Archive - 2011 - Blog entry
Player of the week
Tim Hardaway Jr, Michigan
The sophomore guard helped his NBA stock tremendously this week in front of a packed crowd at the Lahaina Civic Center that included NBA scouts, GMs, coaches and players who had the free time to take in one of the best Maui Invitationals ever. Hardaway led No. 15 Michigan to a 2-1 tournament, starting with his 21 points, five assists and seven rebounds Monday in a 73-61 win against No. 8 Memphis. He averaged 20 points in the three-game tournament as the Wolverines nearly came back from a 16-point deficit in an 82-75 loss against eventual champion and No. 6 Duke on Tuesday, then dismantled UCLA 79-63 Wednesday in the third-place game.
There’s been some questions raised about the versatility of Hardaway — nearly half of his field goals last season came from behind the 3-point line — but he’s nearly put that to rest in the Wolverines’ first five games. Just nine of his 36 field goals this season are threes, and he’s shooting 61.3 percent from inside the arc. His new-found explosiveness was on display in the second half of the UCLA game, when he came off a screen at the top of the key, caught a pass, then needed just one dribble to get the rim for a jam that put Michigan ahead by double digits.
Player of the Week
John Henson is one of those draft prospects that everybody seems to be divided on. Some analysts believe he could be a top-5 pick; others think he's more of a bubble first-rounder. How he translates to the NBA is still very much in question, but it's becoming harder and harder to doubt his impact at the college level. The super-athlete in the lanky 6'10" frame has been dominating for the North Carolina Tar Heels thus far in the season. With his unreal length and quick leaping ability, Henson leads all ACC players in blocks per game (4.0) and is second in the conference in rebounds (10.8). That was expected; his offensive improvement was not. Henson's shooting ability is looking better with each passing game. He's developed a nice baseline jumper from 10-14 feet away from the basket, which surprisingly has been consistent so far in the season. On top of that, his free-throw shooting percentage is up to a less-abysmal 61.5%. All of his improvements offensively have accumulated to an average of 16.5 points per game (on 63% shooting). His scoring output is very likely to come down once North Carolina starts playing tougher competition and stops scoring 100+ points per game (as they have in both of their games this week), but he's clearly put some work in over the summer and an extra option offensively will come in handy for Coach Roy Williams.
Sophomore Travis McKie was poised for a breakout season after most of the other quality scoring options for Wake Forest either transferred or were dismissed from the team. Two weeks into the season, and he's already showing signs of being one of the top forwards in the conference. McKie is averaging 22.3 points per game, which is good for first among all ACC players. Like last season, McKie is scoring a lot of points using his size and athleticism to slash to the hoop or finish in transition, but unlike last season, he's also looking good as a shooter. He's 6/9 from behind the arc on the season (3 games) and shooting 59.5% from the field altogether. Along with teammate, CJ Harris, Travis McKie has led Wake Forest to a 3-0 record. This isn't special (especially considering the competition) but it is very promising for a team that was, quite frankly, a joke last season. If McKie continues his hot play, maybe Wake Forest won't be the bottom-dweller many of us predicted.
Durand Scott hasn't been horrible so far this season, but he's definitely been cold lately. In the past week, the 6'4" guard shot a combined 3/18 (16.7%) from the field in Miami's two wins over North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast. While the Hurricanes have been able to win so far this season without any consistent contributions from Scott, this trend does not figure to continue. Miami has already lost Julian Gamble and DeQuan Jones for the season, as well as Reggie Johnson for the next few months, so they're going to need all the help they can get. Scott has the potential to be a dynamic scorer, and he could be the x-factor that determines whether Miami gets a tournament bid or not.
Player of the Week
Tony Mitchell , Alabama
The hyperathletic forward spearheaded the Crimson Tide's charge to a decisive title in Puerto Rico, earning most outstanding player honors for the tournament. During the three-game run (wins over Maryland, Wichita State and Purdue)he averaged 19 points on 56% shooting, drained 6 threes, collected 29 rebounds (9.7) and swatted 5 shots. The length, strength and athleticism of Alabama is frightening to the point of outright intimidation. If opponents attempt to match wits with them in a 94-foot battle, they face a losing proposition. Mitchell is beginning to creep up draft boards (#41, 2013) despite being a definite tweener at the next level. His perimeter game is on the incline, but most of his playmaking is still a result of defensive disruption and transition throwdowns.
