With this said, Hyman possesses the most potential at the defensive end and this is why he received such attention both from NBA and international scouts. Hyman has very nimble feet and is able to get in position to draw charges and force players to shoot over him in the paint. He regularly steps in as a help defender, and usually blocks the opposition's shots. Over the course of his four year career, Hyman was one of the best shot blockers at the Division II level. He possesses good timing, length, and athleticism to come from no where to contest. Unlike most long shot blockers, Hyman also possesses the lower body strength to hold his position in the post against stronger players. He is a tough fixture to gain position against when he asserts himself, and he is capable of getting his hand in the passing lanes. Further, when he did not outright block his opponents' shots, Hyman did an excellent job intimidating and altering shots. He was consistently involved in most plays at this end for Bowie St. and was the anchor of their defensive schemes.
Despite his numerous strengths, Hyman's advanced age at 25 may limit his potential to grow from an offensive standpoint. If he can learn to take advantage of his physical gifts, though, and continue to work on his basketball skillset, Hyman should have a long career internationally.
Teammates Jay Gavin and Darren Clark are ball dominant guards who were highly capable scoring the basketball last season. Gavin, a VCU transfer, was one of the team's best three point shooters. The long range bomber connected on 40.2% of his shots from beyond the arc. He displays a nice form and a consistent release point on his perimeter shots, in addition to a textbook follow through. While he typically picks his spots from beyond the arc, Gavin occasionally rushed three pointers early in the shot clock in the contests that I witnessed. However, when his shots are falling, he is very difficult to stop because he possesses the handle to get wherever he wants to go on the floor. Gavin does a nice job pulling up and hitting jumpers as well, particularly in transition. He usually is successful in retaining his balance and squaring up for running jump shots in the lane. While he is effective scoring the ball off the bounce, Gavin predominantly functioned off the ball as a shooter in his time at Bowie St. He does a nice job moving without the ball and regularly came off of screen sets to free himself for open opportunities. Also, Gavin cuts to the basket with purpose and is deliberate enough that his teammates know to look for him. He does a nice job sneaking to the rim before his defender can recover.
When he does decide to attack the basket off the dribble, Gavin possesses good strength and body control when finishing at the rim. And, he typically does a nice job of initiating contact when he gets there, averaging 4.57 fouls drawn per contest. In terms of his passing ability, Gavin does a nice job making fundamental post entry feeds. He willingly defers to teammates and is able to facilitate when he gets in the lane. However, he tends to drive fearlessly into double teams and often loses the ball. He also telegraphs some of his passes, which are often intended for players that are not spaced far enough away. As a result, he posted a 1 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio, which is subpar for someone hoping to function as a lead guard at the next level. On the defensive end, Gavin has very quick hands and was able to drive his man into traps and corral loose balls. He averaged just under a steal per game. He also has good awareness of man and ball, both locking down on his man on the outside and helping down when the ball is swung to slashers maneuvering in the paint. Gavin serves as a viable team defender who willingly plays within his team's system and has a nose for the ball.
6'0 point guard Darren Clark is a ball dominant distributor who is capable shooting the basketball, attacking the rim, and finding open teammates. Clark is a capable shooter, and is able to shoot off the catch or the dribble. While he shot a mere 34.8% from three point range a year ago, this is largely due to the fact that teams clamped down on him defensively. He served as Bowie State's number option and regularly saw traps and double teams up high. He was also fairly streaky as a shooter, and was difficult to stop when he caught fire. Clark must continue to work on his consistency from distance so that he can keep opposing defenses honest from three. Additionally, Clark has a fairly quick first step and this enables him to get in the lane, either allowing him to score or facilitate for others. When he gets in the paint, he regularly draws fouls and always puts himself in a position to score. He averaged 6.61 fouls shots per game as a senior. And, at 6'0 185, Clark possesses the necessary strength and polish to finish at the rim as well. In terms of his ability to distribute, Clark is a sound decision maker, rarely taking risks when he gets in the lane (unlike Gavin) and usually finding open jump shooters. The vast majority of his assists came on kick out passes. He averaged 4.82 assists per game and he had his head up at all times in the games that I watched.
