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NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/22/10

NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/22/10
Jan 22, 2010, 04:45 pm
Updated scouting reports on UConn's Stanley Robinson, Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado, West Virginia's Kevin Jones and New Mexico's Darington Hobson.

Stanley Robinson, 6’9, SF/PF, Senior, Connecticut
16.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.1 steals, 2 turnovers, 53% FG, 46% 3P, 62% FT




Joseph Treutlein

Following a very disappointing junior season, Stanley Robinson is finally starting to realize his potential as a senior, giving NBA teams a preview of just how dynamic a player he can be at the next level. He’s posting career high numbers across the board, both in production and efficiency, while playing a leading role for the Huskies.

Physically, there’s not much new to add about Robinson from our previous reports, as he remains an elite athlete with outstanding length and good size for the combo-forward position at 6’9. He’s added a good amount of strength in his four years at UConn, but his wiry frame can probably hold a little bit more bulk if he wants to add it, though that won’t be much of an issue at the next level, as his effortless athletic abilities should translate quite well.

On the offensive end, Robinson has re-found his three-point shot, which fell off the face of the earth last season (3-for-23 from behind the arc). He’s shooting a career-high 45.5% from three, and although it’s just on 1.1 makes per game, it’s not difficult to project him developing into a reliable spot-up three-point shooter in the NBA. Robinson’s form when spotting up in rhythm is pretty good, though things break down severely when he’s moving or has a hand in his face, as he has tendencies to not hold his follow through, not square his shoulders to the basket, and just not get proper balance, leading to many errant misses and much decreased efficiency.

An interesting thing to note about Robinson’s shooting is that while he has shown some nice success hitting shots from range, his free-throw shooting hasn’t surpassed 67.2% in his four years in college, while he’s shooting a career-low 62.3% this season. Judging by the inconsistencies in his shooting motion, there’s good reason to believe he’s not near his potential as a shooter, both from the floor and from the line, and he’s likely getting by mostly on natural ability at this point. Getting in the gym and really working on repetition and cleaning up some of his flaws could potentially take his shooting game to the next level.

Attacking the basket, Robinson has made some progress, looking a bit more comfortable handling the ball, though he’s still erratic in isolation situations, not possessing great instincts or advanced moves in taking his man off the dribble. That said, with his strong body control, excellent athleticism, and ability to adjust with the ball in mid air, he’s capable of making many impressive moves going to the hole when he gets an opening, namely on baseline drives. At the rim, he’s an excellent finisher with his length and touch, and is even better playing off the ball where he can better make use of his explosive leaping ability.

Robinson has also done a good job of adding some mini-post moves to his game, things he can take advantage of either starting with his back to the basket or turning off of drives, where he does a good job of using glass from the 5-15 foot range to make some nifty turnaround jumpers.

On the defensive end, Robinson shows a good effort level overall, but you get the impression he’s still not near his potential as a defender, mainly because of how often he can get the job done relying on just his physical tools at this level. When he’s beat off the dribble on the perimeter, he often has just as good a chance to make the stop swatting the ball from behind, as he does an excellent job using his length and athleticism to swat shots in the lane. On the perimeter, he shows very good foot speed, flashes very good fundamentals, and does a great job using his length to contest shots, but he will need to lock in more consistently at the next level to be the elite defender he’s capable of. In the post, he doesn’t do the greatest job bodying up, lacking a bit in base strength, but does play to his strengths, keeping his hands up and using his length to block and contest shots.

Looking forward, Robinson has put himself firmly in lottery discussions with his improved play this season, and his physical tools and hustling style of play make it pretty easy to project him to the next level as at least a very versatile role player. There are still concerns about his intangibles stemming from (amongst other reasons) his inconsistent development and play in his four years at UConn, but his upside is still very high and a team in the late lottery could very well decide to take a flyer on him.


Jarvis Varnado, 6-9, Senior, Power Forward/Center, Mississippi State
14.1 points, 11.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.8 turnovers, 5.3 blocks, 62% FG, 64% FT




Kyle Nelson

When Mississippi State center Jarvis Varnado withdrew his name from last year’s very weak class of draft-eligible big men, without making much of an attempt to even see where his stock is at, some may have wondered if he acted in haste. This season has gradually proved critics wrong as Varnado has clearly benefited from spending an additional year in the SEC.

Though he is anything but a complete player at this stage, it is hard not to notice how much Varnado has improved in four years. While Varnado’s numbers are certainly inflated thus far due to the incredibly weak out of conference schedule (their SOS ranks 226th in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy) Mississippi State put together, there will be more opportunities for their star big man to prove his mettle against quality big men as the SEC slate progresses.

At 6’9, Varnado has average size for an NBA post player, despite his tremendous wingspan and good athleticism. His 230-pound frame is still a work in progress, even though he has bulked up significantly since he arrived at Mississippi State, weighing just 195 pounds. Though question marks remain about just how much more weight his narrow frame can carry and how that might affect his transition to competing against NBA level big men, he has worked hard to improve his strength and scouts surely have noticed the results in his play.

