Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Scouring the Nation (Part 6)

In this edition of "Scouring the Nation", I examine two of the top scorers in Division III- lead guards Matt Addison of Hardin-Simmons and Seth Anderson of Gustavus Adolphus College.

When watching Hardin Simmons's diminutive point guard Matt Addison, it becomes clear that he makes his impact felt on both ends of the floor night in and night out. Not only can he score the ball from virtually anywhere, but he is also a pesky defender. With that said, he certainly has limitations on this end. Standing at a mere 5'8, Addison is not much of an NBA prospect. However, he is lightning quick with an excellent first step and second gear.

On the offensive end, it is clear that Addison is a handful and certainly one of the top players outside of Division I. He can create his shot from virtually anywhere on the floor, and is particularly dangerous from 3 point range. Towards the end of the second half in his contest with Gustavus Adolphus, Addison connected on two big three pointers that almost single handedly evened up the game. On the year, Addison has proven to be an excellent marksman from distance, dialing in on 45.2% of his almost seven attempts per game. His consistency on this end will most assuredly guarantee him a spot on some squad overseas.

Not only is Addison dangerous from beyond the arc, but he also has a pull-up jumper in his arsenal. He regularly connects on this shot when defenses overplay him from beyond the arc. And, while his size certainly limits his ability to finish at the rim, he plays with an attacking mentality and is willing to finish through contact when going to the basket. Even more surprising is Addison's unselfishness and willingness to defer to his teammates. In his contest with Gustavus Adolphus, he regularly swung the ball around the perimeter and was willing to get in the lane to create open shots for his teammates. He shot within the flow of the offense and did not force the action. Addison must improve his change-of-pace dribble to create separation against the better defenders that he will face in the pros.

On the defensive end, Addison was pesky, getting down in his stance and swiping at the ball on several occasions. In this regard, he is able to bother defenders with his quick hands and feet, often cutting off his man and forcing him to pass the ball. However, at the next level, his height differential will almost certainly factor in on the defensive end, as players will simply pull up and shoot over him.

Overall, though, Addison is one of the more controlled, impressive non-D1 prospects that I have come across. He seems to understand his limitations and is willing to play within his team's offensive and defensive schemes. Addison will likely fit in with whichever European squad gives him an opportunity.

From the opposite side of this contest, Gustavus Adolphus's Seth Anderson was also rather impressive. When Addison began to light it up from the perimeter, Anderson responded down the stretch and ultimately helped secure a victory for his team. At 6'2, Anderson's game starkly contrasts that of Addison's. While he is also an excellent shooter, he scores the vast majority of his points from inside the arc. In addition, Anderson does not possess the blazing quickness of Addison. Instead, he more frequently relies on his teammates to get him the ball.

In this contest with Hardin-Simmons, Anderson displayed both his greatest strengths and shortcomings. Early in the second half, he was unable to turn the corner against Hardin-Simmons' various defenders. When this happened, he smartly deferred to his teammates and helped run his team's offense. He would often move without the ball in order to get open or break free from his defender. And, this would usually work. He was able to get the ball moving towards the basket (off the curl) and attack in the lane. Anderson does an excellent job drawing contact and hoisting a shot up afterwards.

Not only is he dynamic at drawing fouls, but Anderson is also a knock down perimeter jump shooter. While he will likely have to extend his range at the next level, Anderson was able to hit some tough fadeaway shots to close out a GAC victory. Anderson has a nice shooting form and a very quick release.

In terms of his unselfishness, Anderson was more than willing to help pass the ball around the perimeter in order to shift the defense. However, his team's offensive sets rarely rely on much dribble penetration and focus more on high -low kickout plays. As such, Anderson is not really asked to create much for his teammates off the bounce. Instead, he functions as more of a system player, playing intelligent basketball and executing his team's offensive plays.

On the defensive end, Anderson played physically, but was unable to keep up with the quickness of Addison. As a result, he spent most of his time defending the opposing squad's shooting guard. Anderson does not possess ideal lateral quickness necessary to excel at a higher level of basketball. As such, he is going to have to compensate by hustling and getting into a deep stance on every play.

Overall, Anderson is also poised to have a solid career overseas. He has the basketball IQ and mid range shooting prowess to wreak havoc on a European roster somewhere. His game is very much suited for that style of play, and it is unlikely that he will receive many looks in the US as a result.

(Image Sources: and

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pittsburgh vs. La Roche Player Review

In this contest, Pittsburgh was dominant throughout. However, some La Roche players stood out with their physical play. Ashton Gibbs really asserted himself as one of the nation's premier players.

La Roche

Michael Dixon- In this contest, Dixon proved to be his team's best offensive option early on. Unlike some of his teammates, Dixon was capable of creating his own offense. He attacked the basket relentlessly and, as a result, was able to find open teammates or score for himself. Dixon has an excellent first step and plays under control, never really forcing the action. He is a willing passer and averages 4.5 assists per game as a result. Moreover, Dixon is a solid athlete and as such, he is one of the better rebounders for his size. (at 6'1) In terms of his offensive tendencies, Dixon can hit contested shots and is most comfortable shooting off the bounce. He hit several difficult fadeaway shots in this contest and was more than able to hold his own against Pitt's guards. On the defensive end, Dixon struggled to chase Ashton Gibbs through screens.

Joel McIntosh- This 6'6 Newark product really challenged Pittsburgh in the paint. He was able to seal his man early on and draw fouls, forcing Dante Taylor out of the game in the first half. McIntosh is a physical, undersized forward who is an adept post option. He displays solid fundamentals on the block and uses his body well to draw fouls and finish through contact. Further, McIntosh is a decent rebounding option, but must work harder to weed out his man.

Andre Flanigan- While Flanigan did not have an impressive offensive performance, he appeared to be the team's best defender. Not only was he able to stop several Pitt drives, but he also guarded well on the perimeter. On the offensive end, Flanigan worked the ball around the perimeter, but struggled to penetrate in the lane against Pitt's aggressive defense. Flanigan must work on his outside shooting in order to keep defenses honest.


Ashton Gibbs- Ashton Gibbs is one of the most dynamic shooters in the country. He displayed an extremely smooth stroke in this contest, pulling up off of one bounce. Further, he was able to hustle to loose balls on the offensive end and score as a result. Gibbs can hit shots from anywhere on the floor and demonstrated that he can also attack the basket. What was most surprising, though, was that he was assertive on the defensive end, stealing the ball on several occasions. And, although he is not a true point guard by any stretch, Gibbs demonstrated that he can distribute the ball, leading his team in assists in the first half.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Scouring the Nation (Part 5)

In this edition of "Scouring the Nation", I review prospects Da'Ron Sims and Teondre Williams.

West Georgia's Da'Ron Sims is one of the top professional prospects at the Division II level. While he is not a prototypical guard/forward at 6'6 210 lbs., Sims is capable of playing both on the perimeter and in the post. He is most effective with his back to the basket, as he is able to out-quick slower big men and is extremely crafty in the painted region. Sims employs excellent back-to-the basket and face-up post footwork, spinning and utilizing a variety of pump fake moves in the lane. In his contest against Clayton St., Sims scored at extremely difficult angles with very little room to operate. He was generally defended by bigger players, but this did not seem to slow him down.

Additionally, Sims thrives as a faceup player and is capable of attacking the basket off the dribble from as far out as the three point arc. While he is not extremely explosive, Sims does a nice job of reading defenses and determining when to attack and when to swing the ball around the perimeter. Further, Da'Ron Sims is difficult to contain on the glass, and does a good job of collecting rebounds for a player his size.

At the Division II level, Sims's game is somewhat reminiscent of Jae Crowder's. With that said, he must improve as a perimeter shooter in order to fulfill this comparison and to keep defenses honest. So far this season, he has connected on only 25% of his three point attempts. This area must be improved for him to make an impact at the professional level. Despite this weakness, Sims does have a decent mid range stroke, and he does an excellent job of picking his spots.

Because he does not have much of a defined position, defense may be a concern at the next level. He is too small to defend bigger post up players. However, in his contest against Clayton St., Sims did a decent job of moving his feet against Teondre Williams. He does possess good lateral quickness and this will allow him to transition to defending on the perimeter full-time. Sims rarely forces the issue on this end, preferring to play sound positional defense; therein, he is not foul prone.

Overall, Da'Ron Sims is a good professional prospect without a defined position. While he plays on the interior in college, it is likely that he will have to become more of a specialist at the next level, rebounding and scoring garbage baskets inside. If he can develop more of a perimeter stroke, he should enjoy some success at the next level.

On the other hand, Clayton St.'s 6'5 guard Teondre Williams has a defined position at the next level and the talent to be a success. In his contest against West Georgia, Williams willed his team to victory by scoring in a variety of ways. He caught fire late in the game and was difficult to stop. In terms of his actual skillset, Williams is most comfortable shooting off the dribble and can pull up from well beyond the three point line. He has good lift on his jump shot and is able to rise up above most players at the Division II level.

With that said, Williams's shot selection was questionable at times in his contest with West Georgia. He tended to hoist up some difficult shots and would rush his jumper when challenged. Still, he did a nice job of squaring his body, but must avoid speeding up his release when defenders successfully close out on him. Williams has been very effective so far this year from long range and is probably one of the most efficient from that distance in all of Division II, hitting 46.3% of his attempts. When he moves inside the arc, though, Williams is a bit less effective mostly because it is more likely that he will be contested from 2 point range. Against West Georgia, Williams did a good job of creating off the dribble and attacking baseline when defenders overplayed him. He has a decent handle and very good body control going to the hoop. His size and strength also allow him to finish strong through contact.