On the defensive end, Clark is a lock down defender with excellent lateral quickness. Clark gets into a low defensive stance and this puts him in a position to wreak havoc. Not only is he able to steer his defenders off their spot, but he is able to tap the ball away on a consistent basis. On one play in particular against Mercyhurst, he slightly deflected the ball, immediately pouncing on it while the player was recovering his dribble and calling a timeout to secure possession for his team. It can be said that he hustles hard on this end of the floor and constantly pokes and prods at the ball, while usually managing to stay out of foul trouble. As a point of reference, Clark averaged 2.39 steals and 1.71 fouls per contest a year ago, and was even more prolific in this regard at the beginning of the season. (Two-thirds of his personal fouls came in conference play) Clark is capable fighting over screens and works hard as a help defender as well, jumping out to put a hand in the face of jump shooters.
Another CIAA guard who deserves mention is former Elizabeth City College standout Marquie Cooke. The former top 100 recruit and Virginia Tech player arrived at ECSU years after leaving the Hokies program. While his senior season was last year, he was already 27 years old. And, on a side note, he played in the USBL in between the transition from Division I to Division II. (I guess the NCAA is selective in enforcing their rules; I think the USBL qualifies as a professional league where one receives some monetary compensation) Regardless of how he was eligible, Marquie Cooke was a standout player and really ran the show for his team in his two years. While he deferred more to his teammates in his senior season due to the emergence of Angelo Sharpless, Cooke's greatest strength was his ability to facilitate for others. The 6'3 guard looked to get in the lane and dump the ball off to shooters. He has a fairly good first step, but his strong handle really enables him to blow by his man. Cooke also is strong enough to finish through contact in the lane, but constantly deferred to his teammates in the contests I watched. Cooke averaged 4.21 assists per game and was strong with the ball. He rarely turned it over, and posted a 2.41 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio. Cooke utilized fundamental post entry feeds and was also willing to swing the ball around the perimeter and set up his team's offensive schemes. For this, Cooke displayed the requisite leadership to be effective in the minor leagues. In terms of his offensive tendencies, Cooke was able to penetrate and get in the lane, but he did not finish the ball well at the rim. He also had a poor season shooting the ball from beyond the arc, but rarely had open looks at the basket. Cooke was able to get to the line at a fairly high rate, shooting 3.89 free throws per contest, which was the best on his team. Also, because he has fairly good height for a guard at 6'3, Cooke was able to grab 3.7 rebounds per game.
In terms of his defensive tendencies, Cooke has good lateral quickness and excellent strength, which allows him to defend just about any point guards. He was productive on this end as well, averaging 1.71 steals per game. As is demonstrated by his steal totals, Cooke has fairly good hands and gets low enough in his stance to pick players' pockets. While he fouled 2.82 times per game, he only fouled out twice. His fairly high fouls per game statistic is probably due to his tendency to reach around and poke the ball away from behind when he is beat by a screen or off the bounce. This play usually leads to a foul call, and it seems as though Cooke is controlled enough to determine when this play is appropriate- he only fouled out twice last season. When his team went to a 2-3 zone, Cooke played in the middle and was very active stopping penetration. Additionally, in the contests I witnessed, Cooke was able to get his hands in the passing lanes. On one possession, he deflected a post entry feed off of the post player's foot. Then, a few possessions later, he made a great closeout on a shooter, forcing an air ball. Overall, Marquie Cooke is a facilitator with the experience and poise to run a minor league squad. He would be entering a league at an advanced age, but I do not foresee any issues for him adjusting to the physicality of the game.
