Thursday, December 27, 2007

If the Portsmouth Field was expanded to 20 teams....

Upon reflecting on the season, (the only way to quell my boredom during this college basketball- less period) an interesting premise came to mind. If the Portsmouth Tournament was expanded to include twenty teams as opposed to the traditional eight, these are the squads I would compile out of my "top" rated seniors. I attempted to create evenly matched squads. These interesting teams should provide some food for thought later in the season. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Team 1
PG Jamar Butler, Ohio St.
SG DeMarcus Nelson, Duke
SF CJ Anderson, Xavier
PF Rahshon Clark, Iowa St.
C Chris Daniels, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
SG Aaron Bruce, Baylor
PG Lanny Smith, Houston
PF Drew Naymick, Michigan St.

Team 2
PG Derrick Low, Washington St.
SG Reggie Williams, VMI
SF Sonny Weems, Arkansas
PF Charles Rhodes, Mississippi St,
C Othello Hunter, Ohio St.
SG Tramaine Stevens, Florida Memorial College
PG Ramel Bradley, Kentucky
C Ben Strong, Guilford College

Team 3
PG Steffon Hannah, Missouri
SG Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
SF Gary Forbes, UMass
PF Joseph Jones, Texas A&M
C Longar Longar, Oklahoma
SG Rawlston Charles, Wilberforce
PG Andrew Lavender, Xavier
PF Omari Israel, Loyola (Md.)

Team 4
PG Russell Robinson, Kansas
SG Courtney Lee, Western Kentucky
SF Joe Crawford, Kentucky
PF Marcus Hubbard, Angelo St.
C Kentrell Gransbury, South Florida
SG Ricky Lucas, Stony Brook
PG Eugene Lawrence, St. John's
PF Akini Adkins, Florida A&M

Team 5
PG Brian Roberts, Dayton
SG Alex Harris, UC Santa Barbara
SF Bobby Nash, Hawaii
PF James Gist, Maryland
C Aleks Maric, Nebraska
SF/PF Ronald Coleman, Michigan
PG/SG Karl White, UIC
PF Todd Hendley, UNC Wilmington

Team 6
PG/SG Mark Tyndale, Temple
SG Alex Ruoff, West Virginia
SF Dion Dowell, Houston
PF Keith Wooden, North Texas
C Brian Butch, Wisconsin
PG/SG Carlos Taylor, Montana St.
PG Dez Willingham, North Texas
C Steven Hill, Arkansas

Team 7
PG Drew Neitzel, Michigan St.
SG Dionte Christmas, Temple
SF Roy Bright, Delaware St.
PF Darion Townes, Arkansas
C Shaun Pruitt, Illinois
SG Jonte Flowers, Winona St.
PG Quentin Thomas, UNC
PF DeMarshay Johnson, Nevada

Team 8
PG Jaycee Carroll, Utah St.
SG Martin Zeno, Texas Tech
SF Adrian Joseph, UVA
PF Maarty Leunan, Oregon
C Lorenzo Mata-Real, UCLA
SG James Spencer, Mountain St.
PG Andre Allen, Memphis
PF John Smith, Winona St.

Team 9
PG Mike Green, Butler
SG Demetric Bennett, South Alabama
SF Marcus Dove, Oklahoma St.
PF Josh Duncan, Xavier
C Jason Thompson, Rider
PG/SG Keith Benjamin, Pittsburgh
PG Jason Jamerson, Grand Valley St.
SF Robert Vaden, UAB

Team 10
PG AJ Graves, Butler
SG Rob McKiver, Houston
SF Brian Randle, Illinois
PF Rob Kurz, Notre Dame
C Anthony King, Miami
SG Ryan Appleby, Washington
PG Daon Merritt, South Alabama
PF Darnell Jackson, Kansas

Team 11
PG Antoine Agudio, Hofstra
SG Richard Roby, Colorado
SF Marcellus Kemp, Nevada
PF Jeff Pendergraft, Arizona St.
C Vladimir Kuljanin, UNC Wilmington
SG Fred Peete, New Mexico St.
PG Justin Hare, Belmont
PF Jeremis Smith, Georgia Tech

Team 12
PG Stanley Burrell, Xavier
SG Anthony Morrow, Georgia Tech
SF/PF Arizona Reid, High Point
PF Randall Falker, Southern Illinois
C Spencer Tollakson, Minnesota
SG Louie McCrowskey, Marist
PG Jason Richards, Davidson
PF Kirk Walters, Arizona

Team 13
PG TJ Carter, UNC Wilmington
SG Charron Fisher, Niagara
SF Dameon Mason, LSU
PF Leon Williams, Ohio
C Frank Elegar, Drexel
SG Tim Pollitz, Miami (Oh.)
PG Draelon Burns, Depaul
PF Hatilla Passos, New Mexico St.

Team 14
PG Jonathon Wallace, Georgetown
PG/SG Cliff Hammonds, Clemson
SF JR Giddens, New Mexico
PF Jerome Tillman, Ohio
C Marshall Brown, Missouri
SG Jajuan Smith, Tennessee
PG/SG Bo McCalleb, New Orleans
PF Randall Hanke, Providence

Team 15
PG Michael Flowers, Wisconsin
SG Pat Calathes, St. Joseph's
SF Brandon Ewing, Wyoming
PF Patrick Ewing Jr., Georgetown
C Tyrelle Blair, Boston College
SG Jawan McClellan, Arizona
PG Isiah Swann, Florida St.
PF Kyle Hines, UNC Greensboro

Team 16
PG Jason Rich, Florida St.
PG/SG Leemire Goldwire, Charlotte
SF Justin Hawkins, New Mexico St.
PF Torre Johnson, Wisconsin Milwaukee
C Mickell Gladness, Alabama A&M
SG Matt Gibson, Hawaii
PG Jason Horton, Missouri
SF Will Daniels, Rhode Island

Team 17
PG Ronald Ramon, Pittsburgh
SG Bryce Taylor, Oregon
SF Gavin Grant, NC St.
PF Qusmane Barro, Marquette
C Tim Clifford, Holy Cross
SG Abdulai Jalloh, James Madison
PG Gary Ervin, Arkansas
PF Levi Dyer, Illinois St.

Team 18
PG Daris Nichols, West Virginia
SG Rodrick Stewart, Kansas
SF Mykal Riley, Alabama
PF Dan Coleman, Minnesota
C James Mayes, Clemson
SG Mike Cook, Pittsburgh
PG Jamar Nutter, Seton Hall
C Martin Iti, New Mexico St.

Team 19
PG Brandon Cotton, Detroit
SG Gerald Brown, Loyola (Md.)
SF Geary Claxton, Penn St.
PF Charles Thomas, Arkansas
C Sasha Kaun, Kansas
SF/PF Donte Minter, Appalachian St.
PG Daniel Ruffin, Bradley
PF Dante Milligan, UMass

Team 20
PG Sundiata Gaines, Georgia
SG Dane Watts, Creighton
SG/SF Michael Jenkins, Winthrop
PF Erik Coleman, Northern Iowa
PF/C Joey Dorsey, Memphis
SG Lawrence McKenzie, Minnesota
PG Mike O'Donnell, UCF
PF Will Thomas, George Mason

Friday, November 9, 2007

Arkansas-Little Rock upset?

With the monumental upset of Kentucky, the college basketball world was stunned. While some are astonished that Gardner Webb managed to pull one of the biggest upsets in the history of Kentucky basketball, others point to a parady within the sport. Although these two teams may attain the spotlight, in the spirit of upsets, this article will be devoted to a lesser known matchup. The outcome of one of tonight's contest is in question. The College of the Ozarks- an NAIA Division 2 school which won its respective championship in 2006- has to potential to upset a lesser known Division 1 mid major school by the name of Arkansas-Little Rock. This squad does not have the storied tradition of a Kentucky, but their poor fairings the past two years were the first consecutive sub-500 seasons in the program's history. That is a fairly impressive feat for a program that never really garnered the same national attention as its Western Kentucky rival. Arkansas-Little Rock is a respected member of the Sun Belt conference, and a loss here could severely damage the future of this program.

Very rarely does an outside school upset a Division 1 opponent. With that said, the College of the Ozarks is one of the top teams in NAIA Division 2; they rank in the top 25. However, this team lost its go to player Michael Bonaparte, who currently plays overseas in Ireland. Without their centerpiece, they will have a more balanced attack. Seniors Daniel Bandy and Chris Pullen will lead the charge. Tamas Rapp and Drew Ray add depth to the backcourt. Rounding out the backcourt is 6'6 guard Jared Howerton. His considerable height will cause matchup problems even for a division 1 team. After missing the vast majority of last season, 6'6, 220 pound forward Corey Stone returns to add support to their frontline. The College of the Ozarks currently has one of the biggest frontlines in the program's history. Stone provides muscle inside and sophomore forward Scott McElvain possesses the height necessary to defend stronger division 1 players. Therein, this Eagles squad should be a formidable matchup for a Division 1 squad that is still rebuilding.

On the other hand, Arkansas-Little Rock has a nice array of perimeter players. They are on relatively similar terms in regards to height because Little Rock predominantly relies upon their backcourt to carry the scoring load. Derrick Bails is the tallest player on the roster, standing at a mere 6'9. This is somewhat deceiving because Bails is only a freshman and may not play much in this contest. In the backcourt, ALRU retains rising star De'Andre Eggins, who averaged over 16ppg the final nine games of the season. But, the vast majority of the playing time will be given to the talented class of newcomers. JUCO transfer Shane Edwards and former Old Miss standout Brandon Patterson should play a major role in the Little Rock backcourt. Transfers John Fowler, and LaMarvon Jackson should also receive some playing time.

