Friday, December 31, 2010

Senior Spotlight Part 2

In this article, I examine Xavier guard Dante Jackson.

Four year starter Dante Jackson has been a steady performer over the course of his college career. Hailing from Greenfield, Ohio originally, Jackson was a local product that demonstrated promise on a national level. While it may seem as though this once highly touted player has not improved much over the years, the game film tells a different story.

After consistently watching Jackson on the offensive end, it becomes clear that he constantly puts himself in the position to score from beyond the arc. However, he has struggled through a shooting slump much of this season. Hitting only 30% of his shots from beyond the arc, Dante Jackson is shooting more frequently, but generally taking more difficult shots. This is due to the fact that he is not always the recipient of passes from point guard Tu Holloway on drives and kick outs. Tu is a lot more ball dominant this season, and is more willing to feed interior players when he drives past his defender. While this has been somewhat beneficial for Xavier as a team (and led to the emergence of Kenny Frease), the characteristic Xavier perimeter ball movement of a year ago is no longer there. Given the fact that his degree of difficulty has increased on shot attempts, Jackson is drawing contact more often than he was a season ago. He is getting to the line, and shooting a higher percentage there than he had in year's past.

And, despite his shooting woes, Dante has demonstrated improvements as a facilitator. So far this season, Dante is turning the ball over less frequently than he had, while making positive contributions with the basketball. Never shying away from the difficult assist, Dante has looked to create for his teammates with bounce passes and over-the-top lob passes to big men Frease and MacLean in particular. While he probably will not be a primary ball handler at the professional level, Jackson is fairly composed and focused on offensive execution when he has the ball in his hands. During previous seasons, Dante had difficulty attacking the hoop and finishing in traffic- never really threatening teams as a slasher because of his limited ability to draw fouls. As such, he was never really able to collapse opposing defenses. With that said, his court vision has improved tremendously over the years, despite his limited ability as a facilitator. And, even though he has not looked to attack the basket all too often, Jackson has been effective when he does decide to score off the dribble. Yet, no one will really witness much of this facet of his game if Tu Holloway continues to maintain such a high usage rate.

Even though Dante Jackson may have some limitations within the Xavier offense, it is clear that his ability as an on-ball defender will translate at the next level- wherever that may be. When on defense, Dante gets low in his stance and has the length to really steal the ball from opposing players. Not only can he anticipate in the passing lanes when necessary, but he thrives as a position defender- moving his feet well and staying in front of his man. While his physical play on this end has been an asset for Xavier, Jackson must cut down on his hand checks- as this has gotten him into foul trouble in recent action. Moreover, Jackson is also a good help defender, rotating in order to stop drives, and corralling the basketball after tipping it etc.

Furthermore, it can be said that Dante Jackson's role has changed dramatically given the personnel changes to Xavier's roster over the years. During his sophomore campaign, he was called upon as a facilitator, and responded by driving to the basket more often. However, last season he was the beneficiary of drive and kick plays from Jordan Crawford and Tu Holloway (then Terrell), which helped him become one of the more efficient 3 point shooters in the Atlantic 10 Conference. This season, he is taking far more contested jump shots and is more responsible for attacking the basket once again.

In general, Jackson should look to move without the ball more often. Far too often, he camps out on the perimeter, hoping for the kick out pass. Instead, he should crash the boards and look to clean up misses with his decent combination of length and athleticism. Overall, Jackson's opportunities at the next level will be highly dependent on his ability to shoot the ball for Xavier during conference play. If he can break out of his slump and shoot more efficiently, he may receive some looks from minor leagues and European squads. However, he must continue to improve, as the physical tools are there.

Monday, December 27, 2010

D League Notes: Erie Bayhawks vs. Dakota Wizards

In this contest, I review the top standouts in today's D League contest. Erie maintained a lead throughout, but Dakota did mount a comeback towards the end of the third quarter. However, Erie pulled away in the fourth, on a 13-2 run led by Ivan Johnson. Later in this period, Erie extended its lead and eventually, Dakota faced its largest deficit of the game.

-Demarre Carroll was able to hit some shots inside, but he struggled shooting off the dribble early on. He also played out of control when he attempted to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket. Carroll was able to score inside against the Bayhawks, but struggled to create his own shot. He must work on this in order to receive more minutes in the NBA. He has made some strides since his days at Missouri, but he is still fairly turnover prone when he puts the ball on the floor. He also got in foul trouble early, and was thus limited for stretches in this contest.

-Renaldo Major hit some jump shots from the field. He was fairly dynamic attacking the basket as well.

-Tasmin Mitchell hit some shots from beyond the arc and played aggressively in the paint. Mitchell has slimmed down considerably since summer league, and is looking to make a transition to NBA wing. He has quick hands and was able to pick the pocket of some offensive players. He was efficient from the floor and never forced the action.

-Jeff Adrien turned the ball over early, throwing wild outlet passes down court.

-Chris Johnson was aggressive inside and was able to score some easy buckets inside. Johnson demonstrated a soft touch off the dribble and was able to display his nice shooting form. Late in the game, Johnson threw down some thundering dunks off of alley oop passes.

-Dawan Robinson hit some three point shots and distributed the ball. He attacked the basket on occasion as well, and is a complete player on the offensive end. Additionally, Robinson moved well without the ball and had a very good understanding of spacing.

-Christian Eyenga aggressively attacked the basket, demonstrating his remarkable athleticism in the process. Eyenga must improve upon his decision making, particularly in transition if he hopes to be an NBA player one day.

-Vernon Hamilton has quick hands and is a relatively efficient shooter from beyond the arc. In this contest, he drew contact by penetrating through the Erie defense. Hamilton generally played under control in this contest and looked to attack the basket whenever an opportunity presented itself.

-Ivan Johnson was a willing passer in this contest and hit open shots. He needs to improve his three point shot in order to keep defenses honest. Johnson demonstrated his athleticism and was pivotal on both ends of the floor. On the defensive end, Johnson was able to play solid post position defense, drawing a charge late in the game.

-Samardo Samuels was effective drawing contact inside and playing positional post defense. Samuels hustled in his D League debut, and was able to get out and beat his man down the floor in transition. Samuels must continue to extend his range and play aggressively inside.

-Nate Linehart emerged in the fourth quarter and hit several shots from the field to extend the Bayhawks' lead.

-Cedric Jackson got in the lane and drew contact and/or distributed the ball. He must improve his free throw shooting though.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

D League Notes: Maine Red Claws vs. Idaho Stampede

In this contest, several players' efforts were noteworthy. This blog entry will chronicle any trends or improvements exhibited by these D League talents. While Maine jumped out to an early lead, Idaho was able to come back in the third quarter. Their run was extended into the fourth quarter, where the gap was closed to within 3 points. The Idaho Stampede bench really came alive during this run. Idaho took the lead on a running shot from Babbitt. After the Red Claws responded with a run of their own, Walker hit a three point basket with one minute left to play- effectively keeping them in the game. The Red Claws traded baskets when Tiny Gallon threw a pass to the cutting Jamar Smith. On the next possession, an Antoine Walker three point basket rimmed out, resulting in Maine Red Claws free throws to close the game.

-Antoine Walker's post defense looked good early in this contest. However, one has to wonder whether or not he plans to play SF at the next level, or play spot minutes as a PF. Either way, he is not quite in shape enough to defend either position at the NBA level. Walker was aggressive attacking the basket and was able to move without the ball. He also hit a big three with a minute left that kept the Stampede in the game.

-Luke Jackson is an effective all around player. He shared the ball and was able to attack the basket on occasion. He is an unspectacular player, but he does a lot of things well. It is clear that Jackson might be a call up candidate due to his all around team mentality and high basketball IQ. Jackson is a capable spot shooter as well.

-Carlos Wheeler attacked the basketball relentlessly and drew a lot of fouls. He also was aware of spacing and moved without the ball pretty effectively. Wheeler is a strong athlete who can bully his way inside as well.

-Tiny Gallon hit some really tough shots in the post- however, he tried to avoid contact and shot some fadeaway hook shots against Antoine Walker. This is somewhat alarming considering the fact that he possesses the girth to really assert himself as a back-down post player. Tiny Gallon was able to score inside and even pass the ball to open teammates. His pull up jumper was fairly effective and this is a promising sign for his long run potential. He did get in foul trouble, and this limited him on the defensive end late in the game.

-Mario West was fairly consistent throughout, hitting open three point shots, and playing solid defense. Although he has a fairly unorthodox shooting form, West was able to hit three point shots with some consistency.

-DeShawn Sims demonstrated his skillset by hitting shots from the perimeter, while also going inside. Sims was effective at times, but also tended to disappear for large stretches early in the game. This was partially due to the fact that his minutes were inconsistent. In the second half, Sims was dominant on the glass, and created countless additional opportunities for his team. He responded to the Idaho run,and helped the Red Claws regain the lead in the fourth. Overall, Sims was the most valuable contributor to this win.

-Babbitt was strong attacking the basket, but struggled mightily shooting the ball from the field. He displayed ideal elevation and a nice touch on his jumper, but his shots just did not fall early in this contest.

-Champ Oguchi is a fairly streaky shooter, and was able to hit his shots early in this contest.

-Sherron Collins was effective on all fronts in this contest. He was able to rebound the ball despite the fact that he is under 6'0. Additionally, he was capable as a spot up shooter. Further, Collins was able to draw charges and also get in the lane. He must continue to shed weight in order to adapt to the more up-tempo game of the NBA.

-Seth Tarver is a decent role player whose defense was worth noting in this game.

-Eugene Spates really came alive in the third quarter and demonstrated a highly diversified skillset. He grabbed numerous offensive rebounds, cleaning up inside. Spates also hit a few three point shots, and was able to get in the lane because Idaho had to respect his shooting. Despite his production, Spates was in foul trouble throughout the third quarter, and this limited his impact.

