Mardy Collins and Temple are back on track behind two excellent offensive explosions; Terrell Everett dominates in front of a horde of scouts at just the right moment for him and OU; Brandon Rush becomes more assertive and continues to establish himself as one of the most gifted offensive players in the country regardless of age; Chris Quinn makes us wonder why he was playing the 2-guard spot for three years next to Chris Thomas at Notre Dame; Richard Hendrix capitalizes on Alabama's injuries to show why he was one of the most highly touted recruits in the nation; Michael Southall is looking for another chance to get his name back on the NBA radar; and Carl Krauser gets a well deserved mention for unexpectedly leading Pitt to the top of the Big East.
Mardy Collins, 6-6, point guard, senior, Temple
2 Games Combined: 53 points, 11 rebounds, 17 assists, 3 turnovers, 8 steals, 16-36 FG, 4-12 3P, 17-24 FT
What makes his performances this week even more intriguing was the fact that it came right after Temples worst game of the season last Saturday, an embarrassing 60-34 loss to conference rivals UMass, one of the most dismal offensive scoring outings weve seen from any major team in the NCAA this year. The biggest questions about Collins pro potential often revolved around the fact that he plays for possibly the worst system in college basketball for putting up numbers and displaying NBA caliber skills. Its difficult to project how a player will perform in an NBA system when his college team plays a style that couldnt possibly be any different from how NBA teams play.
John Chaneys Temple team has always been known as a grind it out team that plays an extremely active matchup zone that forces its rivals to wear down the entire shot-clock and then grind it out defensively just as much on the other end of the floor as well. Temple is consistently the team that averages the fewest amount of turnovers in Division 1 basketball (under 8 per game this season) and the paltry amount of offensive possessions his team accumulates, exaggerated ball-movement and lack of one on one shot-creating opportunities is the main reason for that. Collins is the one who is constantly forced to heave up low percentage shots at the end of possessions with the shot-clock running out, and therefore sees his field goal percentages suffer.
Since the loss to UMass, Temple appears to have made some interesting adjustments to their offense and have responded by putting up 172 points in the next two games. Temple can go through four games without accumulating that many points, which obviously limits the amount of assists and points that Collins can amass statistically. Put him on an up-tempo scoring team like Washington or Memphis and hed have at least 50% more offensive possessions to rack up stats. Temple averages for example half the assists Washington does and 25 less points .
All that changed against Xavier and Maryland, with Chaney tinkering with the system and allowing a lot more offensive freedom and Collins in turn responding by showing us the versatile player oozing with NBA potential that we envisioned when we wrote about him in his scouting report a year ago.
Collins is an extremely big point guard who is almost as pure a playmaker as youll find in this draft. He is a solid, but unspectacular athlete who gets by on the floor thanks to his terrific basketball instincts, ball-handling skills, fluid style of play, toughness, excellent footwork and aggressiveness. He runs a team with terrific poise, using his height to see the entire floor, being patient and extremely unselfish and showing an outstanding feel for the game. His defensive ability makes him an especially intriguing prospect since it looks like he should be able to hold his own in the NBA even guarding quicker point guards; as his footwork and lateral quickness are outstanding, and he is a true ball hawk with excellent hands and anticipation skills. Offensively, he gets into the lane creatively using his footwork, strong crossovers and plenty of savvy little tricks to get his man off-balance and blow right by him. In the Maryland game he was outstanding in transition and showed a nice back to the basket game when they decided to put a smaller guard on him, further expanding the theory that this is a player that will be a much better pro than he is a college player.
In terms of his NBA potential you would like to see him become a better shooter (his release is awfully slow) to really be a legit lottery prospect, but its hard not to think that there isnt going to be at least one NBA coach (maybe Phil Jackson?) who will absolutely fall in love with his potential as a tall point guard and will tell his GM to do what it takes to get him. From a pure tactical perspective there are just too many things you can do with his versatility on both ends of the floor to not take him seriously.