Comparatively speaking, ALRU may be more talented because of their impact transfers and returning talent. However, they do not possess the dominant size to overwhelm a lesser school such as College of the Ozarks. Instead, they are nearly on equal terms inside. College of the Ozarks's Corey Stone provides returning experience from a championship season and could play a major role in the paint. Also, at the guard slots, they have very experienced talent capable of exploiting ALRU weaknesses. This could be especially pertinent because the vast majority of the Little Rock offense are transfers who have not had the opportunity to coalesce into a cohesive unit. If College of the Ozarks can employ their considerable experience and take advantage of their comparable size inside, an upset is possible.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Darkhorse mid major prospects for the upcoming season

Every year, midmajors emerge as legitamite NBA prospects. Many are not highly touted coming from high school, but their talent really supersedes expectations. The following are my prime are players who could appear on NBA scouting radars by the end of the season :

Kevin Perkins of TAMCC is a freshman who should start right away. I see him as the probable freshman of the year in the Southland conference and one of the more talented players in the midmajors. He will run a surprising Corpus Christi offense, which lost all but two scholarship players.

Desmond Yates of Middle Tennessee St. could play in the NBA if he becomes a leader of his squad. He has size at 6'7 and an ability to shoot from the perimeter. If he can become more consistent in this respect, I see him as a success story. He has all the physical tools to thrive at the next level.

Tyrone Shelley of Pepperdine is a small forward at the college level who will make an immediate impact in the WCC. I expect him to seriously challenge teams in this conference, including the Zags. He is a prolific scorer and a consummate slasher.

Herb Pope is a highly touted big man out of New Mexico St. He should be the conference freshman of the year and could emerge as a 1st or 2nd team player after his first season. If he wants to play in the NBA, Pope should continue to improve his shooting and ball handling so that he can thrive at the small forward slot.

Roy Bright of Delaware St. is the best player in the MEAC. So what? Well, this guy could challenge major conference players as a legitamite presence in the paint. He is also a potential Orlando camp invite and 2nd round draft pick. He's a bit undersized, but we'll see if his all around game is more complete this year.

Daniel Ruffin of Bradley is a wirey 5'10 point guard. But, don't let his size fool you- this guy has an enormous wingspan and can defend point guards 4 or 5 inches taller than him. He will lead Bradley's charge and could become a surprise candidate for player of the year in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Join the TPBL

Texas Professional Basketball League (click on tpbl)
league phone : 325-763-6630
Texas based, Texas owned, a new Texas tradition!!
2008 - 8yrs of pro basketball in Texas

The Texas Professional basketball league is looking for teams to join their league from your area of the state. Teams can represent their cities, players will get the exposure they want, and business men can start a new business venture. Join the league and see why teams enjoy playing in T.P.B.L!!!!

For all those fans of basketball who dream of managing their own team- those who look to the NBA and/or other professional basketball leagues and believe that they could benefit a given franchise- this notification is addressed to you. The T.P.B.L offers a wonderful opportunity to fulfill your lifelong dream of coordinating your very own squad for an affordable price. The entrance fee runs at $1,000. Whether you are fully entrenched in an industry unrelated to professional basketball or you want to advance your already burgeoning basketball operations career, you may find this unique opportunity rewarding.

Before you can know whether or not you would be interested in such an endeavor, you must be aware of the general facts concerning the T.P.B.L. The league's season tip off begins on January 11, 2008. The length of the season is twenty games- ten will be played on the road and the remaining ten will be played at home.

In terms of historical background, here is a list of past champions:
2001 - Dallas Express
2002 - Odessa Stallions
2003 - San Angelo Chaparrals
2004- San Angelo Chaparrals
2005- Abilene Force
2006- San Angelo Chaparrals
2007- Midland Heat
2008- you ?

For a league packet, call 325-763-6630. If you have any additional questions regarding details about the league or simply need advice on how to start your own franchise, contact Chris Cardenas at and he will be more than happy to oblige.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spotlight on the Conference Championships Part 1 Belmont vs. East Tennessee St.

Like most battles that occur prior to selection Sunday, the Atlantic Sun’s championship game provides a viable source of entertainment with the conference automatic bid up for grabs. Belmont, who returned the vast majority of their production from a year ago, looked to punch their ticket to the Big Dance by potentially defeating an emerging East Tennessee St. team in the post-Tim Smith era. The results of this contest were clearly one-sided. East Tennessee St. is still in the process of rebuilding and Belmont reaped the benefits by flaunting their considerable experience and winning in a decisive fashion. While the outcome failed to provide the usual competitive edge found in most conference championships, the structured basketball and noteworthy individual performances added a degree of entertainment to an otherwise lopsided victory.

Justin Hare- Hare is the focal point of the Belmont offense. He is the consummate point guard who is an offensive option from the perimeter, but also a serviceable playmaker. Hare is a very intelligent player that is able to read defenses and implement given plays with considerable accuracy. While he would serve a complimentary role on an NBA squad, he is not a liability on the offensive end. Moreover, he is deceptively quick and athletic- often able to beat his man off of the dribble or to simply shoot over a perimeter defender. In this contest, he was very accurate from beyond the arc. Hare shot 3-5 from behind the three point line and was able to prevent any East Tennessee St. run. He possesses average height for a professional point guard at 6 feet 2 inches; thereby, his abilities may translate to a higher level of basketball. On the defensive end, Hare must improve his lateral quickness in order to compete in the NBA. Multiple squads employ more individual-oriented defensive schemes and this could become problematic for Hare at his current rate of development. With that said, Justin is a Portsmouth Camp candidate who should receive several looks from NBA scouts after another year with his Belmont squad.

Boomer Herndon- Boomer- Hare’s counterpart in the paint- is arguably one of the more tantalizing prospects. At 6’10, 255 pounds, Herndon is hard to contain at the midmajor level. He is a capable scorer and rebounder that uses his physique to bulldoze over smaller opponents. While this in and of itself does not necessarily indicate that he is a prospect, Boomer is also fundamentally sound- he occasionally employs a hook shot and uses his footwork at times to gain positioning. With that said, he must develop a go-to move in order to be successful. While he possesses a variety of post moves, he does not consistently utilize one. However, his considerable size and length should allow him to adopt the hook shot as his signature move. Defensively, he is not quick in the open floor. But, he is able to deter shots because of his physicality in the paint. His disadvantages primarily lie in his conditioning. Boomer is unable to play consistent minutes because he does not possess the wherewithal to withstand a thirty minute span of playing time unless it is intermittently broken up by several trips to the bench. This lack of speed and inability to play the entire game will force him to pursue a career overseas- where the season is far shorter and less physically exhausting. With that said, Boomer has a wealth of potential and could find a niche on a European squad in need of size and strength up front.

Courtney Pigram- Following in the footsteps of Tim Smith, Pigram is an undersized point guard that exploits his quickness as a means of scoring and dishing to his teammates. This East Tennessee St. product is a capable slasher who has decent court vision and a knack for finishing close to the basket. Pigram is clearly this team’s leader and this is demonstrated when he shoots at critical junctures in the game. On this occasion, he was unable to achieve any sort of rhythm offensively and thus he struggled mightily from behind the arc. But, he was confident enough as the team’s leader to continuously try to look for his own shot- yet he was able to recognize that his teammates were worthy alternatives and he did not let his ego cloud his decision making. Normally, Pigram is a threat to score from the midrange or from beyond the arc. His quick release makes him hard to defend at times. Defensively, he has quick hands and decent positioning. But, he is undersized and probably will not thrive against bigger guards at the next level. Pigram is one of the most potent offensive weapons in the Atlantic Sun and should receive some Portsmouth Camp consideration next year.

Mike Smith- This freshman guard/forward was the one bright spot for East Tennessee St. in this contest. This 6’6 player was able to penetrate in the lane and score on multiple instances. When Belmont began to pull even further away towards the middle of the game, Smith was the sole member of ETSU that kept fighting. This freshman was fearless on the glass and attacked the rim with reckless abandon. What makes him so intriguing is that he is able to go inside- yet he still possesses a potential perimeter game. His midrange shot was fairly accurate in this game, but his three point percentage was dismal. If he can extend his range, he can be effective at the professional level of basketball. Smith utilizes his upper body strength to score and draw fouls. And, he possesses considerable poise- for a freshman- at the free throw line where he shoots 80 percent. Defensively, he employs his athleticism to force the offense player to over-dribble and no significant holes stood out at this end of the floor. Currently, Smith stands out as a potential Atlantic Sun star who has the tools to play at the professional level.

Division Two Basketball at a Glance: St. Augustine's vs. Virginia Union

Several players of note distinguished themselves and therein have an opportunity to flourish overseas. While most Division 2 contests are off the radar of many scouts, this fairly obscure stage produces considerable talent that flies under the radar. Look no further than NBA greats Ben Wallace and Charles Oakley- two big men who hail from Virginia Union- to find talent that initially competed at the Division 2 level. In this edition, perennial powerhouse Virginia Union and their competitor in the CAA tournament- St. Augustine- are examined.

