NCAA Tournament: NBA Draft Stock Watch (round of 64, Thursday games)

NCAA Tournament: NBA Draft Stock Watch (round of 64, Thursday games)
Mar 17, 2006, 04:16 am
A look at the prospects who helped and hurt themselves the most in the first day of games at the NCAA tournament.

Adam Morrison showed why he is a legit college basketball superstar who can will his team to victory virtually all by himself. Christian Maraker took advantage of the big stage to put his name right in the middle of NBA draft discussions. Joakim Noah and Al Horford toyed with South Alabama on the way to some intriguing stat-lines. And Gerry McNamara and Taj Gray came up extremely flat in what we now know were the last games of their college career.

Stock Up

Adam Morrison, 6’8, SF, Junior, Gonzaga

35 points (11-21 FG, 9-11 FT, 4-8 3PT), 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 3 turnovers


Joe Treutlein

Gonzaga’s tournament life was hanging in the balance, on the verge of being upset by 14th seed Xavier, but Morrison would have none of that. The Zags were down eight with nine minutes to go when it seemed as if the entire Gonzaga roster other than Morrison was in foul trouble. In a situation where he had to take charge, Morrison did just that, scoring 14 in the final nine minutes, including some key shots down the stretch. Gonzaga hadn’t led in the second half until there was 2:03 remaining, as Morrison casually hit a pull-up three pointer to put the Zags up by one. Over the next two minutes, Morrison hit 4 of 4 free throws, had a key defensive rebound, and assisted teammate J.P. Batista on a dunk, icing the game for Gonzaga.

Morrison’s immense offensive repertoire was on full display, as he scored in nearly every way possible. He was hitting three-pointers, spotting or pulling up. He was taking it to the hole by both cuts and one-on-one penetration. He posted up, he pulled up for mid-range jumpers, and despite the mass of attention he received from Xavier’s defense, still found a way to score 35 points. To do this, he pretty much never stopped moving without the ball. Morrison wasn’t just scoring, though. He took advantage of his court vision, especially when double teamed, hitting cutters, shooters, and feeding the post. He did take a few forced shots, but even still, he had an incredibly efficient scoring night and was the sole reason Gonzaga won this game.

Morrison had a so-so showing on the defensive end, occasionally reverting to some lackadaisical tendencies. But in the second half and down the final stretch, his intensity was up and he was playing strong on both sides of the floor. Gonzaga’s zone defense (and the mediocre competition) veiled most of Morrison’s problems with lateral quickness, though it will become more evident as the Zags move deeper into the tournament. But the Zags will only go as far as Morrison takes them. Morrison will need to play like this in every game from here on out for the Zags to stay alive. And knowing him, he will.

Christian Maraker, 6'10, SF/PF, Senior, Pacific

30 points, 9 rebounds, 8-16 FG, 12-14 FT, 49 minutes


Jonathan Givony

For a mid-major NBA draft prospect trying to catch the attention of the scouts, there is no better place than the NCAA tournament to kick off the draft process with a bang. And that's exactly what Pacific's Swedish big man Christian Maraker accomplished in the first game of the NCAA tournament, doing everything in his power to help his draft stock except come away with the elusive upset over #4 seed Boston College.

Maraker showed off an extremely impressive offensive package throughout the game today, giving the Golden Eagles nightmares about how to guard a player that can beat you in almost every single way possible. Whether it was putting the ball on the floor with a nice first step, passing the ball intelligently, posting up his man and finishing with a beautiful jump-hook, stroking the three pointer in clutch situations or just freelancing his way around the court with no defined role or position, Maraker was constantly seeking out holes to exploit in the defense with his outstanding skill level.

Maraker was instrumental down the stretch in putting his team right on the brink of pulling off an incredibly unlikely upset, drawing and hitting 3 free throws on a brilliant shot fake from behind the arc with 45 seconds to go to tie it up, and then nailing a clutch three to tie up the game again and send it to overtime with 9 seconds to go.

