Prospects include Dominic James, Brandan Wright, Josh Heytvelt, Julian Wright, Darrell Arthur, Jared Jordan, Ryan Anderson, Taurean Green and more.
Dominic James, 5-11, Point Guard, Sophomore, Marquette
25 points, 7 assists, 1 turnover, 9-15 FG, 2-4 3P, 5-6 FT
Playing both the 1 and 2 spots, James did an outstanding job setting the tempo for Marquette. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, he used his scintillating quickness and incredible array of changes of speed and hesitation moves to blow by defenders and get into the lane, drawing defenders and either finishing the play himself or dropping off a beautiful pass to an open teammate. Whether it was to an open wing spotting up on the perimeter or a gorgeous bounce pass into the past directly into the hands of his big men, James was phenomenal using his court vision to pick apart Dukes defense. James was constantly looking to get his team out into transition and did a marvelous job showing scouts just how truly explosive he is, finishing plays himself with a reverse dunk and even looking to finish off alleyoop lobs himself. He combines this athleticism with a rare combination of strength and toughness at times to crash the offensive glass, draw charges, or even post up much bigger defenders as he showed against Duke.
When a lane wasnt available to be exploited, James was very much content stopping on a dime and pulling up off the dribble for a sweet mid-range shot. He is excellent from 16-17 feet out thanks to the terrific elevation he gets on his jumper, but struggles when hes shooting from beyond that range. That doesnt seem to stop him from trying, though, which is where he starts getting into trouble when hes pounding the rock incessantly and then contorting his body and taking tough, awkward shots with a hand in his face. When he puts his mind to it, there isnt a player in America who can keep him out of the lane, and to his credit he for the most part this is indeed his bread and butter. Whats scary is that the form on his jumper is actually very solid, meaning it might be only a matter of time until hes knocking down 3-pointers at a consistent clip.
When discussing his NBA draft stock, people will rightfully want to bring up his lack of size when contemplating just how high in the first round hell end up landing. Truth be told, its hard not to think of Chris Paul when watching Dominic James play, and the two are not that far apart, at least in terms of height. Sources close to the situation tell us that something extremely unusual will have to happen for him not to declare for the draft this year, and if he keeps playing the way he did against Duke, its hard not to see him landing in the lottery.
Brandan Wright, 69, Freshman, Power Forward, North Carolina
2 Games: 20 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 2 turnovers, 16/25 FG, 8/15 FT
Wright displayed incredible hands, catching virtually every pass that he was able to get his mits on. He finished everything inside, despite his slender frame and the fact that he was matched up against much bulkier players in the paint. The Tennessee native did a great job of keeping the ball high once he received it so guards couldnt attempt to strip him, allowing him to get the ball up on the glass as quick as possible. He could have easily averaged close to 25 points per game over the two game stretch, had he not shot an awful 52% from the foul line.
If Brandan is able to keep his play up to this par for the remainder of the season, we are surely looking at a player that should be one and done. The NBAs new trend of long, athletic complimentary big men who can step in and play next to another power forward makes Wright awfully appealing to teams drafting in the late lottery. Draft aficionados must keep an eye on the super freshman for the remainder of the season, as its well established that he would have jumped to the NBA directly out of high school, so we already know that the NBA is on his mind.
Julian Wright, 6-8, SF/PF, Sophomore, Kansas
21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 steals, 9/12 FG, 3/4 FT
Kansas got off to a huge start in this game, and Wright was the catalyst behind it. He showed phenomenal body control in transition, used ball-fakes to get Floridas bigs in the air, and scored with a variety of floaters, pull-up jumpers, spot-up shots off screens and more on his way to a 17 point half-time performance. Wright was his active self all game long, particularly on the offensive glass where he came away with four rebounds. He looked patient and very smart in both the half-court and full-court for Kansas, making a number of unbelievable passes that showed the Boris Diaw side of him. Defensively he held his position in the paint and had a couple of big steals and blocks to ignite Kansas break, which he was often on the end of thanks to his outstanding athleticism. Wright was much quieter in the 2nd half, but still made a couple of big plays for his team down the stretch, particularly a huge steal on Taurean Green with 40 seconds left in overtime before calling a heady timeout to save the possession for Kansas. If this is what Wright looks like when hes still very obviously making the transition to being a full-time wing, then his future looks very promising indeed.
Darrell Arthur, 6-9, Freshman, Power Forward, Kansas
19 points, 9 rebounds, 1 blocks, 6/7 FG, 7/9 FT, 16 minutes
So much for that idea.