Virginia Union

Brad Byerson- This burly big man is a former West Virginia transfer who has really come into his own throughout his time at Virginia Union. After the losses of Crockett and Hargrove a year ago, this team’s dynamic dramatically changed. Reminiscent of its former glory, Virginia Union relies predominantly on Byerson’s inside post presence. In this contest, he failed to disappoint. Despite being slightly undersized, Byerson was able to collapse the St. Augustine defense in the paint and open up the game for his teammates. His sheer upper body strength alone should make him a prominent player overseas. Brad has excellent body control- he is able to draw charges and attack the basket while creating space. Regardless, he is still undersized for the power forward position and should develop some semblance of a perimeter game. It is not too much to expect this from a player who has drastically improved his free throw shooting. Modifying this in-game element to incorporate the soft touch he possesses on his free throws should not be an extremely difficult task. On the defensive end, Byerson has quick hands and is able to capitalize off of similar sized opponents by collecting steals and blocking shots. He has a tendency to reach and this makes him foul prone. Down the stretch in this contest, Byerson failed to seal the game. He missed two critical free throws late in the game- culminating in a surge by St. Augustine. The rowdy crowds overseas can often fluster a player. And if Byerson is unable to maintain his composure in a Division 2 contest, I wonder if he will falter down the stretch at times.

LaKeith Blanks- This guy was the glue that held Virginia Union together down the stretch. Periodically, Virginia Union fell into a slump and needed someone to take on the brunt of the scoring load. Blanks reveled at this opportunity and showcased his ability on a high stage in the conference tournament. With Barry Jones of St. Augustine firing on all cylinders, Blanks was able to put away his opponents for good by hitting a show with 19.8 seconds on the block. Throughout the course of the game, Blanks displayed his acrobatic athleticism by throwing several thundering dunks down. He was an excellent one on one player and was able to penetrate to the hoop virtually at will; his body control enabled him to get passed the defender. Furthermore, he is a very intelligent player; therein, he was able to attack Nicholas King and take him out of the game. Blanks still has time to gain recognition because his eligibility has not expired.

Chris Greene- Greene is a thin player who possesses all the fundamentals to succeed on the European plateau. This 6’5, 175 pound wing is an accurate three point shooter who is also able to get to the line. Like his VU counterparts, Greene employs excellent body control to straddle the defender and then pull up for a shot. Moreover, he is an adept ball handler and utilizes a change of pace dribble to get by his defenders. Greene is a very intelligent player who is aware of his opponents. For example, he broke away from his defensive assignment to hustle down court for the wide open full court pass and lay-in. With that said, Greene must strengthen his body in order to compete in a more physical brand of basketball overseas. Greene is a consummate basketball player who could easily become a productive at some professional level.

Tim Young- While he is not exactly a prospect at this point, Young will be around next year and will most definitely play a more central role towards Virginia Union’s success. Tim’s energy off the bench was contagious and the effort he put forth was certainly noteworthy. He was able to attack the basket and draw defenders- placing Byerson in a position to score off of a pass or rebound. His instincts will continue to benefit this Virginia Union squad and possibly earn him a spot overseas- assuming he plays a pivotal part in the offense next season.

St Augustine

Antonio Fitzgerald- By and large, Fitzgerald was the most complete player in this contest. Despite a sub par performance on his part, his team came within striking distance and nearly pulled ahead of a very talented Virginia Union squad. This happens to be the second instance that I watched Fitzgerald play. And, his performances were strikingly dissimilar. In the first contest, Fitzgerald proved to be an Iverson-like scorer at the Division Two level. He had a beautiful perimeter stroke and was able to penetrate at will. However, in this contest, Antonio had a poor game from the field- unable to find any sort of rhythm. This game was clearly an aberration because he demonstrated consistent production throughout the course of the season and proper mechanics on his shooting touch, which seemed to be failing him. Fitzgerald is a very strong guard who has an excellent first step. His quickness and passing ability were strong assets in this contest. He involved his teammates considerably and demonstrated a great deal of poise as the lead guard. Fitzgerald is a multidimensional player because he consciously reads defenses and is able to move the ball inside and out. He also handles passes of varying speeds. His talents are very much reminiscent of Dominic James with a more consistent shooting touch. Fitzgerald must improve his defensive intensity and become more of a factor on this end of the floor. Furthermore, he became flustered against the Virginia Union zone- something that is typically seen in basketball overseas. If Antonio can tailor his game to become a prototypical European point guard and learn to confound zone defenses by playing more instinctively, he will have a successful professional career.

Nicholas King- King disappointed in this contest and was never able to get into sink offensively. Nicholas- the other half of the Augustine backcourt duo- missed multiple shot attempts. Although he possesses a nice three point shooting ability, King failed to display considerable production from behind the arc. Still, he contributed by collecting several rebounds and attacking the basket. King is an intelligent player and simply had a poor performance at a critical juncture in the season. Overall, he did not display any ability that was out of the ordinary- although he does possess excellent form on his three point shot. If he was able to obtain more looks, I’m sure that he would have asserted himself and retained his role as the second best player on the team. Overall, I think that King has the ability to play at a higher level of basketball, but will have to become more consistent in order to stand out.

Jeff Sullivan- Sullivan was one of the more promising prospects of the night because he more-than held his own against the physical presence of Brad Byerson. Despite being a mere 6’8, he was able to alter shots and disrupt passing lanes. Sullivan was excellent defensively and employed considerable length to collect rebounds. Despite his thin frame, his quickness is an excellent asset for a post player. On one occasion, he was able to dribble in transition and lead a fast break. This makes me hopeful that he can alter his position and possibly play a small forward role for some squad at a higher level. He simply has to develop a more consistent outside game. In this contest- however- he shot the ball very well (7-10 from the floor) and collected a double-double against one of the more imposing big men in Division Two basketball. Sullivan contributes energy and intensity whenever he is on the floor and will attain a lead role next season after King and Fitzgerald graduate.

Barry Jones- Jones was one of the more surprising players in this contest. Initially, he seemed like another experienced role player for St. Augustine’s who was content with his status and relied primarily upon Fitzgerald and King to provide most of the scoring punch. As the game progressed, Jones took on a more prominent role. His shots began to fall and soon enough- the St. Augustine’s offense was running through him. At the height of his shooting spree, Jones made three 3 point shots within a two minute span (late in the second half)- giving St. Augustine’s the lead and making a name for himself. While he never fully obtained star status, Jones was a consistent role player who provided instant scoring off the bench. Barry should be able to find a job in a low level European league at some point in the near future.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Archived: Georgia Southern vs. College of Charleston

Upon viewing the aforementioned contest- which occurred prior to the Southern Conference tournament- several prospects emerged as potential NBA summer league candidates.

Dontaye Draper- Draper was the player of highest import in this contest. He has been highly regarded as a potential Portsmouth Camp candidate because of his prowess at the midmajor level. On this occasion, Draper did not perform up to his capabilities. His midrange jumper rarely fell and overall, he had a poor offensive performance. Although his shot was off the mark on multiple instances, he compensated by getting his teammates involved and impacting the game in more subtle ways. For example, he nearly produced a triple double by tallying nine points, nine assists, and nine rebounds. He was able to run the offense regardless of his shooting accuracy and this cemented his status as a potential Draft Camp candidate. Despite his small stature- at a whopping 5’11- he fought amongst the bigs and nearly collected ten rebounds. His leadership coupled with his fearless demeanor detract from this size disadvantage. These attributes will afford him the opportunity to play at various Draft Camps and earn him a lucrative offer overseas.

Louis Graham- He was the most dominant inside presence in this contest and was the primary reason for Georgia Southern’s upset victory. Graham possesses average size and strength for a midmajor big man. Yet, he employs his length to disrupt passing lanes and contest shots. This advantage also allowed him to dominate the boards. Graham’s shot has considerable range for a big man and he might be able to convert to the small forward position at a higher level of basketball. For this to occur, however, he would need to become more adept as a face up player and his ball handling would need to improve considerably. Currently, he resembled a midmajor version of Chris Bosh; thus, he was able to exploit his considerable length and athleticism. Yet, because he plays at a midmajor level of basketball, he is not challenged by stronger big men. Due to his lack of height at the power forward position, he can be considered a bit of a tweener at this point. With his senior season on the horizon, he still has plenty of time to mold his game towards a more conventional model that would effectively account for his size and athleticism.

Donte Gennie- Gennie was supposed to be the go-to player on Georgia Southern. But, he did not perform up to his capabilities in this game. Despite taking an overabundance of shots, Donte only scored 10 points. He did not really control the tempo of the game and was utilized predominantly as a combo guard. At 6’1, he would not be an ideal prospect at the NBA level. Thus, I feel that he should continue playing in the minors or overseas. Once he is at ease distributing the ball and consistently scoring from the perimeter, Gennie could be effective. He was able to slash in the lane on several occasions- this is the first step required to make the transition from shooting to point guard. After he beats his man off the dribble, he should become more adept at kicking it out to his teammates for open outside shots. I am sure that a career in Europe will help mend these holes in his game.

David Lawrence- Lawrence was the second most potent offensive weapon of the College of Charleston attack. This experienced wing was able to go inside and counter Louis Graham at times, but he also demonstrated an outside shooting ability. Lawrence possesses ideal size and strength for an NBA small forward. He was able to collect rebounds- but he relied predominantly on his size instead of boxing out his man. Therein, I do not feel that he would be an adequate rebounder at the next level. Lawrence would need to familiarize himself with the defensive duties of the small forward position. In order to adjust, he would need more experience guarding players of similar stature and shooting ability. At the midmajor level, 6’7 small forwards are quite uncommon. So Lawrence would need a period of adjustment if he were to play overseas or in the NBA.