-Willie Jenkins's defense and rebounding were pivotal during the Stampede run throughout the fourth quarter.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Around College Basketball 11/23 Part 2

Zane Johnson, Hawaii- Standing at 6'6, Johnson is a smooth jump shooter who can make baskets over opposing defenses. He is a specialist three point shooter that is able to break free by moving without the ball. When he receives it, he is capable as a catch-and-shoot player, but he can square his body for shots off the dribble as well. Defensively, Johnson has displayed some flashes as a help defender, but his efforts have not been particularly noteworthy.

Will Barton, Memphis- After not fully living up to expectations early in the season, Barton is beginning to come into his own at this juncture. If one were to characterize his game, one would describe him as a lengthy wing who is adept at attacking the basket or scoring off of open perimeter jumpers. While his outside shot has not been effective early in the year- he is shooting 29% from behind the arc- Barton has continued to shoot in spite of his inconsistency in this area. One improvement- from his Prep days- that Barton has demonstrated is his willingness to defer to teammates. Previously, Barton had looked for his own shot, often at the expense of his team. However, he is now willing to make the proper pass in transition so that his teammates can benefit. While he has improved in this area, he will need to cut down on his turnovers- still, this is not an alarming concern given the fact that he is transitioning to the college game. Defensively, Barton's length can be disruptive, particularly in the passing lanes. But, like many freshman, he tends to over commit. When this happens, the offensive player is often able to either draw the foul or blow by Barton for an easy layup. All in all, Barton must hit the weight room so that he is better equipped to finish through contact and hold his ground on the defensive end. Memphis's conditioning programs should enable Barton to become one of the most dynamic scorers in the nation, if he is willing to stay for another season.

Quincy Acy, Baylor- In his matchup with Washington St., Acy demonstrated just how much he has improved from his sophomore year. He was absolutely dominant on the glass and collected 6 offensive rebounds. Baylor relied on his rebounding in order to remain close in this game. Throughout the first half, Baylor's perimeter players would hoist jumpers and watch as Acy put back their misses with some difficult, contested layups. While Acy predominantly relies on his athleticism to score inside, he has added some crafty pivot and reverse pivot post moves to his arsenal. On the defensive end, Acy thrives as well, employing his unique length to contest just about anything that comes close to the rim. Not only is he adept at blocking shots, but he also can steal the ball on occasion. Despite the signs that he displayed earlier in his career, scouts were not fully intrigued because of his physical profile. However, while he may be somewhat undersized for a forward at 6'7, Acy possesses a quick leaping ability and tremendous length, which will allow him to compensate at the next level. In order to play professionally, though, he will have to continue to refine his perimeter jumper and add weight so that he can better hold post position.

Darius Morris, Michigan- Morris is an improving young point guard that really is one of the best passers in the country. He has a knack for hitting his man- whether that entails driving and dishing for an open 3 or a rap-around pass inside, he is more than capable of finding his teammates at the right moments. Standing at a solid 6'4, Morris has NBA lead guard potential. Not only does he have the vision of an elite college point guard, but he also is capable of knocking down three point buckets. In this contest against Bryant University, he caught fire when left open and ended up hitting 4 of 6 shots from beyond the arc. While he is clearly able to hit open shots in rhythm, he must become more consistent in this area if he hopes to have a career in the NBA down the road. His game may actually be more conducive to the professional level because of the wider spacing, which could open up his outside game. Defensively, Morris is also fairly aggressive and capable of defending his man on the perimeter. However, it is difficult to fully gauge how well Morris would defend at the next level due to Beilein's 1-3-1 zone, which is not commonly seen in the NBA. All in all, Morris is one of the most exciting young point guards in the country, and he most assuredly will receive some looks from scouts from now until the moment he decides to enter the NBA draft.

Frankie Dobbs, Bryant University- Dobbs is one of the more composed mid major point guards playing for a losing team. While Bryant's entire squad fought valiantly against Michigan, Dobbs- in particular- demonstrated his all around ability to lead. While he was limited shooting the ball from the floor- and consequently only shot 5 three point attempts- Dobbs played within himself and was able to distribute the ball to his teammates. While he is not especially creative, his court vision involves dribble penetration and normally facilitates offense for his teammates. He does turn the ball over at a fairly high rate, but this is largely because he is one of the few players on Bryant's team that can create his own offense. Additionally, Dobbs is an accurate 3 point shooter that can hit difficult shots when called upon. Defensively, Dobbs is pesky, but he must do a better job fighting through screens. In general, he has been impressive this season, but he must continue to become a better decision maker in order to lead this unproven Bryant squad to recognition within its conference, and nationally.

Alex Francis, Bryant University- Standing at 6'6, Francis is an excellent young athlete who is a consummate scorer, and one of the more promising mid major freshman. In this contest, Francis was able to attack the basket utilizing a series of shot and head fakes to get his shot off amongst Michigan's big men. While his first step is not blindingly fast, it is effective in combination with his stop and go moves. Francis tends to adjust his shots mid-air when attacking the basket, rather than settling for the jump shot. This will have to change, however, if he hopes to play at any professional level. While his shooting form does seem effective at this stage, he must extend his range eventually. Even though he did not display his jump shot regularly, it could have been because he was playing opportunistically, taking advantage of Michigan's weak interior defense. Defensively, Francis was fairly effective- playing physical post defense and fighting for position. Overall, Francis is a talent that merits further consideration down the road if he can improve upon his jump shooting and demonstrate an ability to play perimeter defense.

Lazeric Jones, UCLA- Jones is the smooth point guard that has been key to UCLA's success this season. While this JUCO transfer had difficulty adjusting earlier in the year, it seems as though he is now beginning to come into his own. In this contest, he distributed the ball to his teammates after penetrating in the lane. In addition to his passing, Jones has been an effective outside shooting threat all season long, connecting on nearly 41% of his shots from beyond the arc. Jones is smooth in transition, and is much more capable on defense than UCLA's point guards the last two years. While he has been fairly efficient so far, it can be said that his professional potential is limited due to his height (at 6'0).

Darren Moore, UC Irvine- Despite facing the most storied program on the West Coast, Moore failed to back down throughout the entire contest. Even though he is listed at a generous 6'3, Moore played far bigger than his size would indicate. He was willing to score in a variety of ways. Moore posted up against his defenders and backed them down, while he also stepped out to hit three point shots on occasion. In general, Moore was fairly physical and embraced body contact going to the basket. On the defensive end, he possessed good lateral quickness and was able to switch against bigger players during some of UCLA's high screen plays. Overall, Moore is one of the more clutch mid major guards that is capable of willing his team to victory. In this contest, he hit critical shots to allow Irvine to stay in the game.

Around College Basketball 11/23 Part 1

In this segment, I analyze the top prospects from today's action.

Zach Graham, Ole Miss- This guard really kept Ole Miss in the game with his hustle plays and penchant for grabbing difficult rebounds. In this contest, Graham tallied his first career double double, being at the right place at the right time for the most part. Graham is a hustle player who has emerged as a scoring threat this season. While he shoots an abysmal percentage from beyond the three point arc, Graham makes up for his lack of perimeter shooting consistency by actively attacking the basket. In this contest, Graham was able to employ solid body control in order to score inside. On the other end of the floor, Graham is an excellent defender who was able to anticipate in the passing lanes and really stifle Colorado St. on defense. Having made significant strides over the course of his four year career, Graham is a hustle player that may receive some looks in the minor leagues after this season.

Travis Franklin, Colorado St.- After improving on his free throw percentage from a year ago, Franklin employs a very unique, mechanical stroke. While this is effective at the line, it does not translate as a jump shooting form. As it currently stands, Franklin is an aggressive, energy wing that is able to collect rebounds and score off of putbacks. Franklin is unselfish and is willing to dish it to his teammates off the dribble. Franklin is also extremely athletic, and this allows him to grab rebounds and draw fouls at a pretty remarkable rate. While he is effective at the college level as a slashing forward, Franklin will have to extend his range and put a lot of work into developing a consistent jump shot. He has a long way to go before he can be considered a professional prospect.

Andy Ogide, Colorado St.- Ogide was the best NBA prospect in this consolation game. Not only does this forward possess the necessary physical tools to have a professional career- at a solid 6'9 245 pounds- but he has also shown flashes of a developing skillset. In this contest, Ogide stepped out and hit several jump shots. He was also able to demonstrate his athleticism by attacking the basket and drawing several fouls. Ogide also has the length to wreak havoc on the defensive end. In this contest, he was able to alter several shots and poke the ball away from the opposition. As a post option, Ogide is strong enough to back his man down and score with a jump hook shot. His footwork is not highly developed enough for professional basketball though. Ogide was aggressive on the boards today as well. All in all, while his game does have some holes in it, Andy Ogide's game merits a second look from NBA scouts.

Anthony James, Northern Iowa- James was electric in this championship matchup. He was able to hit several three point baskets down the stretch that really sealed the victory for his squad. Not only was he able to hit the outside shot at a high percentage, but he also was an aggressive defender who was able to steal the ball on several occasions. James was also an effective leader, and was able to distribute the ball at a decent rate. James is extremely quick and can create space off the dribble.

Jake Koch, Northern Iowa- Koch is a solid forward- at 6'9, 255 lbs- in the mold of many Northern Iowa big men before him. He is fundamentally sound and able to shoot the ball off the dribble. Koch has decent range and can hit three point shots if left open. In this game, he did not force the action, and was willing to cut inside and score off of nice passes. Defensively, Koch must drop some weight in the next few years so that he can defend more mobile big men.

A.J. Hardeman, New Mexico- This undersized forward was the most dominant rebounding presence in the game. He was able to score inside, using some interior spin moves to free himself from his defender. Hardeman cleaned up numerous NMU misses, and was able to disrupt cutters on the defensive end.

Kendall Williams, New Mexico- Williams is a freshman point guard that may have some professional potential down the road. Standing at a solid 6'3, Williams is an intelligent combo guard who can dish to his teammates or score himself. On the season, Williams is shooting 60% from three, and can shoot over defenders due to his form- he places his hands well above his head. Williams is also fairly effective attacking the basket, but he will have to learn how to finish through contact if he hopes to compete at the next level. Currently, he is sharing time as the lead guard with Dairese Gary. When this senior graduates though, Williams will have an opportunity to fill in at this position full time.

