In this edition of "Scouring the Nation (Part 14) Retrospective", I take a look back at some of the talented players from last year that I was not able to review due to time constraints. Some may be pursuing basketball careers overseas or hoping to land a minor league role in the United States. In this edition, I examine some of the top NAIA talent (Division I) and players from Division III.
While Gliddon has tremendous potential at the next level, his teammate Edward Willis may only be able to play in the minor leagues due to his size at the forward position. Willis is a 6'4 power forward (ala former Indiana player AJ Moye) who plays with a tremendous amount of aggression on both ends of the floor. He is athletic and plays strong on the interior, leveraging his strong base to draw fouls and obtain deep post position. Despite being undersized, Willis has decent length and is able to shoot over opponents at times due to his high release point. He uses these physical tools to face up in the post and attack at the rim. Willis does a nice job of sealing his man on the block. He is then able to out-quick bigger players to the bucket, using either hand and finishing. Willis has a very good first step, but is not dynamic enough with his ball skills to convert to another position. His handle needs to be refined and is only serviceable from the free throw line in. He also needs to cut down on his turnovers, as he averaged a near 0.5 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio, which is very bad if he hopes to play beyond NAIA basketball. While these turnovers are mostly due to his average interior passing and loose handle, Willis is generally a good decision maker who understands spacing and moves well without the ball in his hands. He constantly is open on cuts to the basket and he works hard to free himself under the hoop. He also makes fundamentally sound post entry feeds when temporarily stationed on the perimeter. And while he is not an exceptional shooter, his free throw shooting form shows some promise, and he may be able to extend his range for consistent mid range jumpers. (maybe even learning to connect from beyond the arc as well) Still, he was able to draw 5.89 free throws per contest due to his exceptional leaping ability and propensity for attacking the body of shot blockers. Aside from his face up game in the post, Willis also possesses a nice turnaround jumper, which he implements effectively against bigger competition. In terms of his toughness on the glass, Edward Willis is incredibly active on the boards. He possesses good box out fundamentals and is very physical when pinning his man with his lower body. Willis' length and run-jump athleticism also factor in here. He ended up averaging 5.1 rebounds per game, but this number significantly understates his impact boxing out on the glass, as he was able to ward off his opponents and often opened up opportunities for his teammates. On the defensive end, Willis possesses excellent lateral quickness for his size, and may be able to develop into a perimeter defender with a post game on offense. He moves his feet well, and has nice awareness on this end, trapping the ball at times and being at the right place at the right time. He hedges very well, and does a nice job recovering to his man. Willis is also productive on this end of the floor, collecting 1.5 steals per game. He does a nice job stripping the ball without fouling and is disruptive in the passing lanes, fronting the post when necessary. He also works hard to obtain positioning on the block. Overall, Edward Willis is one of the more unique players that I have come across who may be able to function at a higher level of play due to his versatility on the defensive end.
Aside from Willis and Gliddon, 6'2 combo guard Austin Simon had a major impact for Concordia's squad last season, contributing in a plethora of ways. Simon is a do-it-all player who is versatile enough to convert to the point guard slot if he is willing to improve his handle. Of all his various strengths, Simon does his best work attacking the basket and getting to the line. Simon is fairly strong with the ball and attacks with reckless abandon once he sees an opening. He draws contact well and is able to finish in spite of his rather ordinary strength/weight. (175 lbs.) Simon is very athletic when he gets in the lane and this enables him to draw fouls at a pretty high rate relative to how often he has the ball in his hands. He averaged 4.76 free throws per game last season and his statistics actually understate his impact in this regard. Aside from finishing strong at the rim, Simon is also a capable passer, which leads me to believe that he can play point guard down the road. He averaged 3.05 assists per contest and was generally a good decision maker with the ball in his hands, unselfishly opting to feed the post and swing the ball around the perimeter at times. And, if he is cut off in the lane, Simon has a decent pull up jump shot in his arsenal. While he was streaky at times last season, Simon did do some damage from beyond the arc as well. He shot 35.5% from distance and chose his spots fairly well. Aside from his offensive impact, Simon is a very good rebounder for his size. A year ago, he averaged 4.7 boards per game and made his mark on both the offensive and defensive glass. On the defensive end, Simon has great hands and is able to strip the ball away from the opposition. He is extremely active with his hands, and tends to get in foul trouble when he is overaggressive. In terms of his production on this end, Simon averaged 1.55 steals per game. If he can cut down on his tendency to foul, Simon has the lateral quickness to become a rather good defender. All in all, Austin Simon is a noteworthy player who may be able to play at a higher level in the Americas.