Tony White Jr.- At a miniscule 6-0, 165 pounds, it seems that a cool wind breeze would knock this heady player over. Despite his small stature, White is one of the most pleasant surprises in college basketball. After College of Charleston rescinded his scholarship, White decided to walk-on instead of dishonoring his commitment. After the initial disappointment, he received playing time the old fashion way- by working extremely hard in practice and displaying an impressive spot-up shooting ability. In this contest, Tony was able to provide an instant impact off the bench. Because he plays behind one of the top point guards in the conference- Dontaye Draper- White is content with his role as a wing. He capitalized in this contest by making over fifty percent of his shots and thus provided a consistent scoring punch. While he is able to benefit from his current role, White is poised when handling the ball and will be a prime candidate for the starting point guard role next season. Because of his basketball aptitude in his first year with the team, I believe that Tony White Jr. is a rising star in the Southern Conference who has the potential to make an NBA summer league squad in the future. In order to do so- however- he must add a great deal of weight to his thin frame.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Archived- Inside the ABA

ABA Basketball: Newark Express vs. Rochester Razorsharks

After much anticipation, I finally ventured to Newark to watch arguably the most prominent team the ABA has produced in recent years. While the Rochester Razorsharks had not yet matched their dominance from a season ago, this squad was still one of the top tier teams in the league. After analyzing both team's efforts, I came to the conclusion that several players merit second looks from scouts trying to bolster their summer league squads.

In this contest, Rochester was dominant throughout. They took control of the game early and never looked back. They possessed the superior size and strength up front; therein, these squads seemed to be on varying levels. Newark surmounted their size deficiency with several surges- one long run commenced during the middle of the second half. After making modifications to their rotation, Rochester was able to handle the speed of the Express's backcourt. In the end, Newark's valient effort to comeback at the half was unrecognizable at the beginning of the third period. Newark's most prominent lineup- which featured three guards- did not distribute the ball inside and instead hoisted shots from the perimeter. Their midrange accuracy was far off the mark and their chances of coming back from such a large deficet were minimal.

In the end, Rochester won by a sizable margin. But, it was the tale of two cities that really astounded me. While Rochester's squad played with poise and demonstrated a professional level of teamwork, several of Newark's guards took it upon themselves to change the course of the game. As is the case in most contests, the team that distributed the ball and ran their offense came out on top. Rochester's squad looked confident- and this must have been do to the ever-growing basketball community that Rochester has fostered. On the other side of things, Newark's fan base seemed enthusiastic at times. But, there certainly were not enough fans to boast a team's confidence. One can conclude that this Newark venue may not be the best base for a New Jersey minor league.

Rochester Razorsharks
Jamal Nichols- After watching this big man at Depaul, I came to the realization that he had the athleticism and height to play at the next level. After watching him in person, I further agreed with my prior assessment. Nichols was able to penetrate in the lane and was willing to make the extra pass. He did not dominate the ball and looked for his offense at ideal junctures. Nichols was able to grab rebounds and to use his upper body to gain post positioning. I would have liked to see Nichols match up against some of the more competitive frontcourts in minor league basketball. But, from what I saw, I think he would be a viable candidate for a summer league squad either this season or next. The only question that might disrupt such a future is the circumstances surrounding his last year at Depaul. He did not play for the team his senior season. Whether it was due to a disagreement with the coach or a desire to play at the professional level immediately, this potential character question could direct his future.

Brian Edwards- Edwards probably does not possess the "it" factor that allows you to move up to higher levels of basketball. He is a consummate role player who rebounds and effectively scores with a variety of post moves. He is not quite as athletic as some of his frontcourt counterparts- namely "Mook" Reaves and Nichols- but he does possess wherewithal and assertiveness on the basketball court. He attacks the rim with admirable determination- because of his efficiency on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, it is quite evident that he is a chiseled veteran who has spent a great deal of time honing his game overseas.

Demon Stewart- He is the most valuable player to Rochester's offensive attack. This combo guard can light it up from beyond the arc or drive past his defender and create for his teammates. Because he is unable to play the PG position, I think his talents would be more appreciated overseas. A season ago, he led Rochester's championship run by scoring 27 points. He can light it up from the floor and his first step allows him to get in the lane. Offensively, he was the most complete player on either team.

James "Mook" Reaves- Mook did not have his most dominant performance against the Newark Express. But, he still looked like the most capable big man on either team. He was able to sport a variety of post moves and get past his defender at will. Despite being a dynamic weapon on offense, Mook deferred to his teammates on several occasions- allowing them the opportunity to shine. He was the go-to guy for Rochester inside because he is able to use his wide body to pin his defender. Mook is a bit undersized for the power forward position, but he should definitely be granted the opportunity to play in a summer league setting.

Eric Coley- Coley is one my favorite minor league players because of the way he defers to his teammates. He can be a consummate role player at times, yet he possesses the ability to take over a game. Coley demonstrated a very nice three point stroke and a pretty mid range game. Despite his impressive offensive game, he still is not the top option on offense. Clearly, though, being a go-to scorer is not his forte. Coley leads Rochester's defensive charge. He is a pesky defender who stays in front of his man and goes above and beyond what is required of him in regards to rotational shifts. In other words, Coley is a very experienced role player in the mold of some of the great defensive stoppers of our time. Eric definitely merits a look from scouts.

Keith Friel- Keith is a pure shooter with a near picture perfect stroke. After Rochester secured the lead, Friel came back in the game and shot the ball with tremendous accuracy. His three point shot was the most effective for either team. He can really score in a hurry- even after receiving limited minutes in the second half. He can shoot off the dribble and overall is an excellent role player. While he may be a bit undersized for a shooting guard, I think that his stroke would allow him to be effective at the summer league level. He was not the most heady defender, but a successful team defensive scheme- such as the one Rochester boasts- really masked his weaknesses on this end of the floor.

Mike Mackell- Mike did not receive as many minutes as I would have expected. He was arguably the best player in the USBL a year ago. Regardless of his previous merits, it seemed as though he was content with his role player status on this squad. Mackell scored when his team needed him, but he also deferred to his teammates. I believe that he could be effective in the D League or even with a 10 day NBA contract because of his defensive presence inside. His length and athleticism allow him to be a stopper at virtually any level of basketball. I was impressed with the way that he shut down Newark's bigs- relegating them to "non factors" in the offense. In time, I expect Mackell to be more of a factor on the offensive end, but his defense still anchored the Rochester frontcourt.

Lazuras Sims- Sims is probably the most experienced minor league player on either team. He really controlled the ball and distributed it to his teammates. Sims has played on numerous championship squads and it is easy to see why. He is extremely unselfish and scores when called upon. This veteran controlled the pace of the game and really defended Newark's guards. Lazuras is one of the most underrated cogs in the Razorshark offense.

Others on the roster:

John Halas- He was a nice role player who received a decent amount of playing time. Halas handled the ball and was able to penetrate through the Newark defense.

Kevin Peters- While he did not seem the most experienced minor league player on the roster, he was able to shoot the ball.

Nigel Moore- This combo guard was an effective role player off of the bench.

Newark Express
Derrick Washington- He was the go-to guy for this Newark team. Washington's first step is world class and he was able to get to the hoop virtually at will. But, he had trouble when he came into contact with some stationary big men. He was unable to finish layups and had to alter his shots on several occasions. Overall, he was not effective from behind the arc; but when he finally began to make a midrange shot, Newark's offensive comeback began. He was the centerpiece of the offense and really opened up the game for his teammates. On the defensive end, he needs to step in front of his man more often.

Marvin McCullough- Originally I did not see the Iona native on the roster, but after a few minutes I realized that he was the point guard. McCullough is an effective ball handler, but he shot a low percentage from the field today. Marvin was able to distribute the ball on several occasions, but I was surprised at how many times he took it upon himself to carry this team. While he did not take anywhere near as many attempts as Washington, his mentality really hurt his team in the long run. McCullough was this team's second best player though and I am sure that this game was just an aberration.

Others on the roster:

Sekani Francis- While he is a part of the roster, this former Division III star did not play in this contest. He could have countered Rochester's weapons inside.

Marcos Sanchez- To my knowledge, he did not play.

Johan Matos- Matos made a few easy layups, but did not demonstrate any semblance of a midrange game.

Rahjon Cathcart- He did not receive the ball often. But, he did not score effectively when his teammates did defer to him.

Phillip Smith- He had to face the brunt of the Rochester frontcourt attack. Smith was underized and unable to contain bigger, more physical presences in the paint. His teammates never really allowed him to get into any sort of rhythm on the offensive end of the floor.

Amin Wright- Wright received limited minutes and did not demonstrate anything out of the ordinary.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

First Round NCAA Tournament Predictions

While many analysts on TV are unfounded in their predictions, I will make a detailed case for every first round matchup.

Florida vs. Jackson St.
As in most 1-16 matchups, Florida will absolutely dominate this contest. Trey Johnson will produce from the perimeter, but it is going to take a miracle for Jackson St. to match Noah and Horford inside.

