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.

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