On the offensive end, Varnado is still a fairly raw player who doesn’t project to be much more than a garbage man type in the NBA, but it’s hard not to notice the improvement he’s made from where he started four years ago. Averaging a career high 19.1 points per-40 minutes pace adjusted, Varnado is shooting a remarkably efficient 62% from the floor. His touch around the basket has always been solid, but this season he’s been looking far more confident making moves around the basket.

Varnado’s lack of strength makes it difficult for him to establish deep position in the paint and finish through contact in traffic at times, an issue that will only be exacerbated against NBA-level big men. He still needs to work on his left hand and perimeter game as well, as you never see him put the ball on the floor or attempt a jump-shot outside of five feet. Varnado’s limited post game looks unlikely to translate to the next level—he’ll make a living primarily finishing drop-off passes around the rim, crashing the offensive glass and running the floor in transition, three areas that he excels in.

On the defensive end, Varnado is still the same incredible shot blocking presence that he has been throughout his entire career. This season, he is blocking an absurd 7.2 shots per-40 minutes pace adjusted, putting him on track to break the NCAA’s all-time record for career blocks sometime in the next few weeks. As discussed extensively in past reports, Varnado’s length and timing are nothing short of spectacular, making him a game-changing presence at the college level.

He still underwhelms at times as a man-to-man defender, particularly with his ability to step outside of the paint, something he needs to improve upon significantly before he is considered to be anything more than a marginal NBA role-player. He looks like a fish out of water moving laterally on the perimeter, appearing somewhat stiff and upright, without great fluidity, something that may hamper his ability to making the transition from collegiate center to NBA power forward.

One major improvement in his game has been on the glass, where he averages 15.1 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted, ranking him fourth amongst all prospects in our database in that category. His offensive rebounding figures have mostly remained stagnant throughout his career, but his defensive rebounding totals have improved significantly year after year.

While Varnado’s body language at times gives off the impression that he’s a bit laid back and not always putting in the greatest effort—something that is not exactly rare amongst players from the South--its tough to argue with the results he’s getting.

Over his four years at Mississippi State, Jarvis Varnado has proved that he has what it takes to play in the NBA. This season he has done plenty to convince scouts that he’s more than just a one-trick pony and that his ceiling is higher than the average long, skinny, athletic collegiate shot blocker. He still has plenty of work to do to continue to round out his game, but no one can say that Varnado is not improving.

Though Mississippi State has done him no favors with the disappointing schedule they put together, Varnado will have the chance to prove himself in coming weeks against some of the SEC’s top post players, primarily in matchups against Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins, JaMychal Green, Michael Washington, Murphy Holloway, and Vernon Macklin. Scouts will surely be watching closely.


Kevin Jones, 6’8, Sophomore, Power Forward, West Virginia
15.1 Points, 7.7 Rebounds, 1.4 Assists, 1.2 Turnovers, 60% FG, 45% 3P, 64% FT




Matt Kamalsky

Coming off a terrific 2008-2009 season, the eleventh ranked West Virginia Mountaineers (14-3) are off to a fast start once again. Though Da’Sean Butler remains the teams top scoring option and Devin Ebanks receives much of the attention from a NBA perspective, sophomore power forward Kevin Jones has been the team’s biggest revelation and one of Bob Huggins’ most productive contributors.

On first glance Jones does not stand out as being a great prospect due to his average physical tools. This is likely the reason his hometown Syracuse squad declined to offer him a scholarship even to be a backup, despite the fact that he badly wanted to play for them. He has average size for a power forward at just 6-8, and sports underwhelming explosiveness. He compensates for that though with a very nice wingspan, terrific smarts and an exceptional energy level. A true competitor, Jones spent last summer bulking up, and the results have shown on the court. Capable of scoring from the inside and out, Jones has emerged as a legitimate draft prospect and high-level college player thanks to his outstanding versatility, efficiency, and mentality.

From an NBA perspective, the most notable change in Jones’s game from last season to this season lies in his ability to shoot the three. After shooting only 24% from three-point range last season, Jones is now shooting an outstanding 45%. While the amount of 3-pointers he’s attempted per game leaves something to be desired as far as the sample size is concerned, and he sports a fairly slow release without getting much elevation on his shot, his ability to spread the floor for his teammates at the power forward position is essential in Bob Huggins’ offense.

While Jones does not possess the quickness or ball-handling skills to create his own shot and attack defenders off the dribble, part of the reason he rarely gets to the free throw line, he knows his limitations and does an outstanding job of keeping mistakes to a minimum. He turns the ball over on just 10% of his possessions, which is an absolutely miniscule rate for a sophomore.

