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Saturday Quick Shots
by: Jonathan Watters - Director of NCAA Scouting
December 31, 2006
- Michigan is terrible, but Tommy Amaker has a player in freshman Epke Udoh. I’ve mostly seen the guy in garbage time, but Udoh has consistently done good things every time he’s gotten involved. Painfully skinny and far off, but a name to remember.

- The announcers mentioned how Jeff Green is an elite talent that sometimes disappears in Georgetown’s unique Princeton-based system. After today’s game, I might agree with that sentiment. Green is still a work in progress on the perimeter, but getting better. Last year he was mostly a PF, this season he looks like a legit SF that needs a bit more work on his handle. He was working it as a slasher today, and has continued to firm up his jumper. The numbers just aren’t going to be there at the pace the Hoyas play.

- How obscene is this freshman class? You’ve got two seven footers, both with NBA bodies, both athletic and skilled, both who could have been lottery picks in last year’s draft if they had been a year older. And it may very well be that neither one is a Top 10 NBA prospect in their recruiting class! I’m talking about Brook and Robin Lopez, of course. Brook certainly played the part of lotto pick today, keeping a frightfully inexperienced Stanford squad right with Arizona on the road until the final minutes. If it hadn’t been for Marcus Williams coming alive, this could have been an upset.

So instead of answering the question I started this paragraph with, I will offer up a single observation:

“Wow.”

- Hasheem Thabeet is going to need some time, but Connecticut is going to figure it out eventually. They don’t appear to have the “team play” issues that last year’s squad did or a typical freshman-laden team usually does. John Beilein is proving once again that a good system can make up for a lot, and he has found another pair of under-the-radar gems in wings Joe Alexander and DaSean Butler. Butler, a freshman, has NBA-caliber natural tools at 6’7 and a sweet-as-sugar outside shooting touch. Alexander is a sophomore, but for all intents and purposes is playing his first season of college basketball. The 6’8 Alexander looks a lot like your stereotypical Beilein wing, but has the athleticism to make it.

- I’m not going to tell you that Oregon is legit after today’s narrow win at Oregon State, but it is clear that Ernie Kent has made some positive coaching adjustments. Despite the anemic frontcourt of a year ago, Oregon generally attempted to slow the game down. There was little movement or activity in the halfcourt sets, and the talented Duck guards certainly weren’t in an environment with a lot of space to score. Based off today’s game, it appears that Kent has come to terms with his lack of a frontcourt and is letting his backcourt play a little. Bryce Taylor looks completely rejuvenated, Oregon pushed the tempo and the ball moved crisply on the offensive end. Now what really intrigues is the idea of Malik Hairston playing within this offense. Hairston has elite natural tools, but looked much like every other perimeter player did under Ernie Kent last year – uncomfortable, thinking too much, and not having fun at all. If the same rise in effectiveness seen in Oregon’s other guards applies to Hairston, expect big things this year.

It turns out Taylor might just be an NBA prospect after all. He doesn't look 6'5, but he did look like the best player on the floor today. And that was without relying on his trademark outside shooting stroke. He is aggressive going to the basket and a lot more athletic than people think.

- Tough to know what to do with Gonzaga. When they are clicking, they look good. When they aren’t, turnovers tend to be a problem. Not that the ‘Zags turn the ball over an exceptional amount, but they are terrible at forcing them at well. They have committed an average of 7 more turnovers than their opponents in the losses.

I also know that good things happen when JC transfer Abulahai Kuso is on the floor. Too bad he has yet to learn how to stay out of foul trouble.

Nick Fazekas continues to show development, though the pace is still quite slow. This year he is hitting the 3-pointer with regularity and is moving a bit better. Fazekas still suffers from an overall weak frame, but probably starts to look more and more tempting to teams as the latter half of the first round moves along. He was far and away the best player on the court this evening. I’m still not entirely sold on Ramon Sessions as a lock NBA player, but I’ve enjoyed watching him bounce back. He is playing great basketball and is the type of player that does well at in the draft camp setting.