Shelvin Mack, Butler- Mack's presence was certainly felt in today's contest, where he was able to score in a variety of different ways, while also allowing his teammates to get involved in the offense. Despite the fact that he has been fairly inconsistent this year from beyond the arc, Mack was able to connect on half of his three point shots today. He squared his body and elevated over his defender. Mack must exhibit more consistency on his three point shooting in order to raise his draft stock. Due to his impressive physique, Mack also went to his strength and attacked the basket with regularity, creating opportunities for his teammates in the process.

Matt Howard, Butler- Howard provided similar production in today's contest. He was extremely aggressive fighting for lose balls and had the scratch marks to prove it. Howard grabbed many rebounds against a more physically imposing frontline. He also demonstrated his improved range early in this contest, hitting two three pointers with confidence.

Chris Singleton, Florida St.- Singleton single-handedly carried his Seminoles against Butler. He demonstrated his extended range and showed that he is worthy of a first round pick in this year's upcoming draft. While he has added this shot to his arsenal, he is primarily a catch and shoot player at this stage. He must learn to create off the dribble more effectively. Defensively, Singleton is one of the best post defenders in the country. He regularly gets his hands in the passing lanes and is able to cover four positions at the college level. Singleton possesses the lateral quickness to stay with his man, and the quick hands to pry the ball away from the opposition.

Saint Louis vs. Southern Miss

Saint Louis

Mike McCall- This freshman has really stepped up in the absence of Mitchell, and is running his squad as the lead guard. McCall is a solid ball handler who is able to penetrate and dish to his teammates. He is fairly quick, but he must learn to implement more stop and go moves in order to blow by defenders. In this contest, McCall really hit from the perimeter, evincing a pretty stroke beyond the three point arc. He has a nice lift on his shot and shoots in a consistent manner. On the defensive end, he must do a better job staying in front of his man. He possesses the lateral quickness necessary to defend the point guard position.

Brian Conklin- Conklin is a solid collegiate forward who was able to outplay Flowers in this contest. He limited the Southern Miss standout to 10 points and was able to exploit his defense in the post. Conklin is a strong player who relies on his girth to really muscle defenders inside. Standing at 6'6, Conklin does not have much long-run potential as a professional basketball player, but he is a solid role player for his Saint Louis squad.

Cody Ellis- At 6'8, Ellis is a decent spot up shooter who had a breakout game in this one. While his decision making and shooting percentages have declined this year, Ellis will look to take on a bigger role in the Saint Louis offense.

Southern Miss

Angelo Johnson- Johnson was the sparkplug that really willed his team to victory. Not only was this point guard able to distribute the ball on occasion, but he took on an increased role scoring the ball. Specifically, Johnson was able to attack his defender and draw body contact. He finished strong around the rim and made some difficult shots, absorbing body contact in the process. Johnson is a solid slasher who utilizes the pick and role offense to create for himself and teammates. While he does have a nice stroke at the free throw line, Johnson has been hesitant to really demonstrate much perimeter shooting. While he is shooting 41% from beyond the three point arc, he rarely takes more than three attempts per game. On the defensive end, Johnson is quick enough to stay in front of his man and is able to collect steals. Angelo switched off along the perimeter and was able to defend multiple positions effectively. After watching this contest, it becomes clear that Johnson provides excellent intangibles on both ends. He is an excellent decision maker and has the best assist to turnover ratio in Conference USA. All in all, look for Johnson to be a key contributor for Southern Miss if they are to contend for an NCAA tournament bid.

Sai'Quon Stone- This underrated senior has received limited playing time throughout this season. However, Coach Eustachy decided to give Stone extended minutes in this contest, and he produced. Stone's game begins and ends with his play on the defensive end. He is arguably the best on-ball defender in Conference USA, and- standing at a strong 6'6- he is able to defend four positions on the floor. In this contest, Stone was aggressive with his hands and was able to deflect multiple passes and get out in transition. He tallied three steals and was able to play excellent team defense, rotating properly and generally wreaking havoc on whomever he was guarding. Because of his excellent play on this end, Stone was able to attack the basket and draw fouls. His handle needs to improve if he hopes to play at some professional level. Also, he must extend his range and work on developing consistency on his jumpers. Overall, Stone is one of the best role players that Southern Miss has, and he was critical in securing a victory in this game.

RL Horton- Horton did not display much in this contest aside from an extra gear, which he employs when attacking the basket. Horton was not particularly aggressive, and really let the game come to him. He was quick to the ball, and fairly effective shooting from the perimeter. Overall, Horton must improve upon his finishing ability when going to the glass and put on more weight so that he can better absorb contact.

Gary Flowers- Flowers was a huge disappointment in this contest, as he looked sluggish on both ends of the floor. Not only did he allow Conklin to receive deep post position, but he also was slow hedging to perimeter shooters. Mentally, his game just was not there. In certain instances, he seemed more concerned about the player rolling to the basket, despite the fact that the said player had not scored yet. Therein, he allowed several players to receive wide open perimeter shots and was sent to the bench for long stretches in the second half. Standing at 6'8, Flowers is a skilled power forward who can shoot the ball from beyond the three point line. While he was not effective at hitting outside jumpers in this one, Flowers has shot an impressive 50% from beyond the three point arc. Flowers is also an excellent face up player who is able to contort his body and finish past slower big men. His handle is also solid when attacking the basket. Despite these strengths, Flowers must improve upon his low post game- he was unable to really establish low block position against Saint Louis. Further, he does need to improve upon his current set of back-to-the-basket moves in order to really impress scouts and land a potential contract down the road.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Utah vs. Butler- Prospects of Note


Will Clyburn- JUCO transfer Clyburn is the heart and soul of this revamped Utah Utes squad. This 6'7 forward is a potential NBA wing with solid size and length. While he may need to tighten his handle, he is an adequate slasher at the college level due to his athleticism and crafty body control. Clyburn has a rather varied skillset and is able to play on the perimeter as well. He is hitting his three point shots at a 44% clip early in the season. If he can continue to shoot at such high percentages, he will most certainly receive some looks from scouts. While he is currently a physical, aggressive presence on the offensive end, Clyburn may want to add some weight so that he can continue to absorb contact at the next level. Clyburn is also a solid free throw shooter who has decent mechanics on his shot, and has a rather consistent stroke. On the defensive end of the floor, he is able to lock down his man with his quick hands and decent lateral quickness. He still needs to continue to develop his team defense in order to improve as a help defender. While this contest against Butler reveals that Clyburn may have some potential as an NBA prospect, he must continue to play with the same consistency in order to cause some noise in the Mountain West.

Josh Watkins- Watkins is another JUCO transfer who is an adequate point guard option for the Utes. He is a slasher that is able to attack the basket with reckless abandon. Watkins possesses an excellent first step, and is able to blow by defenders virtually at will. He also has decent court vision, but he must cut down on his turnovers in order to be effective. Watkins can play out-of-control at times when attacking the basket, and this has really taken away from his value as a lead guard. Given, he is still adjusting to Division 1 basketball, and should improve upon his decision making considerably by the end of the year. Watkins also needs to work on his consistency shooting from the field if he hopes to land a contract after graduation.


Matt Howard- Since last season's tournament run, Howard has really developed his body and shed unnecessary weight. He is now as mobile as ever, and is better able to absorb contact in the paint. These improvements will really allow him to adjust and potentially fill a role player slot at the next level. Howard will always bring hustle and aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. With that said, his frame will never allow him to put on a significant amount of additional weight. However, he is extremely skilled on the block and is able to maneuver around slower big men. His footwork is solid for the collegiate level and he is intelligent enough to know when and when not to look for his shot. Howard is able to employ a nice drop step and pivot to beat his man, and has added a jump hook shot to compliment his aforementioned post moves. Due to his size improvements and the loss of Hayward, Howard is pulling down more rebounds than he had in any previous season. Moreover, he has extended his range, and now relies on a more perfected outside stroke, which he is shooting at a 56% rate early in the season. On the defensive end, Howard is excellent at moving his feet and drawing charges. However, he has difficulty against bigger, more athletic offensive big men who are able to shoot over the top of him or beat him off the dribble. If he ever expects to make an NBA roster down the road, Howard will have to seriously improve his post defense. Overall, this undersized power forward will receive some looks from scouts do to the noticeable improvements he has made coming into this year.

Ronald Nored- The one thing that can be said about Nored is that he is a consummate winner. While he may not possess the best athleticism or physical tools, Nored is a crafty guard who provides leadership on both ends of the floor. Normally known primarily as a defensive weapon, Nored demonstrated a nice range on his shot on one occasion in this contest. While this was the case against Utah, it is clear that this was an aberration for the most part, as he has struggled from beyond the arc his entire career- shooting a horrible 14% three-point percentage so far this year. With that said, Nored is able to attack the basket and sacrifice his body in order to get into the line. This was evident in this contest, where he had 5 trips to the "charity stripe". Defensively, Nored is one of the toughest defenders pound-for-pound in the country. He is extremely aggressive and possesses the necessary lateral quickness to defend at the next level. Still, do to his diminutive stature, he may struggle against bigger, taller players at the next level. They will be able to shoot over him because of his listed 6'0 height. Nored will have to continue to develop his offensive game if he wants a shot at professional basketball. The intangibles are there, but his play at this end of the floor lacks the necessary polish to achieve success at the next level.

Khyle Marshall- While this freshman did not receive the ball too often on the offensive end, Marshall was able to make an impact on putbacks and aggressive drives to the basket. In this matchup, Marshall displayed a knack for attacking the glass and was able to finish when given the ball in the post. He is still very raw and must improve upon his current go-to post moves in order to make more of an impact. Marshall also must extend his range if he hopes to transition to a wing position. Overall, this contest was an early look at one of the most promising freshman in the Horizon League. He still has a ways to go before he can consider the NBA, but he does have some promising physical tools.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Senior Spotlight Part 1

In the following analysis, we examine Houston's senior point guard Zamal Nixon.