Its one thing to do this as Maraker has been all year against the likes of Cal Poly and Long Beach State, but a performance like this against a tough and defensive minded team like Boston College puts him squarely in the conversation for the 2nd round of the NBA draft, if he wasn't there already. Maraker's flaws are quite obvious, whether it’s his overall lack of footspeed, his matador defense, or just the general questions about what position he will play at the next level. He helped himself tremendously, though, and has surely earned himself plenty of invites to private NBA workouts as well as the full attention of the scouts in the NBA pre-draft camp(s).

Joakim Noah, 6'11, Sophomore, PF/C, Florida

16 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 blocks, 6-9 FG, 4-5 FT, 31 minutes

Al Horford, 6'9, Sophomore, PF/C, Florida

14 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 6-8 FG, 2-2 FT, 25 minutes


Jonathan Givony

Much ink has been spilled at DraftExpress since the very beginning of the season over the exploits of Florida sophomore Joakim Noah. As mentioned already on the last occasion, Noah seems to be constantly improving every single time we watch him play, and this time made sure that his partner in crime Al Horford got in on the act as well in the 26 point shellacking Florida put on South Alabama.

With point guard Taurean Green having an extremely poor game by his standards, it was Horford and Noah that stood up and took the Gators on their back to make sure that their team's offense was running smoothly. Dishing out 12 assists (with only 3 turnovers) between the two, both big men showed off their incredible ball-handling and passing skills in the open floor, pulling down monster rebounds time after time and igniting the one man fast break while weaving in and out of traffic and constantly keeping their heads up to find the open man. And even though South Alabama was no match for their height and athleticism, both showed off some extremely impressive skills beyond their terrific passing and ball-handling ability as well. Horford did the dirty work in the paint on both ends of the floor and stepped outside on a number of occasions to knock down a smooth looking mid-range jump shot from different parts of the floor, while Noah again continued to beat his man off the dribble from the perimeter and get to the rim with ease. Noah at one point in the game appeared to be on his way to an unheard of quadruple-double (most of his blocks and assists came in the 1st half), but decided to save his strength in the 2nd half once the result of the game appeared to be firmly in hand.

The chemistry these two show between themselves is an incredible rarity in today's college basketball, as most NCAA teams would love to even have their backup at Florida Chris Richard starting for them. You'd be hard pressed to find two NBA starting big men who run the floor as hard as Noah and Horford do, and it's inevitable to think that that is exactly where the two will end up when they decide they've had their fill of college basketball.

Ron Steele, 6’2, Sophomore, Point Guard, Alabama

23 Points, 8 Assists, 5 Rebounds, 9-11 FT, 4-6 3P

Mike Schmidt

For the second year in a row, Steele had a good game in the NCAA tournament, and this time it led to a victory for the Crimson Tide. Before the tournament, we said that Steele must score efficiently and run his team effectively if they were going to win some games. That’s exactly what he did, taking only 9 attempts from the field to get his points, and making 4 of 6 three point attempts while getting to the line 11 times. During the times when Marquette would claw there way back into the game, Steele was right there hitting key three point shots to extend the lead on key possessions. He played very unselfishly, looking first into the post, and then looking for his own shot once other options were exhausted. Steele is quietly becoming a big time player who can handle the ball like a wizard, score from outside, near the hoop, and from mid-range, and his playmaking skills remain very impressive. With another performance or two like this, Ron Steele might start to get some of the attention nationally that he deserves.

Acie Law, 6-3, Junior, Point Guard, Texas A&M

23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 7-17 FG, 8-8 FT

Mike Schmidt

Of all the performances during the first day of the NCAA tournament, few, if any, are more impressive than what Acie Law did for Texas A&M. The Aggies led throughout most of the game, but as Syracuse clawed their way back towards the end of the second half, Law took his team on his back and carried them to victory. With the A&M lead at 4 points with just over 7 minutes remaining, Law scored 14 of his team’s next 16 points, including 10 points in a row during one stretch. He scored these key baskets by attacking the basket fearlessly, which resulted in all 8 of Acie’s free throw attempts coming in the last 7 minutes and 20 seconds of the game. Though Law doesn’t appear to be a true floor general at this point in time, he is good at finding the open man off the dribble drive thanks to his outstanding body control and natural basketball instincts. It appears that Texas A&M’s tournament hopes rest on what Law can lead them to do, and even if they don’t advance further, Acie Law is an intriguing guy to watch out for going into next season.