- I strongly suggest that those sleeping on Kansas take a look at the improved play of Mario Chalmers this year. He is making much better decisions with the ball in his hands and is still one of the top on-the-ball defenders in the country. Bill Self’s defensive backcourt is downright staggeringly good, and the guards have enough experience to lead this team places in 2007. I’m not buying the argument about Self choking in the tourney every year, as he did quite well for himself before he joined the Jayhawks.

As good Kansas is defensively, it is a bit disturbing to see this team still struggle on the offensive end. These Jayhawks was born to run, with the guards so good at pressuring, the abundance of capable ballhandlers and the most athletic frontcourt in the country. But Kansas continues to play at a slower pace, directly in the face of most common sense. The difference between Julian Wright in the halfcourt and Julian Wright in the open court is just staggering. Not only does Wright need the space a more freewheeling offense would give him to be effective, but he seems much more confident looking for his own offense in transition or on secondary breaks. Get him on an up-tempo NBA team where he can swing between the 3 and the 4 and he will be an All-Star.

- I told people to be cautious with Wichita State. This wasn’t an attempt to bag on mid-majors, or the MVC. On the contrary, the reason I urged more of a wait-and-see approach was that I knew there were at least three teams capable of finishing ahead of the Shockers in the standings in their own conference. A surprisingly ignored Creighton squad beat one of them tonight (funny how a couple of meaningless early season losses is all it takes to get the nation to forget about you), and UNI sent Wichita State to its third straight loss a few hours later. The Shockers are a very good team, but this is just another example of people reading way too much into preseason action. The wins at Syracuse and LSU both look less important than they did when they took place, and the real season is only beginning now. Expect another dogfight at the top of a conference that is once again absolutely smoking their non-power conference competition.

- The nightcap featured a real snoozer between California and Arizona State. Well, a snoozer until the final moments of regulation, when freshman Christian Polk connected on his second absurdly difficult 3-point buzzer beater of the season. This one wasn’t quite as spectacular as the 30-foot prayer he sunk to beat Iowa, but was noteworthy enough in its own right. He had to shoot the ball well above his head, was fully elevated and fading away, and still made it look pretty.

While the Sun Devils would end up losing the game, it is great to see the local kid be such a big part of Herb Sendek’s rebuilding effort. Polk originally committed to Rob Evans, but made the right decision in sticking with the Sun Devils. While shot selection and playing under control are still issues, Polk is tough as nails and appears to be on his way to becoming a nice Pac-10 player.

While Jeff Pendergraph’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, he continues to display professional level tools and is still nearly averaging a double-double. It should be interesting to see if the sophomore can continue to improve.

As for Cal, Ben Braun really is screwed without the intimidating presence of DeVon Hardin behind the defense.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan.watters@draftexpress.com .

 

Robin Lopez
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 255 lbs.
Birthday: 04/01/1988
26 Years Old
Teams:
High School: San Joaquin Memorial
Previous Team: Trailblazers , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #15 in 2008 Draft
by the Suns
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
9.6 Pts, 7.2 Rebs, 1.2 Asts


Marcus Williams
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 205 lbs.
Birthday: 11/18/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Roosevelt
Previous Team: Shanxi , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #3 in 2007 Draft
by the Spurs
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
3.3 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 0.8 Asts


Malik Hairston
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 204 lbs.
Birthday: 02/24/1987
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Renaissance
Previous Team: Galatasaray , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #18 in 2008 Draft
by the Suns
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SG/SF
Quick Stats:
8.4 Pts, 2.5 Rebs, 1.6 Asts


Julian Wright
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 211 lbs.
Birthday: 05/22/1987
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Homewood-Flossmoor
Previous Team: Panathinaikos , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #13 in 2007 Draft
by the Hornets
Positions:
Current: SF/PF,
NBA: SF/PF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
5.0 Pts, 3.8 Rebs, 0.5 Asts


DeVon Hardin
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 11"
Weight: 235 lbs.
Birthday: 09/07/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Newark Memorial
Previous Team: California , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #20 in 2008 Draft
by the Supersonics
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
10.5 Pts, 5.6 Rebs, 0.6 Asts


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