Defensively, Williams displayed average lateral quickness and was blown by on several occasions. As such, it is safe to say that this is not his greatest strength. Despite this, he was able to close out on most kick out passes and was not foul prone. He must display more effort on this end in order to receive playing time at the next level.

As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how far Teondre Williams can lead his team. For now, though, it is clear that he has a defined position as a pro and that he will likely make an impact as a standout perimeter shooter.

(Image Sources: &

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Scouring the Nation (Part 4)

In this edition of Scouring the Nation, I review two Division III prospects in DJ Woodmore of Virginia Wesleyan and Lamonte Thomas of Johnson & Wales.

In his most recent performance, DJ Woodmore demonstrated what he currently brings to the table for one of the top Division III teams in the nation. After gaining attention as one of the best Division III freshmen in the nation last year, it is evident that Woodmore has improved substantially. First and foremost, he is a highly intelligent player that plays within his team's construct. He rarely forces the issue, and generally has a disciplined shot selection. His steady play on both ends of the floor have translated to wins early in the year.

While his team was unable to escape an upset in their first contest of the season, Woodmore's squad received the number 1 ranking in preseason polls and has performed well lately. Their margin of victory has grown considerably over the course of the past month, and this is due in large part to the play of DJ Woodmore. This prospect's greatest asset is his perimeter shooting ability. He has a solid stroke with good lift and a fairly quick release. With that said, his shooting form is not completely textbook, as his off hand rests pretty high on the ball; still though, it is very effective for him. Currently, Woodmore is connecting on 44.44% of his three point attempts and averaging 15.75 points per game.

Even though Woodmore is most effective off of the catch, he is capable of getting to the basket and drawing contact. He does bring the ball up the floor at times, but is obviously most effective off the ball. Because teams must respect his perimeter shooting ability, Woodmore is intelligent enough to read defenses and take the ball baseline if defenders are overplaying him. He has achieved some success in this regard lately, but must look to penetrate more often if he hopes to play at a higher level of basketball. Woodmore is also a decent rebounder for his size and is willing to hustle for loose balls. Therein, he possesses many intangibles on the offensive end that help his team.

Defensively, Woodmore is aggressive with decent (but not exceptional) lateral quickness. He works to stay in front of his man and will often cut off offensive players. With that said, it would be interesting to see him defend much bigger guards, as they would likely be able to shoot over the top of him. But, if he predominantly defends point guards, it is conceivable that they might beat him off the dribble.

All in all, Woodmore should likely attempt to earn spot minutes at the point guard slot. If he can learn to involve his teammates more often by attacking off the bounce, he will likely receive more looks from overseas scouts. As it stands now, he is one of the best non-D1 shooters, and has a lot of room for improvement over the next two and a half years. He's certainly someone to keep an eye on.

On the other hand, the more experienced Lamonte Thomas has already cemented himself as the best Division III professional prospect, and one of the top players outside of Division I.

As was previously noted in my previous review of Lamonte, ( Small School Review: Lamonte Thomas ) he possesses an exceptional handle and is very controlled with the ball in his hands. While he struggled a bit in his most recent contest, he demonstrated even greater leadership instincts than were previously noted last year. He readily found his teammates at every opportunity and was almost too unselfish at times. As is often the case with talented players at smaller schools, some of his teammates were unable to handle several pinpointed passes and ended up bobbling them out of bounds. But, this would likely not be the case at the next level. With that said, he did make some careless cross-court passes, which were picked off. Still, it is a promising sign that Thomas has deferred to his teammates, while still managing to score 31.63 points per game. Also, his value was demonstrated by the fact that his team really struggled when he went down with an injury, losing every contest in his absence. Now that he is back, it seems as though they will be competitive, despite the fact that they really could use some muscle inside.

Additionally, Lamonte has made a living at the line this year, connecting on 85.88% of his 85 attempts, while only playing in eight games thus far. He is aggressive getting to the basket, and utilizes his superior handle to really break down defenses. Thomas has a good floater in the lane, but must work on squaring his body when he attempts fadeaway jumpers. On several occasions in his most recent contest, he often overshot the ball left because he quickly pulled the trigger instead of waiting to turn his body properly. He may need to tweak his shooting form a bit at the next level, but he has been fairly effective employing this form thus far.

Further, Lamonte possesses exceptional vision and is a willing passer off the dribble. He involves his teammates and has confidence that they can make plays moving towards the basket as well. Additionally, his assist numbers are not all that indicative of his passing ability, as his team does not have a true interior player to feed the ball to. (The tallest player on his team is 6'6)

Defensively, he has some of the same question marks as the last time I reviewed him. He is somewhat aggressive on this end of the floor and has good quickness at the Division III level. However, he must get in a stance more often, despite the fact that he does play good position defense.

Lamonte Thomas is one of the best players outside of Division I and his accomplishments should not be overshadowed by the fact that he plays at a small school. While he does attempt a lot of shots per game, a good majority of these attempts either come in the flow of the Johnson and Wales offense or are completely necessary. When he plays alongside more talented guys at the professional level, it is likely that his skillset will be highlighted and he will not need to take as many attempts. The turnover concerns may be there early in his professional career, but once he adjusts to a faster pace, Thomas could be one of the biggest surprises next year.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Scouring the Nation (Part 3)

In this edition of "Scouring the Nation", I examine Benedict College big man Marcus Goode and his potential at the next level.

When noting the professional potential of Benedict big man Marcus Goode, the first thing that comes to mind is his high skill level for his size. Standing at 6'10 and weighing 295 lbs, Goode is a handful to contain in the paint. He displays some good face-up moves and can hit fadeaway shots in the paint if double teams come. However, when facing a single defender, he generally uses his girth to muscle his way inside. While- in his contest with USC Aiken- it was difficult to gauge Goode's level of post footwork, it is clear that he has strides to make in this facet of his game. He could stand to employ more drop step moves on the block. With that said, he is deceptively nimble when spinning in the post to get his shot off.

Additionally, Goode has excellent potential due to his ability to step out and hit long range shots. He displays good shooting form with solid lift, and has a soft touch for a player of his size. As such, it is clear that he will be able to stretch defenses at the next level, wherever that may be. Further, Goode is an exceptional passer for his size, able to make difficult high post feeds through traffic. Not only is he unselfish, but he displays excellent vision. Therein, if he is not able to play professionally in the United States, he has the basketball intellect to succeed overseas.

Goode has decent instincts on the glass, and employs his considerable girth to weed out players, particularly on the defensive boards. At the next level, he must become more aggressive boxing out and sealing his man in order to establish position. At this stage, he tends to not exert a great enough effort in this area due to his conditioning.

On the defensive end, Goode is certainly a work in progress. He is somewhat nimble moving his feet considering his size, but he must improve his conditioning in order to challenge on this end. As it currently stands, Goode struggles to stay in front of offensive players and will get beat down the floor by better conditioned athletes. Goode does not have the best 'help defense' instincts and tends to stick with one man. He will also likely never become an elite level shot blocker at the next level despite the fact that he ranked second in DII in this category last year.

All in all, Marcus Goode has tremendous potential and is a top 5 professional prospect outside of Division I. He has the height and skill level to succeed at the next level, but must drop about 40 to 50 pounds in order to play at the highest level possible. He does have another season of eligibility, and his progress this coming offseason will determine whether or not he will receive looks from the NBA and the highest levels of European basketball.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Small School Review: Chad Burridge

In this edition of my segment "Small School Review", I cover Oswego St.'s Chad Burridge.

Upon reviewing tape of Oswego St.'s Chad Burridge, it becomes clear that he is a very good athlete and that his game could translate overseas. On the offensive end, Burridge is difficult to contain because he has a good faceup game and can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor. Burridge evinces solid form on his jump shot and gets a decent lift. While he did not connect on his attempts in this game, it was clear that he was rushing his shots. Not only was his form solid, but he also displayed a nice stroke at the line, where he connected on several attempts.

Moreover, Burridge does a solid job of creating contact off the dribble and drawing fouls. While he did not finish through contact in his contest with Potsdam University, he is a quick leaper and was fairly explosive. This should translate at the next level if he hopes to play as an undersized forward. With that said, he did not display much of a back-to-the-basket game, which is essential if he hopes to make a roster overseas. Due to his raw post game, Burridge may look to transition to the wing. If he does hope to become a wing player, he must stop rushing his perimeter shot- as this is the main reason why Burridge isn't shooting higher than 36.4% from behind the arc.

In terms of his intangibles, Burridge is willing to hustle to loose balls. He is also a decent passer for his size. And, even though he has the appropriate physical tools, Burridge does not have great box out fundamentals and thereby is not much of a rebounding threat.

On the defensive end, Oswego St. plays zone often so it is really difficult to gauge Burridge's potential. However, he did make some nice weakside blocks, pinning the ball on the glass. With that said, Burridge failed to close out on some perimeter shooters, but this was more likely due to a lack of consistent effort rather than an inability to contest shots. In terms of lateral movement, Burridge did not seem particularly quick, but he did utilize his length to compensate.

Overall, Burridge is a good athlete at the Division III level with a chance to compete at some professional level. He will be able to stretch defenses with his shot and his quick leaping ability will allow him to contest shots on the defensive end. Burridge has good potential coming out of Oswego St. and should be someone to keep an eye on if he can continue to refine his post game.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Addendum to Report - Darrell Miller

In my previous segment, "Scouring the Nation (Part 2)", I reviewed NAIA prospect Darrell Miller in some detail. And, while this report was a comprehensive review of his strengths and weaknesses, Fisk's contest against Lincoln University shed new light on Miller's capabilities.

