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.

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