Arthur only played 16 minutes against the Gators, but he poured in 19 absolutely crucial points and grabbed 9 rebounds against Florida's accomplished frontcourt. He scored at will the entire night and in a variety of ways, converting on a beautiful spin-hook against Al Horford, catching the Gators completely off guard with several remarkably comfortable-looking midrange jumpers in the lane, emphatically finishing at the rim, and knocking down pressure-packed free throws with a quiet confidence rarely seen in seasoned NBA veterans.
All things considered, the extreme athletic upside and remarkable composure/feel for the game Arthur displayed Saturday night is something very rarely seen from a big man prospect so inexperienced. Where most elite frontcourt prospects in this vein tend to be one-dimensional and have a tendency to force things, Arthur rarely makes a bad decision. The midrange jumper is a truly unique weapon in today's game, but he doesn't overdo it. He knows his place is in the post at the moment, and has provided an excellent traditional low post presence in the absence of Kaun. Arthur knows how to use his body on the blocks, and utilizes a variety of back to the basket moves.
It is hard to believe that a prospect as talented and mature as Darrell Arthur wasn't even considered a top 10 prospect in the 2006 freshman class. The season is a long one and he is sure to have his fair share of ups and downs, but the early returns are extremely impressive. The Florida game was far from a fluke, as Arthur scored 22 points in the loss to Oral Roberts and was leading the Jayhawks in scoring headed into the game. His polish and ability to play within the team concept at this early stage are very, very unique.
He may have to fight to hold onto his role with Kaun back on the court and Darnell Jackson a trusted member of Self's rotation, but if Darrell Arthur can play out the season at this same level he is probably a lottery pick whenever he wants to make the jump. That could be sooner rather than later.
Josh Heytvelt, 611, Sophomore, Power Forward, Gonzaga
2 Games: 17.5 points, 8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 0 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 12/21 FG, 1/2 3P, 10/12 FT
Against Butler however, we saw the Heytvelt that we saw last year .an extremely talented player whose production never seemed to equal his skill set. While he still had a decent game statistically (16 points and 8 rebounds), he was nowhere near the prospect we saw against North Carolina. When the Zags needed a bucket late in the game, the Washington native was nowhere to be found. He showed that Gonzaga will go as far as he takes them, with the potential to beat powerhouses like North Carolina, or to lose to mid-major schools such as Butler.
Consistency is the key to Heytvelts draft stock, so scouts will surely watch him closely to see if he is able to continue his dominant play through WCC competition. If he is able to, he should be able to solidify a spot for himself somewhere in the late lottery, either in 07 or 08. Either way however, Josh has done an excellent job of raising his stock now to the point that he should be a first round pick, even if he only plays like he did versus Butler for the rest of the season.
Jared Jordan, 6-2, Point Guard, Senior, Marist
3 Games: 20.6 points, 9 assists, 4.3 turnovers, 6.3 rebounds, 18/38 FG, 5/14 3P, 21/26 FT, 38.6 minutes
Watching him play, you cant help think that hes an old-school throwback point guard. Jordan sees the floor wonderfully, executing his teams half-court sets effectively and making simple passes look easy. He runs the pick and roll like a pro and is outstanding at feeding his big man with post entry passes. He lacks the explosiveness to create his own shot consistently at the collegiate level, often needing a screen to get by his man, but is very unpredictable off the dribble and does a good job keeping his man off balance with his excellent ball-handling, footwork and herky-jerky style of play. Once he gets to the basket, he is a bit limited as he lacks strength and does not explode off the ground vertically at all, but hes a tough kid who will find open spaces as he can dribble and finish effectively with either hand.
So far this season his perimeter shot is not falling as well as youd hope, and this is a part of his game he will absolutely have to get on track if hes going to have any shot at all at playing in the NBA. He has good mechanics and a pretty quick release, but loses effectiveness when hes crowded and forced to shoot off the dribble. Defensively, he is smart enough to know how to position himself and get in the passing lanes, but his lack of lateral quickness really limits his potential in this area. More than anything, Jordan is a heady player who seems to have mastered the fundamentals of the game, and he will get his chances to impress the scouts at Portsmouth and/or the NBA Pre-draft camp. Its not hard to judge just how important he is to his own team, as he only left the floor for 4 out of a possible 120 minutes playing three games in four days.