First, it should be mentioned that Lincoln University does not have a typical lineup. Their tallest player is 6'6, and their star, Denzel Mooney- a player I will also review in this article- is forced to play on the block.

Playing against Mooney for several possessions, Miller displayed some of his strengths. He was able to get past Mooney in the lane due to his superior quickness at 6'8. Additionally, Miller hustled down the floor for every possession and beat most guards back, despite typically running a longer distance. He was able to draw contact and get to the line on several occasions, and he demonstrated some ability to finish through contact.

Despite these strengths, Miller did not look to post up frequently enough against his smaller opponents. With that said, this has a lot to do with the guards of Fisk playing out of control and not settling down for true halfcourt sets. The pace of the game was sloppy, with both teams trading turnovers. While a fast pace is ideal for a player like Miller, Fisk's backcourt does not look to get him involved enough offensively. Part of it has to do with Miller's inability to sustain position on the block at times. But, as I alluded to previously, Fisk's backcourt did not look for him even when he was open. Defensively, Miller did a good job of contesting without fouling, but he should step in to draw more charges due to his solid footspeed.

With regard to the opposition, Denzel Mooney stood out as Lincoln's best player due to his efficient offensive game. Because of their limited frontcourt, Lincoln generally plays Mooney on both the interior and on the perimeter. On several occasions, Mooney posted up in a AJ Moye-esque fashion. But, he also demonstrated his potential to play on the wing, knocking down several jumpers off the dribble and in the lane. Mooney has a good first step and was able to beat his man off of the dribble on several occasions. Further, he has a strong build at 6'4, and is a good enough slasher to bully his way into the paint at the D2 level.

Defensively, it is really difficult to make an assessment given how out-of-position Mooney is for his Lincoln squad. He fought valiantly against bigger opponents on the block and was forced to play in the paint when his Lincoln squad switched to zone. This masked Mooney's ability (or inability) to defend the perimeter, as he was rarely involved in enough closeouts to make a determination either way. What can be said, though, is that he will be undersized professionally at 6'4, but he may be able to compensate with physical play. On the glass, Mooney asserts his will and does a good job of fighting for position. He is a fundamentally sound rebounder for his size.

With that said, Mooney must amend his shooting form. His mechanics are very poor, evincing an obvious hitch in his shot. He also tends to move the ball from side to side and shoot from his chest. At higher levels of basketball, his slow release will be unacceptable, as he will likely get blocked on almost every possession if he keeps his current shooting form. Additionally, Mooney struggled taking the ball into traffic, as he forced the issue against multiple defenders on several instances. His decision making and basketball IQ must improve a bit in order to stand out at the next level. All in all, Mooney is a very good college player, but he will have to adjust his game in order to fit in with any professional basketball system. The style of play on any professional squad almost certainly will represent a departure from Lincoln University's system.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Small School Review: Spencer Liddic

In this edition, I review Muhlenberg College's Spencer Liddic.

Spencer Liddic is a prototypical D3 athlete who is undersized at the forward slot, but compensates with tremendous effort and basketball fundamentals. The 6'5 215 lb forward plays predominantly inside, utilizing his girth to attack with his back to the basket. He is fundamentally sound on the block and employs several pivot and reverse pivot moves to get his shot off. At higher levels of basketball, he must become more vertically explosive. And, he may need to fade away against bigger players that will be capable of blocking his shot. He will have to adjust by moving to the perimeter at times, and this will require him to slim down and tone his body. While he will likely always have a low center of gravity, he must become more explosive.

In terms of rebounding, Liddic is one of the best at the D3 level. He has great hands and demonstrates solid box out fundamentals, soaring over much taller players to clean up on the glass. Further, he has a knack for knowing where the ball is going to go- a trait which can really not be taught. Even still, Liddic must get his body in shape and become more of an athlete to succeed at higher levels where length can become a supreme advantage on the glass.

On the defensive end, Liddic played on the perimeter at times on closeouts. He was able to move his body against D3 offensive players, but it is unlikely that he will be able to put in the same sort of effort at higher levels of basketball. Liddic must always maintain focus and not run down ahead of the pack when his team has not secured the ball, something which he did on several occasions against Gettysburg College. His lateral speed is going to be a weakness, but he may be able to improve in this area by slimming down.

Liddic is a decent passer out of the post, and has a solid basketball IQ. He must develop more of a lift on his jump shot and look to develop more of a perimeter stroke. He has a solid form already, but he does not look for his outside jumper often enough.

All in all, Liddic is a great player at the D3 level, but it is unlikely that his game will translate at higher levels unless he can improve his body and learn to play as a post up wing. Or maybe, just maybe he can find an AJ Moye-like reserve role somewhere in Europe. Of course, this would still require him to put in significant work on his build. After all, Moye was a physical specimen.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Savannah St. vs. Indiana

In this contest, Indiana jumped out to an early lead, but was tested by the athleticism of the Tigers. The Hoosiers moved well without the basketball and made crisp passes to cutters. They ultimately secured the victory against a Savannah St squad that plays without any senior leadership, but with a number of juniors.

Savannah St.

Preston Blackmon- Blackmon is a quick guard with good body control and a nice change of pace dribble. He was capable slashing to the basket, and was able to draw contact against Indiana defenders. At 6'0, he has improved as a facilitator for his team, although he still should be considered a scoring lead guard. While he often moves the ball around the perimeter, Blackmon thrives finding players off the bounce once he beats his defender. This is because he has a good first step and can hit jump shots when open. With that said, he must become more efficient if he ever wants to play professional basketball overseas at any level.

Cedric Smith- Smith is an aggressive hustle player who is able to attack the basket. He regularly dives on the ball and is one of the best role players on his Savannah St. squad. Smith is a good rebounder for his size, and was willing to go head to head with Cody Zeller at times. Offensively, Smith struggles to connect on jumpers from the field and virtually never takes shots from beyond the arc. Despite this fact, he was rather efficient from the field in this one because he took high percentage shots. Further, he revealed his quick first step and was able to get to the rim with regularity. With that said, he must improve as a free throw shooter- he is hitting roughly 50% of his attempts at the line so far this season. Even though he has shot the ball poorly early on, this trend should change by the end of the year. On the defensive end, Smith is very aggressive and moves his feet well. He is capable of guarding bigger players. Overall, Smith is a serviceable role player who performed well in this contest.

Joshua Montgomery- While he has not shot the ball well in early action, Montgomery is an opportunistic outside shooter who is capable of keeping his team in the game. In this contest, he hit 40% from 3 point range and was able to nail shots from the mid range. Montgomery did a decent job pulling up off the dribble. On the defensive end, Montgomery did a good job of contesting Verdell Jones, and forced him into some tough shots. He has good hands and deceptive quickness on this end of the floor.

Rashad Hassan- Hassan is Savannah St.'s leading scorer, who was aggressive in this contest. Hassan attacked the basket and was able to get to the line frequently. He did a good job of attacking the body of Cody Zeller, the much bigger player. He is undersized at 6'7, but has some good athleticism to compensate. Hassan played virtually the entire second half with four fouls, but was able to finish through contact and avoid several potential charging calls. Defensively, he was limited and was not able to contain Cody Zeller; however, he did a good job of physically challenging him in the first half. Hassan should make an impact throughout the year and has the potential to earn attention as an Al'onzo Coleman-type player.


Cody Zeller- Zeller has great strength for an interior player. He was able to finish through contact and get to the line with regularity in this one. Zeller has a nice array of post moves and could be the best rebounder on Indiana. He is aggressive boxing out and employs considerable length to corral rebounds. Zeller has deceptive quickness and athleticism for a player his size. However, he struggled defensively against the quicker Savannah St. big men. He ended the game with four fouls and had a hard time containing the Tigers' dribble penetration.

Verdell Jones- Jones played under control, demonstrating considerable senior leadership. After entering college as a wing, Jones has since converted to the point, and he regularly looks to get his teammates involved. In this contest, he aggressively attacked the basket, but struggled to finish through contact. Further, he was not particularly efficient from the field and clearly struggled against the quick hands of the Savannah St. defenders.

Derek Elston- Elston was a surprise player in this contest, who was able to dial in from three point range. Elston is one of the most efficient offensive players on Indiana this season, hitting 10 of his 14 field goal attempts prior to this contest. At 6'9, Elston functions primarily as a spot up shooter with teammates like Watford and Zeller preferring to play inside. On the defensive end, Elston struggles and is more of a positional defender that attempts to draw charges. He is not vertically explosive, and this makes him a liability on this end.

Scouring the Nation (Part 2)

In this segment, I explore all of the talent around the nation outside of Division 1. Far too often, these players are overlooked due to a lack of media attention. It should be noted, though, that some of the top historical NBA talent has come from outside of Division 1. With a lot hard work and determination, coupled with some natural talent, these late bloomers can succeed at the professional level, be it in the United States or overseas. For my second edition of this series, I explore Fisk (Tennessee) University's Darrell Miller.

Fisk University's Darrell Miller is one of the rising non D1 prospects at the college level today. He has established his presence early on in this season and appears to have a lot of room for improvement. This 6'8 sophomore has the length and frame to develop into a special player down the road if he continues to develop physically.

In terms of his physical limitations, while Miller began his career at 6'8 185 lbs, he has since added some weight to his build. He still has a ways to go before he can be able to match the physicality at the professional level, but if he continues to develop at his current pace, he should be in good shape by the time his collegiate career is finished. With that said, it must be noted that Miller's ever-improving physical profile heavily factors into his capabilities and deficiencies on both ends of the floor.

