Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scouting Report: Keith Benson

Keith Benson, a 6'11 redshirt sophomore for Oakland, is a developing post player in the Summit league. Emerging out of relative obscurity, Benson has posted some nice numbers this season to compliment experienced perimeter threats such as Erik Kangas. The first word that comes to mind when analyzing Benson's basketball abilities is raw. At a whopping 225 pounds, Keith needs to put on some weight through any means possible. At this stage, his lack of girth is the primary obstacle preventing him from actualizing his potential. On the offensive end, Benson establishes nice post position. In his contest against Oral Roberts, he was able to edge out a more muscular player and utilized his current assets to the best of his ability. Benson is very fundamental in securing this position, and tends to come off of picks and motion plays in order to firmly plant himself under the basket. Although this may work for him in the Summit league, his lack of bulk allows him to be edged out- this occurred several times in the contest. Moreover, because of this detriment, he predominantly relies upon turnaround jumpers in the post. While this may be a solid use of his current tools, he needs to diversify his game if he wants to become a top Summit League player and have any hope of a professional career. Furthermore, he received most of his points off of dunks- the vast majority of which were due to defensive confusion on picks. In transition, Benson is fairly quick and fluid. While he does not rely upon any form of a jumper, Benson has a soft touch on his free throws. This shows that there is potential for future development away from the basket.

On the defensive end of the floor, Benson is primarily a serviceable help defender. He is often able to utilize his physical gifts such as his tremendous length to disrupt players cutting to the basket. With that said, he is only an average leaper, but is fairly quick at collecting himself and jumping again. Because of his lack of bulk, he often allows deep post position. Therefore, as a man-to-man defender, he oftentimes gives away easy points. And, at this stage of his development, he is prone to biting on shot fakes and rarely ever stands his ground, thinking that he can block virtually any shot attempt. In regards to rebounding, he has decent box out fundamentals, but is usually tenuous at demonstrating this skill. Currently, the majority of his rebounds are attributable to his excellent size and length, which are a rare commodity in the Summit League.

Altogether, Keith Benson has a long way to go before he can be considered in NBA draft conversations. But, he is certainly making strides at his current level of basketball and should be a player to keep an eye on if he continues developing with the same learning curve.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Spotlight on Vermont basketball

Assuming they make it past Binghampton (which is not a guarantee), Vermont should be a tough team to face in the NCAA tournament. Their team defense is stifling and their overall chemistry is tremendous. In their Bracket Buster contest, they faced Buffalo, who came out 'guns blazing' from the field. Vermont responded to this initial punch by running off a significant scoring stretch. However, it was their assertiveness on the defensive end, which really secured this victory.

In the end, two players of note really stood out for this squad.

Marquis Blakely- Blakely is an athletic specimen in the mold of a Darvin Ham. He is the reigning American East Defensive Player of the year and an exciting highlight reel waiting to happen. Blakely is not an outside shooter and receives most of his points on post plays and basket attacks. At 6'5, this will likely not translate at the next level. His shooting form demonstrated on free throw attempts shows some potential. However, he rarely steps outside to hit shots. If he is going to be a success overseas, it will be as a high energy guy, scoring off of basket cuts. This is a strong possibility simply because of his athletic prowess and knack for scoring the ball. Because of his impressive leaping ability, Blakely has established himself as a proficient rebounder. And, this strength coupled with his quick hands allows him to collect steals and blocks. All in all, Blakely is a successful player in virtually every facet of the game aside from shooting. While he is not going to win over pro scouts with his skillset as a 6'5 forward, his hustle and desire to improve himself as a player will ultimately determine which level he will find himself at in the future.

Mike Trimboli- He is an excellent offensive weapon who can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. Not only can he fill it up from the outside, but he also is a distributor. Trimboli made several beautiful post entry passes and was able to involve his teammates. And, if his defender did not step out against him, he would drain the jumper. Trimboli was also able to take his man off the dribble and drained several floaters in the lane. His free throw shooting was pivotal in this contest as well. Although his point totals in this contest were not overwhelming by any stretch, he certainly played within his system and led his team to victory. On the defensive side of the floor, Trimboli was aggressive and deflected several passes. He possesses a nice defensive awareness and this allows him to anticipate plays. All in all, his lateral quickness is fairly average at the college level, but his commitment to intensity and team defense make him a threat on this end of the floor. Trimboli should receive an invite to Portsmouth camp, so that scouts can really evaluate his performances against top tier opponents.

For the opposition, one player really stood out.

Rodney Pierce- Buffalo's leading scorer really filled it up from the outside. He was fairly aggressive when attacking the basket. Pierce achieved success by utilizing his nice first step and by playing at a high intensity level. Despite being down by double digits, Pierce was pivotal in Buffalo's late run. Essentially, he has a fairly complete offensive arsenal. Pierce is not tremendously athletic though and will probably not receive too many looks from scouts. Defensively, he has a low stance. His quick hands allowed him to collect several picks and overall, simply disrupt Vermont's offensive scheme. Pierce is a top player in the MAC and should receive some looks from scouts. However, he is a borderline Portsmouth player in my mind, and the likelihood of him attending this event will depend on Buffalo's success in the MAC's postseason tournament.