The Bulldogs were victorious in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, taking down ranked teams in Texas A&M and Arizona on back to back nights. They were far and away the most visually impressive team in the field, holding a +11 rebound margin and limiting the opposition to 40% field goals. Significant contributions were made by all eight members of the team's regular rotation, including a breakout performance by 5'11 freshman Deville Smith (7.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2 APG). Forward Arnett Moultrie took down tournament MOP honors, scoring 19 points (8/9 FG) and grabbing 10 boards in the championship game. Can the Bulldogs maintain this high level of execution and effort for the duration of the season? If so, they have the pieces to be a major factor in the SEC and have the look of a dangerous postseason unit.
Remember last week when I praised SC for 51% shooting in their opener? Well, that praise will be short-lived. The Gamecocks had a crippling week, suffering a home loss to Tennessee State and a road defeat at Elon. In the two losses they shot a combined 35% from the floor and a staggering 19% (10/51) from distance. Freshman Damien Leonard and Sophomore Brian Richardson were the main culprits. Leonard connected on 3/22 FG's and 2/16 three's, while Richardson shot 2/17 from the field and 0/11 from deep. Quite simply, no one on South Carolina's roster can create easy shots and heaving treys is the result. It's going to be a long year.
The Rebels have size and athletes, but it's hard to be less fundamentally sound than they are. They were extremely fortunate to escape their opener in the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam against Drake, in which they shot 37% FG, 18/38 FT and turned the ball over 20 times. That level of play was harshly in exposed in a 30-point drubbing at the hands of Marquette. They shot 32% from the field, 3/23 (13%) from the three-point line and turned it over 19 times. Lack of a true point guard continues to haunt their half court offense. Dundrecous Nelson took 28 shots (made 7) and 15 threes (made 2) in the two games, while assisting on only 3 buckets. Ugly.
Player of the Week
Cheek is averaging 22 and 6 to start the year, and though the sample size is small, he's seemed to establish himself as the team's primary scoring option. Cheek's skill-set ranges from shooter to slasher, illustrating qualities that make him an effective scoring off-ball guard. He's playing almost 35 minutes a game as compared to last year's 20, thanks to a shallow rotation lacking shotmakers. He's seen his shot attempts double, and should continue getting open looks alongside Wayns and Yarou. He's a good bet to take home the Big East most improved player award.
Wayns looks sharp, knocking down three pointers we didn't see fall in past seasons. He's scoring 19 a game, grabbing 5 boards and dishing out 4.7 assists, and will continue to be the engine that fuels the Wildcat offense.
Think about this: Yarou scored at least 17 points only twice last season. This season he's averaging that through three games, along with almost 10 boards per game. Yarou has NBA potential based off his physical attributes alone. If he could figure out how to use them, he'll be hearing his name mispronounced on national television more frequently.
Darius Johnson Odom
DJO should drop 20 a game this year, with the green light that allows him to dominate the ball. As he should. Guards who can score off the dribble with the ability to convert at the rim, midrange and downtown are always a threat to light up the scoreboard. He's currently scoring 20 a game, shooting 47% from 3.
Have to say I didn't see this one coming. Woodall looks like a completely different guy, exuding confidence that has translated to into positive production. Tra has been spraying the box scores, averaging 19 points, 19 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and a remarkable 57% clip from downtown. While his shooting percentages are likely to drop, his minutes won't.
Southerland has played himself into the rotation, giving the Orange the deep threat they were missing from their near perfectly balanced roster. He could be the smoothest shooter in the conference, sporting an effortless stroke in catch and release situations. Hes currently 8-11 from behind the arch this year (72%), and remains the conference's leading candidate to win "oldest looking player" award.
Waiters could probably start on any team in the conference, but thanks to the deepest rotation known to man, he's relegated to providing a punch off the bench. He's a natural scoring guard with great instincts, flashing quickness, point guard ball-handling skills and comfortable shooting range. He's averaging over 13 points and 4 assists in only 20 minutes through 4 games.
Player of the Week
CJ Wilcox, Washington Huskies
The Huskies are off to an impressive 3-0 start, although they haven't been truly tested against a top team yet (that will come December 6th and 10th when they play back to back games vs top 25 programs Marquette and Duke). There is plenty of praise to spread around about their players at this point, but the player who has stood out above the rest has been sophomore wing man CJ Wilcox. Wilcox leads the team at 19.3 ppg, as well as 5 rpg and just under 3 steals per as well. But it is his shooting that truly stands out. I stated in my Conference preview that Wilcox was the Pac 12's top 3 point shooter and so far, he's making me look good. He has hit 11-18 threes (61%) and his misses are off by centimeters. With all the great ball handlers on Washington, Wilcox represents easy offense with catch and shoot instincts after the likes of Gaddy, Wroten and Ross break opponents down off the dribble.
