Freshman class making immediate impact


Freshman forward Jaylen Key dribbles toward the basket.

By Krystal Ward

Men’s basketball has gotten great contributions from its freshman class this season, helping the team earn a spot at the top of its conference.

Freshmen Marshawn Wilson, Levi Bradley, Laytwan Porter, Jaylen Key and Austin Pauga have combined to score 36.5 percent of NIU’s total points this season. Head coach Mark Montgomery said earlier in the season that some of the team’s best shooters come off of the bench, and the freshmen have proven that to be true. There’s one key component each player brings when they come into the game: energy.

Marshawn Wilson

Hometown: Oakdale, Minn.

High School: Hill-Murray School

Position: Guard

Wilson is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points per game for the Huskies in 16.7 minutes per game, and is shooting 43 percent from the field in 15 games. Wilson has led the team in scoring three times this season coming off of the bench. He scored 16 points in a Nov. 13 win against Cal State Northridge, 17 points in a Nov. 21 victory against Eureka and 24 points in a Dec. 4 affair with Missouri. Wilson is second in scoring among freshmen in the MAC.

Wilson helped lead Hill Murray to the Classic Suburban Conference title in 2013-14, averaging 23.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He averaged 26 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game as a senior at Hill-Murray. The freshman was the 2015 St. Paul Pioneer Press Player of the Year and a 2015 Minnesota AP All-State First Team honoree.

Fun fact: Wilson also played football at Hill-Murray. He rushed for 1,056 yards and 12 touchdowns while also catching 22 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns as a senior.

Laytwan Porter

Hometown: Rockford

High School: Auburn High School

Position: Guard

Porter averages 2.5 assists per game and is third on the team in total assists with 45 behind senior guard Travon Baker (75) and junior guard Michael Orris (58). Though the freshman is averaging just 5.0 points per game in 17.6 minutes so far this season, he runs the offensive effectively, finds his open teammates and is energetic and aggressive on the defensive end.

Porter averaged 17.7 points, 4.6 assists, 3.3 steals and 2.8 rebounds per game as a senior at Auburn High School. He led the Knights to back-to-back NIC-10 conference championships.

Porter was named to the 2015 Illinois AP and Chicago Sun-Times Class 4A Second Team and finished 15th in voting for the 2015 Illinois Mr. Basketball award.

Fun Fact: Porter attended the same high school as Wichita State All-American Fred VanVleet.

Levi Bradley

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wis.

High School: Pius XI High School

Position: Wing

Bradley led the team in scoring and rebounds on Jan. 2 in a win against Judson with 19 points and 10 boards. He leads the team in free throw percentage (79 percent) and is third in rebounds, averaging 3.8 per game. Bradley is fifth on the team in blocked shots.

Bradley led Pius XI to the Woodland West division title while averaging 21.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game as a senior.

Fun fact: Bradley also played volleyball for three seasons at Pius XI, earning all-conference honors.

Jaylen Key

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wis.

High School: Homestead High School

Position: Forward

Key is averaging 6.1 points this season. He is fifth on the team in both field goal percentage (51 percent) and field goal attempts with 4.8 per game.

Key ranks third on the team in rebounds, averaging 4 a game and is second behind sophomore center Marin Maric in blocked shots. The forward is averaging 18.8 minutes per game this season, fifth on the team.

Key was ranked as the seventh-best player in Wisconsin by and 10th by 247 Sports. He was a 2015 Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 1 First Team All-State honoree and was selected to the 2015 Wisconsin AP All-State third team.

Fun Fact: Key is the son of former Marquette University forward Damon Key.

Austin Pauga

Hometown: Naperville

High School: IMG Academy

Position: Guard

Pauga has only played 11 games this season due to an injury early in the season, but he is still one of the Huskies’ best shooters. Pauga is shooting 48 percent on three-pointers and is shooting 53 percent overall despite not playing many games so far.

The guard is averaging 4.2 points in 12.5 minutes so far, but he spaces the floor for his teammates because of his ability to shoot and keep defenses honest. He can continue to be a factor if he remains healthy.

Pauga helped lead the IMG Academy Postgraduate Team to a No. 2 national ranking and 23-4 overall record.

Fun fact: Pauga transferred to IMG Academy in 2013 after previously attending Naperville Central High School.