Another Division II point guard with a chance to carve a niche in the minors is Mount Olive's Derek Staton. The 5'10 scoring lead guard is a willing passer whose scoring figures at the Division II level are understated due to his teammates not looking for him enough. Staton is a quick guard who is able to beat his man off the dribble, but is most effective shooting the basketball. He connected on 39.9% of his three point attempts last year and usually spaced the floor well, putting himself in a position to catch and shoot away from defenders. With this in mind, Staton has rather unorthodox mechanics on his shot, in what can be described as an awkward cock back motion. As a result, Staton is predominantly a catch and shoot player functioning off the ball after initially bringing it up the court. In terms of his versatility on offense, Staten is aggressive inside and is capable of hitting jumpers inside the arc. He picks his spots fairly well, and shot 42.5% from the field on the year. While Staton does have deceptive strength finishing the ball, I do not expect that he will be looking to finish at the rim on a consistent basis at the next level. His decent handle and awareness will allow him to pick his spots though. Despite his size, Staton is an adequate rebounder for any point guard, and he averaged 3.3 boards per game. He is aggressive on the glass and goes to great lengths to chase the ball down. In terms of his passing ability, Staton regularly finds open teammates, particularly on the wings. Last year, when he initiated his team's offensive sets, he would allow his team to swing the ball around the perimeter. But, he also was able to penetrate and set up open shooters. He looked for his big men as well, and Mount Olive's leading scorer Craig Hayes was a primary target. In total, Staton averaged 4.55 assists per game and posted a 1.78 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio, which bodes well for his potential to initiate the offense for a minor league team. Staton also got to the line often a season ago and does a nice job of utilizing his body to draw fouls. On the defensive end, Staton gets in a solid stance and has the quick hands to pick pockets and take the ball coast to coast for easy lay ins. He was productive enough in this regard to collect over 1 steal per contest. Staton is also aggressive with his transition defense and tends to disrupt plays or force tougher shots. Despite being undersized, Staton does a nice job closing out on the perimeter. Overall, Staton is a steady point guard who might be able to continue playing basketball now that his college career is over.
Mount Olive's leading scorer Craig Hayes also made quite an impression with his play inside. The 6'4 guard/forward was forced to play out of position due to his team's makeup, but showed some tremendous signs on both ends of the floor. In the contest that I saw, Hayes was a viable interior option, who did a nice job of using his lower center of gravity to obtain deep post position on the block. He was fundamentally sound in using his lower half to edge his man further back instead of employing his hands and picking up a foul. Hayes is extremely strong and has a fairly nice arsenal of post moves, but could stand to work on his footwork. As a result of his work in the post, Hayes shot a remarkable 60.5% from the field a season ago. Hayes did a nice job getting to the line as well, averaging 4.11 free throws per game. With that said, most of his points came from the field, and he does a nice job of going to finesse shots and shielding the ball on power post up moves. Hayes is a versatile player who can step out and hit shots on the perimeter; as such, he may be able to function on the perimeter at the next level if he can improve his handle. Last year he shot an impressive 43.4% from three point range on 76 attempts. He can step out and connect from the mid range to keep defenses guessing and did a nice job of using his proficiency shooting the ball to get his defenders off balance and drive to the basket. Aside from his potential as a jump shooter and post up weapon, Hayes is an excellent rebounder for his size, getting his hands on just about every rebound in the contests I witnessed. He has a knack for the ball and is aggressive securing position with fundamental box outs. As a result, Hayes created many extra opportunities for his team on the offensive glass and this enabled him to shoot at such a high percentage. As a point of reference, Hayes received about half of his 7.0 rebounds per game on the offensive end. Hayes was also effective on the defensive glass, fueling his team's transition opportunities. In terms of his decision making, Hayes rarely passed the ball, but also did not turn it over, leading to a virtual 1 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio. Still, this number might decline significantly if he were to transition to the wing, unless he can tighten his handle. On the defensive end, Hayes played out of position, but fought hard for position on the block. He utilized his length to challenge shots, but was not particularly productive as a defender. He averaged just over 0.5 steals per contest, and this was predominantly on post entry feeds. All in all, Hayes is a versatile weapon who must switch positions to play at a higher level of basketball.