Taurean Green, 6-0, Point Guard, Junior, Florida
25 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 9/19 FG, 4/11 3P, 3/5 FT, 43 minutes
Green did everything you could ask a point guard to do for his team in this game. Whether it was hitting pull-up and spot-up 3-pointers from NBA range, using his quickness to get into the lane and finish with terrific composure and either hand, grabbing huge rebounds, getting everyone involved on the drive and dish, or playing excellent defense, Green was rock solid all night long. Being the only player on Floridas team who can consistently create offense for himself off the dribblea huge weakness for the returning National Championshe was forced to take some very tough shots when his team lost its imagination in the half-court. He kept the Gators in the game in the first half when Floridas future lottery picks were on the bench in foul trouble, and then continued to carry them in the 2nd half with his scoring or playmaking. Unfortunately for him, he did not come up big for his team at all down the stretch, committing two terrible turnovers-- one with 24 seconds to go in regulation and then another with 40 seconds in overtime--that really hurt his team. All in all, though, when taking the whole game into consideration, and especially the quality of defenders he was matched up with, Green played extremely well.
Ryan Anderson, 6-9, Power Forward, Freshman, Cal
3 Games: 17.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 18/36 FG, 5/16 3P, 11/11 FT
Equally as effective with his back to the basket as he is facing the hoop, Anderson scored at will from all over the court in the Alaska Shootout. Hes incredibly precocious for a player his age, showing an incredible knack for finding the hoop and fitting into an offense that just cannot be taught. Based off what we saw here, hes certainly of the best freshman big men in the country early on at least and will probably go head to head with Chase Budinger at Arizona for Freshman of the year honors in the Pac-10.
What makes Anderson so deadly is really his perimeter shot. He has a super quick release and picture perfect mechanics, only needing a second of daylight to get his shot off. Hes hitting over 45% of his 3-pointers on a high number of attempts six games into the season, but unlike most big-men shooters, hes also not afraid to mix it up inside. Anderson has nice footwork and even better touch inside the post, being super opportunistic and possessing a great nose for finding the hoop. An extremely smart and patient player well beyond his years, hes also a great passer who picks and chooses his spots well in Cals offense. He did a very nice job on the glass in Alaska, fighting for position and showing good instincts against the admittedly weak crop of big men he went up against.
In terms of his pro prospects, its probably a bit too early to jump to any kind of conclusions. Hes not the type of freakish athlete who usually projects as a one or two-and-done early entrant, but you just cant ignore the production hes brought from day one. Getting stronger, becoming a better defender and rebounder and diversifying his array of moves inside the post will all be priorities for him in the long term, but its really hard not to love what hes showing so far. In terms of actual basketball skills, hes already a much better player than his more highly regarded counterpart in the post Devon Hardin.
Lewis Clinch, 63, SG, Sophomore, Georgia Tech
3 games: 17.3 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.3 TOPG, 1 SPG, 14-31 FG (45%), 7-17 3P (41%), 17-22 FT (77%)
Lewis Clinch had a very strong Maui tournament doing what he does best, but his contributions didnt go much farther than his ability to score the basketball. Clinch has quickly stepped into the role of go-to guy in this his sophomore season at Georgia Tech, and so far hes shown good consistency and ability scoring the basketball.
Clinch does most of his scoring from mid and long-range, with the most impressive thing about his scoring being his ability to maintain his balance on the move. Whether hes coming off a curl, taking the ball off one or two dribbles, or hitting a spot-up jumper on the move, Clinch is excellent at keeping his body upright, keeping his legs beneath him, and maintaining a consistent shooting motion, often allowing him to put up high-percentage long range shots in the blink of an eye. With solid form and a high release point, this allows Clinch to get lots of opportunities to put the ball in the air, and so far hes been knocking shots down with regularity. Clinch does have a tendency to put up some contested shots that he probably shouldnt, and is definitely at his best playing off the ball when someone else is creating for him.
Clinch also has a bit of a mid-range game with a floater in the lane and the ability to pull-up off the dribble, but this is not his forte. He also rarely takes the ball all the way to the hole, and is much more comfortable shooting the jumper.
Defensively, Clinch is inconsistent, occasionally playing good fundamental defense and moving his feet, but at other times lagging to fight through screens or just not putting in the effort to stay in front of his man.
At 63, Clinch doesnt show much in terms of point guard abilities, though he does make some nice post entry passes from the wing. Still, he hasnt shown an ability to run an offense, and it looks as if his future will be at shooting guard. With the NBAs recent tendency to go towards more quicker, smaller guards, Clinch may have a chance, but he first will likely need to work on developing a more well-rounded game.