Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Scouring the Nation (Part 11)

In this edition of Scouring the Nation, I examine some of the players who stood out at season's end in Division III. Featured are original scouting reports on Noel Hollingsworth, Cory Lemons, John Boyd, Aaron Walton-Moss, Jordan Zimmer, Chris Davis, Ray Askew, James Wang, Lamonte Thomas, and Javon Williams.

The first prospect of note who really performed well in the Division III semifinals and throughout the tournament is Noel Hollingsworth. This 6'9 big man had an exceptional season after returning from back and knee injuries the season before. Clearly, he does not have the same quickness that he may have had, but it is likely that he would always have limitations in this regard. Noel is an exceptionally intelligent player on both ends of the floor who utilizes his physical tools to the best of his ability. In his contest against eventual champions Wisconsin Whitewater, Hollingsworth demonstrated his post fundamentals and was able to score regularly against POY Chris Davis. Noel displayed his virtually unguardable right and left hook shots, which he got off immediately after receiving a post entry feed. Noel was also physically imposing on box outs, muscling his way down low and securing rebounds when he could.

Additionally, Hollingsworth was able to use his body to create space with his defender before releasing an open shot. On most of his power post moves, he was able to physically out-maneuver the opponent even when they leaned heavily on him and could have easily been called for fouls. He usually attacked their body either backing into them or spinning around them off the dribble. Additionally, Noel understands when to go to his post repertoire and when to kick the ball back out, as he did this on several occasions after facing double teams. After this happened, he either was open on a re-post or set his teammate up for an open perimeter jumper. In terms of his shooting prowess, Hollingsworth demonstrated good fundamentals on his shot, but was unable to connect from deep against Whitewater. However, on the season, he experienced some success shooting from behind the arc, connecting on 41.8% of his 3 point attempts. While he does have good passing instincts, Noel can be slow getting into his post moves and this leads to turnovers when he is double teamed.

On the defensive end, Noel will be a liability due to his lack of lateral quickness and the fact that he does not jump very often on either end of the floor. At the Division III level, he was able to collect 1.7 blocks per game, despite his average/below average leaping ability. This will not continue at the next level. However, in this contest, Hollingsworth mostly looked to position himself for charges and was able to do a good job of contesting without fouling. He was able to draw offensive fouls and used his body well to move into position. Further, Hollingsworth bodies up in the post and tries to weed his man out of the paint. He also has good awareness and is able to deflect poor passes to his teammates, who- in turn- are able to turn those turnovers into transition opportunities. With this said, his lack of quickness hurts him on the glass where he only gathered 6.8 rebounds per game (4.4 drpg) despite his height advantage. He is able to box out and get to balls, but is not athletic enough to sky for rebounds from the weakside etc. Thus, he is very much a position rebounder, and is not useful at all in this respect when stepping out to attempt perimeter jumpers.

Overall, Noel Hollingsworth is an intelligent offensive player with the physicality and sheer determination to play somewhere overseas next year if he so desires. His injuries definitely impacted his play, but he was able to go right at some of the top post players in all of Division III, getting the better of Chris Davis at times and putting together a dominant effort against AJ Matthews, the best big man prospect outside of D1. In that contest, he put up a 37 point and 12 rebound effort against Farmingdale St., while getting Matthews into foul trouble. (He was held to 11 points and 5 rebounds) His team ended up winning by 20 points and advancing to the next round. If Hollingsworth decides to continue with basketball after this season, he should be able to field some offers, but must cut down on the turnovers and work to improve on his quickness in order to have success against bigger, more athletic players.

In the other semifinal matchup, Cabrini College's Cory Lemons was the most valuable player on his team all season long and led his squad to a 31-2 record on the year, advancing to the Division III final and just barely being ousted by Wisconsin Whitewater. This 5'10 point guard is capable of beating opponents in many different ways. First, it should be noted that his greatest strength is his ability to attack off the bounce. Of all the players that I have scouted in Division III, Lemons appears to have the quickest first step. He is a blur driving by his man and is able to use his first step to create better shots for himself.