Pfeiffer College's Danny Smith is another guard worth mentioning who really can put a team on his back. The 6'2 scoring guard has an offensive game that should allow him to play overseas somewhere. First and foremost, Smith's game centers around his scoring output. Smith possesses a very quick first step and a decent second burst of speed as well. He can blow by his man, and he has the body control to finish at the rim. Smith's quickness allows him to get in the lane, where he typically makes good plays. Even though he has very good quickness, Smith generally plays under control and usually is able to avoid charging. When he does get in the lane, Smith either goes all the way to the basket, adequately shielding the ball with his body, or finishes with a runner if the defender is playing back. Despite his ability to get to the rim, Smith would be best served to work on his left hand, as he really favors his right hand on drives to the bucket. Still, Danny Smith was dynamic attacking the hoop a season ago and was rewarded with trips to the free throw line. Smith attempted a remarkable 9.23 free throws per game, and while he could stand to improve from the line, he typically capitalized on his opportunities, finishing with a 70.4% free throw shooting percentage. Additionally, Smith is a capable rhythm shooter, and is able to connect on midrange pullup jumpers. He has good body control on his fadeaway jumpers, and is able to fade and move back in position to square himself to the basket. Smith's solid athleticism enables him to hang in the air as well. While he does function as a point, Smith enjoys playing off the ball at times, and is effective shooting off the catch. Smith does a nice job of getting in position to connect on open jumpers, particularly from distance. He hit 41.8% from three last season, and used the threat of his shot to blow by his defender when overplayed. This, in turn, opened up both avenues of his game. In terms of his passing ability, Smith received most of his 4.65 assists per game on kick outs to the perimeter. He often set them up for wide open shots because of his ability to draw defenses when they were collapsing. Smith occasionally made nice passes inside on the drive, but tended to prefer quicker chest passes, which allowed the ball to be deflected much easier. As a result, this allowed players to deflect the ball far more easily, leading to a higher turnover rate. In fact, Smith averaged four more turnovers in total than assists. This virtual 1 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio must be improved upon if Smith hopes to play point guard at a higher level. Defensively, Smith displayed good hands, deflecting the ball and scoring on easy run outs. He averaged just over 1 steal per game and possesses the lateral quickness to defend the lead guard spot. Smith could stand to cut down on his 2.85 fouls per game as well. All in all, Danny Smith is a good scorer who is athletic enough to play the point guard position at a higher level if he can cut down on his mental mistakes.
Teammate KC Anuna is an aggressive 6'4 combo forward in the mold of Craig Hayes, meaning that he played out of position a year ago. While Anuna's handle could use some work, he is capable on the dribble drive, as well as in the post. In the contests that I watched, he was able to spot up off the dribble, but he did have a tendency to kick his right foot forward (and sometimes both feet), which hurt his accuracy given a larger sample size. Anuna sometimes shoots on the way down as well. He must work on staying straight up and down on his jumpers and releasing at the peak of his jump. For reference, he shot 31.6% on 98 attempts from beyond the arc. Anuna is far more accurate off the catch and can likely improve on this percentage given additional practice. Also worth mentioning is Anuna's fundamentally sound shot fake, which he does a nice job of implementing to get defenders off guard. Anuna scores most of his baskets off cuts to the rim, and he does a nice job reading gaps in the defense to get himself open. Anuna is very aggressive in the paint and displays good body control getting to the rim. Anuna's greatest strength, though, is his ability to rebound the basketball. He averaged 7.0 boards per game, which is extremely impressive for a 6'4 player functioning as a forward. In the contests I saw, he was very aggressive boxing out and preventing his man from rebounding over the top of him. He has good lower body strength and has a knack for locating the ball. He was also a capable offensive rebounder, and his numbers are understated there given the fact that he oftentimes tended to camp out on the perimeter.
Defensively, Anuna is somewhat below average in terms of his lateral quickness. He was forced to play in the middle of the zone at times, and he was often forced to match up with big men. In those instances, Anuna did an excellent job of holding his own and edging his man out towards the perimeter due to his solid strength. Anuna also has the length and activity level to block shots and gather steals. Last season, he averaged about a steal per game and was not much of a shot blocker, probably because he was often matched up with bigger players. With that said, Anuna must do a better job of fighting around screens and work to angle himself so that he does not get beat off the dribble. His recovery defense once this happens was not great either. Overall, Anuna is a nice hustle player who is versatile enough to serve as a role player at some professional level if he can improve his handle and in between game.