Terrell Everett, 6-4, point guard, Oklahoma, senior
26 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 10-15 FG, 2-5 3P, 3-4 FT
Against the top team in the Big 12 and one of the best teams in the country overall in Texas that all changed, though, as Everett was the best player on the floor for many key stretches in the game and was terrific on both ends of the floor leading his team to a huge victory in front of 22 NBA scouts on primetime television.
Defensively he did a terrific job on Daniel Gibson, keeping him out of the lane almost the entire game, forcing him into many tough shots with his size and length and winning the marquee matchup handily outside of the points Gibson managed to rack up in garbage time.
Offensively, Everett did a good job controlling the tempo and running his team patiently and unselfishly, getting into the lane repeatedly using his great first step and finding the open man on the drive and dish time after time. He looked smooth and extremely confident, making the right decisions and showing terrific upside as a big, long, athletic point guard. Unlike his Texas counterpoints on the other end of the floor, Everett showed the ability to get his big men involved whether with a simple fundamental post-entry lob or bounce pass or even being a little more spectacular with some awesome alleyoop heaves from well beyond the three point line to a soaring Taj Gray. Despite appearing to force his shot from the perimeter a bit in the 1st half, Everett still knocked down a couple of three pointers and was even more impressive hitting tough shots off the dribble from mid-range.
All in all this was a terrific display of potential from the quiet lefty point guard, but even more important beyond his upside as a tall NBA point guard will be the way he follows up this performance for the rest of the season. Everett has been too erratic for a senior playing such an important position for his team, averaging over 4 turnovers per game and shooting just 40% from the field and 29% from behind the arc. OU will need him in similar form to be able to live up to their extremely high potential and make a run at the final four. They have the talent to do so and then some, but will need Everett at his absolute best.
Brandon Rush, 6-6 ½, freshman, small forward, Kansas
3 games combined: 66 points, 27 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 26/35 FG, 7/12 3P
Rush, who declared for the 2005 NBA Draft, is showing college fans throughout the nation why KU fans were so ecstatic to land him after one of the most public recruiting battles in history. Over the last 8 games, he has averaged a sizzling 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2.25 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block per game. Not coincidentally, his Kansas team has been equally as hot as of late, going 11-2 over the last 13 games. The biggest knock on the smooth freshman this year has ironically been his refusal to emerge as KUs go-to scorer, but it appears the light has come on for him and hes been extremely aggressive as of late showing off his extremely polished game and outstanding basketball instincts.
Against Texas Tech, Rush showed why he was so highly touted coming out of Mount Zion Academy. Offensively, he showed deep range once again, knocking down four three pointers (hes shooting 54% on the year), and much improved ball handling skills that he was criticized for in past. More importantly, Rush used his freakish athleticism on both ends of the floor. When the Jayhawks had the basketball, he took the ball strong to the rack, pulled off the dribble for mid-range shots, crashed the glass extremely hard and generally used his excellent quickness, first step and leaping ability to the fullest. On the other end Rush played great defense, not only rebounding well but also getting out in the passing lanes to ignite fast breaks and using his 611 wingspan to wreak havoc on opposing Texas Tech players. His attitude this year has consistently been outstanding, playing unselfish basketball, putting in plenty of effort in all facets of the game and meshing well with his teammates on and off the court.
Last year Rush could get no love from NBA GMs who were foolishly not sold on his excellent high school career or a surprisingly good performance at the Chicago pre-draft camp, high school player or not. This year Rush joins LSUs Tyrus Thomas and Memphis forward Shawne Williams as the only legitimate first round freshman prospects for the 2006 draft, with the price tag going up substantially compared with what he could have been had for just 6 months ago, and rising by the day. People will point at the fact that Rush (like the other two freshman mentioned above) at age 20 is older than your typical college freshman and therefore might have less potential than other teenagers in the draft. Looking at the strides he has made in his game over the past 9 months since we saw him workout privately at the Roundball Classic in Chicago, through the pre-draft camp and up to now; it would be ludicrous to say that he doesnt have a great upside to continue to improve.