On the offensive end, Miller is a solid post up option. He fights for position on the block as best as he can and is willing to move around in order to accomplish this task. Darrell does a good job of establishing deep post position at this level, getting low to the ground and calling for the ball. Against more physically imposing players, he may struggle a bit more, as they often have the ability to challenge the post entry. But currently, he does a good job of sealing his man. Once he catches the ball, however, Miller does not have a particularly developed array of post moves. He tends to wait a little too long before going into his move as well, which would lead to turnovers at the next level. However, Miller does a good job of moving around his man and attacking the basket after initially catching the ball with his back to the basket. He must develop more advanced drop step/pivot moves on the block as well as a jump hook shot.

So while he is not especially effective with his back to the basket, Miller has displayed excellent potential as a face up player. He has a decent handle at 6'8 and is able to blow by his man with an impressive first step and extra gear. He attacks the rim with reckless abandon and is willing to fight through contact. With that said, his backcourt at Fisk University often forgets to feed the post and is not able to get him the ball on the high post when facing high level defensive pressure.

Additionally, Miller must look to develop more of a perimeter shot to keep defenses honest. Therein, his shooting mechanics could use some work, although he has a decent feel at the line, where he converts on roughly 70% of his attempts. Darrell does a good job of picking his spots on the court, as evinced by his 52.6% Field Goal % so far this season.

Also, in terms of his unselfishness, Miller does not display tremendous vision when given the ball on the high post. With that said, he is always a willing passer when defenses collapse on him on the low block. And, it should be noted that this is another developing facet of his game.

Aside from his quickness when slashing to the basket, Miller's greatest asset is his proficiency on the glass. Miller has a knack for anticipating where the ball is going to be as he corrals it and this has allowed him to average 14 rebounds per game in the early going. (through first three games and team exhibitions) This is especially helpful on the offensive glass, which is one of his greatest strengths. Despite this ability, Miller does not have great box out fundamentals, instead opting to jump in from behind in order to secure rebounds. If he can improve in this capacity, he could lead NAIA in rebounding throughout the season. (and not just through the first 4 games or so) As he develops physically, Miller has the potential to become one of the better rebounders at any level of basketball.

On the defensive end, it is really difficult to evaluate Miller's performances because Fisk plays zone at times. However, he does allow players to get deep post position occasionally and does not challenge on the catch. Further, while he has decent foot speed for a player his size, Miller does not always get in his stance. Despite this, he does a good job of closing out on perimeter shooters, utilizing his length to challenge their perimeter jumpers. Finally, Miller struggles as a help defender, focusing too much on his man and not always putting in the best effort to contain dribble penetration.

Overall, it will be interesting to see how far Darrell Miller can develop as this season progresses. He has two more years of eligibility left and he is still getting acclimated with his teammates after transferring from Milligan College, where he played his freshman season. Miller is one of the more talented players outside of Division 1, and it will be interesting to see if his intensity and effort level can pick up as he becomes more confident with his team's dynamic.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Scouring the Nation (Part 1)

In this segment, I explore all of the talent around the nation outside of Division 1. Far too often, these players are overlooked due to a lack of media attention. It should be noted, though, that some of the top historical NBA talent has come from outside of Division 1. With a lot hard work and determination, coupled with some natural talent, these late bloomers can succeed at the professional level, be it in the United States or overseas. For my inaugural evaluation, I examine talented lead guard Jeremy Kendle of Bellarmine University.

Jeremy Kendle is the most valuable player on the defending Division II national championship squad, Bellarmine University. At 6'2 195 lb, Kendle passes the eye test as someone strong enough to handle the rigors of basketball at the next level. And, Kendle is the most prolific weapon for his team mainly because he plays with self-assurance and poise on the court. Not only does he bring the necessary leadership to his talented team, but he is also one of the top scorers outside of Division I basketball.

In terms of his offensive tendencies, Kendle relies heavily on his jump shot. He has a textbook form and a consistent release point. Further, his good lift allows him to shoot over defenders. Kendle prefers to shoot off the dribble, and normally will drive in off of the catch, often taking one or two dribbles in order to establish himself and find a rhythm. His jump shooting ability is highly advanced for a college basketball player mainly because he can hit shots on the move, which makes him particularly difficult to defend. Additionally, Kendle uses his body well to create separation before pulling up for his shots. Other than his jump shooting ability, Kendle is fairly savvy utilizing basket cuts to score easy points inside. While he is not constantly in motion, Kendle likes to flash in the paint or slip in on backdoor cuts.

With his considerable strengths in mind, Kendle was not very efficient from beyond the arc last season and made a paltry 33.1% of his attempts. However, it seems- at least initially- that he has become more adept at dialing in from distance. In Bellarmine's exhibition matchup with Louisville, he was very effective from behind the 3 point line and really kept the game close down the stretch. Further, Kendle is not particularly explosive off the dribble and struggles to get by defenders. He must improve his change of pace dribble in order to create separation against elite athletes. At this stage, his handle is serviceable and he employs a variety of spin moves to get past defenders. However, he prefers to attack the basket with his right hand, and must learn to beat defenders by exclusively driving left.

In regards to his passing, it is difficult to gauge Kendle's ability as a facilitator because he is prone to making kick-out passes within the flow of the offense, often generating hockey assists. With that said, his inability to drive past his defender should limit his ceiling as a distributor at the next level. His teammate Braydon Hobbs often plays the role of point forward and does a better job of generating easy shots for his teammates. Kendle is a fairly good rebounder for his size, and employs good box-out techniques. Moreover, he has a decent leaping ability, but he is far from a fluid athlete.

On the defensive end, Kendle is a liability. He struggles to stay with his man due to his poor lateral quickness. Moreover, he does not always get low in a stance and often fails to fight through screens. He gives the offensive player that he is guarding way too much breathing room on the perimeter, which makes it difficult for him to close out. This will be a significant problem for him at the next level. Additionally, Bellarmine's switching defensive sets tend to mask his inability to defend quicker point guards; for instance, Louisville's Russ Smith really gave him headaches when he attacked the basket. With that said, Kendle did display considerable toughness when switching against Louisville's big men. He was able to physically hold his own at times. So while Kendle has the potential to be physically imposing on the defensive end, he does not have the quickness to really contain his man at the professional level.

All in all, Jeremy Kendle is a player to keep an eye on mainly because he excels in an area which prevents many players from reaching their potential at the next level. He is fundamentally sound on the offensive end, and plays an intelligent brand of basketball. As he is accustomed to playing within a very structured team defense, he may have more success playing in Europe after his collegiate career is finished. This is further supported by his willingness to play within the offensive team construct by making hockey assists, which are not statistically accounted for. If Kendle is able to once again take Bellarmine far in this year's Division II Tournament, he will likely earn a trip to the Portsmouth Invitational, where he can compete against the nations top senior draft prospects.

(Image Source:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Preseason top 70 +2

In this edition, I outline the top 40 teams for this year's college basketball season.