After watching Houston's point guard Zamal Nixon play this season, several trends become evident. First, it is clear that he has accepted his role as a lead guard and initiator of the Cougar offense. Nixon is receiving nearly double the minutes that he had received a season ago, and it has shown in his overall productivity. In terms of passing, Nixon does not possess spectacular court vision that might alter the course of the game. However, he has an excellent understanding of his offensive sets and is ready and willing to execute them. Nixon often envisions plays two or three passes ahead, and thus some of his solid vision is not wholly reflected in his statistical totals. Moreover, he has a solid understanding of post entry passing, which is so crucial for his squad given the improvements Maurice McNeil has made coming into this year. Further, Nixon has a blindingly quick first step, which he uses to keep defenses off balance and attack the basket. He has been at his best this season when he drives to the rim and initiates contact for himself or dishes out to open perimeter shooters. If he can exploit this ability more often, he will quickly become the Cougars' most valuable player. This is especially necessary because their leading scorer Adam Brown has a poor handle and is more of a set shooter.

On the defensive end, Nixon is one of the most underrated defenders in the country. He gets extremely low in his stance and has very quick hands, as evinced by his 2.4 steals per game. Not only can Nixon get in the passing lanes on occasion, but he is also willing to stand in and take a charge. Overall, Nixon is undoubtedly the defensive leader of his squad- as his tenacity and willingness to sacrifice his body have provided Houston with numerous additional possessions.

While his defense is one of the trademarks of his game, it should be noted that his aggressiveness on this end of the floor has somewhat limited his offensive production. There have been countless possessions where Nixon has not received much lift on his three point attempts late in the game. Most of these shots fall short, partially accounting for why he shoots a paltry 26% from beyond the arc. Thus, it can be said that he needs to work on his endurance in the offseason, especially considering how many additional minutes he has played this season relative to year's past. In general, Nixon must improve upon his perimeter shooting if he wants to receive a professional contract. He should be able to increase these percentages dramatically given the fact that he has shown a nice form at the free throw line, where he has shot over 90% this season. It should also be noted that Zamal's tendencies are very predictable when scouted correctly, as he drives left the vast majority of the time. He needs to vary the direction of his drives to the basket if he wants to throw more structured defenses off balance.

Overall, Zamal Nixon possesses the intangibles to really improve upon his current skillset. He must spend more time watching film in order to critically examine how he can exploit his superior first step and shooting form. He needs to make adjustments relatively soon, or his Houston team will hover around .500 for the remainder of the season. Despite being a senior, it is clear that Nixon still has room to grow as a floor general from a professional perspective. While he may be raw at this point, Zamal should receive a contract with a D League team next year, and may earn some extended looks at Portsmouth Camp if he can turn around Houston's fortunes in conference play. This is certainly possible given how he has adjusted to his role so far.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stephen F Austin vs. University of Arts and Sciences College

In this contest, Stephen F. Austin dominated from the get-go and was able to secure a victory on their home floor.

University of Arts and Sciences (Oklahoma)

Sahlih Butts- This wing was able to get in the lane and create off the dribble. He is constantly low to the ground and therein, it is difficult to steal the ball from him when he attempts to attack the basket. Butts also hit shots from beyond the arc at a pretty consistent clip when left open. He has solid range for a guard and is able to really penetrate off the dribble. When he does this, he is a willing pass and looks to create for his teammates. On the defensive end, Butts has a low stance and was able to lock down his opponents. Butts is also a capable rebounder, even on the offensive end. Overall, Butts is a tough player who plays bigger than his height would indicate. Down the road, he could become a formidable weapon for a minor league squad.

Aaron Daniels- While this senior did not look to score much on the offensive end, he was a willing facilitator. Despite his teams' struggles against a Division 1 opponent, Daniels must look to provide experience and score in order to supplement the production of Butts.

Stephen F Austin

Jordan Glynn- Glynn is an effective, undersized post presence who was able to demonstrate a nice offensive repertoire in the paint today. He implemented a nice drop step and jump hook, which he used to keep defenses off balance. Glynn has a decent medium range jump shot and is able to back his way into the paint at the college level. On the defensive end, Glynn is able to bang with players much larger than him. Look for Glynn's efficient production to really be a determinant of how far this Stephen F Austin team can go this season.

Eddie Williams- Eddie is an undersized shooting guard who can create his own shot. In this contest, he struggled to find his range, but was able to play within himself. When Williams is not hitting three point shots or slashing to the basket, he focuses his efforts on the defensive end. Williams was able to limit Butts' and others' production.

Denzel Barnes- He is the captain of this Lumberjack squad who is a willing distributor and an excellent three point shooting option. Barnes was efficient in this contest and looked to get the ball to his young wings.

Jereal Scott- Scott was able to match Glynn's production inside and really worked to control the glass in this contest. Scott was able to box out and effectively seal his man in order to grab rebounds. He was physical posting the ball up as well, and powered his way inside.

Amos Olatayo- This freshman displayed an efficient jump shot and was able to create off the dribble. This recruit played within himself and looked for his shot within the team offensive scheme.

Brandon Cutler- The 6'8 transfer was able to dominate on the glass and utilize his skill level to score on smaller opponents. Cutler was a solid defensive presence as well, but he will need to limit his aggressiveness at times so that he can stay out of foul trouble. This is an adjustment one can expect the transfer to make over the course of the season.

D League Notes: Maine Red Claws vs. Austin Toros

-Kevin Palmer is an efficient scorer who can hit his open three point shots. He did not force the issue and scored in a variety of ways off the curl etc. Look for him as a call-up candidate this season. His handle seems to have improved a bit since his college days and he was able to get out in transition.

-Marcus Cousin has demonstrated noticeable improvements from his college days. He was the first player in this contest to reach double figures, and he has fought on the glass all night long. Not only did he dominate Gallon and Rolle on the glass, but he also stepped out and hit the medium range jumper. Looks like a call-up candidate to me.

-Paul Harris is his usual self- corralling offensive rebounds and utilizing his tremendous athleticism. He has excellent hang time and slashing instincts. One noticeable change has been Harris's work on his shooting form on free throws. While his outside shots are still flat, his form looks a little better. He still has a ways to go before he can play in the league as a shooting guard, but he is extremely explosive and is able to get by defenders.

-Michael Joiner is a valuable team player who is a willing passer and an excellent rebounder. He has a nice ability to step out and hit the jumper as well. He is a physical presence on both ends of the floor. Joiner was one of the most impressive team options because he was able to hustle to loose balls and create extra possessions for his team.

-Magnum Rolle tried to do too much in this contest. He did a poor job boxing out on the glass, and took away from his team's effort. He shot one-and-done jumpers and was unable to convert on any of them. With that said, he does still have tremendous athleticism and potential on the defensive end.

-Thomas Gardner is a pretty intelligent veteran who was able to attack the basket when his shot was not falling. He is a willing passer and team player, but needs to be more consistent shooting his jumper if he is going to receive any 10 day contracts this season. He looked to take over the game down the stretch.

-Cardell Johnson plays within himself and is a solid point guard. Defensively,he is extremely aggressive, but players are able to shoot over him due to his small size.

-Champ Oguchi could have been one of the more consistent jump shooters in this contest. He answered in this game and hit several threes down the stretch for his team. Oguchi is a strong guard who can absorb contact attacking the basket.

-Eugene Spates was extremely impressive scoring the ball inside and being aggressive. He was one of the best weapons in the post for the Red Claws.

-Lewis Clinch has a very quick first step and is unselfish with the basketball. Whether or not he has a defined NBA position remains to be seen.

-Lawrence Westbrook is a good shooter but he needs to play under control.

-Lance Thomas was still playing team basketball in this one- drawing charges and tallying rebounds.

-Tiny Gallon has a lot of potential and will probably make the NBA within the next few years. His footwork is fairly underrated for a player his size, and he is mobile considering his build. Gallon needs to continue to cut weight in order to be able to match up with some of the quicker big men of the NBA. Gallon was able to collect rebounds, but he did turn the ball over and got outplayed by Cousin.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Houston Baptist vs. Alaska Anchorage

In this close contest, the home squad at the Great Alaska Shootout got the win.

Houston Baptist

Andrew Gonzalez- This thin wing did not flash the potential that he evinced in previous contests. He shot poorly from the floor and turned the ball over primarily due to his poor ball handling. As a senior, he does not possess the muscle mass to play as a professional basketball player. He must hit the weight room so that he can assert himself physically- this will allow him to be stronger with the basketball. Despite his underdeveloped frame, Gonzalez is able to draw contact when he is not struggling with foul trouble. Despite his early season shooting, Gonzalez needs to develop physically in order to make an impact at the next level, which will probably be in a minor league somewhere.

Michael Moss- Moss is a diminutive point guard who is feisty on the defensive end. In this contest, he was effective passing the ball and was an essential part of the HBU half court press. Moss has a pretty jump shot, which he showcased in this game. He is able to get his feet set and spot up when driving to the basket. Defensively, Moss creates turnovers with his aggressiveness and anticipation. If he wishes to play beyond this year, he might be able to make a PBL roster.

Miles Dixon- This guard shot well from the floor and was able to penetrate in the lane. Dixon was also aggressive on the defensive end and was able to collect two steals against UAA. He generally played within control, but should have demanded the ball more on offense. His turnovers did hurt the team though. Look for his development over the next couple of years.

Alaska Anchorage

Brandon Walker- Walker had a standout game and was able to shoot the ball well from beyond the arc, hitting 4 out of 7 three point shots. He also controlled the tempo for most of the game, and was able to pass out of traffic. Even though this occurred most of the time, he did succumb to the solid HBU perimeter defense at times. With that said, Walker was able to limit HBU's guards and was solid on the defensive end.

