Day One: Atlantic-10 Tournament Blog

Day One: Atlantic-10 Tournament Blog
Mar 13, 2008, 04:57 am
Dayton vs. Saint Louis: Brian Roberts’s Disappearing Act

With no Chris Wright in the lineup, the story of this game was Brian Roberts. Or was it? In front of scouts from the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, and other NBA teams, the senior forward had an extremely disappointing and confusing performance, but still managed to remind scouts why he was once considered to be a fringe prospect.

Roberts is averaging 13 shots on the year, shooting a good 47% from the field. Today, however, he was held to only four, three of which were forced three point shots. His form continues to look good and he showed an ability to shoot both off of screens as well as off of the dribble, but the degree of difficulty of these shots were very high. His other shot was a quick pull-up jump shot from the top of the key, which showcased his quick release, stellar form, and fluid offensive movement.

The St. Louis defense was designed to stop him, but instead of stepping up to the occasion, Roberts withdrew into a shell of ineffectiveness and passivity. Though he eventually became more aggressive with about three minutes into the game, something was clearly wrong.

Roberts is still not a true point guard, which is evident in his inability to properly dictate and game tempo. Because he was not shooting as much, however, he was able to showcase his ability to effectively run an offense as well as his tendency not to over dribble.

When the game reached overtime, Roberts found himself on the bench for key stretches while his teammates stepped up to the plate. That being said, Roberts is lucky that he will have the opportunity tomorrow against Xavier to improve upon his less than stellar performance. Unfortunately, Stanley Burrell and company are far more notorious for their defensive prowess than Saint Louis.

Saint Joseph’s vs. Fordham

In just a short period of time, Pat Calathes was able to again cement his status as a legitimate NBA draft prospect, while Ahmad Nivins showed how far he is from ever attaining this level.

Calathes showed his tremendous offensive versatility through a combination of pull-up jumpers, drives to the basket and perimeter shots, to the tune of 23 points on 9/12 shooting from the field and 2/4 shooting from beyond the arc. His jumpshot from just about anywhere on the floor is a thing of beauty, as it combines his soft touch with an almost unstoppable release point due to his height. Offensively, the only thing that held Calathes back was his handle, which can be a bit high at times. He tries hard defensively, but his lateral quickness leaves much to be desired, and today, he showed that his potential at the next level might be somewhat limited by his inability to stay in front of some of Fordham’s perimeter players.

Center Ahmad Nivins was once considered to be a fringe prospect, but after seeing him multiple times, it is safe to say that he is even farther away from such a title than before. He has bad hands, which combined with his underwhelming awareness on both sides of the floor, which does not bode well for his future at the next level. While he occasionally shows promising quickness in the post or the ability to hit a spot up jumpshot, his lack of skill and awareness really damage any of his potential. Strangest of all is the fact that his strong suit consistently in each viewed performance has been his length and post-scoring, yet in person, he rarely commits to playing defense at all times when on the floor. Most of his foul troubles come from biting prematurely on shot fakes and reaching after his man has blown by him.

Two other Saint Joseph’s players of interest are transfer-junior Tasheed Carr. Carr, a 6’4”, long-armed athlete, is in the midst of a mixed debut season at the point guard position. His size, athleticism, and defensive ability, however, make his modest strides somewhat more acceptable. He is still learning the position and at some points is out of control, passes ill-advisedly into the lane, or picks up his dribble too soon; his 7 assists and 4 first-half turnovers represent his growing pains. This being said, he is an aggressive slasher, who showed today the ability to create jump shots for himself and a much improved form once is ready to shoot. He shot 6/6 from the field in the first half His bread and butter, however, is his defensive ability where he is a stopper at this level. Utilizing his long arms and good lateral quickness, he is able to stay in front of his man and, just as he did to Drew Lavender last week against Xavier, he neutralized Fordham’s guards into ineffectiveness.

Also of note was the performance of Fordham stalwart Bryant Dunston. Culminating a good collegiate campain, Dunston’s 17 points, 5 rebound performance showed a lot of what he can bring to an overseas professional team. He moves very well for his bulky frame and uses his athleticism in order to establish space for himself to operate in the paint. He has the offensive arsenal of hooks, fakes, and turnaround jumpers in order to play with his back to the basket, and even showed the ability to take a spot up perimeter jumper. Dunston has to continue to work on coalescing his diverse offensive output, but he is a hard worker who could be a good addition to a team in need of toughness and post play.

Duquesne vs. LaSalle

Amidst a hail of heckles from a bawdy LaSalle crowd, Shawn James played his first full game since injuring himself against Charlotte on March 2nd. While he was not at full speed, he was still just as fearsome of a defensive presence as he has proved to be in the past. At one point, a LaSalle player actually picked up his dribble in the paint because he was so frightened of getting his shot swatted. What differentiates James from other prolific collegiate shot blockers is not his wingspan and timing, but his patience; perimeter players will get by him and he wait until they have the false sense of security to release the ball before he swats it away. On one possession alone, James racked up 3 of his 4 blocks. This being said, because of James’s lack of lateral quickness, which was on display today against LaSalle’s mobile big men, he probably does not have much potential to be a face-up power forward at the next level as initially thought. His offensive ability is still an enigma, likely because Duquesne’s guards seem to have a phobia of passing the ball inside, but based on today’s performance, as well as tape, it does not seem as though he has been able to break from his mechanical offensive movement. He has made tremendous improvements over the past couple years, which still leaves considerable potential on the table; however, the window is getting smaller every day for the 24 year old junior, now rising senior.

His teammate, 6’7 athletic freshman forward Damian Saunders had an underwhelming end (2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks in 13 minutes) to his impressive freshman season (6.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.6 apg/1.1 TOpg, 1.6 spg, 1.3 bpg), but continues to show the potential to turn into a Dominic McGuire type combination forward in the future. He did a good job doing the little things today considering the fact that it did not look like he had a single play run in his general direction. He spent most of his time on the perimeter rather than in the post, but must work on his ball handling ability and shooting stroke if he has any hope of converting into a full-time perimeter player in the future.

Otherwise, the game had few surprises as the guard-bloated Dukes fell in the final seconds to a hot shooting Darnell Harris and the LaSalle explorers.

Rhode Island vs. Charlotte:

This was the most controversial game thus far in the tournament as referees awarded Charlotte guard Michael Gerrity two foul shots with the score tied and 0.3 seconds remaining in regulation. More upsetting, however, was the play of Rhode Island’s star senior duo Parfait Bitee and Will Daniels.

Bitee has good size for a professional point guard at 6’2 and has, as shown when he almost jumped over An’juan Wilderness for a dunk, elite athleticism. The problem, however, is that his decision-making is extremely suspect. As shown in his final stat line of 6 assists and 5 turnovers, he has a lot of work to do before being considered as a potential point guard at the next level. Early on, it was merely over dribbling that was creating a problem for him: 3 of his turnovers came within the first couple minutes because of this. Later, however, he got in trouble by picking up his dribble too soon and even threw the ball out of bounds on one possession, a few feet away from the intended mark. He forced shots sometimes as well, once passing up the opportunity to defer to a teammate to take a shot of his own, which he air balled. It is to be determined whether or not these lapses are because of a low basketball IQ or merely selfishness, and unfortunately, Bitee will not have another chance to showcase his abilities in front of NBA scouts until post-season tournaments, camps, and workouts.

This being said, for stretches he looked very good, particularly in transition where he used his solid ball skills and speed to dictate tempo and helped his teammates get easy baskets in return. He looked a little like Jacques Vaughn did during his final seasons at Kansas. While his point guard ability is definitely suspect at this stage, one thing that he does better than just about every guard in the country is play defense. Using his long arms, excellent lateral quickness, and defensive instincts, Bitee looks like he could be a stopper at any level of college basketball. There were times when he stole the ball from Goldwire without even touching him (he had more steals than the one mentioned in the box score). His play later this spring will show how effective he is against higher level guards, but he showed, both in this game as well as in tape against high-major opponents such as Syracuse, that he is a stellar defensive player, even if he has a lot of convincing to do on the offensive end.

Will Daniels attempted to prove that he was capable of being a perimeter player, but ultimately proved how much the tweener label really fits. Beginning the game almost solely on the perimeter, Daniels showcased his hitched perimeter jumpshot and as seen in the 1/4 he shot from beyond the arc, it did not go well. He was able to draw fouls on his dribble drives, but also showed his average first step in the process. While attempting to play defense on Charlotte’s inside-outside big men, he got himself into foul trouble, ultimately fouling out in 25 minutes after scoring 15 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and committing 4 turnovers. His body language was also very poor throughout the game and he seemed to get more frustrated as his offensive performance continued to stagnate; at one point, he did not even attempt to rebound his teammate’s miss on a free throw attempt. Daniels did little to address the tweener label associated with his name; if anything, he showed how much work he has to do before considered a legitimate draft prospect. Losing some baby fat might be the first step as well as working on becoming quicker and more agile. For Daniels, however, this performance was very damaging to his already waning draft stock.

Leemire Goldwire, Charlotte’s 5’11 shooting guard, ultimately put the nails in Rhode Island’s coffin as he drilled three straight acrobatic NBA-range three pointers before Michael Gerrity sealed the game with two free throws.

It was a busy first day in Atlantic City, NJ. Up tomorrow: Xavier vs. Dayton, Saint Joseph’s vs. Richmond, Temple vs. LaSalle, and Charlotte vs. Massachusetts.

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