1. Kentucky- This is the most talented squad in Coach Cal's tenure at UK. Gilchrist and Davis are two of the top NBA prospects in this coming draft. That's not to mention Jones, Lamb, and Teague. They have the athleticism, talent, and experience to take the title in one of college basketball's best seasons in recent memory.
2. North Carolina- The Tar Heels have the deepest frontcourt in the country with a top 5 recruit coming off the bench. With Harrison Barnes improving considerably this offseason, look for them to contend at the top of the AP polls week after week.
3. Connecticut- The addition of Andre Drummond and the return of Jeremy Lamb cement the Huskies' status as the top team in the Big East. While they will not be able to rely upon Kemba Walker, these defending champs have the requisite experience to once again earn a Final Four birth.
4. Ohio St.- With Sullinger shedding pounds in the offseason and Buford returning to provide necessary leadership, the Buckeyes should once again win the Big 10 and earn a number 1 seed for NCAA tournament play.
5. Syracuse- The Orange have one of the deepest lineups in the country. Brandon Triche and Kris Joseph should emerge as bonafide stars in the Big East, and Syracuse will challenge UConn atop the Big East standings.
6. Florida- Florida has one of the deepest backcourts in the country. Billy Donovan has said that he may start four guards ala Villanova during the Randy Foye years. If these talented players can come together and Patric Young can learn to utilize his physical gifts, Florida should live up to their billing.
7. Louisville- While injuries are a serious concern for this squad, the Cardinals are one of the deepest teams in the country. The Cardinals will win plenty of games though. Their point guard Peyton Siva is one of the best floor generals in the Big East and big man Gorgui Dieng is one of the most improved players in the country.
8. Xavier- Many people are sleeping on Xavier this year. This squad returns virtually everyone, including Wooden Award candidate Tu Holloway. Look for Mark Lyons to improve and for the addition of Redford to really bolster this squad from the perimeter. With that said, this ranking should only stand if Kenny Frease is able to come back from suspension.
9. Pittsburgh- Defensive powerhouse Pittsburgh is poised for another great season in the Big East. While their perimeter attack is gone from a year ago, sweet shooting Ashton Gibbs returns for his final season. Further, the improvements of Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor should equip the Panthers to matchup with virtually any team in the paint. Freshman Khem Birch should make an immediate impact as well.
10. Wisconsin- Wisconsin's ranking should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed college basketball over the past decade. Bo Ryan's club simply retools after losing talent. While Jon Leuer will be difficult to replace, the Badgers do return the most efficient point guard in the country in Jordan Taylor.
11. Temple- Why Temple is not a unanimous top 15 selection is beyond me. They return virtually everyone with the exception of Lavoy Allen. Michael Eric should improve and provide a presence inside. And, the Owls are exceptional on the perimeter with Wyatt, Ramone Moore, and Juan Fernandez. Forward Rahlir Jefferson was one of the more efficient offensive players last year in the A-10. He should produce with more playing time and make up for some of Allen's lost production. Sure, Lavoy's defensive presence will be missed, but Temple returns enough to earn this spot.
12. Duke- While the Blue Devils have talent at every position, only Austin Rivers really stands out as a difference maker. Dawkins and Curry will have solid seasons, but they do not create enough opportunities off the dribble. Similarly, Duke's frontcourt has talent with the Plumlee brothers and much improved forward Ryan Kelly, but they are not elite talents.
13. Kansas- Until someone dethrones Kansas, they will remain the top team in the Big 12. Taylor will have a big year, and Robinson could be the most improved player in the country. Don't underestimate the impacts of Johnson and Releford either.
14. Missouri- Without the coaching switch, Missouri would be the top team in the Big 12. They have the experience even without Bowers to really challenge the Jayhawks. Denmon should be a first team all big 12 selection.
15. Cincinnati- The Bearcats return their stars from a season ago. Gates, Dixon, and Kilpatrick are back and ready to make a splash nationally. This experienced squad will likely get to the Sweet Sixteen. The play of their newcomers and their commitment on the defensive end will determine how far they can go though.
16. Vanderbilt- After returning everyone from a season ago, Vanderbilt should finally advance far in the NCAA tournament due to their experienced lineup. With that said, these same players do not have a proven track record of winning when it counts.
17. Arizona- The Wildcats are a very talented squad who has a chance to finish much higher than this ranking. They are the best team in the Pac 12, but have some serious question marks due to their inexperience and the loss of Kevin Parrom.
18. Marquette- With D.J.O and Jae Crowder back, the Golden Eagles should contend for a Sweet Sixteen birth. Chris Otule and Junior Cadougan will be the X Factors if Marquette is to exceed expectations.
19. Texas A&M- With a new coach in place, the Aggies return one of their deepest squads in recent memory. Middleton should have an all conference year, and Elston Turner should become a household name amongst Aggies fans.
20. Memphis- This year's Tigers squad is one of the most talented squads in the country. But, there will still be some growing pains for Will Barton and Joe Jackson as they mature at the college level. While Memphis is not yet an elite team, a healthy Wesley Witherspoon should certainly help their cause.
21. Gonzaga- Harris and Sacre comprise one of the best midmajor frontcourts in the country. The Zags are poised for another standout season after they were able to upset an experienced Johnnies squad a year ago. They should beat out St. Mary's and newcomer BYU due to their experience and depth inside.
22. Baylor- The Bears have the most room for growth out of any team listed here because of their deep and talented frontcourt. While Quincy Miller and Perry Jones are both future NBA players, Baylor's backcourt still remains a bit of a question mark. Juco Pierre Jackson will look to erase some of these concerns, but all indications are that he is too ball dominant. Potential chemistry issues keep this team out of the top 20.
23. Belmont- After winning 28 games a season ago, the Bruins deserve much more recognition in preseason polls. Ian Clark is back to lead a very balanced Belmont attack.
24. Iowa St.- The transfer-laden Cyclones are a darkhorse pick because they bring in so many new faces. Coach Hoilberg has his work cut out for him. But, Iowa St. is still one of the more talented teams in the Big 12, and if Hoilberg can get his players to buy into his system, they could be one of the biggest risers by year's end.
25. Wichita St.- Despite the loss of Durley, the Shockers return virtually everyone from a 29 win team. Look for Ben Smith and Ragland to step up in his absence and for Wichita St. to win the MVC.

Best of the Rest:
26. Villanova
27. Alabama
28. Michigan St.
29. UCLA
30. UNLV
31. Washington St.
32. Washington
33. Marshall
34. Creighton
35. St. John's
36. Fairfield
37. Michigan
38. Harvard
39. Kansas St.
40. UCF
41. BYU
42. Iona
43. St. Mary's
44. Butler
45. Clemson
46. Purdue
47. New Mexico
48. Drexel
49. California
50. Oklahoma St.
51. UAB
52. New Mexico St.
53. Detroit
54. Florida St.
55. Texas
56. Rutgers
57. Kent St.
58. VCU
59. Miami (Fl.)
60. Utah St.
61. Illinois
62. Notre Dame
63. Tulsa
64. Oregon St.
65. Indiana St.
66. Long Beach St.
67. Oregon
68. Duquesne
69. North Carolina St.
70. UMass
71. Lamar
72. Houston

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Breakthrough Prospects (CAA)

In this segment, I outline the emerging prospects for the 2011-2012 Colonial Athletic Association season.

Bradford Burgess, VCU- In VCU's magical run to the Final Four, Bradford Burgess was a revelation on both ends of the floor. Over the course of the season, Burgess stood out as one of the most efficient offensive players in the CAA. He ranked 3rd in the conference in Offensive Rating and 6th in Effective Field Goal %, yet was used on under 20% of his team's possessions. All of that should change this year. With the graduations of Rozzell, Nixon, Rodriguez, and Skeen, someone is going to have to make up for VCU's lost offensive production. Burgess is the odds on favorite to accept a larger role in the offense largely because he is known for his fundamentally sound play. He ranked 12th in the CAA in Turnover Rate last year, meaning that Coach Smart would like to have the ball in his hands early and often. Further, on the defensive end, the wiry Burgess was extremely aggressive at times, yet was still one of the best in the conference at avoiding foul calls. (16th fewest Fouls Committed Per 40 Minutes) Overall, look for Burgess to continue playing inspired basketball this season as the unquestioned leader of his VCU squad.

Devon Saddler, Delaware- After earning the award as the conference's top freshman, UDel's Devon Saddler is poised for a big sophomore campaign. Last year, their star combo guard demonstrated that he is one of the top scorers in the CAA, posting a 51.6% Effective Field Goal %. Despite this, he was not very efficient offensively and finished in the bottom half of the league in Offensive Rating. With that said, he was thrust into a major role very early on, finishing 8th in his conference in % Possessions Used as a freshman. Look for him to mature this season and to improve upon his efficiency numbers. But, due to the graduation of Jawan Carter, expect him to take on an even bigger role in his squad's offensive sets. Further, due to the influx of freshmen at key backcourt positions, Saddler should see more time at the point. If this happens, he should not have that much difficulty transitioning into the role of facilitator. Last year, he ranked 14th in the CAA in Assist Rate. On the defensive end, Saddler will likely avoid getting into foul trouble this season, as he ranked 8th in Fouls Committed per 40 Minutes as a freshman. All in all, Devon Saddler should emerge as one of the CAA's top talents this year. He must improve his scoring efficiency and learn to play as more of a traditional point guard if he hopes to project as a next level talent though.

Mike Morrison, George Mason- With the loss of Cam Long and the suspension of Andre Cornelius on the perimeter, look for George Mason to get the ball into Mike Morrison more often. This versatile forward is a capable offensive threat who shot the ball efficiently last season, posting a 56.2% Effective Field Goal % (9th best in the Colonial). Morrison is also a reliable option with the ball in his hands because he rarely turns it over, finishing 13th in the conference in Turnover %. And, he is able to get to the line fairly often, as he was the 3rd best in the CAA in Free Throw Rate. Moreover, Morrison proved to be capable on the glass, where he finished 14th in Defensive Rebounding % and 16th in Offensive Rebounding %. On the defensive end, Morrison was one of the conference's best shot blockers. (7th in Blocks %) Even beyond that, Morrison was able to disrupt offensive players and create extra possessions for his team. Overall, Morrison brings a diverse skillset to the table and should receive more touches on a George Mason squad that is in desperate need of some leadership.

Julius Wells/A.J. Davis, James Madison- With the loss of All-Conference player Denzel Bowles, Wells and newcomer AJ Davis will need to compensate for JMU's lost offensive production. Senior Julius Wells is a combo forward with the range to step out and hit shots from beyond the arc. After a rather lackluster year by his standards, he is looking to rebound and lead his Dukes in conference play. In terms of what he brings to the table, Wells is a fairly efficient scoring weapon. As such, his 53.6% True Shooting % was good for 24th in the CAA last season, despite his high usage (20.8% of Team's Shots). Wyoming transfer AJ Davis brings some length and experience to the table for JMU, as he was his team's third leading scorer before he decided to transfer. Davis is a high caliber athlete with an ability to score over smaller players inside. While he has not yet perfected his outside stroke, Davis is capable of attacking the basket and finishing through contact. He is also a fairly proficient rebounder. All in all, look for Wells and Davis to form a nice tandem and help JMU exceed expectations in the Colonial.

Brandon McGee/Josh Micheaux/Eric Buckner, Georgia St.- After a fairly disappointing season a year ago, Georgia St.'s three talented seniors have a shot to redeem themselves in 2011-2012. While the point guard dilemma has still not been resolved, Josh Micheaux will likely make better decisions on the wing now that he has a year of Division 1 experience under his belt. Further, he is capable of taking on most of the responsibilities of the lead facilitator, as he ranked 5th in the CAA in Assist Rate last season. Moreover, Micheaux is an athletic wing with the size and length to excel on both ends of the floor. Look for him to utilize his considerable strength and to get to the line virtually at will. Last year, he finished 13th in the conference in Fouls Drawn. Further, interior presence Brandon McGee should provide the necessary muscle on the boards this season. He finished 10th in the CAA in both Offensive Rebounding % and Defensive Rebounding %. The former highly touted JUCO standout is also versatile enough to defend both forward slots. Finally, top returning weapon Eric Buckner is poised for a breakout year after leading the Panthers in scoring a season ago. This lengthy big man ran the floor well and demonstrated considerable promise on both ends. He was particularly effective defensively, where he ranked 58th in the nation (and 3rd in the conference) in Blocks %. In order to fulfill his long run potential, though, Buckner must bulk up. When it is all said and done, look for these three Georgia St. seniors to lead their Panthers club to a much improved conference record.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why No Bo? The Story of Front Office Cognitive Dissonance

Of all the players to emerge in this year's Eurobasket tournament, few had a greater impact on the court than the naturalized Macedonian player formerly known as Bo McCalebb. By almost all accounts, one could say that Bo did not receive the same attention as many of the NBA media darlings coming into this tournament. Yet, as is customarily the case, when it actually became time to play the game, all the hype and name recognition were thrown by the wayside, as they should be. And, when this happened, it was the story of Borche McCalebbovski's (as he is now known) heroics that actually stole the show at arenas across Lithuania.

The diminutive 6'0 lead guard managed to will his adopted Macedonian squad to a fourth place finish in the Eurobasket tournament, upsetting the likes of Greece and basketball powerhouse/host Lithuania in the process. This unlikely feat brought the tiny country of two million people into the streets, parading and openly displaying an unprecedented sense of national pride- a unity that is sorely needed in this bitterly divided country.

In order to truly understand how important these victories were for this multi-ethnic state, one must contextualize them by examining FYE Macedonia's war-torn past. Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the region now referred to as Macedonia was consolidated as a member of Yugoslavia. When nations began to break away from the Yugoslavian state in the early 90's, ethnic Macedonians fought to lay claim to their own state. On September 8, 1991, Macedonia was born.

While tensions were seemingly at bay during the early period in Macedonian history, the Kosovo War of 1999 dramatically changed this. As a result of that conflict, approximately 360,000 Albanian refugees flooded into Macedonia. Eventually, tensions escalated when insurgents attempted to obtain independence for Albanian-populated areas within this country. A civil war was fought, and it ended with a ceasefire agreement backed by NATO.

More recently, while strides have been made and Albanians have been successfully integrated into government, the "Macedonian Question"- as it has been called- still remains today, approximately 10 years after the country's ceasefire. Corruption abounded in Macedonia's previous administration, as the government forced the bankruptcy of an opposition-led television station known as A1. During the consequent legal proceedings, it was claimed by many that the judiciary lacked independence. Most viewed this as a way for the Macedonian government to silence Albanian opposition. Further, in his previous term in office, Macedonia's Prime Minister Gruevski strove to rekindle nationalistic sentiments of Macedonia's once glorious past, a past which Albanians had no part in. The Albanians, on the other hand, advocated a more decentralized government focused on promoting a bilingual agenda. With both sides pushing conflicting ideologies, something was needed to unify this country.

Enter Bo McCalebb and the Macedonian National Team. McCalebb led a spirited charge to the Eurobasket Semifinals, where their championship hopes were thwarted by eventual champion Spain.

While other players contributed significantly to this fourth place finish, McCalebb was clearly the driving force behind Macedonia's surprising success. In order to upset Lithuania, McCalebb not only provided the necessary fourth quarter scoring, but he also assisted the final game-winning three point shot to Vlado Ilievski and was responsible for a key deflection late in the game. Against Spain and their battle-tested NBA frontline, Bo got to the rim virtually at will and kept Macedonia close. And, in his final contest with Russia, Bo deflected the ball countless times, creating four extra possessions for his team. Further, Bo was dynamic slashing to the basket, utilizing excellent upper body strength to finish through contact and his basketball IQ to switch hands in mid air in order to avoid shot blockers.

Even though many had never heard of McCalebb coming into this tournament, his play in Lithuania was clearly not an aberration. After breaking his foot this previous season and returning in March, Bo played inspired basketball to lead his Siena club to the Euroleague Final Four, where they won the third place consolation game. This was Bo's second trip to the Final Four since he graduated college back in 2008; the first time he made it there, he played for Partizan.

These performances shed light on what Bo brings to the table as a professional basketball player. While he sometimes plays off the ball, Bo generally functions as a point guard, initiating for his teammates at every opportunity. He boasts a much improved handle and regularly splits defenders in order to get to the basket. Additionally, Bo possesses a superb first step and an understanding of when to employ the change-of-pace dribble, making him arguably the most complete slasher outside the NBA. And while NBA teams once believed that Bo was a liability with the ball in his hands, he proved that this certainly is not the case. He finished with the top Turnover Rate in the entire tournament amongst point guards, beating out Tony Parker and many others. Bo's versatility as a slasher opens up the floor for his teammates. While he does collect many hockey assists by driving in and hitting cutters, he also plays within his team's offensive scheme and willingly moves the ball around the perimeter. As such, his assist statistics in this tournament were fairly understated because of how often Macedonia moved the ball on the perimeter once Bo made the initial kick out pass. In spite of all this, he still managed to post an Assist Rate of 28.6%- the fourteenth highest percentage amongst all participants.

Aside from his obvious strength as a slasher, Bo has made some inroads as an outside jump shooter as well. He posted a 58.5% True Shooting Percentage and demonstrated that he can be deadly from the midrange if given enough space. Even though this is not his best asset on the offensive end, Bo shot a solid 43.8% from beyond the arc in Euroleague action with his Siena club. Also, Bo is fairly effective squaring his body to the basket on off balance, turnaround jumpers. Against Spain, for instance, he demonstrated a very quick release when hitting fadeaway jumpers over the length of Spain's big men.

On the defensive end, Bo has extremely quick hands and regularly deflects the basketball, giving offensive players headaches and creating extra possessions for his team. Additionally, Bo possesses exceptional lateral quickness and this allows him to stay in front of virtually anyone. With that said, he has a tendency to cheat on screens and this sometimes causes him to lose his man. But, he generally puts a lot of effort into his defensive assignments. Moreover, while he was not an impressive rebounder from a statistical standpoint in these Eurobasket games, Bo is capable on the glass and occasionally snatched rebounds away from much bigger opponents. Also, in his first season in the Italian League, he finished with an 11.9% Total Rebounding Percentage.

Overall, Bo McCalebb is an exceptionally quick and athletic point guard who has proven that he can finish over the length of quality NBA big men. This makes him an obvious candidate to transition to the NBA when his contract expires in a couple of years.

While he has recently proven that he can compete against NBA-level talent, this begs a rather tantalizing question: why exactly was Bo McCalebb passed up in his native country in the first place? To answer this, one must delve into the NBA front offices' practice of cognitive dissonance, whereby executives develop consensuses on players, and then go on to defend these positions despite all evidence to the contrary. One of the more common criticisms that players cannot seem to shake is the concern over a defined NBA position. For Bo, the general consensus amongst NBA player personnel was that he was too small to play shooting guard and that he did not have a skilled enough handle to make the cut as an NBA point guard. Does this criticism seem fair to anyone who watched this year's Eurobasket? While it may have been an accurate assessment when Bo was first entering the league, he has improved considerably since then. Yet, NBA teams generally fail to recognize this and thus end up missing out on talented late bloomers like Bo.

And, just as Bo was looking for another opportunity to prove these doubters wrong, so too was Macedonia in need of a national hero.

It only seems right- then- that approximately ten years after Americans (and European forces with NATO) quelled tensions and brokered a peace agreement between competing factions in Macedonia, that an American would once again unite this nation. While his battle was fought on the court and not on the battlefield, it is clear that Bo's impact extended far beyond the bounds of a simple basketball contest. I mean, how many players in this day and age can rightfully stake the claim that they brought together an entire nation through their play on the basketball court?

With all that said, what else should we have expected from Bo? Over the course of his short career, he has been in the business of defying expectations. If only an NBA front office could be moved by someone who plays with such a chip on his shoulder. But, alas, Bo is only 6'0 tall.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Breakthrough Prospects (Low Major Conferences Second Edition)

In my second edition of this segment, I outline the emerging prospects across the Low Major Conferences for the 2011-2012 season.

Sterling Carter, Seattle- Few first year players assumed as prominent of a role as Sterling Carter did in his freshman season. Originally, Carter was under-hyped coming into college due to an ACL injury which caused him to miss his senior season. However, in 2010-2011, the Redhawks' squad significantly relied on Carter's production, as he took over 30% of his team's shots. And, while he was not particularly efficient from the floor, posting a 93.0 Offensive Rating (good for 7th amongst Independent players with his usage), Carter should only improve upon last season's totals. His 47.4% Effective Field Goal Percentage should increase with Seattle's addition of Washington transfer Clarence Trent. Trent will likely take some of the defensive focus off of Carter and allow him to play with more patience this season, thus enabling him to pick his spots more effectively. Look for Carter to increase his 16.1 Assist Rate when he is called upon to distribute the ball within his team's offensive sets. Further, Carter should continue to perform at a high level on the defensive end. Last year, because of his solid athleticism, Carter caused headaches for the opposition. He had the foot speed and strength to stay in front of most lead guards and generally wreaked havoc on this end of the floor. All in all, if Carter can continue to transition into his role as more of a facilitator, he should receive some attention on a national scale.