Jones’s effort level afforded him some success down low last season, and with his weight up to 250-pounds, he frequently exploits his length at the basket by establishing deep position and making strong, decisive moves to the rim. Displaying a very soft hook shot with his right hand, the ability to face up and hit an occasional midrange jumper when given space, and a willingness to initiate contact, Jones shoots an outstanding 51.7% in post up situations according to the data at our disposal and ranks amongst the most efficient players in our database with his 64% true shooting percentage, a testament to his shot-selection.

When he isn’t outworking opposing big men on the block, Jones is able to make an impact by using his length to crash the offensive glass, finish plays operating intelligently off the ball, or run the floor in transition. An excellent finisher thanks to his length and fearlessness in traffic, Jones also ranks amongst the most prolific offensive rebounders in our database. Since he isn’t the tallest, athletic or most skilled player in the world, it’s good to see Jones be able to contribute to his team in different ways, something that could potentially help his transition to the NBA.

Defensively, Jones has all the tools to be an outstanding college defender with his terrific length and consistent effort level. He spends most of his team at the 5-spot for West Virginia, and though he does struggle against some of the more powerful back to the basket players he encounters, he does an admirable job competing. At his size, NBA scouts will want to see him move down one position if not two, and this is an area that raises some concerns. Jones does not possess ideal lateral quickness to defend wing players, but he has some impressive possessions regardless switching out onto the perimeter on the pick and roll, mainly due to his length and smarts. If he can improve his comfort level in that regard and show more discipline when closing out shooters, his transition to the NBA would be much more plausible.

It is hard not to be impressed by what Jones brings to the table; he’s an easy player to like. He already does many of the things that NBA teams look for in a role-playing forward, and does them exceptionally well. While his upside is clearly limited by his average physical tools and shot-creating ability, he’s only a sophomore and still has room to improve. If he can prove that he can consistently shut down opposing perimeter players, develop his ball-handling skills somewhat, and continue to expand his shooting range, Jones will only improve his quickly rising draft stock.


Darington Hobson, 6-7, Junior, SF/PF, New Mexico
15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 42% FG, 38% 3P, 62% FT




Jonathan Givony

A junior college transfer from the College of Eastern Utah, Darington Hobson took a long road to enrolling at New Mexico (see Jeff Goodman’s terrific recap of his journey), where he has already established himself as one of the top players in the Mountain West Conference.

A 6-7 combo forward with long arms and average athleticism by NBA standards, Hobson’s main appeal as a prospect lies in the versatility he displays coupled with his ability to create his own shot.

Left-handed, Hobson is a very good ball-handler for his size, looking very comfortable attacking opponents off the dribble from the perimeter in one on one situations. He has excellent footwork and timing on his drives, and is a pretty fluid all-around player, displaying a high skill level and advanced scoring instincts. Although his first step is not very quick, Hobson has a knack for getting his man off-balance through shot-fakes and hesitation moves, and does a great job initiating (and exaggerating) contact to get to the free throw line.

Once putting the ball down, Hobson has very good court vision to find the open man, as evidenced by the 5+ assists per-40 he currently averages. He shoulders a heavy load for New Mexico offensively, but is an unselfish player who does a good job of getting others involved, sporting an advanced basketball IQ.

While Hobson does a good job creating scoring opportunities for himself and others, he isn’t quite as effective at finishing plays. His shooting percentages from inside the arc leave a lot to be desired at just 43%, a reflection of his struggles finishing around the rim (due to his lack of explosiveness) in traffic, coupled with his often-poor shot-selection.

Hobson loves to pull up off the dribble in the mid-range area, but is not particularly effective when doing so. He makes a number of head-scratching decisions over the course of pretty much every contest he plays in, as evidenced by his high turnover rate. It’s a different story in catch and shoot situations, though, as Hobson is fairly effective with his feet set, knocking down 38% of his 3-point attempts this season, albeit on a relatively small number of attempts. The paltry percentage he converts from the free throw line (62%), though, is likely an indication that he still has work to do on his jump-shot.

Defensively, Hobson puts a solid effort in and appears to be fairly smart, but is unfortunately limited by his average physical tools. Spending heavy minutes at the power forward position, Hobson has problems guarding the perimeter, as he does not possess great lateral quickness. On the plus side, Hobson does a very good job crashing the defensive glass, coming up with a solid 7.4 defensive boards per-40 minutes pace adjusted.

While Hobson was receiving mentions of being a potential lottery pick by some NBA draft outlets earlier in the season, he’s unlikely to be considered a great NBA prospect when it’s all said and done. His average physical profile, coupled with the fact that he’s already a 22-year old junior with some potential off-court red flags who needs to have the ball in his hands extensively to be effective is not a great combination. He’s clearly a terrific college player, though, and may still be figuring things out only 20 games into his NCAA career. Hobson will likely garner looks in the second round whenever he decides to declare, but ultimately may find more success in Europe where he could be extremely effective mismatch threat as a face-up combo forward, ala Kasib Powell.

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