Brevard College's lead guard Gaither Hendrix is one of the most impressive players mentioned in this edition of 'Scouring the Nation'. While he does not share the typical physical profile of an elite guard at a very husky 6'1, Hendrix is one of the more savvy players found at the Division II level. At Brevard, he functioned as both a point and as a combo guard. Because he was required to contribute to such a large portion of his team's offense, his turnover statistics are highly inflated from what I was able to see on film. Hendrix is first and foremost an opportunistic scorer. He has a YMCA, 'ground bound' game. Even with limited athleticism, Hendrix has a rather complete offensive arsenal, from midrange jump shots, to floaters in the lane, and three point shots. Hendrix uses just about every opportunity to free himself from defenders. As such, he thrives running around screens and really has a fundamental understanding of how to run his man into them. He utilizes picks to fade out and bury exceptionally difficult three point attempts as well as easier pullup jump shots. From the perimeter, Hendrix has virtually unlimited range and is able to square himself up for fading shots from NBA range. When curling closer to the hoop for mid range jumpers, Hendrix has decent lift on his shot and is capable of fading away. Also, from the midrange, Hendrix is able to post up and receive a catch before connecting on contested turnaround jump shots. He does a nice job using his body to create space, and this allows him some leeway when attacking the basket due to his subpar first step. Hendrix plays at a rather methodical pace, but is able to implement stop and go moves dribbling to the rim. He could stand to fine-tune his handle before playing abroad though. When Hendrix does get to the basket, he uses his body to create separation and finish at the rim. He is often able to score through shot blockers by properly shielding the ball and quickly getting it on the glass. Hendrix is able to score on up and under shots and possesses an elite running one hander in the lane. In this respect, his offensive game is highly advanced. He is often able to score past shot blockers and even was able to hit a runner around the free throw line over two defenders in one contest I witnessed. He knows when to go glass in the lane and he has a soft touch around the hoop, as evinced by his high percentage shooting the ball from two point range. Hendrix usually creates for his teammates when attacking the basket, particularly when he is able to split two defenders. In those instances, he consistently finds teammates who rolled to the basket. Hendrix also plays within himself in tight games and typically finds perimeter shooters after he attempts to penetrate to the basket. Hendrix understands spacing very well and has the vision to thread the needle to teammates. He would be best served functioning as a pick and roll player due to his excellent vision and his ability to stretch the defenses. In terms of this strength, Hendrix shot a mere 35.8% from long range, but this severely understates his impact when he has his feet set beyond the arc. Hendrix is a knock down shooter who defenses converged on consistently a year ago. With single coverage, I have little doubt that Hendrix could develop into a solid backup point/combo guard (energizer) off the bench at a higher level of play. On the defensive end, Hendrix has decent hands and is able to corral just under 1 steal per game. And, he does play with a great deal of intensity for his team. However, Hendrix must work to cut weight in order to be able to chase players around screens and increase his overall mobility. He currently gets hung up by screeners and is not very quick to the ball defensively on loose balls. Hendrix possesses a decent understanding of help defense and regularly aided his teammates when they were beat last year. Gaither Hendrix also possesses many leadership intangibles, as he was almost able to single-handedly lead his team to victory against nationally ranked Lincoln Memorial. All in all, Gaither Hendrix is a clutch player with a fairly high basketball IQ, whose turnover numbers were highly inflated given his considerable usage. If he can shed weight and increase his lateral mobility defensively, and add hesitation dribble moves to his dribble drive game, Hendrix could become difficult to stop as a professional.