Griffan Callahan, South Dakota St.- Playing alongside the nation's most underrated point guard, Callahan posted the second best offensive efficiency in the NCAA a season ago. (2nd in's Offensive Rating) This was largely due to how effective he was shooting the ball from the field, finishing 22nd in the nation with a 64.8% True Shooting Percentage. Callahan accomplished this by improving on his 2009-2010 three point shooting (28.8%) and hitting 43% of his three point field goals. And, while he did not go to the line often- evinced by the fact that he ranked 27th in the Summit League in Free Throw Rate- he was very efficient when he did get there, connecting on 92.6% of his attempts. And while he did not draw contact often enough, he also was only used on 13.8% of his team's possessions. With the loss of Clint Sargent from last year's team, this should change. Callahan will be called upon to step up his production in a major way, and playing alongside talented shot creator Nate Wolters should only help. Defensively, Callahan was capable of stealing the ball from the opposition, ranking 9th in the league in Steals %. Overall, Callahan should have a major impact for South Dakota St. and could potentially lead his team to a 1st place finish in the Summit.

Alex Francis, Bryant University- Francis played inspired basketball as a freshman in the NEC. He was not particularly efficient from the floor, posting the 17th highest Effective Shooting Percentage in the conference and finishing towards the bottom of the conference in Offensive Rating. With that said, Francis was thrown into the fire immediately, being used on 30.3% of his team's possessions. (36th in the NCAA) At 6'6, Francis played primarily as a combo forward, demonstrating no semblance of an outside shooting game. (0-7 from 3 point range) If he hopes to play as a professional, he must develop an outside jumper to keep defenses honest. Despite this obvious hole in his game, Francis possesses considerable athleticism and used it to become one of the best rebounders in the NEC. He ranked 14th in the conference in Offensive Rebounding % and 6th in Defensive Rebounding % last year. Francis was also explosive attacking the basket, finishing 4th in the conference in Free Throw Rate and 3rd in Fouls Drawn Per 40 Minutes. Because he is undersized for an inside player, Alex Francis struggled to guard bigger post options, but was able to play decent help defense. If he can improve his efficiency from the floor and develop an outside jumper, Francis could become one of the more unstoppable Low Major players. For now, though, Francis's game is very reminiscent of Chris Gaston's due to his solid athleticism and ability to clean up on the glass.

Jeromie Hill, UTSA- In his first season with UTSA, Hill was one of the more impressive post players in the conference. Standing at 6'8 230 lbs., the Aussie big man demonstrated a fairly diverse offensive skill set. While he was effective in the post, Hill also displayed a nice shooting touch. His Effective Shooting Percentage was 53.1% a year ago, good for 10th in the Southland Conference. Further, he connected on 40% of his 100 three point attempts last season. On the defensive end, Hill was fairly good at protecting the basket and thereby finished 16th in the conference in blocks %. Look for Hill to improve on the offensive glass this season, where he was only the 22nd best in the Southland. He was effective at collecting defensive rebounds, though, ranking as the 14th best player in Defensive Rebounding %. In the absence of Devin Gibson next season, Hill should become UTSA's top option on offense. And, if he can continue to develop his diversified skill set, he should receive looks from scouts down the road.

Augustine Rubit, South Alabama- After redshirting the season before, Augustine Rubit proved to be one of the Sun Belt conference's most promising young players in 2010-2011. At 6'6 220 lbs, he functions more as a post option than does a combo forward like Alex Francis. Rubit was one of the best undersized rebounders in the NCAA a season ago- he ranked 8th nationally in Offensive Rebounding % and 44th in Defensive Rebounding % (good for 1st and 3rd in the Sun Belt). Not only was he dynamic at crashing the boards, but he also showcased his solid shot blocking ability, finishing 10th in the conference in Blocks %. Further, despite his size, Rubit was efficient shooting the basketball; therein, he ranked 8th in the conference in True Shooting Percentage. Because of this, he was also an effective overall offensive weapon, as evinced by his 13th best Offensive Rating amongst all players in the Sun Belt. Rubit must increase his production, and more specifically, focus on getting to the line more frequently due to the transfer of Martino Brock. When he does get there, though, he must capitalize on his opportunities and improve on the meager 68% free throw percentage that he posted last season. Overall, look for Rubit to make a significant impact for South Alabama and to become a 1st Team All Conference Selection this season. Even with his production, the loss of Brock really hurts this squad and will likely prevent the Jaguars from earning a bid to the Big Dance this year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Breakthrough Prospects (Low Major Conferences First Edition)

In my first edition of this segment, I outline the emerging prospects across the Low Major Conferences for the 2011-2012 season.

LaDaris Green, Kennesaw St.- After redshirting in 2009-2010, Green had an impact sophomore season and quickly emerged as one of the top forwards in the Atlantic Sun. Green is a solid athlete, and should be one of the more efficient low major post players next season. In 2010-2011, he ranked 10th in Offensive Rating in the Atlantic Sun (of those with at least 20% usage) according to Further, Green shot the ball well, finishing 9th in the conference in effective field goal percentage. (53.2%) LaDaris Green was also one of the best at collecting rebounds, ranking 2nd in the Atlantic Sun in Offensive Rebounding % and 5th in Defensive Rebounding %. On the defensive end, Green needs to continue to add bulk in order to edge players out on the block. Currently, he has proven to be valuable- though- on this end due to his ability to contest shots, placing 6th in the conference in Blocks %. Look for him to continue his progression on the defensive end as he develops physically. And, he should earn All-Conference honors this season along with teammate Markeith Cummings en route to challenging Belmont in the Atlantic Sun.

Antoine Mason, Niagara- Despite the excellent start to Mason's NCAA career, he only was able to play in three contests due to a stress fracture in his foot. Because it continued to bother him throughout the season, the coaching staff recommended that he sit out for the rest of the year in order to avoid the possibility of re-aggravating his injury. Although he did not see many minutes on the floor a season ago, Mason was still one of the MAAC's most intriguing freshman in limited action. Mason is a vertically explosive combo guard with a knack for scoring the basketball. While he is not the best three point shooter at this stage, (albeit there is a very limited statistical sample- 26% through the first three games of the season) Mason is aggressive attacking the basket and drawing contact. On the defensive end, Masons's physicality should allow him to compete with some of the MAAC's toughest offensive weapons. If he can avoid injury, look for Mason to have an All-Conference season and to emerge as one of the best midmajor combo guards.

Brandyn Curry/Oliver McNally, Harvard- Harvard, the overwhelming favorite to win the Ivy League conference this year, features two potential breakout players. While he did have a fairly noteworthy season a year ago, Brandyn Curry is poised to become one of the more dynamic pass-first point guards in the nation. On the offensive end, Curry arguably has the best court vision in the Ivy League. His Assist Rate, according to, ranks 2nd in the conference and 26th in the country. One should fully expect those numbers to improve. Yet, he must cut down on his turnovers in order to become a truly elite lead guard. (37th in the Ivy League in Turnover Rate) In terms of his efficiency as an offensive weapon, Curry finished 10th in the Ivy League in 'Offensive Rating'. This is largely due to the fact that he shot the ball well, posting a 50.2% eFG% (16th in the Ivy League) and a 54.7% TS% (19th in the Ivy League). Despite these statistics, Curry was less accurate from beyond the arc, declining from his 43% average his freshman season to 36% a year ago. This is an area that Curry must improve on in order to prove his mettle as a professional player. Moreover, Curry's teammate Oliver McNally was the most efficient player in the Ivy League last year, ranking 1st in the conference and 18th in the nation in 'Offensive Rating'. In spite of his limited usage, (on only 15.5% of his team's possessions) McNally shot the ball extremely well. He connected on over 44% of his 3 point attempts (51st in the country) and hit 92.6% of his free throws, good for 2nd in the nation. In terms of his advanced statistics in this area, McNally posted the 3rd highest True Shooting Percentage in the country. Furthermore, McNally was not a one dimensional player a season ago. Despite his penchant for shooting the ball efficiently, he also played an unselfish brand of basketball, finishing 9th in the Ivy League in Assist Rate. All in all, if last season was any indication, Harvard should be getting the ball to McNally more often. Look for him to be a major contributor on a Crimson squad that will likely have its best season in recent memory.

Chris Czerapowicz, Davidson- After a fairly ordinary freshman season in which he averaged approximately 3.5 points per game in just over 9 minutes of action, Czerapowicz is poised for a breakout season. Although he underachieved last year, it was clear that the surgery he had on both hips bothered him early in the season, and, at the very least, prevented him from finding his rhythm and making a significant impact on the court. He exceeded all expectations- though- in the 2011 U20 European Championships, leading Sweden with three 20 point performances against Greece, France, and Montenegro. Czerapowicz finished the tournament as the 11th best scorer and 8th leading rebounder in the entire event. Such excellent experience should help him to build considerably on a rather lackluster freshman year. Overall, look for him to increase his averages substantially this season, and for Davidson to return to the NCAA tournament. In terms of Czerapowicz's long term future, it is clear that he is somewhat of a tweener and will have to prove that he can dial in on his outside jumper. Also, his ability to defend more athletic forwards is a major concern at this stage.