Arizona vs. Purdue
This is a very intriguing contest. Purdue has played well of late and Arizona has underachieved all season long. Will Zona step it up in their tournament matchup? Zona should defeat Purdue just as beat Wisconsin in last season's tournament. Lute Olsen seems to get his teams to perform their highest in the tournament. Matchup wise, I do not believe that Chris Kramer will be able to contain Mustafa Shakur. His experience and athleticism will be tough for Purdue to contain. Is Teague going to be responsible for Marcus Williams? If so, there is a huge matchup problem for Purdue. Williams has a couple of inches on Teague and superior length. He should be able to use this to his advantage on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Radenovic should give Purdue headaches. He will bring Landry out on the perimeter, opening up the game for the guards to attack the basket. And, defensively, Radenovic is deceptively strong and may be able to thwart some of Landry's efforts. If Landry can bully Radenovic inside, it could be a long game for Arizona. That would open up the perimeter game for Teague. Overall, I think Zona will be able to contain Landry and win this contest- I expect this game to approach or go into an overtime though.

Butler vs. Old Dominion
This is everyone's upset pick. However, I believe that Butler will win this game because of their outside shooting. Butler has something to prove after nationally televised losses to both Wright St. and Southern Illinois. Everyone is calling them a bust and glorifying ODU. While ODU is more than capable of pulling the upset, one has to consider their latest matchup problems. They lost because of George Mason's tremendous shooting spurts. If Butler does not have an off night shooting the ball, I believe that their outside shooting may be too much for Dahi and co.

Maryland vs. Davidson
While some feel that Davidson is going to pull this upset out, I disagree simply because of the vast amount of talent on Maryland's squad. DJ Strawberry and co. are simply too athletic and should play the game at their pace. I do agree with those who state that this matchup will be close. Stephen Curry is quite the shooter and I do not know if Maryland will be able to contain his production without leaving a viable second option open- such as Jason Richards. Inside, Davidson is too young and does not have enough length to contend with Ibekwe and Gist.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Scouting the Southland

On this occasion, I was able to view one of my favorite midmajor squads. This Islanders team is currently leading the Southland.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. Texas Arlington

TAMCC center Chris Daniels was really the only prospect of note in this contest. Overall, he did not perform up to his capabilities; therein I do not feel that one can wholly assess his potential based on this game. TAMCC rarely looked inside to Daniels and relied mostly upon the outside shooting of their second option, Josh Washington. Furthermore, Coach Arrow subbed Daniels in and out of the game in the second half- never really allowing him to get into much of a rhythm offensively. In a limited role, he did demonstrate some of his offensive tools. Daniels revealed his go-to post moves- his hook shot seemed very accurate and he had a nice array of fadeaway shots. Because of his size and length, he did a nice job on the boards. With that said, he could assert himself more on the offensive glass by working on his positioning. Also, he was very well conditioned. When he began his career, he struggled with the pace of the game and thus played a limited role. But, in this contest, Daniels had little trouble getting up and down the floor. Despite his talent, Daniels possessed some glaring holes that were evident in this contest. Even though he has considerable size and strength, Daniels rarely drove at his defender and never really attacked the basket- it seemed as though he was trying to avoid contact. Also, if he added a midrange game to his arsenal, he would be a complete package. Daniels's form on his free throws proved that he may be able to develop a shooting stroke. On the defensive end, Daniels was clearly more impressive. He was able to alter several shots and deter attempts by Arlington's guards to drive to the basket. His lateral foot speed was far quicker than one would expect. Daniels also demonstrated a shot blockers' mentality, but he was easily drawn in the air by pump-fakes. All in all, despite Daniels's poor performance on the offensive end, he is still an intriguing prospect who could have a career at the next level.

Even though Daniels receives much of the notoriety, Josh Washington was clearly the player of the game. He set a school record by hitting eight three point shots. Washington's dead-on shooting was the overwhelming reason for TAMCC's victory. Not only did he surpass the school record for three pointers in a game, but he eclipsed this mark by attempting a mere eleven shots from beyond the arc. Washington had an excellent game because he did not force the issue and as a result, his shots were in rhythm. Besides his three point accuracy, Washington indirectly opened up the game for his teammates by focusing Arlington's attention towards the perimeter. As far as NBA potential goes, teams constantly look for three point shooters- and, Washington certainly fits the bill. Despite his shooting accuracy, he is severly undersized for a shooting guard- standing at 6'3. He does not have the court vision to command the point guard duties and is best suited at the off guard; thereby, he will have a tough time finding a role in the league. He did not cut to the basket very often in this contest- which is clearly seen in his one shot attempt inside the three point line; thus, one can not fully assess this facet of his game. Defensively, he was solid- not overly impressive because of his lack of height, but his strength at two hundred pounds allowed him to physically matchup with his opponent. Overall, I believe that if Washington elevates his game in the NCAA tournament, he could be on Portsmouth scouts' radars.

The third component of this TAMCC trio is Cedric Smith. Smith thrived in the fast break offense with his considerable speed and athleticism. He employed several nice post moves and scrapped on the offensive glass to grab rebounds. Despite his excellent agility and athleticism, Smith is a classic tweener. He was forced to act as the primary big man when Daniels was out of the game. Yet, in order to have any success at the next level, he must develop some semblance of a perimeter game. On the defensive end, Smith used his jumping ability and quickness to matchup with his opponent. But, he struggled with the more physical players in half court sequences. In the NBA, he would face even stronger players who can match his athleticism; thereby, I do not feel that he is suited for the power forward. Overall, he did an excellent job defending the post. At the next level however- he is not talented enough to play an Amare role; thus, he is best fit for a career overseas or in the minors.

A player that really stood out for Arlington was Lamar Posey. While he is way too undersized to play NBA basketball, he would be a nice minor league prospect in a year. At 6'5 250 pounds, this junior uses his considerable bulk to score inside. On this occasion, he bodied up with Smith and used excellent footwork to score several inside hoops. He was really the only player for Texas Arlington who provided a consistent effort. Posey rebounded the ball very well for an undersized forward. On the defensive end, he was not a liability even when he faced the difficult task of guarding Daniels. He forced Chris to fade away from the hoop instead of attacking it directly. Overall, I felt that Posey provided a spark off the bench and he could develop into a minor league prospect with another year under his belt.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Examining the Minor Leagues: The EBA

Few have heard of the Eastern Basketball Alliance, a minor league located throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Even though it does not attract as much attention as some of the more popular leagues, it still provides some entertaining basketball.

The February 24th game was between the North Jersey Lakers and the Schuylkill Firedogs. Here were the rosters of each team (note: there may be a player or two missing because they played in that game, but were not listed on the roster):

North Jersey Lakers
Wayne Bucknor
Chris Hendershot
Jeff Houser
Mark Stanley
Mike Scott
Scott Hoffman
Christopher Morgan
Alfonzo Thomas
Tim Corrigan
Bobby Jorgensen
Wade Walters
Ish Nyilas

Schuylkill Firedogs
Erik Henrysen
Jason Sims
Charles Jackson
Kelvin Fleming
Nick Miskar
Tyrone Rucker
Ngola Santos
Paul Gaskin
Mark Jamerson
Byron Diggs

This game was held in probably the nicest church gym I have ever seen. Both teams played with a great deal of intensity and demonstrated a clear passion for the game. At the very beginning of the contest, the Lakers came out strong, using their team chemistry to get the ball in the hands of an open perimeter shooter. But, as the quarter progressed, number 42 scored some key inside baskets to put the Firedogs within striking distance. The Firedogs's Charles Jackson then sparked another run, which tied the game. From then on, Schuylkill built a small lead.

The Firedogs opened the second quarter on a serious run. The game tempo was now a faster style of play; therein the Firedogs possessed a clear advantage. Jackson was scoring on all cylinders- using his ball handling ability to craftily maneuvered around big men- Chris Hendershot and Wade Walters in particular- to score easy layups. Tim Corrigan kept the Lakers in the game with a key three point basket and some nice midrange shots. Walters also scored inside during pivotal points. But, late into the second quarter, the Firedogs began pulling away. Jackson continued scoring inside and number 42 matched Jackson's production with a nice array of post moves. Despite their intensity at the beginning of the game, the Lakers were down by 8 points at the half- the score was 59-51 Firedogs. They had built on their first quarter lead and it seemed as though the Lakers were going to lose by a large margin due to the shift in momentum.

And, to reinforce this premonition, the Firedogs opened the third quarter with some quick points. But, the Lakers were not willing to give up in this contest. Roughly two minutes into the third quarter, the Lakers mounted a comeback. Corrigan and Alfonzo Thomas attacked the inside- allowing for easy putbacks. By the end of the third quarter, the Lakers had come back from a large deficit and now had an opportunity to win this game.

The fourth quarter was easily the best basketball of the day. Despite the excellent defense played by each side, both teams scored on possession after possession- employing their excellent team chemistry to secure some a temporary lead. Corrigan emerged as the centerpiece of the Lakers' offense and North Jersey relied on him to carry them throughout the quarter. Late buckets by Chris Hendershot and a three pointer by Mark Stanley gave the Lakers a small lead late in the game- for the first time since the opening minutes. But, the Lakers quickly responded. Erik Henrysen took it upon himself to lead his Firedog squad. He attacked the rim and got to the free throw line on several occasions late in the game. Number 42 also played with a great deal of heart and intensity. His late free throws finally gave the Firedogs the victory. The final score was 121-116 Firedogs.

