obviously making the most of his time at Niagara so far, and also sending a message to some of the schools that stopped pursuing him in high school. He totaled 60 points and eight assists against the two best teams in the MAAC, Iona and Fairfield.
He said he does have a bit of a chip on his shoulder when playing against BCS-conference teams. Niagara faced Missouri earlier this year, in a game where Green struggled offensively.
“I think it’s a little motivation playing against these schools,” Green said. “You backed off of me. I’m going to show you why you should have taken me.”
Niagara has gotten off to a rocky start so far this season. The Purple Eagles are 4-7 after a home loss to Drexel last week, but did hang tight with Fairfield, Buffalo and South Dakota State before falling.
In Green, Niagara has the type of player who could put the team on his back for a stretch.
“I just want to get a couple more wins,” Green said. “We need to come out with energy.”
Can he keep up his current scoring and stamina?
“I hope so.”
So does Niagara.
Photo: US Presswire