D-I Men’s 2024 Rookie of the Year

The first-years who have already established themselves among the division's best overall players.

Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.

The Rookie of the Year award recognizes players who impressed in their first college ultimate seasons. That includes both freshman and true rookies. Each season, it feels like this group of players becomes more impactful; as the level of youth play and of coaching and development rise, so does the bar for the division’s best rookie. Whether they come to the college game from years of youth experience, a background in other sports, or none of the above, these players made debuts to remember in high-level college play.

D-I Men’s 2024 Rookie Of The Year

Tobias Brooks (Colorado)

Colorado’s Tobias Brooks at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

Reasonable people can disagree about Tobias Brooks’ eventual ceiling1 – is it fully intergalactic or merely stratospheric? – but no one, not even the most partisan teammate of one of his opponents, can possibly argue that he wasn’t far and away the best rookiein 2024. He led Colorado in assists (21) at Nationals by a huge margin,2, led rookies at Nationals in assists by, roughly, several football fields3, and became just the first D-I rookie since Claire Trop and John Randolph in 2018 – and just the third ever – to make an All-American team.4

But the fact of the matter with Brooks is so much more than just the rote facts of the matter. In the span of a few months, he managed to expand the scope of what is possible in the college game. He displayed a field sense that bordered on the clairvoyant, attacking space – both as a thrower and a receiver – so unconventionally that it seemed like folly. Only: it wasn’t, not even when the connection missed. It was the sign of a visionary athlete trying to share the knowledge he gained from another dimension. Other rookies (see below) spotted away shots against top-notch competition; Brooks hammer-swung 40-yards across the field without so much as a half-second’s thought and hit on no-look blade forehands in the pouring rain.

And if all that copious icing doesn’t do it for you, just peek at the cake beneath it: a precisely baked confection of fundamentals. Brooks played matchup defense like he was laying barbed wire, cut and cleared as if a loved one’s life depends on it, bodied for contested catches like a 10-year NBA veteran post player, scanned progressions and released the disc at a pace that would have fit comfortably in a 2023 Truck Stop possession, and commanded throws like a master calligrapher commands a brush. His spring in every way set the standard for first-year players, and it all added up to one of the best first-year seasons the division has ever seen.

– Edward Stephens

First Runner-Up

Raekwon Adkins (Oregon)

Oregon’s Raekwon Adkins goes full horizontal trying to get the disc at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Rudy DeSort – UltiPhotos.com

Raekwon Adkins started this season anchoring the Ego D-line. Quickly, the Oregon coaching staff found a place for him on offense, and by Nationals he was weaving Freechild-esque full-field every-others in the mold of his coach. Adkins is certain to make a few Nationals highlight reels given his propensity to ferociously dunk on defenders in the deep space. He also deserves credit for functioning effectively in what could sometimes be a crowded backfield, sharing space with the likes of All-American Mica Glass, BPOTY Aaron Kaplan, and Max Massey. On a team full of players who could be an A1 option, Adkins found space to shine.

– Alex Rubin

Second Runner-Up

Ethan Lieman (Massachusetts)

Massachusetts’ Ethan Lieman releases a backhand at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Rudy DeSort – UltiPhotos.com

For a UMass O-line regularly missing the connective pieces (think Luca Harwood and Wyatt Kellman) who so dynamically stretched the field for their offense in 2023, Ethan Lieman flawlessly stepped up into a big playmaking role as a key part of initiating sets and offensive flow. Despite sharing a line with multiple stars, Lieman at times looked like the most athletically dominant player on his team and was in turn one of the first members of the Zoo to cross over to the D-line. Breathtakingly agile and explosive with a deep bag of hucks and break throws to boot, Lieman shocked opposing defenses who had not yet heard the news: he was ready to ball, and ball he did.

– Jacob Cowan

  1. At least one reasonable person (me) has suggested that he be considered strongly for the US World Games team next year. 

  2. Seth Wells finished with 13 

  3. Ethan Lieman, next on the list, finished with 9 

  4. Brooks even earned two 1st Team votes. 

  1. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

  2. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Chicago to experience real seasons and eat deep dish pizza. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

  3. Jacob Cowan
    Jacob Cowan

    Jacob Cowan began playing ultimate in New York City in high school. After a couple of club seasons with Brooklyn Blueprint and following a college career playing with and captaining the Grinnell Grinnellephants, he is now searching for the best cheap meal in Madrid.

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