This contest was a hard fought battle and both squads displayed an evident passion for the game. For example, Henrysen and the coach of Schuylkill constantly bickered with the referees over certain calls. The refs warned the coach that he would receive a technical foul if he continued to speak to officials in such a manner. Also, number 42 displayed excellent emotion on the floor- yelling at himself for missed inside shot attempts despite drawing the foul. For the Lakers, you could tell that they were a cohesive unit. During their timeouts, they huddled together in a team circle and discussed various techniques they could use in order to get back in the game. Overall, I enjoyed the entire EBA scene- the professional aspect of the sport, the competitiveness, and the talent on both squads.

While the Firedogs and the Lakers employed many weapons on both ends of the floor, two players really stood out in this contest. I believe that if Charles Jackson or Tim Corrigan attended open tryout for a more established minor league like the ABA, they would make the cut.

Charles Jackson displayed an excellent first step- one that is not all too common. His outstanding agility and body control allowed him to cut to the basket. This gave him the option of either continuing to attack the basket for an open layup or kicking it out to his teammates for an open three point shot. He complemented his slashing ability with a nice midrange game. Jackson was such a weapon because he could pull up and hit a key jumper or he could blow by his defender. Overall, I was impressed with his leadership on the offensive end. Despite his overwhelming scoring numbers, Jackson had the court vision necessary to play the point guard position. On the offensive end, I noticed some weaknesses. He does not shoot from long range as often as a player of his caliber should. Also, he could stand to add some weight if he wanted to compete at the next level. Defensively, he had very quick hands and the necessary footspeed to keep up with his man. I can recall several instances where he would steal the ball and take it the length of the floor for an uncontested layup. At a higher level of basketball- though- I wonder if his thin body will be able to defend more physical guards. At times, he seemed complacent on the defensive end of the floor- he should have kept up the defensive pressure even during their lead. Nevertheless, Charles Jackson was the best player for either team and his 30 points gave the Firedogs the victory.

For the opposing squad, Tim Corrigan displayed an excellent set of post moves that would allow him to play several different positions at a higher level of basketball. He had the necessary strength inside to play as a small forward. And, he had the outside shooting ability to effectively play as a guard. Corrigan was a true leader who brought a great deal of intangibles to his squad. He attacked the basket on key possessions and knew when to give the ball up. His long range shooting ability allowed him to move inside for a layup or to step out for a shot; thereby, he stretched the defenses. In regards to his offensive weaknesses, he is somewhat of a tweener. He does not possess the necessary ball handling ability to be an effective guard and he was not tall enough to permanently play inside as a center or power forward. If he perfects this ability, I think he will be able to play the small forward at a higher level of basketball. Defensively, his foot speed was ordinary at best. He was not the best man-to-man defender, but he worked hard to corral loose balls, thereby giving his team an advantage. Corrigan's 29 points were the most vital contribution to the North Jersey Lakers' comeback.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Reactions to the Bracket Buster

The Bracket Buster games yielded some interesting results. Some teams really boasted their tournament resumes, while others faultered down the stretch. All in all, the Bracket Buster was a huge success because it broadcasted teams that are not normally in the public spotlight. There are countless midmajor squads that play with such intensity night in and night out. We were able to see some of this fire last weekend.

Specifically, several teams really put themselves on the map as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned.

Winthrop is the biggest Bracket Buster winner of them all. They defeated Missouri St., a team that had a secured a bid already. Winthrop pulled away in the second half and really proved that they can contend in a tournament setting. If they remain undefeated in their conference and make it to the Big South championship game, they could conceivably earn an at large bid. Because of this win, Winthrop is firmly on the bubble and is one step closer to fulfilling their tournament aspirations.

Fresno St. earned bubble consideration because of their win against Sam Houston St. SM St. really hurt its seeding by losing this contest handedly.

Appalachian St. was another Bracket Buster winner. They defeated a rising MVC team- Wichita St.- on a buzzer beating shot. Donte Minter played extremely well inside and led his team to victory. Kyle Wilson tied the game, but DJ Thompson's runner sunk before the horn and gave Appalachian St. the victory. With wins against Vanderbilt, Davidson, VCU, and Virginia on the road, Appalachian St. is one step closer to a bid.

Hofstra added to their resume by defeating Holy Cross in a close contest.

Southern Illinois's victory against Butler was extremely impressive. Both teams played the way basketball ought to be played- they were extremely tough on defense, corralling the ball on several occasions for fast break points. The fundamentals present in this game made it a thing of beauty. Both of these teams, although undersized up front, played with intensity in the paint, attacked the rim and- most of all-shot unbelievably well from long range. Pete Campbell and Brandon Crone knocked down some clutch three point shots to bring Butler back from a double digit deficit. Tatum had an excellent game as I predicted. His quickness broke through Butler's defense and opened up the game for his teammates. Before the half ended, he hit a three pointer to put Southern Illinois up by five points. Then, when Butler started to come back, he hit several fade away shots from near the three point line with a defender in his face. The biggest surprise was AJ Graves's disappearing act. He had one of his worst games of the season and connected on only one three point attempt. Mike Green elevated his Butler squad by attacking the rim and thus getting Randal Faulker into foul trouble. Both of these teams demonstrated basketball fundamentals that- in some cases- are not even present on the next level. The chemistry that both teams exhibit is going to them deep into the tournament in March.

Nevada crushed Northern Iowa, but did not really earn a quality win. It did- however- further appeal to the committee as far as seeding is concerned.

Old Dominion has been on a tear recently and their victory over Toledo only added to their resume. Although they have not secured a bid, they are closer to receiving an at large than most midmajor bubble teams.

Wright St. helped its potential seeding by defeating Cal St. Fullerton by a large margin. This only demonstrates the extent as to which the Big West has declined; they are no longer a threat to upset major squads as they were during Pacific's heyday.

Bradley really boasted their resume with a win over VCU. Commonwealth will have to advance far in the Colonial Athletic tournament if they want any shot at an at large.

New Mexico St.'s victory over Ohio was quite an intriguing game. They were down by 18 points at the half and nothing was falling from the field. They made careless turnovers and could not seem to contain Walther from beyond the three point line. Ohio made few mistakes in the first half and looked like they were on pace for a nice road win. But, New Mexico St. had another result in mind. They came out strong at the start of the second half and slowly crept back into the game. New Mexico St. employed several techniques in order to come back. First, they moved away from the three point line. In the first half, they kept trying to match Walther's long range bombs with outside shots of their own. This strategy clearly was not working; so, New Mexico St. went back to their bread and butter- attacking the paint whenever they got the opportunity. Also, New Mexico St. drove at Ohio's big men. Because Ohio did not possess the frontcourt depth of New Mexico St., Theus's players attacked the opposition's big men and got them into foul trouble. The main cogs in Ohio's frontcourt- Jerome Tillman and Leon Williams- played sporatically throughout the second half due to foul trouble. New Mexico St. continued to feed their big men in order to take advantage of their size and depth advantages inside; thereby, Tyrone Nelson and Hatila Passos were a valuable part of this comeback. Suddenly, Fred Peete began making midrange shots and Elijah Ingram was hitting some clutch three pointers. Although the aforementioned players made some significant contributions, Martin Iti's performance played the paramount role in New Mexico St.'s comeback victory. His impeccable frontcourt defense coupled with his thundering dunks at key junctures in the game motivated his team and got them back in the contest. Ultimately, a series of key plays by Passos- including a steal and a dunk on the other end- gave New Mexico St. the lead. Overall, I was impressed by New Mexico St.'s pressure defense and its composure to come back from such a deficit. They will still need to win out in their conference tournament in order to make the Big Dance, but this win had major seeding implications.

Drexel's win at Creighton has put them into tournament discussions. Creighton was in control the vast majority of the game. During the first half of play, Anthony Tolliver was a dominant force in the paint. But, midway into the second half, he received his fourth foul. Suddenly Drexel was firing on all cylinders. They ran several screen plays to free up Dominick Meija and he took advantage of this, finishing with twenty points. Meija's counterpart inside- Frank Elegar- also elevated his game in the second half. He outrebounded Creighton's frontcourt and effectively altered the momentum in the game with a putback dunk on the fastbreak. Ultimately, Funk missed a few late opportunities to tie the game from beyond the three point line. Overall, Drexel displayed a valient effort, continuing a nice road win streak. Because of this game, Creighton is very close to the bubble- while they may be secure, they cannot afford a bad loss early in the MVC tournament.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bracket Buster Contests- The Players of Note and the Importance of Each Game

There are other teams of note that are involved in the Bracket Buster, but I summarized only the best games. For example, Loyola has been on a tear recently, but a win against Eastern Illinois is not going to do much for their resume.

Tonight- Missouri St. vs. Winthrop

Players of Note:
Watch out for guard Blake Ahearn of Missouri St. and guard/forward Torrell Martin of Winthrop. Both of these guys will be at the draft camps this summer and have a shot at the second round. Martin can do a little bit of everything, while Ahearn scores the majority of his points from the outside.

Importance of this Game:
While Missouri St. could use this win to solidify their solid resume, Winthrop absolutely needs a win here to be considered for an at large bid. Winthrop is playing at home, so this is a must win for them if they want any chance to make the Big Dance- assuming they lose their conference tournament.

Tomorrow- Sam Houston St. vs. Fresno St.

Players of note:
Ryan Bright and Aaron Wade lead a balanced Sam Houston St. attack. Dominic McGuire and Quinton Hosley will be draft picks at some point.

Importance of this Game:
Neither of these teams will receive an at large bid even if they win this contest. But, if either or both of these teams win their conference tournaments, this game will have major implications for each team's seeding in the bracket.

Wichita St. vs. Appalachian St.

Players of Note:
For Appalachian St, DJ Thompson is severely undersized, but makes up for his lack of height by playing with a lot of heart. Thompson and his forward counterpart Donte Minter form a nice inside-outside combination. For Wichita, Kyle Wilson is another great shooter.

Importance of this Game: Both of these teams are outside the bubble, but a win here could grant either side some tournament consideration.

Hofstra vs. Holy Cross

Players of Note:
Hofstra's big three- Rivera, Aguido and Stokes- is quite a trio. Holy Cross will try to counter Hofstra's efforts with their star Keith Simmons.

Importance of this Game:
Holy Cross was on a tear recently, but has since come back down to earth with a loss against Bucknell. Hofstra has had a few recent losses as well. Holy Cross will not receive an at large bid, but a win in this game would give Hofstra some serious consideration.

Butler vs. Southern Illinois

Players of Note:
AJ Graves has had a tremendous year. He is another outstanding shooter who can also create for his teammates. On the Southern Illinois side, the offense runs through Jamaal Tatum.

Importance of this Game:
Both of these teams are locks to make the tournament at this point. This game will decide seeding.

Nevada vs. Northern Iowa

Players of Note:
The main player to watch in this contest is Nick Fazekas, who is receiving some consideration nation wide for various basketball accolades. He has tremendous footwork and fundamentals. Then there's the guard/wing combination of Sessions and Kemp. As for Northern Iowa: they do not have any players with NBA upside, but they do have some solid big men in Grant Stout and Erik Coleman.

Importance of this Game:
Northern Iowa is on the outside of the bubble, but a win in this contest could really build their resume. They would have to follow a victory here with some quality conference wins if they want an at large bid. Nevada is a lock at this point.

Toledo vs. Old Dominion

Players of Note:
Justin Ingram can run his Toledo squad, while Vasylius and Dahi are solid contributors inside and out for ODU.

Importance of this Game:
This game will help decide the strength of the MAC conference. Toledo has played well of late- with a win against Akron- and a loss here would lower the seeding of pretty much any MAC squad. Old Dominion is firmly on the bubble right now and needs a win here.

Wright St. vs. Fullerton

Players of Note:
Fullerton's Bobby Brown has NBA potential and is capable of scoring in a hurry. Wright St. has Dashaun Wood, a Horizon League player of the year candidate.

Importance of this Game:
This game will determine the seeding if either of these squads wins their respective conference tournaments.

VCU vs. Bradley

Players of Note:
Both these teams have multiple players who can score in double figures on any given night. Walker and Maynor are VCU's stars, while Will Franklin and Daniel Ruffin are Bradley's noteworthy guards.

Importance of this Game:
VCU is right on the bubble and a win here coupled with some conference victories would most likely get them an at large bid. A win for Bradley would put them back on the bubble.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Exploring College Basketball Talent Feb. 15 Part 1

This past weekend, ESPN showcased the occasional midmajor contest- thus providing me with the opportunity to scout schools that are not ordinarily caught in the public limelight.

Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee St.
Between these two teams, only one prospect has really caught the eye of NBA scouts- namely Western Kentucky's Courtney Lee. But, as I watched this game, several intriguing prospects emerged that were not on my radar beforehand.

First and foremost, Jeremy Evans seized this opportunity for NBA recognition and really willed his team to victory. This 6'9, 190 pound freshman played well on both ends of the floor, demonstrating an uncharacteristic swagger which is normally seen after years of college experience. Evans's length really separates him defensively from most players at this level. In this contest, he recorded four blocked shots and three steals. But, these numbers do not tell the entire story. These statistics fail to account for all the shots that he deterred and the various hustle plays that he was responsible for. Evans showed his tremendous athleticism at the forward spot with his various tip ins and dunks. Furthermore, while most talented youngsters force the issue on the offensive end, Evans plays within his Western Kentucky offense. He was 5-5 from the field in this contest and is shooting 63% from the floor on the season. While many freshman hoist off balanced shots, Evans impressed me with his restraint. Had he forced the issue, he could have easily doubled his scoring totals. Although Evans possesses the necessary size and length to be effective at the next level, his overall stength and weight will be a major concern. In this contest, his underdeveloped body did not prevent him from grabbing nine rebounds and scoring on powerful alley-oop dunks. This only demonstrates that he has a knack for rebounding against more physically mature players. In the NBA, however, he will face players with similar length and athleticism; thereby, he will need to put on at least 40 pounds of muscle. Evans is only a freshman- though- and has plenty of time to fill out his body. Overall, I feel that Evans is a player that scouts should keep a tab on throughout his four years. If he ever develops any semblance of an outside jumper, he will be successful on the next level.

Middle Tennessee St. looked to counter the efforts of WKU's impressive freshman with a youngster of their own. But, unlike Evans, their freshman, Desmond Yates, already has the body to succeed at the next level. At 6'7, 220 pounds Yates has the physique of an NBA SG/SF. On this occasion, Yates demonstrated that his strengths were shooting the ball from midrange and driving by defenders- clearly in line with any NBA expectations. However, foul trouble limited his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor; thus, his display against WKU was not wholly indicative of his potential. Even though he was clearly outplayed by Evans, Yates has had the better season thus far. He's the second leading scorer on his squad and is averaging 11 points per game. Despite his overaggressiveness on the defensive end of the floor, Yates possesses the midrange game and physical attributes of an NBA small forward.

The freshmen were not the only potential NBA prospects. Tyrone Brazelton, WKU's junior point guard, also deserves some attention. Although he was not a noteworthy name coming into this contest, this former JUCO player demonstrated a quickness that few rival on the collegiate level. In this matchup, he was able to blow by defenders with his superior speed. Brazelton can pass the ball even though his assist totals are far from impressive. He is an adept three point shooter as well. On the defensive end, Brazelton uses his quick hands to collect steals. If WKU makes the tournament, Tyrone may have the opportunity to showcase his ability. Despite his extraordinary speed, Brazelton possesses some glaring weaknesses which could prevent him from playing at the next level. He is clearly undersized- in the NBA, there are taller point guards with similar quickness. Brazelton also needs to take care of the ball. While his quickness allows him to blow by his opponents, he often attacks a crowd of help defenders- losing the ball in the process. Because of this erratic nature, Brazelton's talent level is comparable to a rich man's Jihad Muhammad or a poor man's Antonio Burks. All in all, Brazelton may play at the Portsmouth Camp next year, but he first has to impress scouts against a higher level of competition.

The other half of the starting backcourt- Courtney Lee- was the most highly touted prospect in this contest. Despite the hype surrounding his name, Lee failed to impress. His jump shot was very streaky in this instance and needs some consistency if he wants to be an NBA shooting guard. He demonstrated his defensive prowess by holding Middle Tennessee St. swingmen in check. Another redeeming quality is his world class athleticism, which will distinguish him even at the NBA level. Overall, he did not possess the necessary assertiveness on the offensive end of the floor; in other words, Lee did not look to dominate as most midmajor stars do.

Duke article following VT loss

January 7th
Here's a little something I wrote the day after Duke's heart breaking loss.

This year’s Duke Blue Devils: What comes to your basketball oriented minds when you hear the preceding phrase? The words talent, youth, and Coach K may all be synonymous reactions to such an inquiry. But now- ask yourself if this squad should be ranked in the top 5… if your answer at this juncture in the season is “yes” I would assume one of three things: you either attend the University, write for the AP poll, have not watched the recent contest against Virginia Tech, or are a combination of the latter two. Question number two: do you believe Duke should be in the top 25 at all? If your answer is “no”, I ask you to rethink this. I would venture to say that this year’s Duke Program is the greatest enigma in college basketball today. Casual fans seem to be of two persuasions: either one feels that Duke deserves its ranking or one believes that Duke is the most overrated team in all the land. My objective in this article is to convince you of the middle ground. Duke’s Basketball Program, despite its deceiving non-conference schedule, is still a serious contender. Without further adieu, I will break out the Steckerbrett on my Enigma and begin deciphering.

Before one can fully understand the current state of Duke Basketball, one must take into account the personnel Duke lost from a year ago. JJ Redick and Shelden Williams were arguably the best inside-outside combination in all of college basketball. JJ’s unbelievable three point shooting ability coupled with Williams’s knack for the boards gave Duke probably the best one-two punch in college basketball. When those two graduated, they left a huge void. Then, factor in the loss of the team’s top perimeter defender in Dockery and you have a huge hole to fill. This year’s Duke team is a talented group who will only get better as the season progresses.

Duke’s squad is a team of contrasts. On one hand, Duke statistically has the least productive offense in all of the ACC. On the other, Duke is holding its opponents to conference leading scoring numbers. Clearly, these figures are a product of inexperience. But, these numbers are deceiving. In no way is Duke’s squad the least dynamic offense in the ACC. Moreover, Duke’s defense has some glaring holes which need to be mended before the tournament. The stats are not entirely reflective of Duke’s actual performances on both ends of the floor.

Duke’s young core is only beginning to mature offensively. When the aforementioned duo of Redick and Williams graduated, Duke lost the focal points of the frontcourt and backcourt. Disregarding the difficult situation Roy Williams faced when his top seven scorers left, Coach K’s project this year is arguably the most difficult ACC rebuilding project in recent memory.