Because of his elite speed, Lemons was able to beat his opponents down the floor in his last two contests. He drove to the basket with some regularity and was able to draw fouls. However, against top Division III competition, Lemons was unable to close the gap because Cabrini's opponents would often clog the paint. As such, Lemons did a nice job swinging the ball from side to side so that one of his teammates could create off the bounce.

Lemons has excellent court vision and is more than willing to function in this role when his shot is not falling. In their semifinal matchup with Illinois Wesleyan, Lemons struggled with his shot, but was able to dish the ball to his teammates in a variety of ways. He was able to push the ball in transition to open teammates, and was even able to split defenders and dish to cutting teammates. He is most effective driving all the way to the basket and feeding either a cutting guard or a post man streaking to the basket. As mentioned before though, he is more than willing to kick it out to open three point shooters. He did this early and often and this helped John Boyd get on track for his career night. He understands where to feed his teammates and thus is able to secure excellent looks for them.

In terms of his perimeter shooting, Lemons is dynamic off the bounce. He is able to get into a jump shooting motion very quickly off the dribble and with a great deal of accuracy. He shot 41.7% from three point range despite being the focal point of most team's defesnive schemes. His jumper inside of three point range is probably even more accurate for him, and he goes to it with regularity. Lemons can turn the ball over at times, and must learn to not jump in the air to make a pass. But, he is also a tremendous rebounder for his size, securing 6.2 boards per game on the year.

On the defensive end, Lemons is exceptionally quick and is able to pick up steals by using his solid hands. He does not foul often, though, so he normally plays good position defense. His lateral quickness allows him to stay with just about anyone, and he was tenacious on switching plays when he was forced to defend the post.

Overall, Cory Lemons is one of the more complete guards in Division III basketball, and it is no wonder that he was the catalyst behind a program defining season.

Teammate John Boyd also had a tremendous showing in his final two contests. In the semifinal, Boyd buried three pointers almost effortlessly, with a hand in his face fading away from the basket. While he did not shoot the ball exceptionally well on the year (33% 3 point %), he was extremely effective in these games. He was capable spotting up off the dribble or nailing long range shots off the catch. His mid range game also appears to be fairly advanced despite his subpar numbers on the year. (approximately 38%) Boyd's range extends well beyond NBA threes and he effortlessly hit these shots after squaring up. He had a career high in points and three pointers made in the semifinal, but was able to score in a variety of other ways as well. Boyd was also very clutch in his final game, connecting on an incredibly difficult 'and 1' attempt fading away with 44 seconds to go. He then knocked down his free throw to keep Cabrini in the game late.

Boyd put in a solid effort on the defensive end against Jordan Zimmer in the semifinal and was able to deflect several passes and turn them into transition baskets. He can run the fast break and has a decent enough handle and instincts to know when to give the ball up. He gets low in his defensive stance and plays physically enough that he is able to deter perimeter jump shooters from releasing their shot. In halfcourt sets, he was also able to attack the basket and get to the line with ease. There he shot 76.5% on the year and was able to earn himself enough attempts at the charity stripe to make a difference for his team. He was able to do this because he is quick enough to get by his man, but also utilizes his shot fake well and this opens up opportunities for him. Boyd does need to avoid putting his head down and charging to the basket, as he was called for offensive fouls on several occasions. All in all, John Boyd is a supporting player that may be able to play in the Americas if he can continue to shoot the ball efficiently, as he did late in the season.

