Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Orleans Men's Basketball

After transitioning from Division I to Division III a year ago, it appears as if New Orleans men's basketball team is going to be moving to the Southland Conference in the future. The following is a synopsis of the players from last year's team and a brief look at their outlook transitioning back to Division I, after only playing with 3 scholarship players a year ago.

Antonio Wertz- This 6'7 senior forward was the heart and soul of his New Orleans squad a year ago. He is super aggressive on both ends of the floor, regularly giving up his body to take charges. Wertz plays a stifling brand of defense, which is less effective when he is giving up a couple of inches. However, it appears as if he could make the transition to a combo forward slot if he were to continue to improve moving forward. If he hopes to accomplish this, though, he must improve on his paltry long range shooting. Last year he shot a subpar 30.0% from beyond the arc on 30 attempts. He must learn to extend his range and hone this facet of the game, as it will open up his ability to slash to the rim. In terms of his faceup post game, Wertz has a nice array of moves that get his man off balance and allow him to score amongst the trees. He employs a believable ball fake when attacking the basket. He must continue to improve his drop step moves down low if he hopes to function in this role at the next level. Additionally, he was very efficient from the field last season- shooting 53.1%- largely due to his ability to clean up on the glass and secure easy shot attempts. Wertz is very scrappy fighting for loose balls, and this enabled him to grab 7.0 rebounds per contest, most of which were on the defensive end. On the defensive end, Wertz is very aggressive and has the footspeed to stay in front of most players. He drew several impressive charges, one on the top of the key and one on the interior in one contest I watched. Further, Wertz has quick hands and is athletic enough to prevent scoring opportunities. He averaged just under 1 block per game and 1.33 steals per contest. Overall, Wertz is a scrappy combo forward with a developing skillset who might be able to continue his playing career if he is able to define his position on the court.

Brandon Knight- New Orleans' other senior was one of the best decision makers at any level of play. Knight did an excellent job at distributing the ball despite not having an incredibly quick first step. More often than not, he made the right pass to his teammates, whether it was near the basketball or swinging the ball on the perimeter. For that reason, he averaged 4.69 assists per contest and posted an exceptional 3.33 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio. Offensively, Knight has decent enough quickness to get by his initial man, but struggles creating for himself against zone defenses. He does not get to the rim often due to his dimunitive size at 6'0, and usually settles for jump shots. When he did get there, he was rather inefficient. His overall field goal percentage was just 40.6% and this declined to 35.3% from beyond the arc. Further, he struggles with his jumper because he has a bit of a hitch in his shot. This allows him to adjust against taller defenses and shoot over the top of players. However, it is not a hallmark of consistency when he elevates and shoots from the field. He does do a good job of squaring his body, giving his shot a chance on most possessions. Still, it is clear that Knight has practiced considerably with this form, as he shot an impressive 84.5% from the line last year. In terms of his ability on the defensive end, Knight struggles against bigger players. He has decent lateral quickness, but has difficulty preventing players from getting to the basket and scoring over the top of him. Players are also able to shoot over him from beyond the arc. Overall, Knight is a steady point guard with some limitations, but the smarts to succeed in the minor leagues if he decides to continue with basketball.

Generra Varmall- Varmall is no longer with the Privateers, but he was impactful a year ago before being let go from the team. The 6'0 guard did a nice job of getting in the lane and drawing fouls. He got to the line over three times per contest last season. When he got there, though, he capitalized on only 73.1% of his attempts. Varmall has the quickness to get into gaps and can finish at the rim. However, Varmall must work on his efficiency. He shot a paltry 37.2% from the floor and 24.3% from beyond the arc. He must continue to improve his jump shot and look to take less contested attempts. Further, Varmall is not a true point guard at this stage and averaged just under 2 assists per contest with a Assist to Turnover Ratio under 1 to 1. Varmall must improve in this capacity if he hopes to obtain a pivotal role on another high level collegiate squad. With that said, Varmall was effective on the defensive end. He has good hands and is able to pick pockets, averaging 2.05 steals per game. He is also effective at shadowing his man and understanding helpside situations. Varmall might be a nice transfer at the D2 level, where he can really make his impact felt.


These three players will not be available next season, and it is increasingly likely that New Orleans will have to rely on recruiting non-scholarship players to fill roster spots. The loss of Wertz, in particular might really hurt New Orleans' chances to remain respectable against Division I opponents.

Nonetheless, they return three key players from a season ago.