Jared Cunningham, Oregon State Beavers
Consider Cunningham as player of the week 1b. He is off to a great start with 22ppg and is continuing to make a run at Oregon State's all time steals record, he is currently at 2.7 per game. And all while leading the Beavers back into relevancy at 3-0 so far. Cunningham is a high flyer who plays above the rim, and is as good an athlete as there is in the Pac 12. He can take his man iso off the dribble and he really benefits from the team's defensive philosophy of trapping and attacking the opposing ball handlers to create turnovers using sound basic defensive fundamentals which allows him to get into passing lanes and play in transition.
Lazeric Jones, UCLA Bruins
It was well known that the preseason top 25 ranked Bruins were mediocre on the perimeter. But after 2 games, mediocrity would be an improvement. Lazeric Jones is a senior who started every game last year and was solid. But to start this season he is 3-20 from the field (1-7 from three) and is making as many turnovers as assists. And considering he is averaging 33 minutes a game and is leaned on to create halfcourt offense when the bigs get doubled, it's no surprise the Bruins are struggling. Jones starting backcourt mate sophomore Tyler Lamb has not been much better shooting 5/18 from the floor and has yet to hit a three while playing 28 minutes per.
Top 5 breakout candidates
Brock Motum, Washington State- Motum is averaging 20ppg and 8 rpg and shooting a blistering 67% from the field. He is a skilled big man who can step out to three point land and does a good job of making himself available and finishes well in traffic catching passes from his penetrating teammates.
Jesse Perry, Arizona- Perry has recorded 4 double doubles in 5 games for the 4-1 Wildcats. He is the inside enforcer for a small, perimeter oriented Arizona squad. He fits in well because he is also able to get out and run, play on the perimeter and guard multiple positions during switches which allows him to stay on the court with his fast paced teammates.
Aaron Bright, Stanford- At 4-0 somebody from Stanford deserves a shout out. Bright is a sophomore who wasn't expected to be the Cardinal's leading scorer, which he has been thus far as well as the teams leading assist man. He is shooting lights out, playing very efficient ball: 49% from 2, 52% from 3 and 80% from the foul line.
Aziz NDiaye, Washington- With all the perimeter talent for Washington, it's N'Diaye who will have as big an impact as any of them determining how far they go. The 7 foot center must protect the paint and establish some sort of inside presence. So far he has stepped up to the challenge averaging 9 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per contest.
Josh Watkins, Utah- The numbers might be somewhat bittersweet as the Utes have not looked competitive yet, but don't take anything away from Watkins. He is shooting over 50% from the floor and averaging 21 ppg while also dishing out 5 assists. He can only do so much for his team though and will need some support if they want to win games.
Player of the Week:
Quincy Miller, Baylor
The 6'8" freshman and future lottery pick has started off the season with a bang for the Baylor Bears. Through three games, he is averaging 18.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in 24.7 minutes of action. His second half shooting efficiency has been amazing as well. He is shooting 67% from the floor, 71% from 3-point range, and 82% from the free-throw line coming down the stretch in games, which is very promising for the Bears. Though his overall statistics will certainly go down when Perry Jones III returns from his suspension, it has been a very promising start to the season for the former blue chip recruit. He is showing that he will be an impact player all season long for the Big 12 favorite.
Cezar Guerrero, Oklahoma State
The freshman point guard is showing the country that he deserved more attention from college coaches and recruiting analysts coming out of high school. The 6'0", 175 pound Guerrero came to Oklahoma State quietly, following all the press and accolades of teammate LeBryan Nash, the stud wing-forward from Dallas. However, he is beginning to carve his own niche in Stillwater. In an overtime win against Texas-San Antonio Wednesday night, he had his coming-out party at Gallagher-Iba Arena. He hit eight 3-pointers on his way to an Oklahoma State freshman record of 29 points. He hit a game-tying 3-point basket with 8.8 seconds left in regulation, which helped the Cowboys take control of the game in overtime, as well as keep them undefeated at 3-0. He also contributed five assists and five rebounds off the bench.
JCovan Brown, Texas- 35 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals in a 100-91 win over Rhode Island
Royce White, Iowa State- 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists in a 74-65 loss to Drake
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State- 18 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists in a 72-67 win over Charleston Southern
Andrew Fitzgerald, Oklahoma
The 6'8", 250 pound junior power forward had a tough outing against Idaho State this week. The Sooners big man notched only 7 points, 1 rebound, and 2 blocked shots in their win over the Vandals. He shot only 2-7 from the field and was nonexistent in the post. For a player that was touted to build on a promising sophomore season, he needs to pick his play up from here on out. If he does, he will complete a scary inside tandem for the team with Romero Osby.
Player of the week
Tim Frazier, Penn State.
The basketball team in State College is understandably an afterthought these days with the scandal centered on the football team. But maybe it shouldn’t be. After three wins in three games, it’s clear who has taken the reins after standout Talor Battle’s departure. Not only has 6-foot-1 junior point guard Tim Frazier put up 16, 19 and 26 points (20.7 avg.) his first three games to lead the Big Ten, he also heads the class in assists (8.7 per game) and steals (3.3). Penn State’s only returning starter has a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio so far, consistent with last year’s (2.11, sixth in the Big Ten), and he’s shot 51.2 percent from the field. Last season, Frazier only averaged 6.3 points, but led the team with 5.1 assists per game. Now, wins over Hartford, Radford and Long Island aren’t exactly signs of first-year coach Patrick Chambers leading the Nittany Lions to the promised land, but good things might be in store. Penn State also has freshman Trey Lewis to look forward to, who has shot 6-of-13 from 3-point range and is averaging 9.7 points in three starts.
Ben Brust, Wisconsin. The sophomore reserve guard, who scored all of 10 points in 15 games last season, put up career highs in back-to-back games, scoring 14 Nov. 12 against Kennesaw State and 17 Wednesday against Colgate. The 3-point specialist drilled all four attempts in the Badgers’ opening win, then hit four of his first five in the 68-41 win on Wednesday. He’s 8-of-16 from beyond the arc through two games. Look for this to be a trend for the Badgers, who hit double-digit 3-pointers in both games (15 and 10, respectively).
Draymond Green, Michigan State. It’s hard to call someone out after two games, especially this big-bodied senior forward who is one of the top NBA prospects in the Big Ten. But Green but has looked flat-out sloppy in the Spartans’ two tough opening games. He has 10 turnovers, just four assists and has shot just 10-of-34 (29.4 percent) thus far. Green missed a 3-pointer Tuesday against Duke that could have brought the Spartans within two after they fell into a 20-point hole. He still came out of the first pair of games averaging a double-double (11.5 points, 12.5 rebounds) while playing 15 more minutes than his next-closest teammate. He had an impressive 18 rebounds in the opener against North Carolina, then seven against Duke. He was expected to lead this team after averaging 12.6 points and 4.1 assists per game last year, and still has ample time to get it going. He has hoisted up too many shots, though, and the assist-to-turnover ratio must improve. That shouldn’t be a problem as the Spartans start play against teams not ranked in the national top 10.
Player of the Week:
Dorenzo Hudson isn't a household name, but his performance in Virginia Tech's opening week is certainly worth a bit of recognition. The fifth year senior had a relatively quiet 9 points in game one, but followed with outbursts of 18 and 31 in games 2 and 3 respectively. Personally, I think the slow start was directly related to point guard Erick Green's absence. Hudson (like his predecessor, Malcolm Delaney) seems to be much more effective with a second ball-handler in the backcourt with him. This is apparent in his statistical output, as Hudson is averaging 24.5 points per game on 65% shooting in the two games that Green has started. Virginia Tech is very fortunate to have Hudson with the team this season after his injury last year. With Delaney and Allen having graduated, the Hokies will look to Hudson (along with Victor Davila and JT Thompson) for senior leadership. If Hudson can provide that and continue to score at a high rate, the Hokies might sneak up on a few teams. They'll have an excellent opportunity to see what they're really made of on Wednesday against Syracuse.