Mohamed Abukar, 6-10, junior, power forward, San Diego State

24 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 8-13 FG, 6-6 FG, 2-2 3P


Jonathan Givony

If there's one thing that should console San Diego State fans after such a heartbreaking loss to an Indiana squad that they appeared to have on the ropes before coming apart at the seams towards the end, it's the team they return next season. Juniors Brandon Heath and Marcus Slaughter still both appear to be hopelessly caught between positions and nowhere near ready to enter the NBA draft, while fellow junior Mohamed Abukar is still an unknown quantity for NBA scouts and clearly needs his senior year as well. All 3 should be expected back for their senior years to continue to work on a defined NBA position and take care of some unfinished business in the NCAA tournament.

What can be taken away from this game, though, is the fact that Abukar particularly appears to be poised to break out as a star in his final year at SDSU. He gave the Hoosiers all they could handle in this game, showing an extremely intriguing arsenal of offensive skills from both inside the paint as well as from beyond the arc, and finally being willing to use those skills consistently for an entire game. The timid player NCAA fans might remember from his first two years as a Florida Gator appears to have matured into a man during his redshirt year, putting plenty of weight onto his promising frame, being more willing to do the dirty work that he never seemed capable of doing under Billy Donovan and still showing the type of athleticism in a 6-10 frame that has to get NBA scouts excited about his potential as a player.

Abukar was indeed the key to the Aztecs even making the NCAA tournament, helping his team win 15 of their last 19 games after sitting out the fall semester because of transfer rules, while averaging over 15 points a game in conference play.

A player with his size, skills and athleticism is always going to get plenty of looks from NBA scouts, and considering the fact that SDSU should return all their players from a team with no seniors to be found on the roster, there is a lot of talent to look forward to in 2006-2007 for Aztec fans.

Marcelus Kemp, 6'5, sophomore, shooting guard, Nevada

34 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 14-22 FG, 3-7 3P, 3-3 FT

Jonathan Givony

While the sting of losing to 12th ranked Montana likely won't wear off for Wolf Pack fans anytime soon, they can at least console in the fact that they have a legit star in the making to look forward to next year. Nick Fazekas appears to be out the door heading for the NBA draft this summer, but the program looks to be in good shape with Marcelus Kemp ready to break out in his junior year.

Essentially a 4th year college sophomore after red-shirting one season and sitting another year with a torn ACL, Kemp was the only player that really showed up for all 40 minutes in Nevada's disappointing exit against Montana. He attacked the Grizzlies defense relentlessly all game long, and appeared extremely confident in his abilities as a player.

Kemp used his athleticism on both ends of the floor, playing tough pressure defense on whoever he was asked to guard, taking the ball strong to the rim and pulling up for an array of mid-range jump shots. His ball-handling needs some work still, but he's clearly headed in the right direction and has a nice perimeter shot to compliment his slashing ability as well.

As a 22-year old sophomore, Kemp has his work cut out for him to make some serious strides in his game over the summer and try to show that he's a legit draft prospect next year, but from what we saw today, he has some very nice tools to build on.

Stock Neutral

Steve Novak, 6’10, Senior, SF/PF, Marquette

17 points, 5-10 FG, 5-9 3P, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals

Jonathan Givony

A typical performance from Novak in the last game of his senior season was not enough to help Marquette beat Alabama. He showed great range on his shot as usual, and even heated up enough to bring Marquette back into the game down the stretch with two huge 3-pointers in a matter of 10 seconds. He wasn’t good enough to get them into the lead, however, and missed a potential game tying wide-open shot that he would usually probably make in his sleep.

Novak was forced to guard the much bigger Richard Hendrix, and was burned whenever Alabama decided to go inside. This won’t be as big of a problem in the NBA, where Novak would be guarding and playing the small forward position (though his lateral quickness might hurt him there). Steve Novak did what was expected of him, and it wasn’t enough to lead Marquette to a win, but what he can do for an NBA team as a lights out tall shooter off the bench is still not in doubt.

