Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Day Two

Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Day Two
Apr 09, 2010, 02:14 pm
Day two of the Portsmouth Invitational was a very productive one, highlighted by an excellent early evening game, a few standout performances and a number of under the radar prospects emerging from obscurity and establishing themselves as players to consider during the draft process.

-Official Website/Boxscores
-DraftExpress Preview
-DraftExpress Portsmouth Recap, Day One

Point guards Jerome Randle and Mikhail Torrance were the day's standouts, helping their NBA hopes considerably with very productive, yet very different outings. A half a foot or more separates the two in stature, but each made strong cases for roster spots in front of a host of NBA decision makers.

No less than 11 NBA General Managers have been seen scouting the event thus far, giving the prospects in attendance plenty to play for and proving once again that this tournament is still a relevant place to find NBA caliber players.

NBA GMs in attendance thus far:

Rick Sund (Atlanta Hawks)
Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics)
Donnie Nelson (Dallas Mavericks)
Mark Warkentein (Denver Nuggets)
Daryl Morey (Houston Rockets)
Neil Olshey (Los Angeles Clippers)
Mitch Kuphack (Los Angeles Lakers)
John Hammond (Milwaukee Bucks)
Bryan Colangelo (Toronto Raptors)
Kevin O’Connor (Utah Jazz)
Ernie Grunfeld (Washington Wizards)

Plenty of chatter revolved around the ever-swelling number of underclassmen prospects entering this draft on a daily basis and how that might affect this senior class. Most agreed that there will only be a handful of players, at best, drafted from this camp, but that there is still plenty of value in keeping tabs on the progress of the most interesting players here over the next few years.

With the way undrafted Portsmouth veterans such as Wesley Matthews, Reggie Williams, Anthony Tolliver, Jose Juan Barea, Chuck Hayes, Anthony Morrow, and many others are performing in the NBA right now, the benefits of scouting this camp might not reaped for a few years.

Nevertheless, it was intriguing to see players from under the radar conferences such as the Sun Belt (Tyren Johnson of Louisiana Lafayette and Western Kentucky’s A.J. Slaughter), Ivy League (Harvard’s Jeremy Lin, Jeff Foote and Ryan Wittman of Cornell) and the America East (Vermont’s Marqus Blakely) have absolutely no problem whatsoever holding their own with their BCS conference counterparts and reinforce the notion that they could have played at any level of college basketball—just like this year’s NCAA tournament proved.

Even the Division II players (particularly Kutztown’s Stephen Dennis and LeMoyne’s Laurence Ekperigin have had strong showings thus far, showing just how deep and talented the pool of American basketball players has become these days, even if the severely limited amount of open NBA roster spots will not be able to accommodate even a fraction of them. If the justification for the existence of the NBA Development League hasn’t been made loud and clear with the sheer amount of callups made this season and the way they’ve subsequently performed in the NBA, that case has only become stronger here in Portsmouth.

Day Two Evaluations

Jerome Randle, 5’10, Point Guard, California
18 points, 7/13 FG, 2/5 3FG, 5 Rebounds, 10 Assists, 4 Turnovers, 4 steals

Jerome Randle was a revelation at the point guard position, putting on a scoring clinic while showing advanced vision and passing abilities, helping his stock as much as any player in attendance thus far. He was by far the most skilled offensive player in attendance.

His stellar three point shooting stroke is well documented at this point, as he shot 42.1% on more than 500 attempts over his last three years at California. His release looks very quick and he has infinite range. While his shot selection was questionable at points during the game, his skill as a shooter is undeniable and as he gets stronger, he should only continue to improve.

He also thrived in mid-range opportunities, using his lighting quick first step and ability to stop on a dime to knock down numerous pull up jump shots. He did struggle finishing around the basket initially, which largely was due to his lack of explosiveness and strength. His instincts, body control, and creativity around the rim allowed him to finish effectively by the end of the game.

Randle is clearly one of quickest players in attendance both with and without the ball in his hands. Going up against Ishmael Smith (considered by many to be the fastest player in college basketball) Randle looked almost every bit his equal, showing the ability to change into an extra gear and blow by defenders in impressive fashion, but unlike Smith, being able to do so in an under control manner that makes him that much more difficult to contend with. He showed excellent instincts off of the dribble as the game wore on, deferring to his teammates and pulling up for jump shots smoothly and confidently. His court vision is outstanding and he always managed to get his teammates the ball in favorable scoring positions.

At just 5’10, Randle struggled somewhat in the first half seeing and making passes over traps in the half court offense. By the second half, however, it was no longer a problem and he had completely adjusted. His lack of size is seen by many to be a hindrance at the next level, and while having an excellent game against 6’0 Ishmael Smith is fine, we will be watching to see how he fares in this setting against a better team and bigger guards. He will be going up against 6-5 Mikhail Torrance in tonight’s semi-finals, a matchup that will be studied closely by NBA teams on both ends of the floor.

Defensively, he struggled sometimes due to his lack of size and strength, as defenders either muscled by him or simply saw over him. His tenacity on this end of the floor, however, is encouraging. He has active hands and is a relentless pest in one-on-one situations. He forced many of Ishmael Smith’s 10 turnovers and did a solid job of staying in front of the quick guard.

Overall, Randle probably has helped his stock the most of any prospect here and continued to improve upon what was already an impressive season. We will be closely watching how he looks in the next two games, and are definitely coming around on his NBA chances.

Mikhail Torrance, 6-5, Point Guard, Alabama
14 points, 10 assists, 7 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 6-9 FG, 2-3 FT

Possibly the most intriguing single-game performance seen thus far from an NBA draft perspective was that of Alabama combo guard Mikhail Torrance.