Cabrini College's star freshman Aaron Walton-Moss also made an impact on both ends of the floor and was a big reason why his team made it to the Division III tournament final. While he was forced to play as a forward due to his physical nature, he does have the handles at 6'1 to be an effective lead guard if given the opportunity. He dribbles under control and can break away in transition, as he demonstrated on numerous breakaway steals. He is extremely physical and has the footspeed to defend the post or the wing positions. Further, his quickness and physical nature allow him to create space in the lane and score past his defender. Walton-Moss shot an efficient 57.8% from the floor this past season. He has good athleticism and was able to jump up to block some shots of players up to 6 inches taller than him. His athleticism also helped him on the glass last year, where he was able to gather 8.6 rebounds per game in spite of his height. While he does have a lot of promise and will likely be given a bigger role in the offense next year with Lemons' absence, Walton-Moss does need to improve his jump shot, as he does not always shoot with a straight arm and sometimes has a bit of a hitch in his shot. Walton-Moss is a player to keep an eye on in the future, as he already was a main contributor on one of the best teams in the country as a freshman.

On the opposing squad in the semifinals, guard Jordan Zimmer had an excellent showing against Cabrini. The 6'5 Illinois Wesleyan standout has the size and skillset to obtain success at a high level abroad. Zimmer is a prototypical wing who only needs a moment of daylight to get his shot off. While Cabrini's John Boyd had the game of his life, Zimmer matched Boyd's effort at times, connecting from long range and keeping his team in the game. He has a picture perfect stroke with good elevation and does not vary in his form. On several occasions, he hit shots from long range despite being fouled.  He was effective in transition and was able to pull up then or kick it to an open teammate. Zimmer utilizes screens well, rubbing off and allowing himself to break free for open jumpers. Zimmer is also capable going to the basket, and demonstrated this at times when he was able to beat his man off the dribble. While he does not possess a particularly quick first step, Zimmer makes up for this with the threat of his outside shot and his overall basketball savvy.

In the semifinal against Cabrini, Zimmer made some beautiful skip passes to set his teammates up for shots. He did a nice job of feeding the post, giving it to his teammate on the correct hand and setting him up for a layup. Further, Zimmer played a physical brand of basketball. He boxed out and secured loose rebounds, doing whatever it took to win. He was very aggressive and was willing to bang with the frontcourt players. Defensively, Zimmer displayed some good potential. While he did give up some points to John Boyd, he played hard nosed defense, digging into him and contesting jump shots without fouling. He made several steals in the game due to his quick hands, and he possessed decent enough lateral quickness to disrupt straight line drives. Overall, Zimmer is one of the more promising prospects that I have seen in DIII, and he almost certainly will have an opportunity to play somewhere next year.

The Division III player of the year also deserves a mention due to his solid play throughout the tournament. Wisconsin Whitewater's Chris Davis was one of the most physically imposing players in all of Division III. Standing at roughly 6'6 and weighing roughly (guestimate) 240 pounds, Davis is capable of forcing his will in the paint. In his semifinal matchup, he did a good job of outmuscling Hollingsworth at times when he looked to score inside. He was able to seal his man whenever he received deep post position. And, he is mobile enough to score off of spin moves, shifting his weight to either shoulder. Davis has decent footwork and a nice jump hook, which he gets off by pinning his man with his shoulders. At the next level, he will not be able to assert himself in this manner because he will face players with comparable size and greater height and athleticism. Davis is an exceptional passer out of the post and he regularly set his teammates up for open outside buckets. He can also handle the ball and pass when attacking the basket, but these situations arise less frequently.

Further, Davis is capable of getting in the lane with his deceptive quickness. He can hit runners and is willing to pull up if he can create enough space. At the next level, he will find it much more difficult to get his shot off in the paint because he lacks ideal size for a post player. However, he is also an excellent long range shooter. He has a consistent stroke from outside and is able to connect with some proficiency, hitting 41.1% of his attempts. While he does have a quick enough release to get his shot off at the next level, his shot will run the risk of being blocked because he has virtually no lift from outside. As a result, he is going to have to take deeper shots and mix it up more often. He is fairly dynamic shooting the ball and can hit from virtually anywhere. In this way, he is somewhat reminiscent of a less physically fit version of Jae Crowder.