West Alabama guard Alquan Mendenhall is worth mentioning due to his proficiency shooting the basketball. The 5'11 combo guard is very quick and prides himself on his shooting ability. Mendenhall functions primarily off the ball, running hard around screens and then catching the ball and squaring nicely for open shots. He has great balance and a good release point. Further, Mendenhall only needs a little bit of daylight to get his shot off. In the contests that I watched, he squared his body to the basket very quickly, and was able to knock down some very tough contested shots both from beyond the arc and from the midrange. In terms of his ability from three point range, Mendenhall connected on 38.1% of his attempts. And, 78.81% of his shots came from this distance. With that said, he is a far better shooter than these numbers account for. He often faced double teams and defenses centered around preventing his shot. Also, his shot selection could stand to improve. Mendenhall took a variety of off balance three pointers and connected at a remarkably high rate. Further, Mendenhall is also a good rhythm shooter and uses the threat of his penetration for pullup jumpers. His handle allows him to create separation and his quick release enables him to connect on shots with little difficulty. It should also be mentioned that Mendenhall is a willing passer despite functioning best off the ball. When coming off of curl screens, he constantly looks for open teammates rolling to the basket. He exhibits decent fundamentals on his post entry feeds as well. With that said, Mendenhall posted a 0.62 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio mainly because he played off the ball and faced multiple defenders. However, he occasionally made poor plays forcing the issue or driving into traffic as well. This must be improved upon at a higher level, where he would be expected to play some spot time at point guard. On the defensive end, Mendenhall has fairly quick hands and was able to average just about 1 steal per game. Further, he did a nice job on closing out perimeter players and getting a hand in their face without fouling. With that said, due to his height, players will likely be able to shoot over the top of Mendenhall at the next level. All in all, Mendenhall is an intriguing shooter and fairly underrated in his ability to heat up from the field. He is a likely candidate for a minor league job if the opportunity presents itself.
Conference foe Jamar Moore of West Florida is a 6'6 wing with some potential to play at a higher level. Weighing in at 215 lbs, Moore was able to physically overpower most perimeter players and big men at the Division II level. He scored most of his 17.8 points per game on the interior, where he bullied smaller players and exhibited good body control. Moore attacks the basket with reckless abandon and thus is often able to draw fouls and finish through contact. He has decent hangtime, and he uses this ability to drive through bigger players. And while he functioned predominantly as a forward at this level due to his considerable size, Moore possesses a decent handle, which will allow him to play on the wing as a professional. Because he does not have an elite first step, Moore compensates with what looks to be the beginning of some decent stop-and-go hesitation moves. At the very least, he has a low dribble and is a capable straight line driver with either hand, albeit at a methodical pace. Because much of his game revolves around his slashing ability, Moore showed some promise passing the ball off the dribble. He regularly got in the lane and dished the ball off to teammates at the rim and occasionally hit open shooters as well. In several contests that I witnessed, Moore was able to make wrap around passes and other dump downs in order to set his teammates up for open layups. Overall, Moore averaged 5.60 assists per contest and posted a fairly impressive 1.49 to 1 Assist to Turnover Ratio. As a long range shooter, Moore hit only 33.33% of his 27 three point shot attempts. This must improve if he hopes to function as a shooting guard. In terms of his ability to get to the line and take advantage of these opportunities, Moore averaged 5.70 free throw attempts per contest, connecting on 67.8% of his attempts. If he can work on improving his initial burst off the dribble, Moore may be able to significantly improve on this number given his excellent physical profile. On the glass, Moore was a menace last season, leading his team and averaging 8.9 boards per contest. He did most of his work on the defensive glass, and was able to push the ball ahead for transition opportunities on occasion. On the defensive end, Moore did a nice job of stepping in passing lanes to either steal the ball outright or deflect it to a teammate. He was productive in this capacity, averaging 1.2 steals per game. He also possesses the vertical athleticism to occasionally recover and block shots on the interior. Whether or not Moore can function as a closeout defender on the perimeter remains to be seen. Overall, Moore has some question marks in translating to a higher level due to his tendency to play predominantly in the paint. However, there are strong indications that he can impact the game offensively in a variety of ways from the perimeter.
(Image Sources: fanbase.com, afro.com, gofalconsports.com, bctornados.com, and goargos.com)