Last and certainly not least, 6'10 258 lb. forward Tommy Granado was a huge reason why Concordia (CA) was able to earn a National Championship title last season. While Granado is somewhat 'vertically challenged', he made his mark on both ends of the floor at the NAIA level. Granado is a fundamentally sound post player who utilizes his body well to create space and score inside. He scores most of his baskets from three feet in, but does have good form on his shot and may be able to extend his range in time. Granado does a nice job of carving out space on the block and physically overwhelming his opposition. He is skilled enough to score when physically challenged with a decent jump hook, but he typically is able to out-muscle post players for layups. As a result of his tenacity in the paint, Granado shot a staggering 64.8% from the floor and connected on a respectable 76% of his free throw opportunities. While he did not get to the line as often as one might expect, he did not always receive the ball from his teammates in the flow of the offense. He was often able to create extra possessions on the offensive glass (he was his team's best offensive rebounder) and finished plays through tip ins and tip outs to open shooters. In terms of his utility in offensive sets, Granado functions well as a screener at the top of the key and might eventually become a good pick and roll option. He is also a good post entry passer and is willing to give the ball up to open teammates if they have better looks at the bucket. In terms of his prowess on the glass, Granado does a nice job of securing boards by boxing out and using his superior strength to physically overpower his opponents. He averaged 6.7 rebounds per contest, and should improve on this number if he eventually cuts weight and is able to get to loose balls quicker. On the defensive end, Granado needs to shed some weight in order to become more mobile. He fought hard a season ago and was able to even play defense on the perimeter at times. However, because he is vertically challenged, he does not block shots at a high rate and is more of a positional defender. Still, he struggles to obtain good positioning on defense because of his lack of lateral quickness. If he can shed some weight and improve his quickness on the defensive end, Granado may be able to make an impact in the Americas.
Division III Third-Team All American Aris Wurtz is a 6'5 combo forward who likes to mix it up on the inside and on the perimeter. He averaged a remarkable 25.0 points per game last year. The Ripon College standout is not super quick off the dribble and does not possess a reliable enough handle to attack off the dribble professionally. However, Wurtz excels with his in between game. He likes to post up against bigger players on the block. From there, he exploits his quickness advantage to draw fouls and attack the basket. Wurtz possesses decent footwork for a combo forward and is able to out-quick bigger players inside. He does a nice job of obtaining positioning on the block. He carves out space nicely, and attacks with a fairly reliable go-to move and counter. While this element of his game will not be as pronounced at the next level due to significantly better help defense, Wurtz does a nice job facing up and draining jump shots in the paint. In particular, he does a good job going to his reliable fadeaway jumper. Wurtz has good body control and uses his physical strength to obtain separation. When he does attack the rim, Wurtz does a nice job of drawing contact, as he averaged 6.27 free throw attempts per contest last year. He typically made the most of these opportunities, demonstrating solid form and connecting on 83.3% of his attempts. He can finish through contact, and was able to draw 'And 1' opportunities in the games I witnessed. In terms of his strength inside, Wurtz possesses decent box out fundamentals and is able to secure rebounds at a fairly high rate, particularly on the defensive end. Despite being undersized, Wurtz is physical and has a good knack for locating the ball, as evinced by his 6.4 rebounds per game. While Wurtz was a good combo forward at the Division III level, his potential mostly rests in his versatility. Wurtz is a capable three point shooter, and is able to keep defenses honest from the perimeter. In the contests that I watched, he was able to post up, and then move to the perimeter when his teammates were unable to find him. This regularly resulted in open three point looks. Wurtz possesses decent lift and solid mechanics on his jumper. Last year, he connected on 43.0% of his three point looks on 107 field goal attempts from that distance. Wurtz moves well without the ball and shows some promise coming off of screens. As a result, he may be able to play exclusively on the perimeter at the next level if he learns to tighten his handle. Because this is not an area of strength, Wurtz is not particularly effective getting his shot off the dribble. He does not often create shots for others, but is unselfish and knows when to swing the ball around the perimeter. On the defensive end, Wurtz has a lot of work to do. He was regularly matched up with taller post players, and he often either fouled them or gave up post position, frequently allowing jump hooks in the lane. When he defended out on the perimeter, he did a nice job against Division III competition, but it seems as though he does not possess the lateral quickness to defend at a much higher level of play. If Wurtz can continue to refine this aspect of his game and continue to improve physically, he may be able to carve out a niche overseas as a catch and shoot player.
