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.