Mario Gill- This guard had a solid game and was able to score inside against HBU's frontline. Gill played way taller than his 6'2 size and was able to collect 9 rebounds. Normally, he is a solid three point shooter who can fill it up from beyond the arc, but he had an off game here. Gill has solid athleticism and nice physical tools, which he uses to exploit defenses.

Taylor Rohde- Rohde got into foul trouble and was not as much of a factor as he normally is on the offensive end. However, he was able to rebound well and play within himself when his team had the ball. Rohde should improve his handle and work on asserting himself more on the offensive end. Defensively, he was not particularly effective and tended to make silly plays on the ball.

Oklahoma vs. Chaminade

In this prolific upset, the Silverswords were able to will their sixth all-time victory at the Maui Invitational. Led by diminutive point guard Steven Bennett, this Chaminade squad was ready for an inexperienced Sooners squad who struggled shooting the basketball.


Steven Bennett- Standing at a minuscule 5'6, Steven Bennett is a tiny basketball player at any level of the game. Despite his small stature, Bennett plays with just about as much heart as any player in the country. A favorite teammate and a floor general, Bennett has been proving doubters wrong his entire career. Add this contest as another notch on his belt. Bennett was able to blaze by his defenders virtually at will, and use tremendous body control to contort his body and finish. Despite the degree of difficulty on most of his inside shots, Bennett was able to score at a fairly high clip when getting in the paint. When shooting jumpers, however, Bennett's shot was somewhat flat and he failed to connect on both of his three point attempts. With that said, Bennett allowed his offense to come to him and was able to take over in the closing seconds because of the patience he displayed on the offensive end. When he was not scoring the ball, he was effective at involving his teammates- in particular, shooter Shane Hanson. Projecting his game to the next level, Bennett does not have the strength to play in the NBA. However, he may receive some looks from teams overseas to fill a role similar to that of former Bonnies guard Marques Green.

Mamadou Diarra- After transferring from USC, Diarra looks to be coming into his own with an increased role in the offense. He is a go-to threat for his Chaminade squad, as there are not too many 7 foot interior threats at the Division 2 level. In this contest, Diarra was able to seal his defenders in the paint and shoot jump hooks over them. Not only is he rebounding the basketball, but he also seems to be improving on his post footwork, which is still a work in progress. Diarra has outstanding size and length on the defensive end of the floor. NBA teams should give him an extra look at the Portsmouth Invitational next season, as he has the physical tools and developing post game to be an effective role player off the bench. He is still very raw, but an NBA team could take a flier on him.

Shane Hanson- Hanson is a three point specialist who really caught fire in this contest. At 6'6, Hanson was able to find open spots on the floor and nail shots far beyond the arc. He was also able to rebound the ball decently well on the offensive end. If Hanson can work on his defense, he may receive some looks either in lower European leagues or by American minor league squads.


Cade Davis- Davis was the lone player helping the Sooners to stay in the game. He displayed an effective three point shot which he used to keep defenses honest. Also, he did an excellent job moving without the ball, curling around screens and either pulling up or slashing to the basket. Davis is not particularly quick or athletic, but he possesses a high basketball IQ, which was on full display in this contest. Davis is fairly effective shooting off the dribble and squaring his body to the basket. His role on the Sooners is highly reminiscent of Rip Hamilton's play for the Pistons. Defensively, Davis is aggressive, but he is not particularly quick laterally. Davis should receive some looks from scouts at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament because he is a highly intelligent basketball player. However, he will not receive play-calls for him in the league, and thus may be a system player. Therein, his best bet may be to play overseas and obtain a major role on a Euroleague team.

Andrew Fitzgerald- After making improvements in his transition from freshman to sophomore, Fitzgerald struggled to really assert himself on the block in this contest, scoring most of his points off of putbacks. Fitzgerald needs to try to establish more post position. He does possess an outside jumper which he could improve upon over the next few years. Also, he is fairly athletic, but needs to be more physical inside and grab rebounds. In this contest, he got into foul trouble and was not much of a factor. It will be interesting to see how Fitzgerald improves over the next few years.

Non-BCS Standouts Part 1- UNLV vs. Tulsa

This contest was decided in the second half after the UNLV Rebels put their tremendous experience and defensive pressure on display. Not only does the majority of their backcourt remain in tact, but they also have added some height and strength inside. UNLV is a strong candidate to make the NCAA tournament again. On the other end, Tulsa is looking to rebuild after losing Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh to graduation.


Chase Stanback- This 6'8 UCLA transfer could be the best NBA prospect in the Mountain West conference. (along with Kawhi Leonard) He is a tall, lengthy wing who can step out and hit the perimeter jumper and also attack the basket. While he should look to improve his handle, Stanback is a handful from beyond the arc and uses this ability to keep defenses honest. In general, Stanback is a solid athlete who should be able to translate at the next level. On the defensive end, Chase is capable of defending multiple positions. He is fairly quick laterally, and can get his hands in the passing lanes. Overall, Stanback is a pretty complete player who needs to develop physically in order to handle the superior strength and athleticism of NBA opponents. If Stanback can continue his shooting from beyond the arc, he should be in consideration for the first round in this year's draft.

Derrick Jasper- Jasper is a powerful guard/forward who is capable of attacking the basket or crashing the boards for an offensive rebound and putback. Jasper is extremely aggressive inside, and is a capable three point shooting threat. Offensively, he does not have the quickest first step, but he is still able to consistently throw defenses off balance. Jasper is a hustle player who runs the floor and exerts maximum effort on the defensive end. At this stage of his career, Jasper simply needs to be more consistent on the offensive end in order to get looks at the next level. Jasper does not have a defined position, and it will be interesting to see how he measures at the Portsmouth pre-draft combine. All in all, Jasper does not have a defined position and lacks the quickness to keep defenses honest at the NBA level. However, he does have the desire and skill level to be effective if he is able to elevate his game next year. Look for him to gain experience in the D League before he receives any looks from NBA squads.

Carlos Lopez- This 6'11 freshman forward may have a future as an NBA prospect if he is able to develop physically. Lopez possesses the frame to put on a good deal of weight. Currently, he plays with tenacity and is aggressive attacking the basket. His post repertoire is not fully developed, and he needs to improve his go-to post moves. On the other end, Lopez has a great deal of potential with his size and length. He is able to play positional defense, but needs to learn how to stay out of foul trouble. Look for Lopez to be on draft radars over the next couple of years.


Steven Idlet- NBA scouts are giving this 7 footer a look because of his soft touch and physical profile. Idlet is capable of stepping out and hitting the perimeter jump shot just inside the college three point arc. If he were to audition for the NBA, he would have to extend his range. Idlet also has a nice post game that could still stand to be more effective. He must develop more counter moves and look to establish post position more aggressively. However, this will always be an area of weakness for Idlet at the next level because of his lack of lower body development. On the defensive end, Idlet is unafraid of bigger players and is a capable positional defender as well. He also has decent lateral mobility for a player his size. Despite these strengths, Idlet is still a major project because of his thin build and extremely poor rebounding ability for a player his size. If he wants to be considered by scouts, he must corral more lose balls and grab some rebounds for his team.

Scottie Haralson- Haralson is another big guard in the typical Tulsa mold- similar to Hurtt and Udoh before him. He is a capable three point shooter, but is somewhat undersized. He can get in the paint and hit the runner as well. Despite these strengths, Haralson should look to be more consistent on both ends of the floor- he has a tendency to become complacent in games. He must demand the ball at times and look to shoot whenever there is an opening. Haralson may receive some NBA looks down the road, as he is only a sophomore.

Justin Hurtt- Hurtt is the unquestioned leader of his Tulsa squad who must look to run the point if he has any hopes of playing at the next level. While he is a capable shooter, Hurtt must look to facilitate for his teammates and let his offense come to him. Hurtt is extremely strong and is able to aggressively attack the basket and draw contact. He should improve upon his poor assist to turnover ratio and continue to attack the basket. Hurtt is a typical tweener who could receive an invitation to Portsmouth Camp, but this is not a guarantee unless he is able to lead Tulsa to a postseason appearance.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Minor League Fantasy Basketball Team: Elmwood Park Tree Frogs

Elmwood Park Tree Frogs

Arena: New Arena Plan because of a lack of basketball venues in area

Marketing Plan: To use promotions to the fullest to appeal to different clientele in Bergen County. Placed in a more urban town, on Route 46, our location is at the crossroad of Paterson and the more upscale residents in the Bergen County markets. In order to draw more fans, we would have to bring in promotions for different local artists who may be popular in the area to perform at halftime. We would like to attract different target markets by arranging the mini-arena so that there can be different price points for seating, such that we can attract different classes of people to the same venue. We would like to attract particular demographic audiences, so we might want to have half time shows dedicated to a particular culture- preferably either the long-standing Italian cultural presence or the growing Spanish population in the area, depending on the night.

The major objective in placing this team at its current location is to bring together crowds from both the up-scale neighborhoods of New Jersey, while also offering season tickets so that other working class families can attend. We have a broad marketing strategy, but are looking to attract niche markets whenever we cater to a specific group through our half time performers and special nights.

In the offseason, the facility would be rented out for high school sports in the Bergen County area. Further, the arena should be such that it can support more sports than basketball. Such a multi-functional arena could serve as a venue for sports clubs across the area, and top teams might travel to practice at this facility- there are quite a bit of private schools in the surrounding area to draw from. Moreover, we are looking to attract some good family fun following the exodus of the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, which we have identified as a market opportunity. With limited professional basketball options in the immediate area, individuals and families alike may travel to see a game if the franchise is promoted effectively enough. College basketball has yet to make a resurgence in the Tri-State area and thus, Elmwood Park would be a prime location for a community oriented minor league squad.

In terms of the style of play: we are going to have depth at every possible position and try to have notable team chemistry. That means that we are going to bring in some system players to fill late-draft roster spots. Management has experience in promoting minor league basketball in the past, and we hope that we can continue to be successful.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. Texas A&M

The outcome of this contest was determined from the get-go. The Aggies pushed the pace early and were able to take advantage of the Islanders' weak transition defense. They exploited several matchups inside in transition. Early on, Justin Reynolds left the game with a hand injury.