Division III standout Shane Manor deserves some mention for his performances at Wisconsin River Falls in the WIAC. While he has a rather narrow frame, Manor has very good length and height at 6'5. This lefty has a serviceable enough handle to get in the teeth of the defense and cause some damage. And, while he was not always effective scoring the basketball, he was able to contribute in other ways in the contests I saw. Ultimately, his leadership and productivity on the court culminated in a WIAC tournament championship victory over Division III POY Chris Davis' squad. After struggling to find his shot for most of the game, Manor was assertive late and scored to put the game out of reach. In terms of his tendencies, Manor primarily scores from the mid range, rarely attempting shots from behind the arc. He has a nice form and is able to get good lift on his shot. He typically scores off the bounce, and is able to pull up at any point of his drive. When attacking the rim, Manor is not terribly explosive, but his first step is effective enough to keep defenses off guard. When he does pull up for his shot, Manor is fairly efficient from the field and is a good rhythm shooter. Manor is also able to slash to the rim and demonstrates nice poise in selectively choosing when to attack, as he rarely is called for an offensive foul. When he does get to the basket, he does a nice job of drawing fouls. This is evinced by the fact that he got to the line 5.28 times per game in 2011-2012. And he demonstrated solid form on his free throw stroke, hitting 77.7% of his attempts. Offensively, Manor has a very good basketball IQ, and knows when to shoot and pass the ball. As a result, he connected on a staggering 55.6% of his shots last season. When he is not looking to score the ball, Manor does an excellent job finding teammates. The lefty is capable of making post entry feeds on the move and has the vision to thread the needle through multiple defenders. He has a fundamental understanding of how to make post entry feeds as well. When Manor was isolated in the contests I witnessed, he did a nice job of slashing and kicking the ball out to the wing for an open three point shot. He is most adept at making the wrap around pass to teammates for easy finishes. Defensively, Manor is very much a mixed bag, and most of his productivity on this end will probably not translate to the next level. He plays with decent assertiveness on defense, but is prone to mental lapses, often failing to close out on perimeter shooters or not fighting hard enough around picks. He has decent lateral quickness for the DIII level, but this will probably not translate in the pros. I project him to be slightly below average defensively, depending on what league he ends up playing in. With this said, Manor is fairly productive and has decent anticipation in the passing lanes, as he averaged just over a steal per game last season. He has good vertical athleticism and is also able to play effective help defense at times. Overall, Manor is a great player at the DIII level, who might be able to adapt to a lower division overseas or in the Americas due to his savvy basketball IQ and efficient offensive play.
Manor's teammates are notable for their performances as well, although they have more holes in their games and would likely only be able to play at a lower division in the Americas. The first player worth mentioning is standout point guard Brian Kimble, who really led his team's attack against Wisconsin-Whitewater. Kimble is an athletic 6'1 point guard with the handle and savvy to feed his teammates with the game on the line. It is worth mentioning that Kimble is more of an offensive initiator and does more than the statsheet is able to capture. He consistently slashes to the hoop with good aggression and a sense of purpose. He has good vision on his attack and has a nice enough first step to keep defenses off balance. While he did turn the ball over 2.68 times per game last season, many of the mistakes were miscues by his teammates, and he was often able to recover in these situations. In fact, sometimes when he loses the ball momentarily on drives to the hoop, he is often able to recover by stealing it back. In terms of his vision, he kicks the ball to open shooters once he gets ahead of his man. Kimble also feeds the ball inside regularly, showing a decent ability to pass over defenders, with only the occasional miscue. His poise offensively clearly provided a spark for his team last season. And, he was even able to assert himself offensively in the games I watched. While he is not a shooter by any stretch, (27.3% from 3, and 43.6% overall) Kimble does make shots when they matter most, late in the game. In fact, he was able to put his team ahead with an open three point look. He does a better job shooting when he receives a screen off the dribble. He can connect off one or two dribbles as well, and is not markedly more efficient at either. Kimble does a decent job of getting to the line and draws contact when he looks for his shot. On the defensive end, Kimble projects as an impact player at a lower level of play. He led his conference in steals as season ago, and has very active hands. Kimble also has good lateral quickness and is able to stay with just about anyone. He is a physical defender and is patient enough on defense to wait for the right moment before forcing turnovers. (instead of gambling) Kimble is a decent help defender and is a vocal leader on this end of the floor. Further, he is athletic enough to challenge effectively on closeouts. Kimble is a player to keep in mind.