Defensively is where Davis has the most room to grow. He is very physical in the post and adequately weeds his man out. Further, he has very good hands and is able to deflect the ball away from his opposition. He can anticipate passes and could become more of a weapon if he is able to shed some weight. This became a concern in both the semifinals and the championship game. He was forced to sub out for key stretches in both contests because he was too winded to play at his best. This has to change if he is going to take on basketball as a profession. He must drop about 30 pounds to be in optimal shape. While his play was a pivotal part of Whitewater's late run against Cabrini in the championship, one has to imagine that if Davis played more consistent minutes, he would have   been able to assert himself earlier and his team would not have been forced to come back. Overall, Davis is an intriguing prospect with some excellent intangibles, but must drop some weight in order to be effective at the next level.

Ray Askew is one of the best athletes that I have reviewed at the D3 level. The Albertus Magnus standout had one of his better showings against Johnson & Wales, which features DIII's top player. He was a dominant paint presence at 6'7 and was able to leap with the best of them. He began by winning the tip and continued to assert himself on the glass. Askew employs his great length and leaping ability to simply come out of no where and grab boards at times. He has decent box out fundamentals, but is best at jumping in from the weakside and snatching the ball in midair. He finished the contest against Johnson & Wales by grabbing a rebound and holding out the clock. It is clear that he is one of the best rebounders at the D3 level with 9.7 boards per game, and it is probable that his ability on this end will translate even if he converts to the small forward position.

Aside from his tenacity on the glass, Askew has the ball skills and potential from beyond the arc to become a small forward long term. On several occasions, he dribbled the ball in transition and was able to get to the basket. He is an effective player off the dribble, breaking down his man and keeping him off balance. Askew has a decent handle, but must work on his change of pace and direction dribbles to really throw his defender off guard. At this point, he is serviceable with his straight line dribble and is able to blow by his defender or stop on a dime for a pull up jumper. With that said, Askew must cut down on his turnovers and work on distributing to his teammates. At this point, he often loses the ball because he is double teamed on a regular basis. He needs to have better court awareness, as his 0.4 assist to turnover ratio is not good enough to earn minutes at any level of play.

With that said, Askew is a very talented offensive weapon. He can step out and hit the three, as evinced by his 43.8% shooting percentage from beyond the arc on limited attempts. Or, he can beat his defender off the bounce. But, because of his elite athleticism, Askew is best at attacking his defender and getting to the line. He averaged 11.5 free throw attempts per game, but must work on his 67.0% from the charity stripe. Askew does a nice job of anticipating contact and jumping into his man, particularly when moving to the basket. He is capable of getting his defender in the air and finishing through contact. In his contest with Johnson & Wales, he converted on several double pump moves going to the hoop and was able to score through fouls at times.

On the defensive end, Askew was very impressive as an enforcer in the paint. Given his solid leaping ability and fluid athleticism, Askew was able to block several shots in the lane. Further, he has the hands to steal the ball away and was great with his defensive pressure. On the season, he averaged 1.5 steals per game and deflected even more balls. But, despite his decent statistical defensive numbers, Askew is best as a positional defender. He often bodies up players in the paint without fouling. In his contest with Johnson & Wales, he forced countless bad shots and was physical, but avoided fouling due to his good foot speed and positioning. He drew several charge calls (one on Lamonte Thomas) and was able to impact the game in a variety of ways. Overall, Askew is a player that can achieve success at the next level. He has the physical profile and developing skillset to stick with a team if he can learn to limit his turnovers.

Additionally, Williams' James Wang played on some winning squads during his four years with the team, and he was a critical reason why. This serviceable point guard is a willing passer despite his meager 2.0 assists per game. He is willing to distribute the ball around the perimeter and usually looks to make the extra pass, which does not always convert immediately into open shot opportunities. As such, he usually makes the first pass in a series. Wang is a willing passer, but is more effective offensively when he is connecting from beyond the arc. On the season, Wang had a rather poor shooting percentage (for his standards- 33.3%), but was able to hit long range shots at critical junctures. Further, while he did shoot a fairly low percentage on the year, he fell into a shooting slump late in the season. While he is exceptionally quick off the dribble, he did not get to the line all that often, with only 74 attempts on the year. Although he did hit 82.4% of those attempts, he should have been more effective at drawing contact. One key issue regarding why his statistics were down this season centers around the fact that he did not always touch the ball on the offensive end. On some plays, he would not be a featured part of the offense and instead had to innovate when teams did not converge on him immediately.

