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.