Derek Selvig/Kareem Jamar, Montana- Seldom in college basketball (particularly in the Low Major conferences) do you actually want your 7-footer hoisting up three point shots. But, Montana's Derek Selvig is the exception to this rule- in 2010-2011 he connected on 39% of his 100 three point attempts. Selvig is a fairly efficient shooter overall, posting a 52.4% True Shooting Percentage last season. Although he was fairly effective as a long distance option, he must improve as a post player. With Brian Qvale's departure, Selvig is going to be forced to fill Montana's void and play inside more frequently. Most importantly, he must do a better job of securing rebounds. If he can transition to his new role, this opportunity will allow him to prove his versatility on the offensive end. With that said, it should be noted that Selvig's passing ability was very underrated last season, as he posted the 12th highest Assist Rate in the Big Sky. Defensively, Selvig was fairly effective at contesting shots, finishing 17th in the Big Sky in % Steals and 13th in % Blocks. He must develop better post defense, though, in order to become a top Big Sky player. Overall, Selvig will undoubtedly be looked upon as one of Montana's go-to options; look for him to have an All-Conference season when it is all said and done. Not only should one expect Selvig to have a standout year, but it should be duly noted that his teammate Kareem Jamar will also likely emerge as one of the Big Sky's breakthrough players this season. Jamar was a standout freshman a year ago that ranked 21st in the Big Sky in's 'Offensive Rating'. Further, he posted a 52.2% effective field goal percentage, indicating that he was one of the more efficient scorers in the Big Sky last year. Another promising sign is that Jamar limited his turnovers and fouls, avoiding the typical freshman mistakes. (9th in the conference in Turnover Rate and 17th in Fouls Committed) Additionally, at 6'5 210 lbs, he was a fairly effective rebounder for his size. As he continues to develop physically, this should only become an even greater strength. If Jamar can receive more touches on the offensive end in the absence of Qvale, he could emerge as arguably the conference's top sophomore and one of the more improved players in the Big Sky.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Breakthrough Prospects (WCC)

In this segment, I outline the emerging prospects for the 2011-2012 West Coast Conference season.

Mitchell Young, Saint Mary's- Young was one of the league's most promising big men a year ago. He was at his best drawing contact in the paint.(11th in WCC in Fouls Drawn) Yet, Young failed to capitalize on this strength most of the time, shooting a mediocre 57.4% free throw % at the free throw line. He must improve on this in order to increase his offensive production. With that said, he should receive the ball more often this season, as he was dependable with the ball in his hands last year. (5th in Turnover %) Further, Young was one of the conference's best rebounders, finishing 7th in the WCC in Offensive Rebounding % and 5th in Defensive Rebounding %. Defensively, Young was one of the top shot blockers in the West Coast Conference, ranking 8th in blocks %. In spite of this strength, Young was still very foul prone, with 5.1 Fouls Committed per 40 minutes of action. All in all, Mitchell Young should be one of the most efficient offensive players in the West Coast Conference next year after he finished 11th in Offensive Rating last season. Look for him to receive All Conference honors and to lead St. Mary's to another NCAA tournament berth.

Perris Blackwell, San Francisco- Blackwell had a solid sophomore campaign for San Francisco. He was fairly dominant on the glass, ranking 1st in the conference in Offensive Rebounding % and 11th in the conference in Defensive Rebounding %. And, he was able to effectively draw fouls and get to the line. (4th in Fouls Drawn in the conference) Blackwell will have to improve his shooting efficiency and cut back on his turnovers this season if he hopes to earn All-Conference honors. Additionally, Blackwell was fairly foul prone last year and must play better positional defense in order to stay on the floor. Look for him to receive even more touches this season, and to improve upon his production a year ago.

Marquise Carter, Gonzaga- A season ago, Carter was one of Gonzaga's most efficient options offensively, posting the 6th highest Offensive Rating in the conference according to Further, he posted a 61% True Shooting %, while connecting on 39% of his 3 point attempts. Despite his fairly ordinary per game numbers, Carter's production down the stretch was critical in Gonzaga's season turnaround. When Carter began to receive more minutes towards the end of the season, the Zags consequently closed out the regular season by winning 11 of their final 12 games. Not only was he efficient scoring the basketball, but he also proved to be an effective passer. By year's end, he ranked 17th in the conference in Assist Rate. Aside from his notable contributions on the offensive end, Carter proved to be one of the tougher defensive players on the Bulldogs' squad in 2010-2011. He had quick hands and was laterally quick enough to stay in front of most players in the league. Carter ranked 7th in the WCC in steals % last season. Expect Marquise Carter to receive starters' minutes next year due to Demetri Goodson's decision to focus solely on football. And, with more playing time, look for him to prosper and become one of the most valuable players in the WCC in 2011-2012.

Brock Zylstra, BYU- Zylstra's story is a rather unique one. He was recruited for the 2006/2007 season, but opted to redshirt. Then, he went on a mission, returning to play for BYU in 2009. Since then, he has been limited to a reserve role, where he averaged just over 1 ppg a season ago. Despite this, Zylstra improved considerably in the offseason and proved to be one of BYU's top weapons in their overseas tour. He led BYU for spurts against the Greek National Team and dropped 26 points against the Italian National Team, both in losing efforts. Over the course of BYU's 4-game trip overseas, Zylstra led his club by averaging 17.3 ppg and 6.0 rpg. Look for him to receive a lot more playing time this year and to emerge as one of BYU's best and most versatile weapons.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Breakthrough Prospects (Atlantic 10)

In this segment, I outline the emerging prospects for the 2011-2012 A-10 Conference season.

TJ McConnell, Duquesne- Despite earning the Atlantic-10 freshman of the year award and being listed on College Insider's Freshman All American Team, McConnell still did not receive the widespread national attention that he deserves. It should be stressed that these rewards were not without merit though, and that McConnell will likely be one of the best point guards in the country next season. Last year, he was the 6th most efficient offensive player in the Atlantic 10 according to's 'Offensive Rating' statistic. And, he shot the ball well from the field, finishing 8th in the conference in TS% and connecting on 40% of his three point attempts. Not only was he effective scoring the ball, but he also displayed excellent court vision and thereby ranked 5th in the conference in Assist Rate. On the defensive end, TJ finished 7th in the country and first in the A-10 in % steals, while ranking 12th in the conference in fouls committed. This indicates that he played well beyond his years, picking the pockets of countless opposing players, yet not succumbing to the freshman temptation to foul all too often. Moreover, his summer performances at Green Tree only reinforced this notion that he will break through as one of the top point guards in the country this season. There he led his PBC team to a championship victory over a squad featuring Pitt alums and current players such as Ashton Gibbs and Gary McGhee. He was fearless attacking the basket against them, and put the team on his back on several occasions. All in all, when the college season rolls around, look for TJ McConnell to become an All Conference player in the A-10 and more of a household name amongst casual college basketball fans.

Michael Eric/Khalif Wyatt/Aaron Brown, Temple- Temple is coming into this season as one of the most under-hyped squads in the country. Despite the loss of Lavoy Allen, Temple returns most of last season's tournament team. Even though Michael Eric was not Temple's top option inside a year ago, he demonstrated considerable coordination and athleticism in the post. At 6'11, 240 lbs, Eric has the physical tools to develop into a decent professional player. If he continues to make strides in his offensive development while continuing to provide a solid defensive presence, he should be on scouts' radars next year. With Allen's departure, it appears likely that he will get that opportunity to make a name for himself. Moreover, Khalif Wyatt is a strong, undersized shooting guard that ranked 9th in the Atlantic 10 in kenpom's Offensive Rating, meaning that he was one of the conference's most efficient players last season. Look for him to continue to improve this year, as he already made the jump as a freshman that only played in 10 contests to one of the most dependable offensive weapons in the conference as a sophomore. Finally, expect sophomore Aaron Brown to make similar inroads in his second season with the Owls. He played under 10 minutes per game a year ago, but has been gaining experience internationally, playing for the US Virgin Islands national team.

DeMario Mayfield, Charlotte- Despite the poor numbers that he put up during his first college season with Georgia, Mayfield should have a major impact as a transfer for the 49ers. Despite not having played a single possession for this squad, he has already generated considerable buzz within the program due to his play over the summer- so much so that freshman Pierria Henry already anointed him as Charlotte's best player in 2011-2012. While this may be a bit of a stretch, one can gather that Mayfield has displayed considerable talent in pickup games with his teammates. Further, even in his high school playing days, it was clear that Mayfield possessed athletic gifts and the versatility to play both backcourt positions. Therein, expect him to make a considerable impact, even if he begins as Charlotte's third option offensively.

Earl Pettis/Sam Mills, LaSalle- Despite losing many players from a season ago, LaSalle also rid itself of most of its selfish basketball personalities. As a result, they will probably play more as a unit this season. And, former Rutgers transfer Earl Pettis, alongside standout sophomore Tyreek Duran, should lead the way. Look for Pettis to increase his production considerably. In particular, if he can look to draw contact more often, he can better capitalize on his 90% free throw %. He is also a fairly good rebounder for his size, ranking 40th in the conference in Defensive Rebounding %, despite playing alongside big men Jerrell Williams and Aaric Murray, who combined to average 15 rebounds per game. With them gone, look for him to crash the boards more often. Additionally, sophomore Sam Mills should make a huge jump from his fairly average freshman campaign, in which he posted a pedestrian 50.5 TS%- placing him towards the bottom of the conference. In LaSalle's Canadian trip, he shot the ball a lot more efficiently, connecting on 68.18% of his field goal attempts and 66.67% of his three point attempts. While this type of efficiency will probably not last throughout the season, it should be noted that he shot this way against some of Canada's toughest competition. Mills helped LaSalle defeat Carleton University, which has won 7 of the last 9 Canadian college titles. He also performed well against the Carleton University alums that LaSalle scrimmaged. So, while it is too early to suggest the Mills will have an efficient offensive season, all indications are that he will be one of the conference's most improved players entering this regular season.