STANFORD, Calif. — It’s pretty rare to find freshman who play meaningful minutes in college basketball, especially with how the game has gotten older with the transfer portal.

But in the first three games of conference play, Stanford has leaned on two freshman to get them back to winning ways.

Freshman guards Andrej Stojakovic and Kanaan Carlyle have continued to not only be locks in coach Jerod Haase’s rotation, but key players who have led Stanford to key wins over No. 4 Arizona and UCLA this week.

“(Kanaan) was fearless out there,” said Stanford coach Jerrod Haase after Sunday’s win over Arizona. “With Kanaan and Andre, their eyes are full of wonder and excitement. I think we can all feed off that.”

There were glimpses that the duo would get a bump in minutes after the Cardinal’s loss to Arizona State on Dec. 29. Carlyle and Stojakovic combined for 20 points in a 76-73 loss.

But against Arizona, the duo broke out.

It started with Carlyle who came off the bench and scored 11 points in the first half while being immaculate from beyond the three-point line. The Wildcats struggled to find any answer for him as he got off his shot at will.

Them when Stojakovic came into the game, it changed Stanford’s dynamic completely.

The 6-foot-7 point forward hit mid-range shot after mid-range shot and was aggressive  getting to the basket, something Stanford has needed from him all season.

When the second half came around, it was more of the same for the freshman sensations. Carlyle scored 15 second half points and Stojakovic scored 7 to lead Stanford to a 18-point victory over the No. 4 team in the country.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment,” Stojakovic said.

“I’ve been telling (Kaanan) as the young guys we got to step up. We know that it’s gonna be a it’s a veteran team. But us coming off the bench and sparking that energy and giving them more ways to score and make plays for each other. That’s that’s as much as we can bring in.”

The duo shined again on Wednesday when Stanford beat UCLA in Westwood to get its second statement win of the season. It wasn’t the prettiest of games for the Cardinal as it only shot 36% from the field, but it was once again the young guys who got it done for this veteran team.

Carlyle led all scorers with 17 points and Stojakovic was right behind him with nine.

At this point of the season, it’s still up in the air whether or not Hasse will at some point insert the young guys into the starting lineup. The Cardinal’s starting five of Jared Bynum, Michael Jones, Spencer Jones, Brandon Angel and Maxime Raynaud has proven to be effective, but are the freshman pushing to bump one of those vets out of the starting lineup? Possibly.

“My whole team has been supporting me while I was out,” said Carlyle who missed most of Stanford’s non-conference schedule with an injury. “My coach has been supporting me and constantly guiding me.”

Going forward, Stojakovic looks to have the easier path to be a starter even though Carlyle has been a standout scorer. It’s feasible to see the son of former NBA star Peja Stojakovic take a forward spot from Michael Jones as Stojakovic is the more athletic player. But for Carlyle, the path is much harder.

Beating out Bynum will be tough since Bynum is the quintessential point guard the ties the starting lineup together. But that might not be a bad thing.

Carlyle could easily be the sixth man off the bench who has the green light when it comes to scoring buckets. Haase has used Carlyle to close games, so that is a good sign for the young guard.

Stanford will continue its road trip this week with a tough matchup at USC and a game at Oregon State. The Cardinal will need both of its young guards to continue to play well if it is going to establish itself as a true dark horse in the PAC-12.

Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics.

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