With that said, he is a fundamentally sound basketball player. Wang is a capable rebounder despite his size, as he does a good job of boxing out. He also has a very good handle and does a decent job of controlling tempo. Further, he makes decent post entry passes, and effectively rubs off on screens. On the defensive end, Wang possesses great awareness. Not only does he have exceptional lateral quickness, but his IQ is fairly advanced for a player at the DIII level. Wang plays good positional defense with his feet and his good hands enable him to collect steals. Further, Wang often forces other players into turnovers, either by making them lose their balance and causing them to travel, or by drawing charges. He has the ability to move laterally and to get into position to get hit and draw the offensive foul, as he prides himself on his ability to force turnovers. Overall, Wang must continue to improve his three point shooting and work to become more efficient from long range. He must also look to assert himself more on the offensive end, as he appears to have a fairly high basketball IQ.

While Wang tries to play within his team's offense, Lamonte Thomas is the most valuable player in his team's sets. In addition to what I have mentioned in previous reviews, it is clear that Lamonte has the potential to succeed at the next level. He got to the line approximately 11 times per game this past season. Additionally, while he does have somewhat of a hitch in his shooting motion (which can be corrected), Thomas is consistent and is able to release his shot quickly and with a fairly consistent form when he is on balance. In his matchup with Askew and Albertus Magnus, Thomas was able to deflect balls and show some more wrinkles to his game on the defensive end. He has decent lateral quickness, but occasionally struggles to fight through screens, something that he will have to improve on. Further, he is capable of stealing the ball, but tends to play positional defense. With that said, it is clear that he will not have the ball in his hands offensively as often as he did at Johnson & Wales. As such, his turnovers will likely be cut down significantly and he probably will have more energy to expend on defense.

In terms of his ability to run the team, Thomas almost single handedly kept his team in the game against Albertus Magnus before fouling out. He distributed the ball to his teammates, and executed several difficult fadeaway shots off of the correct pivot foot. Thomas does an excellent job of initiating contact and finishing, as I have mentioned before. Further, Thomas looks to push the tempo on defensive rebounds, which he actively collects. (74 of his 82 total rebounds on the year) As I had alluded to earlier, Thomas' handle really separates him from his peers, and it is likely that he will be a tremendous asset at the next level due in large part to his ability to drive against defenders. In his game against Albertus Magnus, he drew a foul on a nifty dribbling display. Overall, it is clear that Thomas is a steal at the next level for whichever team is willing to take a chance on him. He is a top 3 overall prospect outside of Division 1, and should land on one of the top teams overseas.

Finally, LaSell's Javon Williams has a game reminiscent of Indiana's undersized post player, AJ Moye. At 6'4, he utilizes his decent length and physical tools to outwork players in the post. His length makes him difficult to contest on drives inside, and he has decent enough footwork to score around defenders. Williams is more of a finesse player in the post and only attempted 4.4 free throws per game, despite having serviceable athleticism. He is exceedingly efficient with his post moves, and was able to shoot 62.1% from the floor on the year. While he is not a great shooter from the midrange or distance, he has the athletic tools to finish against bigger post players. He can hit jumpers in the lane though, and this allows him to keep defenses honest.

On the defensive end, Williams is solid. He often contests without fouling, and is one of the more productive players mentioned. He collected 1.2 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game on the year. He is also physical inside and was able to gather 7.4 rebounds per game. He is effective boxing out and sealing his man so that he can grab boards. Overall, while Williams has the basketball IQ to succeed at the next level, his height may discourage teams from looking into him. If he continues to work hard and develop his midrange game, he may be able to land somewhere, likely in the Americas.

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