Lovell Cook was his team's leading scorer last season, and he will really need to step up his production again to fill the void left by Wertz. Cook is a strong combo forward with a post game and an ability to step out and hit perimeter jumpers. In the contests that I witnessed, he spent the vast majority of his time attacking in the paint, utilizing pump and head fakes to get his man in the air, and then finishing over bigger players. Cook does a nice job of scoring in the paint and has a reliable jump shot when he decides to implement his face up game. Cook shot an efficient 51.0% from the field, and was able to connect on 75.7% of his attempts at the line. He also led the team in free throws attempted with 115. This figure must improve if New Orleans hopes to remain competitive. They need more free attempts to really bolster their offense, because otherwise, teams will overplay them and this will cause them all kinds of problems. Cook must extend his range, as he very rarely attempted a three point shot and failed to connect on any of his attempts. He did attack the glass, but must progress on this front to help New Orleans remain competitive. More specifically, with the loss of Wertz, he must improve on his 5.1 boards per game. And, because Cook is taking on a larger burden with Wertz gone, he must improve his decision making as well. Last season, he oftentimes got too caught up dribbling around looking for his shot, and was thus fairly turnover prone. His assist to turnover ratio was an abysmal 0.467 to 1. He must keep his head up and look to create more opportunities for his teammates.

Point guards Rarlensee Nelson and Darrell Williams are also worth mentioning. Nelson is one of the few players on his team who has a quick enough first step to create his own shot off the dribble. He must take on a larger role in his team's offense and look to create for his teammates. He posted a positive assist to turnover ratio despite receiving limited time at the point guard position last season. Nelson has a quick enough first step to get to the basket as well. But, he must learn to finish at the rim, as his 31.7% field goal percentage is not going to cut it. He was better from beyond the arc, though, hitting 36.0% of his attempts. Nelson must continue to limit the number of long range bombs he attempts and look for more of his teammates after the graduation of Knight. Defensively, Nelson is quick enough to stay with his man, but struggles- at times- due to his lack of height.

Darrell Williams is in a similar position to Nelson. He also must take on the brunt of the point guard responsibilities for his team. His 1.76 to 1 Assist to Turnover is a positive indication that he can fill the void left by Knight. However, Williams is also a very good rhythm shooter and would benefit greatly if he were able to come off the ball with Nelson on the floor. He shot a mediocre 33.6% from beyond the arc last year, but this was largely due to the fact that he rarely saw an open attempt. Williams also did not have much better luck inside the line, connecting on a similarly bad 34.1% of his field goal attempts. However, Williams does have a good form on his shot, as evinced by his 83.3% free throw percentage and his streaky shooting at times. Williams will always have his limitations defensively due to his size at 5'9, but he is a smart enough player to look for ways to compensate. Look for him to take on a much larger role next year.

Overall, New Orleans will have a very similar team to the one they played with a season ago. With a dearth of true big men up front, New Orleans' newcomers will prove critical to their success. Further, New Orleans is missing a true wing player or someone with height who can stretch team defenses. If they are able to bring this type of a player in, this would bolster the team's overall shooting and create many more easy shot attempts.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tracking My Accomplishments: A Year in Review

As long as I have been following basketball, I have been making predictions, many of which have come true. However, in the past, it was difficult to substantiate these claims, as I had little to no documentation concerning the predictions themselves as well as the time period in which these statements were made. With the advent of Twitter and my progression into writing about basketball, I am now able to firmly identify what I said and when I said it.

As a result, I have decided to exercise this newfound ability. This article delineates my noteable basketball-related predictions over the past year. An assigned value (on a 10 point rating scale) will be ascribed to each prediction and each will be itemized under the following headings: "The Good", "The Bad", "The Mixed Bag", and "Yet to Be Fulfilled". Feel free to provide any constructive criticism, as any feedback is much appreciated.


On Kyle O'Quinn: 9/10

-I identified him as an NBA draft prospect well before any other draft outlets even had them on their radar. For instance, I tweeted Draftexpress in very early September asking them to add the following players to their top senior board, which was a ranking of the top 70 or so senior draft prospects in the country:

The vast majority of those other names mentioned were invited and many participated in the Portsmouth Invitational. The others received workout opportunities.

Further, Kyle O'Quinn was on my radar all season long. The following tweets were made prior to O'Quinn's breakout performance in the NCAA tournament:

As a reference, Kyle O'Quinn was one of the biggest late season climbers in the NBA draft. He was the Portsmouth Invitational's MVP, as his team won the championship there. Further, the Magic selected him with the 49th pick in the draft and it appears as though he played well enough in summer league to earn a roster spot. He was inked by the Magic to a 3-year, $2.5 million contract. (Source

On Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: 4/10

I do not put so much weight on this accomplishment, as some of my statements did not turn out to be entirely true. However, I have long been an advocate of MKG, and I believed that he would help lead Kentucky to a National Championship.

Well, MKG was not the most valuable player on Kentucky last year. However, he was an extremely significant contributor to their title run. As such, the value of my prediction here is limited. Still, most believed before the season started that Jones would be a more important contributor than Kidd-Gilchrist, and MKG's draft stock was pegged as late lottery. I have always held that he was a top 5 pick. (see

Other statements:

On Gorgui Dieng: 8/10

While he was not on my radar during his freshman season, I was extremely impressed with Dieng during his matchup with Bellarmine University in the preseason. I explained further:

After watching him further, I identified the fact that he is a serious NBA draft prospect due to his impressive defensive game. I stand by my prediction that he will likely be drafted in the lottery after next season mostly because of his impact blocking and altering shots, coupled with his ability to control the glass. While this last tweet has yet to come to fruition, he was not even mentioned as a draft prospect by major outlets until part way into conference play.

On LaMarshall Corbett: 3/10

After his arrest on January 12, 2011, LaMarshall Corbett was promptly kicked off his Angelo St. squad. At that point in time, he was one of the best Division II players in the country. I issued this tweet recognizing his talent:

Since that time, Corbett was added to Siarka Jezioro over in Poland. He averaged 16.1 points per contest, shooting 51.9% from 2 and 46.0% from 3 point range. He has since signed in the French B League with Nantes. He is a player to keep an eye on a few years from now if he continues to work on his game.

On Low Seeds: 2/10

While I did not assert that these teams would win outright, I noted that they would present challenges to the teams they faced. Lehigh and Norfolk St. upset Duke and Missouri respectively.

On Derrick Nix: 2/10

I identified that Nix's body and overall game had improved significantly. Later on, I mention how he competed with Sullinger during conference play.

On Iowa St.'s Success: 7/10

On Lamar Winning the Southland: 8/10

On Oregon St. finishing in the middle of the Pac-12: 2/10

On LaRon Dendy: 6/10

I identified Dendy as a prospect well before most analysts had him on their radar. With team success, I thought that he had a chance to go drafted. And, he did receive his looks.

On Mississippi St.: 5/10

I recognized that Mississippi St. was a pretender and that the important big for MSU was not Renardo Sydney, but rather Arnette Moultrie. See Preseason Rankings as well.

On Georgetown NBA Prospects: 6/10

I noticed Henry Sims' improvements and indicated that this made him a potential NBA prospect after three mediocre seasons.

I also identified Otto Porter early on as a player that draft experts should keep an eye on. He is now considered a future lottery selection by most outlets.

On Missouri: 8/10

I identified Missouri as an elite team even after it became clear that Bowers was going to redshirt.

On Temple and Wichita St.: 9/10

I ranked both teams in my preseason top 25. Below, I noted that they were being severely underrated by most basketball analysts:

On Dion Waiters: 9/10

I noted early on in the season that Waiters was Syracuse's best guard, despite coming off the bench. I also felt that he was a very good NBA prospect early on in the season.

On Bernard James: 4/10

I noted that James could easily be considered a second round selection in the last draft despite his advanced age.

On Iona Mid-Game Against BYU: 4/10

I never believed that they would lose, but I did throw out the Purdue contest as an example of a game where Iona collapsed after obtaining a lead. It just so happened that BYU was able to mount a historical comeback against them following this comment:

There were many other "Good" calls that I had on twitter, but I have limited it to a few.


On Wisconsin and Missouri:

I noted that Missouri and Wisconsin should be considered top 10 teams. Missouri finished with a #11 ranking in the USA Today poll, and Wisconsin was ranked #12 by season's end.

On Wendell McKines:

While Wendell McKines was incredibly underrated going into the season on a national level, there were other more impactful underrated players. So, there is no doubt that McKines was underrated, after leading his team to a tournament appearance and averaging a double double for much of the season. However, no one could have anticipated Anthony Davis's impact.

On the Big East:

I firmly believed that the Big East was the best conference in basketball at the beginning of the year. And, while they did once again bring a near record number of teams to the NCAA tournament, the Big Ten was better from top to bottom.

On the Pac-12:

It was worth mentioning that I felt the Pac-12 would have a horrible year based on the early season. However, I was wrong in that Arizona was also overrated.


NC St. played very well and made the Sweet Sixteen.

Sutton did not receive an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational, but was well represented in NBA predraft workouts.

Few could have foreseen the play of South Florida down the stretch. The emergence of freshman point guard Anthony Collins had a lot to do with their success.

CJ McCollum was one of the top breakout players in the country this past season. His team advanced to the NCAA tournament and upset Duke in the first round. He is now routinely talked about as a first round and potential lottery selection. I jumped the gun with that one.

While they did suffer through injuries, Washington St. played far worse than I had originally conceived. Faisel Aiden's injury really hurt them. However, they played well towards the end of the year and were still able to make it to the finals of the CBI, where they lost to Pitt.

Speaking of Pitt, they had a very mediocre season in 2011-2012. They won the CBI though, and are hoping to rebound this year.

Yet to be Fulfilled

While he was not the most underrated player in the country, Kendrick Perry has yet to receive the national attention that he deserves.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be a top 3 player from this draft. If he is able to develop his perimeter skills and perfects his jumper, he could eventually become the top player from this draft class. The talent and work ethic are there, but it will be difficult to surpass Anthony Davis, as it appears that he could be a once in a generation big man.

On other outlets, I identified Taylor as a top 10 player from this draft class.

That is all for now. My next related segment will track my 'Breakthrough Players' and how they performed last season. Any questions or comments on this will be greatly appreciated.