Hey, I didn't expect to be writing about him either. In fact, I doubted NC State would even be worth a mention prior to the return of CJ Leslie, but the Wolfpack is starting to make some noise, and it's primarily because of 6'8" forward Richard Howell. Coming off a season where he averaged a mere 7.8 points per game, Howell has burst out of the 2011-2012 gate, averaging 19.5 PPG on 55.6% shooting. He's also managing to pull down 11.5 rebounds while dishing out 3 assists and swatting 2 shots per game. All of this while only averaging a single turnover and shooting 81.8% from the stripe. Maybe this kind of efficient production is a fluke due to the flakey competition NC State has played so far. Maybe NC State's first-year coach Mark Gottfried is responsible, or maybe it's just the fact that he doesn't have Tracy Smith (graduated) and CJ Leslie (suspended) in his way at the moment. Anyway, if he continues to play well the Wolfpack could finish higher in the standings than I initially thought.
Jones isn't playing this year, so I'm not sure if he technically qualifies as "cold", but I don't feel there are a lot of better candidates at this point. It hasn't even been a full week yet. Some teams have only played one game. The competition has been pretty soft so far, and guys like Daniel Miller, Carson Desrosiers and Terrence Shannon are putting up big numbers. All things considered, nobody has really disgusted me yet, so this week I'm letting the players off easy -- or at least the players who are playing. Turns out Miami's DeQuan Jones will not be playing in the 2011-2012 season due to allegations that he accepted $10,000 while being recruited by Miami. This is an extreme disappointment, as Jones is perhaps the most electric athlete in the ACC, and consequently a very fun player to watch. He's still practicing with the team and could return next season, but this is yet another big blow for the Hurricanes, who have already lost forward/center Julian Gamble for the season and star center Reggie Johnson for a few months due to injuries.
Top 5 ACC Centers
1. Tyler Zeller - Zeller's not the most physical center you'll find, but he's one of the most mobile 7-footers in the country and he's got an impressive and expanding skill-set. His defense is underrated and effective, but he definitely needs to improve his defensive rebounding.
2. Mason Plumlee - Players with Mason Plumlee's size, athleticism and passing ability are quite rare. He's a tough player defensively and has a nice shooting stroke on the offensive end. His listed height of 6’10” is fine for Coach K, but it might make his ideal position power forward at the next level.
3. Reggie Johnson - As I alluded to before, Johnson suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee while playing in a pick-up game over the summer. If the 300-pounder can recover quickly, he'll be a devastating weapon for the Hurricanes during ACC play.
4. Bernard James - James is a perfect fit for Florida State due to his excellent shot-blocking ability and his tough, physical defense. He's also proven to be useful on the offensive end, scoring 18 points on 8/9 shooting against UCF on Monday.
5. Daniel Miller - I could have gone a few different ways with #5 on this list, but I opted to give the prestigious honor to Georgia Tech's Daniel Miller. The still green center put up 14 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists and a block in a win against Delaware State on Monday. I'm sure the Yellow Jackets’ new head coach Brian Gregory would love to see similar performances from Miller against better competition throughout this season.
Player of the Week
Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Marist’s meager front line is hardly a veritable measuring stick, but Davis “looked the part” in his first taste of D1 hoops. Limited to 23 minutes in a 50-point second-half thrashing, he scored 23 points on 10/13 field goals (3/3 FT) with 10 rebounds, 5 blocks and 3 assists. His advanced skill level, game changing defensive presence and agility at 6’10 continue to astound. A more legitimate test will come Tuesday when they clash with Kansas, albeit a diminished version, in the backend of a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden. Mr. Davis, welcome to the big stage.
Trae Golden, Tennessee
In his handful of minutes as a Freshman, Trae Golden was expected to run the team and distribute the rock (3 points on 29% shooting) while the scoring burden fell elsewhere. With much of that scoring punch having exited the program, Golden orchestrated an offensive eruption in his first game as a Sophomore. He poured in 29 points in 27 minutes versus UNCG, connecting on 10/14 field goals, 5 of 9 three-pointers and 4/5 free throws. The powerful lead guard wasn’t done, dishing out 9 assists and grabbing 5 rebounds for good measure (2 steals and 1 block). His poor shooting numbers in 2010-2011 were an obvious aberration and it’s encouraging to see him splash the nets.
Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt
The mystery that is Jeffery Taylor never seizes to boggle the mind. Taylor looked phenomenal in the Friday night opener versus Oregon, overmatching the Ducks with his athletic ability en route to 21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals. But true to form with his up and down collegiate career, he was invisible in a shocking home defeat at the hands of Cleveland State (despite the absence of Ezeli). Taylor scored 9 points on a just 8 field goal attempts, turning the rock over six times against the Vikings pressure style. Passivity, poor ball handling and lack of range continue to obstruct his rise to elite status.