The Islanders were able to create some turnovers and attack the basket. However, they often overdribbled into traffic, and made some poor passes. In particular, they made far too many post feeds into a sea of defenders. Also, the Islanders tended to turn the ball over way too frequently. For the Aggies, their offense came in spurts. Every time the Islanders went on a run, the Aggies would storm back into the game on points off of turnovers.

The Aggies big men outrebounded the Islanders' frontcourt in the first half. They possessed some nice set plays to free up jump shooters. They do have some weapons from beyond the arc, including Nathan Walkup and BJ Holmes who shot the ball well and were able to run around picks for open shots.

More impressive than their perimeter shooting was the athleticism of the Aggies' bigs- Middleton and Roberson. They really controlled the paint in the first half and rebounded the ball, particularly on the defensive end. They played tough defense on Bond, Reynolds, and Watt as well.

Player Evaluations


Demond Watt- Watt was one of the few bright spots on this Islanders squad. He was physical on both ends of the floor and really asserted himself in the second half. He again displayed his drop step and quick slashing moves to the basket. Watt is fairly agile and able to get around most defenders, even when he is on the baseline. He shot a higher percentage from the line in this contest, and was able to get there often thanks to his aggressive basketball instincts. Overall, Watt looks like a borderline case for the Portsmouth Invitational. He is a bit undersized, and he has not demonstrated any midrange game. If he can improve on that and not turn the ball over as he did tonight, Watt might receive some looks.

Terrence Jones- Jones helped the Islanders stay in the game early by attacking the basket relentlessly. Not only did he display a decent handle when driving, he was also able to hit open bigs in the paint. Despite this, he turned the ball over far too often, and must work on this before he can be considered a pure point guard at the college level. Jones did not look to shoot much from the perimeter, but had a nice first step, which he exploited at every possible instance. Jones will have to improve his game in order to provide some stability for the Islanders because they turned the ball over far too frequently.

Texas A&M:

Kourtney Roberson- This freshman made an immediate impact on the floor today and could be one of the top youngsters in the Big 12. Roberson has a very strong physique and thus does not have the appearance of a typical freshman. He weighs 230 pounds, and is extremely physical inside- corralled rebounds and playing hard nosed man to man post defense. Given his strength, Roberson is able to contort his body on post ups and absorb contact inside. He was able to run with the Aggies when they pushed the tempo. Early on in his career, Roberson has the physical attributes of an NBA power forward. He needs to further develop his post game and continue to be assertive on the defensive end. But, he should receive looks from scouts almost immediately.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

An Islanders Sneak Preview: Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. Northeastern St.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. Northeastern St.

In this matchup, TAMCC was fairly effective in the first half, hitting several three pointers and shutting down most of Northeastern St.'s weapons on the offensive end. Reynolds and Bond were solid in the post and Topps was hitting on all cylinders. In the second half, however, Northeastern St. mounted a comeback led by their star Dominique Gaines. During this time, Northeastern St. players were scoring, while TAMCC players were pushing the ball inside and getting fouled. When they failed to convert on almost all of their free throws, they allowed their once 20 point lead to dwindle down to single digits. Ultimately, the Riverhawks' offensive stride was cut short, however, by Horace Bonds' solid defense and Watt's block on Gaines to effectively end the contest.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi Scouting Report

Demond Watt- Watt headlines the Islanders' returnees and should take on a leadership role in his senior season. Watt is a physical presence on the inside, who has a nice drop step and spin move. His jump hook is also fairly effective in the lane. He also tends to attack the glass with reckless abandon. Possessing a solid frame at 6'7, Watt can overpower most midmajor big men. However, it will be interesting to see how he fairs against some bigger frontlines. In the past, he has been effective because of his high post skill level and ability to hit the quick jumper in the paint. On the defensive end, Watt compensates for his lack of height by playing physically and blocking shots off help defense scenarios. Moreover, Watt can pass the ball and generally possesses a solid basketball IQ. In order to be effective at any higher level of basketball, however, Watt will have to achieve more consistency on his outside jumper and work to extend his range. Finally, his free throw shooting has been very poor despite his solid form. He must perfect this before he can play at any higher level of basketball.

Justin Reynolds- Reynolds is a bruising 6'9 interior player with an NBA ready body. He can bang with high major players and is a capable rebounder, particularly on the offensive end. In the post, he has some decent spin moves, but should improve some of his repertoire. He is able to draw fouls at a high rate, but rarely converts at the line. While is shooting form is somewhat effective, as evinced by his occasional three point makes, Reynolds has a tendency to not put enough arc on his shot. If he can improve the consistency of his perimeter shooting and make more of his free throw attempts, Reynolds could easily become a 15 point per game player. Defensively, Reynolds can be effective when he utilizes his superior size and strength. However, he does have momentary lapses where he allows an opposing big man to establish low post position. As it currently stands, while Reynolds has the physical profile of an NBA talent, he currently has some holes in his game which he needs to fix in order to be considered by a professional squad.

Garland Judkins- This Arizona transfer has made an immediate impact, particularly on the defensive end. Judkins has an extremely strong upper body and thus is able to absorb contact while attacking the basket. He is a capable midrange shooter and is crafty when getting in the lane. On the defensive end, Judkins plays hard and has been able to corral some loose balls and force turnovers. Despite this, Judkins is not particularly quick laterally and may struggle to defend some speedy guards. Overall, Judkins has made a nice impact early in the season, and it will be interesting to see how his role evolves by the end of the season.

Antonio Topps- Topps is the new point guard of this Islanders squad. He has waited his turn for three years and now is finally starting to see some minutes as a lead guard. While Topps is not an NBA prospect, he is a decent option for the Islanders because he plays unselfishly and tends to revert to Clarks' offensive sets. Early in the season, Topps has evinced an improved three point shot. He is not particularly effective off the dribble, but he can hit open jump shots. Given the loss of sharpshooter and All Southland performer Kevin Palmer, Topps is going to have to shoot the ball more frequently from beyond the arc. While Topps' experience and leadership are valuable on the offensive end, it is his defense which will be his primary contribution. Topps possesses solid lateral quickness, as he constantly faceguards opposing teams' best perimeter players. Antonio has quick hands and can get in the passing lanes when necessary. Ultimately, Topps is one of the more complete role players on this squad because he plays within himself. If he continues to improve, I see no reason why he could not play in a league like the PBL down the road.

Horace Bond- Bond is a versatile player who is capable of playing multiple positions. In this contest, Perry Clark inserted him in a lineup alongside bigs Demond Watt and Justin Reynolds and he was effective on both ends of the floor. More specifically, his defensive prowess allows him to guard anyone, from a 2 to 5. Such a versatile, experienced presence is exactly what the Islanders are in dire need of. On the offensive end, Bond likes to slip under the basket for layups either through screens or on baseline cuts. Bond attempted to perfect his three point shot over the summer, but this area still remains a work in progress. However, you will see him occasionally step out and hit the open three if he is uncontested.

Jawan Nelson- He is a lumbering post presence that tends to overpower people inside. Nelson can be effective on the glass at times, and is a solid option off the bench. Look for him to take on a major role for the Islanders after the departures of most of their frontline a year from now.

Northeastern St. Scouting Report

Dominique Gaines- Gaines is one of the more explosive guards in Division 2 basketball. He has excellent body control and is able to alter his shot in mid air. Because of these abilities, Gaines is an excellent slasher. The lefty is able to stop and go, and can hit the pull up jump shot- something that is missing for most players at the college level. Gaines' offensive repertoire is very advanced for a division 2 player. He plays within himself and is a willing passer. Despite being only 6'2, Gaines may be able to play either the shooting or point guard positions. If he wants to increase his pro prospects, he will have to bring the ball down the floor more often and look to penetrate and pass to his teammates. Gaines is fairly athletic and thus is an exceptional rebounder for his size. All in all, Gaines is a player that may receive some looks at Portsmouth Camp this
year because of his lightning fast first step and his developed offensive game.

Antoine Branch- This lightning bug point guard is apt at attacking the basket. He has a quick first step, which he uses to exploit opponents off the dribble. Branch is also an excellent shooter when he can find a rhythm on the move. He is capable of making some difficult shots against hard nosed defenders. Branch can play a role as a specialist behind the arc. He is capable of hitting the long ball on the move. He must improve in his role as a facilitator, despite the fact that his Northeastern St. team relies heavily on perimeter play and does not have a player on their roster that is taller than 6'7.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Big East Season Preview

1. Pittsburgh- At the top of this list, you have to rank the Pittsburgh Panthers amongst the top ten teams in the nation. Their team defense and overall chemistry on this end were remarkable a season ago. In order to be in top form, Ashton Gibbs will have to continue his productive shooting and improve as a facilitator. Further, the early season playing time that Travon Woodall received a year ago should allow him to shoulder much of the point guard responsibilities. Gibbs will see some looks as the lead guard as well. Also returning in the backcourt are senior wings Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown. Look for Gary McGhee to lock down opposing bigs, and Dante Taylor to develop into a solid post option.

2. Villanova- This team's season starts and stops with its point guard play. Maalik Wayns and Corey Fisher look to really push the tempo and dominate slashing to the basket. Fisher has improved most aspects of his game including his jump shot. Wayns has bulked up over the summer in order to better absorb contact in the lane. Look for both to compete for all Big East awards. Also returning for Villanova is senior Corey Stokes, who can fill it up from beyond the arc. Look for Stokes to pound the ball inside more frequently this season. Athletic sophomore wing Dominic Cheek has also begun to fill out his frame, and should be a much more dynamic slashing presence. On the interior, Antonio Pena brings his usual post production. Rounding out the starting lineup is Mouphtaou Yarou, who will build on his productivity late last season. Wildcards Isaiah Armwood and James Bell should be impact players off the bench. This team clearly possesses the most upside in the Big East. The development of Fisher and Wayns should guarantee a top 4 spot in this conference. But, the development of Yarou as a viable NBA prospect should determine how far in the tournament this team goes.

3. Syracuse- While this team lost a lot in Rautins, Wes Johnson, and Onuaku, they bring in two of the top freshman recruits in the Big East- Dion Waiters and big man Fab Melo. Look for Fab to be in contention for freshman of the year, with his developing post game and huge frame. Couple this new big man with rugged senior Rick Jackson, and you have all the pieces for a successful Big East run. The Syracuse backcourt is extremely talented as well, and possesses a lot more depth. Backcourt mates Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche return for another shot at a Big East title. And, you can expect Brandon Triche to undergo a notable transformation this year following a promising freshman campaign. Despite these solid supporting parts, look for wings Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph to provide the most significant contribution for this team. Joseph will look to shoot the ball more efficiently, and Waiters will look to attack the basket with reckless abandon. All in all, the development of their wings and freshman big man Melo will determine how high this team finishes in the Big East.

4. Marquette- This ranking may come as a surprise to some due to the loss of do-it-all forward Lazar Hayward, who is now with the TWolves. However, the return of sharpshooting guards Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler means that Marquette's three point onslaughts will continue to plague Big East opponents. Johnson-Odom should experience an increased role in the offense, and Dwight Buycks may also receive more touches. Promising freshman Vander Blue's development will really be the X factor for this team at the point guard position. His ability to distribute the ball and mature as a Big East guard will determine how far this Golden Eagles squad can go. Also key to this team's success will be the improved Marquette frontcourt, which features Joseph Fulce, Erik Williams, and newcomers Jamail Jones and Jae Crowder. Their ability to rebound the basketball is going to be critical following the loss of Hayward.

5. West Virginia- At the number five slot, there is somewhat of a drop-off in terms of quality. While this team does return the vast majority of its core, they did lose their two best players. The losses of Butler and Ebanks relegate this team to a lower position in the Big East standings. Despite this, WVU returns their two experienced point guards for another year- Joe Mazzula and Darryl Bryant. Throw in improved star big man Kevin Jones and a fine supporting cast and you have another top 5 Big East team. Look for the success of this squad to depend on the health at the point guard position, and the improvements offensively on the wing. Jonnie West and Dalton Pepper should see adequate minutes, and thereby must put points on the board. Sharpshooter Casey Mitchell must play consistent defense, or Huggins will continue to sit him regardless of his offensive prowess. Look for freshman guard Noah Cottrill to see some minutes off the bench. In the frontcourt, Deniz Kilicli should improve his offensive output. His increased production alongside star big man Kevin Jones would once again give WVU one of the most formidable frontcourts in the Big East.

6. Seton Hall- After suffering major setbacks in Big East play a year ago, the Pirates return the vast majority of their talent. Standout big man Herb Pope should once again average a double double with this year's thinner frontcourt. Expect him to have an impact on both ends and really demonstrate that he is an all Big East talent. Following SHU's coaching change, look for Jeremy Hazell to play a little bit more under control, but continue to score in spurts. His heroics will determine how far this team can go once again. Also, Seton Hall's point guard responsibilities will be shared by veteran transfer Keon Lawrence and improving Jordan Theodore. Jamel Jackson and newcomer Fuquan Edwin will make their presences felt off the bench. Finally, transfer Eniel Polynice will see a good deal of floor time, and should serve as another offensive weapon. And, look for chiseled, undersized forward Jeff Robinson to continue to hit midrange shots and attack the glass. This Seton Hall team is the same squad as from a year ago. Look for them to initially struggle with the coaching change, but to adapt come the Big East season.

7. St. John's- The Johnies return virtually everyone with the exception of Norm Roberts and oft-injured Anthony Mason Jr., who was recently competing at an NBA training camp. The heart and soul of this team rests with standout DJ Kennedy who should vie for all Big East awards by season's end. This experienced squad returns nine quality seniors, who should all see some action at one point or another. Diminutive point guard Malik Boothe is the floor general, who will do a solid job of distributing the ball to wings Kennedy, Paris Horne and Quincy Roberts. At the forward spots, Justin Brownlee and a healthy Justin Burrell should score in the paint and be a factor on the glass. Sean Evans and Dele Coker will also see time inside at the center position. Evans' shot selection and defense will determine how the Johnies fair against opponents with a strong frontcourt. If he plays poorly on this end, however, Lavin may opt to sacrifice offense for defense and put Coker in the game. If this team can remain healthy and buy into coach Lavin's system, they should be headed back to the NCAA tournament.

8. Georgetown- While this Georgetown team looks the same at its guard slots, it is going to miss NBA forward Greg Monroe, who was clearly their most valuable player. Given their collapse in the tournament a season ago and their off season during Greg Monroe's freshman campaign, I think that it is fair to assume that the Hoyas are a bubble team come March. Chris Wright, Jason Clark, and Austin Freeman make up one of the most versatile backcourts in the Big East. In the frontcourt, the development of Hollis Thompson is going to be the most critical for Georgetown's success this year. If Henry Sims and Julian Vaughn can provide some offense inside, this team may exceed expectations.

9. Notre Dame- This Notre Dame team is very similar to the Harangody-less squad that went on a pivotal run at the end of the season to secure an NCAA tournament bid. They feature an improved super senior in Tim Abromitis, sharp shooter/point guard Ben Hansbrough, and a healthy Scott Martin. These three will shoulder the majority of the offensive output this year. Newcomer Jerian Grant should also see some time off the bench. On the interior, Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash will have to play solid defense against some of the bigger post threats in the Big East conference. All in all, their successes on the defensive end coupled with Hansbrough's point guard play will determine how high Notre Dame can reach in the standings.

10. Cincinnati- The Bearcats are clearly the most unpredictable team in the Big East conference. While they lost their steady, go-to point guard and their star freshman from a year ago, they also return the vast majority of their team. Inside bruiser Yancy Gates is going to have to play more consistently this time round if the Bearcats are going to have a sniff at the NCAA tournament. Point guard Cashmere Wright is going to have to distribute the ball effectively and take over some scoring duties as well. Shooting guards Larry Davis and Dion Dixon should provide an effective scoring punch on the wings. And, Rashad Bishop will have to double his scoring output and improve his shooting efficiency for the Bearcats to be successful. Given, their ranking only stands if defensive standout Rashad Bishop is eligible to play. In the frontcourt, Gates will have to consistently put points on the board and Ibrahima Thomas will have to continue to hit jumpers and collect rebounds. Cincinnati added some muscle inside with freshman forwards Justin Jackson and Kelvin Gaines. It is my suspicion that this year's version of the Bearcats will evince greater team chemistry on both ends of the floor because they will be able to share the ball more and will not have such a heavy reliance on iso plays for Vaughn and Stephenson. Look for them to improve as the season carries on. They could either surprise everyone and make the tournament or sink to the bottom of the standings. It all depends on whether or not certain players can step up and carry this team on offense.

11. Connecticut- This year's biggest disappointment is going to be the UConn Huskies. Despite the chemistry issues Jerome Dyson brought to this team, his scoring output was needed for the Huskies' success. Now with his and Stanley Robinson's departure, Kemba Walker is the sole standout remaining. Walker should be one of the most dynamic players in the Big East this season, and his team is going to heavily rely on his ability to penetrate and dish. Look for freshman Jeremy Lamb to see significant time and contribute offensively. Also, look for Alex Oriakhi to improve considerably from a year ago, particularly in the post. Despite these other options, UConn places too much responsibility in the hands of Walker. While he should have a breakout season, this team's youth and lack of depth should contribute to their downfall. Finally, their team's postseason ban should at least partially inhibit their motivation in games.

12. Louisville- This Louisville squad has the best chance to prove me wrong of all the teams ranked. They should be solid defensively, especially on the perimeter. However, the losses of Jerry Smith, point guard Edgar Sosa, and star big man Samardo Samuels will probably be too much for this team to overcome. Expect Jared Swopshire and Peyton Silva to both have breakout seasons on the offensive end. And, experienced guard Preston Knowles should continue to fill it up from beyond the arc. However, the biggest question marks remain for their interior players- Terrance Jennings and Rakeem Buckles. If either of them can increase their offensive output and play solid interior defense, Lousville will exceed expectations.

13. South Florida- This South Florida team features solid interior play from forwards Jarrid Famous and Gus Gilchrist. Together they form one of the best front lines in the Big East. Despite this strength, South Florida lacks experience at the guard spots. The loss of Dominique Jones cannot be understated for a team that once firmly sat on the bubble a year ago. Look for freshman LaVonte Dority, Ohio St. transfer Anthony Crater, and JUCO transfers Shedrick Haynes and wing Hugh Robertson to try to fill this void.

14. Providence- This young Providence team does possess some talent. Freshman guard Gerard Coleman should contend for freshman of the year honors. He will be relied upon heavily on both ends of the floor to provide an immediate impact. Sophomore guard Vincent Council should see some time at the point guard slot. And, wing Marshon Brooks will be asked to do a little bit of everything- to score and rebound the ball for this undersized Providence squad. Overall, the dismissal of Jamine Peterson is going to be too difficult to overcome, especially in this transition season.

15. Rutgers- Mike Coburn remains the one permanent fixture amid the wave of transfers that Rutgers has experienced over the past four years. His steady play alongside guard James Beatty should help Rutgers to survive its non conference schedule. Despite Coburn's longevity, Dane Miller is an all Big East talent who will be the fact of Rutgers basketball in upcoming seasons. If sophomore Austin Johnson and freshman Gilvydas Biruta can control the paint and provide some offensive input, the future of Rutgers basketball will be bright.

16. Depaul- This team is far and away the worst squad the Big East has to offer. Guards Jeremiah Kelly, Mike Stovall, Tony Freeland, and Brandon Young should all make an impact, but come conference time, this team should not win a game.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grizzlies Draft 2010

After paying close attention to the Grizzlies' team this past season and intently following college basketball, the following is my list of players that I feel the Grizzlies should consider regardless of the position of their current picks. As I will elude to, I feel that management should swap several of their picks to trade down from the number 12 spot.