Rush is a smooth and effortless swingman with outstanding size, length, athleticism and offensive instincts.
He made a name for himself early in his high school career mostly with his physical attributes. Rush has good quickness, a nice first step and an explosive vertical leap. He turns the corner on handoff screens smoothly, exploding towards the basket and using his outstanding leaping ability and instincts to finish creatively around the hoop. Hes a pretty explosive player once he gets going; Rush gets in the air with purpose from impressive distances and absolutely loves to throw down emphatic alley-oops in transition, where he is at his best. Measured at 6-6 ½ in Chicago, Rush has a wingspan and standing reach that are comparable to some NBA power forwards at 6-11 ¼ and 8-8 1/2. His frame is NBA caliber and he already possesses excellent strength for a 20 year old.
Offensively, Rush shows the ability to score from almost anywhere on the court. He has terrific instincts to put the ball inside the basket, and its always been clear that basketball comes very easy (maybe too easy ) for him, particularly when it comes to scoring. Hes one of the most accurate outside shooters in the NCAA, shooting 51% from behind the arc this season on about three attempts per game. His mechanics are not pretty or particularly conventional, especially with his ability to utilize his athleticism and get better lift on his jump-shot, but it goes in for him at a good enough clip that there probably isnt any reason to worry or change it besides improving the quickness of his release.
Rush picks and chooses his spots inside the arc as well, shooting a very efficient 50% from the field. He doesnt put the ball on the floor well enough at this point in his career, but when he does he often has a lot of options he can go to. At times he will tease you with some terrific head and body fakes or a nice hesitation move to get his man off-balance and create space for himself, He has good vision passing off the dribble, and shows raw, but promising ability to pull-up from mid-range for a silky smooth jump shot. His athleticism allows him to take the ball strong all the way to the basket as well (although again, it doesnt happen nearly enough) and this is where his offensive instincts come out the most in the way he finishes creatively around the hoop; whether with a beautiful floater, a crafty kiss off the glass or just with an explosive dunk to get the crowd off its feet. In the open floor is where Rush is truly at his best.
Whats probably most surprising about the collegiate player Rush has turned out to be is just how good of a teammate he is. Hes incredibly unselfish, certainly to a fault at times, but has shown terrific passing ability and an innate understanding of his teammates and where they like the ball. He refuses to force the issue even one bit as evidenced by his outstanding percentages from the field,
Rush has become a much more complete all-around basketball player at KU, showing significant improvement in his ball-handling, defensive effort and ability. A year in college has served him extremely well, and will make him a much better player down the road.
On the defensive end, Rush has never been known as a great half-court man to man defender, but has shown the willingness and ability to get better during the course of his freshman year. He has great potential here thanks to his terrific length, quickness and frame; and has used this numerous times already to come up with some very nice blocked shots both on the perimeter and recovering from the weak-side inside the paint, or even to step in once in a while and take a charge. His rebounding has been very good this year for Kansas, elevating high off the ground, not being afraid to mix it up boxing out and showing great hands rebounding out of his area.
As a player that freely admits to never really being coached before being thrown straight into the fire for a very young Kansas team, Rush is lacking a lot of experience and savvy at this point in his career.
His slashing ability is probably the area that raises the most concern. Never known as a great ball-handler, Rush has problems taking advantage of his athletic gifts to get himself easy shots around the basket, particularly in half-court sets. Being used to just overpowering high school players with his strength and athleticism, hes missing a lot of the crafty moves that most NBA wing players have in their repertoire to create space and free themselves up on the perimeter. Rush is averaging just over 2 free throw attempts per game at the time of this report, which is an alarmingly low number for a player with his physical gifts. Beyond his average ball-skills, he just does not take the ball strong enough to the hoop. Many will wonder whether he is tough enough to capitalize on his athleticism until he proves them wrong. His left hand is extremely poor, and any NBA advance scout worth his salt will pick up on that immediately and tell his coaching staff to force him to either go left or just give up the ball if he's not spotting up for an open 3-pointer.
His extremely efficient shooting numbers tell you about the player he is in more than one way. Playing for such a young team, Kansas has needed Rush to step-up as a go-to guy and create offense when things bog down for them. Rush hasnt always been up to the task, being either unwilling or unable to take his team on his back at times when they needed him the most.
Rush doesnt always look 100% focused on what is going on around him on the court, making freshman mistakes, with careless turnovers and mental lapses on the defensive end. He's a guy that was very obviously not challenged very much early on his career by good coaches, and it's hard to completely change his mentality despite the obvious progress he's made under Bill Self.
When things dont exactly go his way early in the games, Rush will show poor body language at times by failing to assert himself and getting too down on himself, being extremely passive and not being able to switch on the elusive switch that determines the type of player we will see that night. This is not the first or last time well see that in a freshman, but there are legitimate concerns regarding whether he is willing and able to capitalize on his immense potential and become a star rather than just a very solid role player. Rush is so talented that he coasts sometimes, possibly thinking subconsciously that he only needs to fully turn it on occasionally when his team really needs him to.
Defensively, Rush is again lacking experience defending high caliber players on the perimeter. He was always the unquestioned star of his AAU and prep school team, and therefore wasnt expected to participate in the little defense they played on the court anyway. As mentioned already, he has excellent potential in this part of his game, but isnt always 100% focused on staying in front of his man. Good coaching, more practice against better offensive players and especially adding some strength to his excellent frame will help him here, particularly in the lower body. He appears to be more of a small forward than a shooting guard anyway, so bulking up will be a priority for him to guard the bigger and stronger players we usually find at the 3 spot in the NBA.
Already being 20 years old (turning 21 in July), Rush is not your typical 18 or 19 year old college freshman. Some may question his upside because of that, but considering the huge strides hes made in his game over the past 10 months, and the fact that hes only getting better by the game, it would be foolish to say that hes reached anywhere near his peak as a basketball player.
Before college, Rush bounced around between four different high schools, eventually settling in at Mount Zion Academy, Tracy McGradys alma matter. Mount Zions reputation in the recruiting world may have been a factor in Rush not being invited to the McDonalds All American game, where on talent alone he surely was deserving of a spot.
Rush plays at the University of Kansas, one of the most tradition-rich and pressure packed environments in the NCAA historically.
His team, one of the youngest in the country, was thrown right into the fire to start off the season at the Maui Invitational tournament, where they went 1-2 to start off the year (their only win came against the hosts, Chaminade of Division II). Rush played fairly well considering that these were the first games of his college career (see links: Maui Stock watch). After losing 4 of their first 7 games to start off the year, it looked like Kansas and Rush were in for a very long and disheartening season under Coach Bill Self. They managed to win their next 7 straight games, though; with the most impressive of them coming at home on national television where they blew out Kentucky by nearly 30 points. Rush had what might have been the best game of his young career, scoring 24 points (9-15) with 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks (see links: Top Weekly Performers). Two odd losses in a span of three days to archrivals Kansas State and Missouri followed almost immediately, with Rush having his typical 12 or 14 point performances. Kansas responded with 10 straight conference wins, many of them being impressive blowouts, which solidified their spot at the top of the Big 12 with a great shot at getting a high seed in the NCAA tournament. Rush was terrific in many of those games. A 25 point loss at Texas broke that streak, and Rush had his worse game of the season with only 3 points on 1-8 shooting. Kansas will still finish 2nd in the Big 12, far exceeding all expectations besides those of the most optimistic Jayhawks fans. A good showing in the Big 12 and NCAA tournament will likely solidify his spot in the top 20 of this draft.
Chris Quinn, 6-2, point guard, senior, Notre Dame
2 games combined: 44 points, 18 assists, 13 rebounds, 10 turnovers, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 15-33 FG, 8-17 3P
This past week saw his team lose two more games in heartbreaking fashion (by a combined 5 points) against Georgetown and Villanova, but Quinn is the last player that should be taking the blame for that. Underachieving Coach Mike Brey has never found a way to win close games consistently in his Notre Dame career and might be in his last year with the team as well, but his point guard has done everything humanly possible to try and stop that trend. Quinn can make a whole highlight reel of clutch shots and huge plays he has made down the stretch for his team this year, and the games this past week were no exception to that rule.
Quinn is a 6-2 point with average quickness who finds ways to be effective against all logic. His 6.8 assists per game is good for 2nd in the Big East this year while his outstanding 2.61 assist to turnover ratio is best in the league by far and is probably tops as far as draft prospect point guards go as well. He plays 39.4 of a possible 40 minutes per game on average for his team and finds a way to pull down over 4 rebounds per game despite his skinny frame. Quinns decision making with the ball in his hands has been nothing less than superb this year, being patient and extremely unselfish, showing outstanding court vision and always finding the open man, often in spectacular fashion.
His best skill as far as the NBA is concerned is his outside shot, hitting over 43% of his 3-pointers this year while attempting over 5 ½ shots a game playing a new position on the court. Quinn is more than just a shooter and terrific passer, though, he also finds ways to get into the lane and either score from inside the arc or get to the free throw line, averaging 17.6 points per game. His athleticism probably wont knock anyones socks off, but he uses it well to get where he needs to be on the court and make plays for his team. There is a place in the NBA for a point guard like Chris Quinn to come off the bench, run a team effectively and knock down outside shots. At just 10-8 and sitting at the bottom of the Big East his teams chances of making the NCAA tournament are slim to none, but look for Quinn to get an invite to Portsmouth and try to prove his worth to NBA executives in April.
Richard Hendrix, 6-8, power forward, freshman, Alabama
22 points, 16 rebounds, 7-10 FG, 8-13 FT
This, on the heels of a 16-point, 9-board effort against the huge front line of LSU. A McDonald's All-American and top 10 recruit, much was expected of Hendrix upon arrival. And with the loss of senior All-SEC forward Chuck Davis for the year due to injury, Hendrix's rapid development becomes all the more crucial for the Tide. Thus far, he has lived up to billing, providing rebounding, interior defense and toughness to a team in search of an identity.
The freshman has seen his minutes spike after a tough road win over Kentucky, and he has responded. Quick off his feet and with excellent footwork for a young player, Hendrix should be able to improve on what is a fairly basic repertoire of moves at this point. Most of the forward's points have come on dunks, putbacks and short jumpers, but that's to be expected.
Working alongside Jermareo Davidson allows Hendrix to focus on rebounding and defense, and masks his rawer qualities offensively. But there is a lot to like in the attitude, strong shooting numbers and mature focus of the young forward. It would be much too early to say whether Hendrix could have an impact on the NBA, based on early returns, he needs a more well-rounded game to compete with grown men at the 4 spot. But Hendrix plays with a ferocity that belies his age, and most importantly, he is improving game to game.
The absence of Davis will actually push Hendrix to improve and to grow as a player, something that could accelerate his progress. That alone could change the opinion of this writer, and much more importantly the pro scouts, by the time Hendrix is ready to take his game to the next level.
Michael Southall, 6-10, center, senior, Louisiana Lafayette
34 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 12-18 FG, 10-13 FT
Southall is a familiar name to draftniks. Initially committed to both Kentucky and Georgia Tech before and after encountering legal problems, he made the All Sun-Belt team in both his freshman and sophomore seasons at Louisiana Lafayette before declaring for the draft in 2003. Southall withdrew and later spent time in jail for violation his probation, being forced to sit out the next two seasons before finally returning to the Ragin Cajuns to get his college degree and play his senior year.
Despite the baggage and his age (we could not dig up a date of birth but our calculations say he is somewhere in the ballpark of 24 or so), Southall is a guy that the NBA will take a hard look at. His size is obviously intriguing, but hes also an excellent athlete who is quick off his feet as his 3.3 blocks per game will attest. Southall made a living in the paint against the Hilltoppers all game long sealing off his man, catching the ball with either hand and finishing time after time with an explosive dunk. He went to the line repeatedly and knocked down almost all of his free throws to boot. He showed a bit of range on his jump shot and even put the ball on the floor at times semi-effectively. Defensively he rotated well and showed the ability to get off the ground and block shots with either hand. Southall is a pretty skinny player and had some problems with his conditioning at the end of the game, struggling a bit on the glass after not boxing out and generally not showing great awareness for what was going on around him. His team is nowhere near as good as they were last year with Orien Greene and Tiras Wade, but you can never rule out a bunch of gifted athletes as the Lafayette puts on the floor in a lose or go home conference tournament that will send one team to the Big Dance. Southall is another player that should get invited to Portsmouth and has a chance to make some noise there with his size and athletic ability. He looks and plays a bit like a 6-11 version of Peter John Ramos, with the good and the bad that comes along with that.
Carl Krauser, 6-1, senior, point guard, Pitt
32 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 8-13 FG, 3-6 3P, 13-14 FT
Krauser is a bruising combo guard, more likely to scrap for a rebound -- he averages almost 5 on the season -- or pick your pocket than he is to finesse dribble his way into the lane or dazzle with a crossover. Hard-nosed and energetic, the Pitt senior has thus far posted nearly identical numbers to last season, but without the upperclassmen as his supporting cast he enjoyed a year ago. He always seems to come up big in the biggest games, often in the clutch, most recently in a win at home over a ranked Syracuse squad.
In that game, Krauser scored a career-high 32 points on 8-for-13 shooting and an eye-popping 13 of 14 free throws. More importantly, Krauser was the spark that helped them overcome a pesky Syracuse zone and some tired legs on the way to a Pittsburgh win. Krauser helped energize his teammates in the second frame by fighting for loose balls with his typical reckless abandon and turning a series of Syracuse miscues into easy points. In short, it was just the sort of gritty performance that Pitt fans have grown accustomed to, and Big East opponents have learned to hate.
As a pro prospect, Krauser doesn't wow anyone with his size (he measured out at just 6-1 in Chicago), body or shooting, but he does do a lot of things well. Krauser is a defensive hawk and rebound force, averaging over 4 rebounds and a shade under 2 steals a game, though numbers alone don't do justice to his tenacity and disruptive effect, especially in the half court. In addition, the senior guard leads the Panthers in scoring (16.8) and assists (4.5), not to mention effort, leadership and clutch shooting.
The biggest knock on the sturdy Krauser is that while he's a good shooter (40% on threes), he's not an NBA shooting guard, and while he's a good floor leader, he's not jet-quick enough on the drive or supremely accurate as a passer. Again, lots of things well, nothing mind-boggling. Moving off the ball this season has made Pitt a better team, but it doesnt necessarily say much about Krausers ability to make teammates better. Being 25 years old in May doesnt say much about his potential to improve dramatically either. That said, plenty of successful pro guards have learned what they needed to learn to overcome obstacles -- Charlie Bell and Maurice Williams in Milwaukee, for example.
Krauser is a second-round pick at best at this stage, if he's even drafted. But he's a winner with upside and a nose for the ball, something that can -- and often does -- transcend raw skill, athletic ability and size. Look for Krauser to try and prove his worth through summer league or training camp or go to Europe will he teams will live with his flaws and relish his ability to put the ball in the basket.