In the "Around the Nation" segment, I explore prospects throughout the country, with a particular focus on non-D1 talent. In part 1, I feature two pro prospects from NAIA DII: reigning POY, Davenport's Dominez Burnett, and Northwestern Ohio product Lawrence Jackson.
Dominez Burnett - The reigning POY nationally in NAIA DII is a special talent and could be the most promising prospect I have seen at this level of play. While he still possesses some flaws that will need to be addressed as he transitions to a professional level, the Flint native is one of the more naturally gifted athletes outside of DI and would likely stand out on a professional level. It should be noted that most of Dominez's points come attacking the basket. He is particularly gifted creating for himself and teammates off the dribble, and possesses an array of dribble drive moves and a crafty handle. Burnett sports a decently quick first step and is crafty maneuvering around defenders to the basket; in particular, he regularly employs a spin dribble move in the lane which tends to keep defenders off guard. While he is able to regularly avoid contact and craftily maneuver around his opponents, Burnett is often able to draw contact when meeting defenders at the summit. To put his foul drawing ability into context, his ~11.5 free throw attempts per game is one of the highest marks nationally. On the whole, Burnett's run-jump athleticism stands out from the pack and is likely on par with other highly rated pro players. In terms of his unselfishness, Burnett is a willing passer - he regularly kicks the ball out to an open big man when he gets deep in the lane and is adept at making pinpointed post entry feeds from either wing. While he often is able to exploit defenses himself, his assist-to-turnover ratio over 1-to-1 is impressive given his heavy usage in all facets of the offense.
Also supporting the notion that he is a special athlete, Burnett is dynamic on the glass, securing 7.23 rebounds per contest. Dominez possesses decent fundamentals on this end of the floor and is very aggressive boxing out and securing loose balls. He rarely gives up on plays and often leads the team's transition offense. In terms of his glaring offensive weaknesses, Burnett is a very streaky three point shooter, and has shot poorly in recent weeks. While he has hit critical long range shots with the game on the line (see the end of the Northwestern Ohio contest), Burnett is connecting on a very poor 25.0% of his attempts from beyond the arc. His mechanics will likely have to improve at the next level, given his low release point. With all of that said, he shot 38.7% from 3pt range a year ago; therein, I believe that his poor 25.0% clip is likely not sustainable. On the defensive end, Burnett is a very unique talent with outstanding hands and the athleticism to contribute as a help defender. While he has played inside in zone situations, Burnett thrives as a man-to-man defender, and is more than capable of defending at the next level, given his good lateral quickness. While his play in the zone will likely not translate at a higher level, his quickness to the ball and innate anticipation suggest that this will be a significant strength. All in all, Dominez Burnett is one of the more complete players on both sides of the ball and is making a name for himself nationally.
Lawrence Jackson - Emboldened by Davenport's #3 ranking nationally, Jackson was unflappable in his matchup with NAIA DII's top talent, despite coming off of a pesky facial injury which forced him to wear a mask for the first time. It should be noted that players often have to adjust to the feel of the mask, which impacts one's shooting touch and overall rhythm. Throughout the contest, it was clear that Jackson was having difficulty seeing/tracking down the ball due to the nature of his orbital injury. While Jackson had difficulty adjusting early on, clanging several forced jump shots off of brush screens, he eventually found his groove from the floor. Lawrence's greatest asset is his jump shot, and he regularly connects from the midrange, rising up and scoring over the top of opposing defenses. Jackson's range extends out beyond the three point line, and he is shooting a solid 40.8% from beyond the arc. Also, Jackson possesses a fairly quick release and a high release point. In terms of his role in the Northwestern Ohio offense, Jackson is particularly effective with the ball in his hands and needs only a little daylight to get his shot off. While his shot selection was questionable at times, he was clearly his team's go to option, and handled the ball on most of his team's possessions (even calling plays as a lead guard on occasion)
In terms of his limitations, given Jackson's status as a jump shooter, he rarely gets to the line, averaging a mere three FTA per contest (with 0 against Davenport). In stark contrast to Burnett, Jackson struggles finishing through contact at the rim and often has his shot altered despite his good size (for this level) at 6'4. He will need to diversify his game in this respect if he hopes to land a contract at a more competitive level of play. With that said, Jackson is a strong defensive rebounder, and is willing to fight amongst the trees. In addition, given that the ball ran through him much of the Davenport game, Jackson proved to be a capable passer, setting up his teammates in pick and roll scenarios and executing the prettiest lefty wrap around (whipped) pass of the contest. Defensively, Jackson has good anticipation and solid hands - posting 2.5 steals per game. All in all, Jackson must continue to diversify his offensive game, while proving that he can defend the best players at his level.
[Images courtesy of mlive.com (Burnett) and unohracers.com (Jackson)]