Aside from Kimble and Manor, 6'4 wing Aaron Anderson is a player to take note of as well. Anderson is a lengthy wing who is proficient from behind the arc. He connected on 38.3% of his attempts last season, and was better than his percentages demonstrate. Anderson has a very nice stroke, but has a bit of a slow shooting motion, which often leads to players challenging shots that would otherwise have been released without difficulty. He moves fairly well without the ball and does a good job of spacing on the floor. He connects from beyond the arc either off the catch on a drive or handling the ball out in transition, where he can pullup and bury shots with no defense back. Anderson is a capable jump shooter from inside the arc as well. Anderson only very rarely drives to the hoop, and typically settles for jumpers with a hand in his face. Anderson is fundamentally sound passing the ball as well, and was able to feed Wade Guerin in the post with a nice post entry feed. Defensively, Anderson is a work in progress, but better than expected. While he possesses good length, he is not particularly quick from a lateral standpoint. However, he plays hard on this end, and did a really nice job defending the post at times, standing his ground and forcing misses. He does gamble a little too often in transition though. Overall. Anderson is a nice hustle glue guy who chases down rebounds, tracks down loose balls, and can keep defenses honest from three point range.
While Kimble had arguably the most impressive performance against Whitewater, big man Wade Guerin was not far behind, with his yeoman's work inside. Guerin is a 6'8 bulky forward who is not overly mobile, but is not hindered by his limitations as much as one might think. While he is not particularly quick off the dribble, Guerin was able to get in the lane at times against Whitewater, and made some nice moves scoring through contact. Guerin's handle is serviceable and he can get to where he wants on the floor. Guerin is aggressive attacking the rim and can withstand a lot of physicality; in fact, he embraces it. Guerin received most of his first half offense in the Whitewater contest off of basket cuts and feeds from Kimble and to a lesser extent Manor. He does a nice job of using his body inside to create space and is more mobile on the block than most would anticipate, given his lack of explosive athleticism and quickness. Guerin is a back to the basket player at times, but can also faceup. His handle is fairly effective from the free throw line in. When he is doing a nice job scoring inside, Guerin must do a better job of anticipating and passing out of double teams. He turns it over more often than one might expect when defenses converge. Guerin's form is fairly effective, and while he does not have great lift, he can keep defenses honest at times. He is able to shoot jumpers at the top of the key, but often settles for three point baskets, which are somewhat out of his range. When he does decide to get to the rim instead of opting to shoot the jumper, Guerin "bulls" by defenders, but is crafty enough to avoid charges. On one particular play, he actually had a very impressive scoop shot in the lane after beating his man off the dribble. Guerin is good on the offensive glass for tip ins, and is fairly effective rebounding the ball overall, averaging 7.57 boards per contest. On defense, Guerin is laterally challenged, but does a decent job on post ups. He must watch his physicality at times though. With his limitations in mind, Guerin does have surprisingly good hands on defense and was able to poke the ball away on multiple occasions in the contests I watched.
These four seniors for Wisconsin River Falls really contributed a lot on both ends of the floor. They did also have junior Ollie White, who put them over the top in their matchup with Wisconsin Whitewater. White is a fairly athletic 6'7 215 lb big man who is much stronger than his physical measurements reveal. He is active on offense, tipping the ball in and finishing through contact. He does a nice job of maneuvering around players and shielding the ball with his body. White does a very good job of drawing contact, as evinced by his 4.75 free throw attempts per game last season. He has decent footwork in the post, but could use some work in that respect. White has a decent stroke, but very rarely steps out to hit three point baskets. On the defensive end, White has very good hands and is able to poke the ball away from bigger players. He may want to add to his frame if he hopes to play post defense at a higher level. He is laterally quick and is active with his hands. White averaged over a steal a game last season out of the post. All in all, White is a good athlete who may be able to develop into a role player at a lower level of play in the Americas if he continues to work on his game. It will be interesting to see if he adjusts to a lead role this season.
While River Falls had impressive players (and I've already reviewed Whitewater's MVP Chris Davis) 6'0 backup point guard, Quardell Young actually caught my attention for his ability to play with such poise in limited minutes. Young came into the game and instantly provided an offensive impact, getting to the line frequently attacking the rim. He has a good first step and is strong enough to finish through contact. Young has a pretty wide frame and may be able to add even more muscle to his frame. The freshman found teammates and even rebounded in traffic, demonstrating considerable athleticism and vision. After watching him, I expected Young to have a breakout year this year, and so far he has increased his production considerably, averaging 12.5 points per game on an efficient 54.9% shooting. (and 35.3% from three point range) He is certainly a young player to keep an eye on down the road.
Two other Division III weapons from Marietta College deserve some attention here. 6'6 200 lb wing Trevor Halter is not an exceptional athletic specimen, but was extremely serviceable in his time at Marietta College. While he played in limited minutes in 2011-2012, Halter was a high impact player the season before, shooting an impressive 45% from beyond the arc on 140 attempts. His penchant for long range shooting should help him obtain a niche role at a higher level of play, despite his limited playing time in his senior campaign. Aside from his outside shooting stroke, Halter is also capable of pulling up from the mid range, hitting 52.9% of his shots overall. He is strong going to the basket as well and drew 4.06 fouls per contest when he received significant playing time. Even though Halter is a fairly strong shooter, he surprisingly only shot 64.3% at the line in his time at Marietta College. Even though Halter is fairly physical, he was not a great rebounder relative to his size. On the defensive end, Halter uses his strength, but is not exceptionally quick from a lateral standpoint. He is not overly active with his hands either, but he still averaged over 2.4 fouls per contest. Overall, Halter is a player to keep an eye on due to his size and proficiency from behind the arc.
Teammate Kevin Knab is a 6'6 undersized post player who is aggressive inside and obtains most of his points getting to the basket. Knab is a fairly distinguished post player at the Division III level and is capable attacking defenders and drawing fouls. He averaged 6.23 fouls drawn per contest and he played very physically on the block and going for rebounds. Knab has decent back to the basket moves and can also face up. He is capable shooting the ball from inside the paint and is very efficient scoring, hitting 59.3% of his field goal attempts in 2011-2012. Knab is a fundamentally sound rebounder, who challenges much bigger opponents. He averaged 6.3 boards per contest last season. On the defensive end, Knab does a good job of being physical in the post. He is not exactly foul prone and is active with his hands at times. In general, Knab is an undersized forward who would likely be able to play minor league basketball due to his aggressive nature on both ends.
Additionally, Frostburg St.'s Troy Dockett is an offensive specialist who will be able to make an impact in the minor leagues as a shooter. Dockett was able to get mid range shots off the bounce in the contests that I witnessed, and he was fairly efficient from the field overall, shooting 47.8%. With that said, he could stand to do a better job finishing at the rim. Because he is mostly a jump shooter, he did not get to the line often last year. Despite his limitations offensively, Dockett is most promising as a specialist three point shooter. Last year, he connected on a blistering 50.0% of his 136 three point attempts. Dockett possesses good shot selection and was very valuable to his team hitting shots off the catch. On the defensive end, Dockett was productive, averaging 1.5 steals per contest. Still, he must look to become more of a lockdown defender. And, at 6'0, he gives up some size, so players will be able to shoot over the top of him. Still, he has good instincts on defense and may be able to make up for his lack of size by forcing turnovers. Finally, Dockett is not a pure point guard, and must work on integrating his teammates before he can develop into a specialist at a higher level of play. His below 1 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio is alarming for a player that will likely have to play point guard at the next level, even if his greatest strength rests off the ball.
Another guard with outstanding court vision is Rust College's William Montgomery. The 6'2 point guard had one of the best handles in Division III a year ago and was able to find his teammates on most possessions. Montgomery is the epitome of a pass first point guard. His impact of this level of play is very reminiscent of Kendall Marshall's at UNC. He has good height for a point guard and is able to push the tempo and find open teammates. Markeith Wilson was a good option for Montgomery due to his ability to stretch the floor. Montgomery constantly has his head up and is able to alley oop the ball to his big men in halfcourt sets or in transition. Also, he creates a lot of open opportunities by driving in the lane and making chest or bounce passes to cutters. In terms of his ability to pass off the bounce by getting defenses to converge, he is also reminiscent of Scott Machado. Montgomery is a capable three point shooter and can keep defenses honest, even though this is not his greatest strength. (and he can be fairly inconsistent in this area) He is a decent rebounder and is able to clean up plays on the glass despite his size. Like Machado and Marshall, Montgomery's weakness is on the defensive end. He must do a better job of keeping his stance and not giving up uncontested drives. He rarely steps in to take charges, and he definitely must improve as a positional defender. Overall, Montgomery was one of the few players outside of Division 1 who can impact the game solely by creating for his teammates. He is a good leader and floor general who should play at the minor league level.
Finally, Salem St.'s Daniel Clark is a 6'5 senior shooting guard who is capable of hitting perimeter shots. He has a nice looking stroke and range on his jump shots. Clark is also a good rebounder, who boxes out and utilizes his size to the fullest extent. Further, he is very unselfish with the ball in his hands, and was willing to come off the bench if it impacted his team for the better. He regularly looks to swing the ball from side to side, and helped Salem St. run crisp offensive sets. On defense, he does not possess great lateral quickness, but was able to rotate effectively most of the time. He has a decent understanding of helpside defense and uses angles to cut his man off on this end.
(Image Sources: cuieagles.com, nj.com, and strakejesuit.org)