Specifically, Duke’s team is beginning to develop chemistry. They have the top three point shooting percentage in the ACC- this shows that they can survive without JJ at the helm. Young teams such as this one are constantly in search of go-to-guys and role players in the frontcourt and backcourt. The good news is that Duke seems to have such solid role players who are capable scorers- David McClure, Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and Gerald Henderson seem to come to mind first. Although McClure and Henderson have bright futures ahead, they do not possess the same experience that countless Duke role players have had in the past. I cannot picture McClure hitting a clutch three at a critical juncture in the game as Lee Melchionni did so many times a year ago- in fact he missed an open attempt late yesterday that could have given Duke the win or at the very least provided momentum for his club. The same can be said for Henderson- whose long range shooting is still a work in progress. Despite his lack of three point shooting accuracy, Gerald can hit pull up shots at key points in the game. Regardless of whether or not they are adept outside shooters, both are still quality role players. Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas play alongside McRoberts in the frontcourt. Thomas is a tenacious rebounder whose aggressive nature provides him with plenty of opportunities at the free throw line. Zoubek can provide instant scoring in limited minutes.

The real problem with the Duke offense rests in the hands of the go-to guys. Some have questioned, “Who are Duke’s go-to-guys?” Two players have separated themselves from the rest- Josh McRoberts and DeMarcus Nelson. Nelson hit a clutch three towards the end of regulation to send last night’s Virginia Tech game to overtime. Duke looked for McRoberts down the stretch as well. But, poor decisions by both guys contributed to the Virginia Tech loss. Another key player is Greg Paulus, who needs to distribute the ball as a leader on this club. Thus far, he is doing his best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impression.

On the defensive end of the floor, there are some areas that this Duke team excels in and others that could use a great deal of improvement. Duke’s perimeter defense is stifling. These young players clog the passing lanes and play characteristic Coach K man-to-man defense. They work very hard on the defensive end and display a great deal of intensity; Coach K obviously cultivates this mentality in his practices. The glaring weakness that I have noted on several occasions is the lackadaisical defense against slashers. If this Duke squad can develop better help defense, they can be one of the most dangerous teams in the country. After watching both the Kent St. and Virginia Tech games, several common difficulties struck me. At times, Duke players fail to hedge when they are playing man-to-man defense. I am sure this gives Coach K a headache: he designates the matchups before the game for a reason. When players switch off, they become susceptible to mismatches. Also, whenever an athletic player capable of creating his own shot gets by a Duke player, team defense tends to break down. A prime example of this failure was the matchup between Greg Paulus and Dominic James. James, who is normally known for his scoring, tallied seven assists against the Duke defense and his team shot 46% from the field. Similar situations occurred against Kent St. and Virginia Tech and I feel that an analysis of these games would provide a great deal of insight into this team’s strengths and weaknesses. In the first contest, Duke played poorly, but came away with a win. Against Virginia Tech- however- they mounted a comeback, yet came up short in the end.

I’ll start with an analysis up until the half. Duke was leading 39-38. Omni Smith, who came into this game averaging just over 11 points per contest, was on fire from behind the three point line. Haminn Quaintance served as a point forward- dishing to his teammates virtually at will. For Duke, Scheyer was on fire from behind the three point arc. He had 15 points in the first half alone. McRoberts did not really demonstrate his leadership ability. He forced some passes and lacked confidence scoring the ball. On the defensive end, he battled and blocked three shots. But, his help defense left Kent St. players open inside. Paulus seemed lost on defense and did not put forth the necessary effort on either end.

The second half was more of the same. This time, Omni Smith seemed to be creating off the dribble and off of screens because Quaintance was sitting on the bench. His acrobatic moves single handedly kept Kent St. in the game. Duke could not stop him on the drive. With six minutes left to go in the game, something clicked for Duke’s stars on the offensive end. In a sequence of plays, McRoberts hit a jump hook, DeMarcus Nelson nailed a three, and McRoberts tipped a shot in to put Duke up by 6 with 3:52 left in the game. Smith hit a few mid range shots and got Kent St. back in the game. Finally, with 90 seconds left, Paulus stripped Smith on a key possession. He made both of his free throws and sealed the win. This clutch play down the stretch is what Duke expects from Greg Paulus. McRoberts had arguably the best game of his career in the second half. He dominated by scoring 11 of his 19 points and chipped in with six blocks, six rebounds, four assists, and four steals for the game. DeMarcus Nelson added 18 points.

The Virginia Tech game developed in a similar way. Paulus started the game with 4 turnovers in 6 minutes of play. He was promptly benched after that display. He passed behind cutting players and threw floating passes which were easily picked off. McRoberts also turned the ball over several times, just as he had in the Kent St. game. Nelson provided the needed leadership with 12 points on 5-7 shooting. Virginia Tech was up at the half however. Jamon Gordan played like a man on a mission. He scored in a variety of ways. Similarly, Coleman Collins was a serious threat early on.

In the second half, Gordan virtually took over. His penetration of the Duke defense left guys like Dowdell and Washington wide opened for shots. McRoberts came alive in the second half. He used his solid footwork and nice handles to draw fouls- he was just so explosive. At the 16:57 mark, DeMarcus Nelson nailed a three pointer. Jamon Gordan responded. But, a critical moment came with 14:05 left in the game. Nelson committed his fourth personal foul and was sent to the bench. The player who led this team throughout the game was now sitting on the bench. McRoberts came through with two defenders covering him. He nonchalantly drop stepped through the double team to score the bucket and draw the foul. With time running out, Gordan nailed a desperation three point shot. Paulus then made a nice pass to Henderson to tie the game. He could have passed to Scheyer in the corner for a wide open three point shot, but he chose the easy bucket- finally, a nice decision down the stretch. A nice pass to McRoberts gave Duke its first lead of the night. Dowdell then went on to hit a pair of shots off the dribble. McRoberts drew Deron Washington’s fourth foul and missed two critical free throws. Duke missed five straight free throw attempts. Finally, McClure broke that streak after drawing a foul on a box out. Two unbelievable plays helped Virginia Tech sustain its lead. First, Gordan slipped and made a shot virtually from the ground. Then Washington got the ball on the fast break and literally jumped over Greg Paulus, who was trying to draw the charge. After a Henderson pull up jumper late in the game, Duke was forced to foul. After Virginia Tech free throws, DeMarcus Nelson handled the ball and calmly hit the game tying three pointer with a roughly 20 seconds remaining. Tough Duke defense forced the game to overtime. In the extra period, Gordan broke the tie with a floater. On the next possession, McClure missed a wide open shot from the top of the key. Duke fouled Tech’s Vasallo, who hit one of two free throws. So Duke is down by two points and has a chance to tie or win the game. McRoberts grabbed the rebound and threw the ball to Paulus, who was idly staring in a different direction. He bobble it for a few seconds, dribbled the length of the court and took and ill-advised three point shot which was emphatically blocked by Deron Washington. Virginia Tech spoiled Duke’s ACC home opener streak and avenged Dockery’s miracle shot a year ago.

Why exactly did Duke lose this game and nearly fall to Kent St? Well, the key is bringing the intensity from the beginning of the game. McRoberts looked timid on the offensive end in both of these contests. He needs to assert himself early on as a leader on both ends of the floor. His defense was impeccable in both of these games- his length, mobility, and athleticism gives him a great advantage on that end of the floor. In order to hold a leadership position on this team, DeMarcus Nelson cannot afford to get in foul trouble early on. His experience and athleticism on both ends really help Duke’s perimeter defense. As for Greg Paulus, he needs to bring consistency and steady play night in and night out. Duke will not thrive with Scheyer at the point- he is most effective as a catch and shoot guy on the perimeter. Paulus has to focus and allow the game to come to him- he cannot make poor decisions down the stretch and cost his team the game as he did against Virginia Tech. The 22 turnovers and Virginia Tech’s 20 points off of those turnovers cost Duke the game. It seems that Duke’s players do not have the quickest foot speed on the defensive end. This explains why help defense has been a problem. I can recall countless instances where McRoberts had the rotate over to stop a guard who got past his man. Then, that same perimeter player passed to a wide open big man; it is a vicious cycle. The second reason for the loss was free throw shooting. This young squad failed to make its free throws down the stretch. McRoberts hit 50% from the line in both of these contests. This cannot happen if Duke wants to win. They shot 64% from the line as a team and missed some free ones late in the game, which could have given them the win. Several other key players will really decide the fate of Duke’s basketball program this year. Jon Scheyer has the potential to really carry his team, but he cannot force the issue. For example, he drew a foul early in the Virginia Tech game on a three point shot. It probably should not have been called because he leaned into the defender; regardless, he cannot take that kind of shot late in the game. Henderson rarely displays his athletic ability in a game time situation- he often settles for his midrange game. Gerald is a poor defender at this point, but he has the raw tools to excel in this aspect of the game. I love the intensity that Lance Thomas brings on a regular basis, but he needs to stay out of foul trouble. Because the turnovers and missed free throws are the main reasons Duke lost, I am optimistic about this club. Nelson and McRoberts are taking on leadership roles, Scheyer is providing outside shooting, Paulus has shown some flashes of brilliance, and Duke’s role players are playing within the system. The Virginia Tech defeat is only going to serve as a motivator for this club- they played poorly and lost. As a young team, there is always room for growth. I expect this Duke Blue Devils club to be one of the deadliest come tournament time because I know that the combination of Coach K’s discipline and competitive ACC play will have these players prepared for a serious run in March.