Hassan Whiteside- Whiteside is one of the greatest upside picks in the entire draft. Despite the fact that he was a 20 year old freshman, Hassan displayed an uncommon knack for blocking shots. Whiteside is one of the truly elite athletes in this year's draft class, as he possesses unique speed out in transition, and a quick leaping ability which allowed him to tally so many blocks this past season.

Offensively, Whiteside is still very raw, and he relies predominantly on his length and deceptive quickness to blow by his defenders. If this ability is harnessed at the next level, however, he has a chance to be a truly special NBA player. Moreover, while he has demonstrated some signs of solid post footwork, his lack of lower body strength really hurts him in establishing position on the block. At Marshall, there were critical moments this past season where he was unable to establish position in the post, and it really cost his squad. At the next level, this should pose somewhat of a problem for him because it will force him to move around more in order to become an effective post player. Obviously, due to his body-type, it is clear that he will never develop into a tremendous back-to-the-basket player. However, in the past, when he was able to move around and secure the post entry pass, Whiteside often successfully slipped past his defender on either side with a quick drop step move. From watching him extensively, one learns that he is often able to sneak past his defender because of his body type and overall quickness. Furthermore, Whiteside must continue to develop his post moves, as he does not display much variety in this facet of his game, relying predominately on a baby hook. Despite the aforementioned drawbacks, Whiteside possesses rather unique potential from the perimeter. He has a soft touch and a solid form on his shot, which really allows him to draw players out on the perimeter. Moreover, this will allow him to take advantage of his quickness through his face-up game. Such a style has worked in the past for such stars as Chris Bosh, and thereby, it is reasonable to believe that Whiteside's shortcomings should not completely hinder his ability to develop into a star at the next level. Undoubtedly, Whiteside is a raw prospect who has to put in a lot of work on the offensive end in order to actualize his potential. Due to his relatively weak handle, Whiteside's face-up game is not yet advanced enough to allow him to consistently blow by defenders in the league.

On the defensive end, Whiteside could very well become an elite shot blocker at the next level. Simply by relying on instincts alone, he was able to become the second leading shot blocker in the nation this past year. And, this was in his first college season, no less. Physically, Whiteside's 9'5 standing reach should allow him to immediately impact an NBA game as a help defender. With that said, he is going to have to improve his man-to-man defense in order to receive playing time at the next level. While he relies primarily on his length to contest shots, this is not going to be enough at the next level. In college, he often allowed stronger, more physical opponents to obtain post position way too low on the block. Derrick Caracter, for instance, was able to score virtually at will off of the catch against Whiteside. However, with the proper strength development program at the next level, one should expect his post position defense to improve dramatically. Furthermore, he needs to be more attentive on the defensive and generally work harder. He often seemed to lack the focus necessary to front the post and contest the catch in college. In time and with the proper team motivation, this should change as well.

All in all, there are only a handful of players with similar upside to Hassan Whiteside in this entire draft. Rumblings in the pre-draft are that he will slip to the 20's. As such, it is clear that the Grizzlies should capitalize on his current projections and trade down to draft him. While they already possess a shot blocking presence in Thabeet, Whiteside represents a deviation from previous draft strategy because he has a developing face up and outside shooting game, which will probably never be part of Thabeet's repertoire. For the Grizzlies organization, it is time to move forward after what retrospectively looks like a poor pick a season ago. Altogether, it is rather bullheaded and negligent for the Grizzlies' management to miss out on selecting a potential star simply due to the fact that his selection may immediately draw criticism because he outwardly resembles a similar pick from a year ago.

Quincy Pondexter
- Pondexter has some of the best upside of any senior prospect in this year's draft. The improvements that he evinced a year ago demonstrate that he is committed to actualizing his potential and getting better year in and year out.

On the offensive end, Pondexter is one of the most complete players in this draft right now. His jumper will be tremendously effective at the next level and will allow him to seamlessly transition to the small forward position. Moreover, Pondexter is most effective slashing from the baseline, and demonstrates the ability to effectively either bull his way inside, or quickly drive by his man with an excellent first step. Pondexter is one of the more crafty players inside and somewhat resembles a Paul Pierce during his college years at this point. (in body type and penchant for playing inside, not specifically in the faceup game) Similarly, Pondexter will have to transition to the perimeter, which he should be able to do given his play this past season. Pondexter is physically imposing and athletic enough to really be effective on the offensive end at the next level. The most glaring hole in his game at this stage is his long range shooting, which should develop in time.

Defensively, Pondexter is quick and physical enough to hold his own as a post defender against small forwards. However, it will be interesting to see if he can transition to more of a perimeter defense role. Given his athleticism, it should not be too difficult. However, because he has not had this role yet, it is clear that he will need an adjustment period. His height, at 6'6, is somewhat small for a small forward and should give him some difficulty guarding longer players such as Kevin Durant.

The Grizzlies could only be so lucky to see Pondexter fall to pick 25. According to buzz, Quincy has performed extremely well in workout settings and could very well be a sleeper pick to rise in this draft when it is all said and done. However, if he is available, the Grizzlies should take him immediately.

Lance Stephenson- With the last pick, number 28, the Grizzlies should select Stephenson or trade down to the second round to pick him up. Despite all the hype- both good and bad- coming into this college season, Lance performed somewhat well for a freshman even if he did not quite live up to expectations.

At Cincinnati, Lance was able to demonstrate his strengths and weaknesses on the offensive end. He has one of the best handles in this draft and is able to get to the hoop because of his crafty dribbling and elite strength. Even coming into the NBA, Lance will be able to use his physicality and chiseled body as a strength to throw off and create space against NBA defenders. After putting in some serious time in the offseason, Stephenson came to pre-draft camp and measured in at 227 pounds on only 9% bodyfat. For comparison, that means that Stephenson is inches shorter than the bulky Damion James, yet weighs the same amount with less body fat. Considering the fact that he was only in college for one season, this commitment to staying physically fit is rather remarkable. And, with more advanced physical training, one can only expect this to become more of a strength. Lance's physical tools should allow him to get his shot off more effectively and get to the basket. The difficulty, though, is that Stephenson is not an efficient shooter off the dribble at this stage in the game. He will need to make remarkable improvements in this area if he ever expects to see time on the floor. Still, because he is not yet as effective at creating separation from defenders, most scouts have interpreted this as a sign that he is not athletic enough to blow by opponents. While it is true that he is only a marginal athlete by NBA standards, his lane agility tests demonstrated that he was towards the middle of the pack amongst NBA prospects. This may indicate that he has made some strides already from his days at Cincinnati. Explosiveness will probably never be his greatest strength, but his ability to implement a change of pace dribble and an effective crossover should somewhat conceal this weakness at the next level. As a shooting guard, Lance will have to develop a long range shot as well because the abysmal 20% from beyond the arc that he shot in college will not suffice in the NBA.

Defensively, Lance does not possess elite lateral quickness, so he may struggle at times. Another point that must be made is that he is somewhat caught between the small forward and shooting guard positions. His handles and ball dominating mentality, along with his physical height, indicate that he would be more primed to be a lead guard at the 1 or 2. However, he is most effective on the inside and would probably better defend against NBA small forwards as opposed to shooting guards.

Lance's attitude has always been a major concern as well, and he tends to get down on himself during the course of the game. I think that one should note, though, that this says nothing about his work ethic or his willingness to learn the game. Many people have doubted him in the past, and he is ready now- more than ever- to adjust to a complimentary role. With that said, film shows that he is extremely ball dominant, and this cannot be at the next level at least until he develops an efficient perimeter shot. However, his form is relatively solid, and this part of his game may come in time. A relatively underrated aspect of the equation is his ability to effectively play isolation basketball. Against even the most elite competition in college, he was able to get off his shot. He struggled when the help defense came and teams converged on him. Thus, it can be said, that this aspect of his game may be more suited for the NBA rather than college because far fewer teams are going to target him as the primary weapon on offense.

The Grizzlies should select Stephenson because he has a unique skillset and a lot of room to improve. He is still very young, and taking a flyer on him this late in the 1st round or potentially second round (if they trade down) would be advisable because he is a high risk-high reward pick.

Scottie Reynolds- If the Grizzlies are able to secure a second round pick late in this draft through trade, they should select Scottie Reynolds. Offensively, he has become an extremely efficient player. After a remarkable year, it was clear that Scottie had molded himself into an extremely unselfish player and improved his basketball IQ tremendously over the past 4 years. Scottie is a solid shooter from the perimeter when his feet are set properly. His release is relatively quick and he is crafty at getting his shot off. Off the dribble, the major concerns from scouts have been that he will not be able to get a shot off against elite NBA defenders. However, college teams often geared their entire defenses towards Scottie. This will not happen in the NBA. As a complimentary player, he will receive some open looks from the perimeter, and he can knock these shots down. Moreover, he is much more adept off the dribble than scouts give him credit for. His vast array of fakes allowed him to get to the line virtually at will at the college level. This should not change in the NBA, as he is capable of making some difficult layups. Two major problems are that Scottie does not play above the rim, and that his athleticism limits his ability to get past defenders. While more of his shots may be blocked, Scottie does have the basketball IQ to play a ground game similar to that of Stephen Curry. Finally, there are concerns that Scottie is not a tremendous passer. The truth is that while he does not rack up a ton of assists, he often sees two to three passes ahead and makes the right plays in order to allow his team to come out on top. Defensively, Scottie is not an elite defender by any stretch because of his limited lateral quickness. However, his scrappy effort on the defensive end and overall basketball IQ should allow him to at least be a marginal defender at the next level.

The Grizzlies should take Scottie Reynolds late in the second round because he could very well become a decent spot up shooter and decision maker off the bench. He is an extremely smart player with a great work ethic, and these are qualities that the Grizzlies management should look for. At the very least, the Grizzlies could maintain his rights and allow him to develop his game overseas.