Standing out from the opening tip due to the sheer size (6-5) he brings to the table at the point guard position, Torrance showed terrific physical tools and potential and likely established himself as a legitimate draft prospect in the process.

With his excellent first step and aggressive slashing mentality, Torrance got into the lane all game long against the much smaller Devan Downey, both in transition and off the pick and roll. Wisely looking more concerned with showing off his playmaking ability in order to prove his mettle as a point guard prospect (for which he’s far more interesting for the NBA than at the 2) than scoring, Torrance made some extremely creative passes all game long, both with flashy bounce passes off the pick and roll and with drive and dish plays finding open teammates right underneath the rim.

While Torrance’s conversion to the point guard position is clearly not a finished process—as evidenced by the 7 turnovers he committed—he showed enough potential in this area to show that he’s more than just another 2-guard masquerading at the 1. He’s a willing distributor with solid court vision and nice creativity, even if he needs to do a better job of cutting down on unforced errors and possibly taking as many risks.

While Torrance played an excellent first game, there are still a couple of areas we want to continue to study over the course of the next two games. One would be his defense, an area that he clearly has potential in thanks to his size and athleticism, but seems to struggle in at times to his seemingly average fundamentals. Another is his shooting stroke, which looked a bit streaky in this game.

While obviously not a finished product, Torrance is exactly the type of prospect an NBA team might be willing to spend time and energy developing because of the benefits they could reap down the road. Torrance’s ability to defend either guard position could give a coach a lot more versatility to play alongside a smaller combo guard without great playmaking skills. Torrance’s SEC counterpart Garrett Temple could be a good example to look at. Even if Torrance doesn’t make the NBA on the first go-around, he’s someone teams might want to continue to keep tabs on to see how he progresses down the road.

Aubrey Coleman clearly tried to make some adjustments in his second game here at Portsmouth, coming out more under control in the first half of his game, looking to get teammates involved, not pounding the ball as much, and not forcing as many difficult shots. However, as the game went on, his instincts seemed to kick back in, and by game's end he wound up taking more questionable shots today than he did yesterday. Coleman finished the game with 15 points, albeit on 16 shot attempts, 7 free throw attempts, and with 2 turnovers.

He looks uncomfortable playing off the ball, on one possession passing up a spot-up three to make a pass, only to get the ball back and instantly go into a pull-up three off a crossover with a hand in his face. It's clear it will be a long process for Coleman to adjust to a more team-oriented game, and his efforts to adjust in this game are encouraging, but he may be turning some people off with his continued poor shot selection.

On the bright side, like yesterday, Coleman did a pretty good job contributing in other areas, making plays on defense and hustling off the ball.

Ben Uzoh had an interesting performance in his own right, scoring 16 points and dishing out 4 assists to go along with 2 steals and 3 turnovers. Uzoh isn’t the steadiest perimeter shooter at this camp and clearly needs to improve his ball-handling skills, but his size, length and terrific athleticism make him one of the better long term prospects here. He absolutely skied to the roof on one particular play, missing a dunk but taking the air out of the gym with the display of sheer explosiveness. It’s unfortunate that he’s on the same team as two other players who need to spend minutes at the point in Lawrence Westbrook and Mikhail Torrance, because teams would probably like to evaluate his playmaking ability more than they’re currently able to.

The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Tyren Johnson averaged 17.9 points (50% FG and 36.1% 3FG) 7.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists,1.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game for 13-17 Louisiana-Lafayette. He is a reputed gym rat and improved considerably between his junior and senior seasons, while showing greater scoring efficiency.

Still, his performance at Portsmouth came as a surprise. Tyren Johnson is a player we’d like to take a closer look at over the next two games after his extremely impressive debut. The 6-8 combo forward has outstanding physical tools (size, length, athleticism and a great frame) to go along with an intriguing skill-set for his position. He knocked down three 3-pointers, hit an off the dribble jumper, made some outstanding passes, came up with a number of blocks and steals, crashed the glass hard and just showed a lot of toughness and versatility. Players in his mold are very much en vogue in today’s basketball (both in the NBA and Europe) so it will be interesting to see how he follows up this performance.

Kutztown’s Stephen Dennis wasn’t the most productive player in day two, coming up with 10 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers, but he definitely did enough to pique our interest with his physical tools and potential. Dennis is a 6-6 point guard who is rail thin, but is extremely fluid and agile. He looked like a capable passer and scorer who can get to the rim but struggles to finish at the moment, and seems to have a nice shooting stroke that is currently a bit on the streaky side. Dennis seems to be one of those late bloomers that is worth keeping tabs on. He reminded us a bit of Dontell Jefferson on first glance, and surely looked like he could have found a spot somewhere on a Division I roster.

Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan showed that he was worthy of being invited on the first Portsmouth go-around instead of having to wait for a last minute nod, putting up a strong 17 point, 10 rebound, 3 assist performance in his first outing. Morgan looked a lot more athletic than we remembered him, finishing emphatically around the rim repeatedly and crashing the offensive glass ferociously with an excellent second bounce. He played with a chip on his shoulder just like you would expect a Tom Izzo pupil to, but did so in a controlled and intelligent manner, even showing some perimeter skills by creating his own shot off the dribble in transition. Morgan is a guy we wrote plenty about early in his career but cooled on significantly as injuries took their toll and his numbers fell off. It will be interesting to see how he looks over the next two games. It’s amazing to think that he was playing in the Final Four in Indianapolis just five days ago.

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