Stock Down

Taj Gray, 6'9, Senior, Power Forward, Oklahoma

13 points, 8 rebounds, 0 assists, 6 turnovers, 5 fouls


Jonathan Givony

It wasn't so much his overall stat-line (although the fouls and turnovers begin to tell the real story) that hurt Taj Gray's stock today as it was the way he looked while he was out on the floor playing in the last college game of his career. Gray was a complete non-factor for huge stretches of OU's loss today, not looking to involve himself in the offense, letting smaller and far less athletic players get the best of him, settling for shots that he should never settle for and generally looking more like a freshman with the fouls he committed and the decisions he made than a senior about to graduate to the NBA.

Two straight charges on back to back possessions really hurt any momentum his team had going for it as they tried to come back from a double-digit deficit late in the game. He then capped off his performance with an incredibly foolish and completely unnecessary foul far from the basket that finally sent him to the bench with 5 fouls and severely hurt any chances his team had of coming back to win the game.

It's one thing to play poorly, but what was most baffling about his performance was the fact that it didn't seem to phase him that much. Gray is usually an emotional player who wears his heart on his sleeve, but in the game that should have had him as pumped as he's ever been in his career he came out completely flat and did not bring any of the energy he usually provides his team as his best contribution on the floor.

Gray will now kick off his preparations for the NBA draft, with many private workouts likely in his near future. What end of the 6'8 mark he ends up on in measurements might play the biggest role in where he lands in the NBA draft.

Gerry McNamara, 6-2, Senior, Point Guard, Syracuse

2 points, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 0-6 FG, 0-5 3P


Mike Schmidt

After heroically leading Syracuse through the Big East tournament, McNamara had an incredibly disappointing performance against Texas A&M that saw him not even make a field goal throughout the entire game. This is the 2nd year in a row that McNamara saves the worst performance of his season for his very last game.

In this one he struggled to get the ball up the court against the pressure defense from Acie Law and Dominique Kirk, and often had to give the ball up to somebody else in order to get it across the half court line. McNamara had a few nice passes that resulted in assists, but for every nice pass there was a forced pass into traffic resulting in a turnover.

McNamara appears to lack the first step needed to get by more athletic defenders in half-court situations, a problem that has arisen on many occasions this year for Syracuse. Despite his reputation for being one of the top shooters in all of college basketball, his 34% 3-point percentage doesn't back that up. McNamara’s best redeeming quality throughout his college career has been his clutch ability, but against A&M, he was not able to put his team in a position to use this ability, and he sat on the bench during crunch time.

McNamara showed tonight why there are still some very serious doubts about his NBA potential once you get past the sentimental value of the moments he’s been a part of in college basketball over the past 4 years. He still has his work cut out for him, likely starting at Portsmouth, to ensure himself of being drafted.

Recent articles

3.2 Points
1.4 Rebounds
0.6 Assists
4.5 PER
16.2 Points
10.3 Rebounds
2.5 Assists
17.4 PER
4.3 Points
5.7 Rebounds
3.0 Assists
13.5 PER
8.9 Points
6.5 Rebounds
2.4 Assists
15.1 PER
7.1 Points
1.2 Rebounds
3.6 Assists
11.3 PER
18.4 Points
2.3 Rebounds
1.0 Assists
24.4 PER
7.6 Points
3.4 Rebounds
0.7 Assists
20.7 PER
3.0 Points
1.0 Rebounds
2.0 Assists
4.3 PER
12.1 Points
9.4 Rebounds
0.9 Assists
20.9 PER
10.6 Points
2.9 Rebounds
4.0 Assists
14.9 PER
3.4 Points
1.1 Rebounds
2.3 Assists
5.4 PER
11.8 Points
2.8 Rebounds
3.7 Assists
14.8 PER
2.5 Points
4.1 Rebounds
0.9 Assists
12.7 PER
10.1 Points
1.8 Rebounds
0.4 Assists
17.6 PER
2.4 Points
0.6 Rebounds
2.0 Assists
8.8 PER
15.9 Points
8.8 Rebounds
3.7 Assists
23.1 PER
13.0 Points
2.7 Rebounds
1.3 Assists
16.6 PER
12.2 Points
8.9 Rebounds
3.5 Assists
18.3 PER
0.6 Points
0.4 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
1.3 PER
8.4 Points
3.6 Rebounds
3.6 Assists
14.8 PER

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop