Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East (Part Three: #11-15)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East (Part Three: #11-15)
Oct 30, 2008, 02:36 am
We continue to survey the most stacked conference in college basketball with part three of the Big East, looking at UConn junior Stanley Robinson, Notre Dame junior Luke Harangody, Marquette senior Jerel McNeal, Georgetown sophomore Austin Freeman, and Villanova junior Scottie Reynolds.

-Top Prospects in the Big East: Part One, Part Two
-Top Prospects in the ACC: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
-Top Prospects in the Pac-10: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 10: Part One, Part Two
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

#11 Stanley Robinson, 6-9, Junior, SF/PF, UConn

Kyle Nelson

Much has happened to Stanley Robinson since we last wrote about him as a freshman. He had a promising sophomore campaign, one in which his scoring efficiency increased dramatically and he began to adapt to playing on the wing full time. Things changed, however, in the off-season, when he was suspended from the team for a semester due to academic and personal reasons. Coach Jim Calhoun has gone on record saying that Robinson is on the right track, but nobody will really know Robinson’s situation until January. That said, while his ability to reach his upside remains somewhat in doubt, there is no denying his potential as a basketball player.

Physically, there is nothing holding Robinson back. He stands at 6’9 and has reportedly added almost 25 pounds of muscle to his slight 212-pound frame. This is all without mentioning his huge wingspan. He is an elite athlete at the college level, with explosive leaping ability and good quickness in the open floor. He should also stand out at the next level with his combination of size and athleticism.

When we last wrote about Robinson, he was incredibly raw offensively, looking very much like a post-player attempting to transition to the wing. While that has not completely changed, he showed a lot of improvements last year, particularly numerically with his increased playing time and role on the team. Most significant are his shooting numbers. While he’s still very much a spot shooter at this stage, there is no denying the fact that he shot over 50% from the field and over 40% from beyond the arc.

That said, as his sub 70% free throw percentage shows, his consistency could use a lot of work. Despite the fact that he gets good elevation, he releases the ball on his way down, after the peak of his jump. This causes him to push the ball and causes his already deliberate release to be even more prone to rejection. He falls away, also, usually in the direction of his shooting arm and shows further wasted motion by kicking out his legs during his motion. If he improves one thing next year, this is probably the most important. He has good touch around the basket, and certainly showed he could score more efficiently last season (raising his FG% by ten percent), but improving his shooting motion could do wonders for his offensive game.

So could improving his handle, or rather, simply learning how to dribble. Robinson often looked lost with the ball in hands, not knowing whether or not to shoot or pass. There was not much in between. On occasion, he put the ball on the floor and took the ball to the basket, but as shown in his dismal 2.7 trips to the foul line per 40 minutes-pace adjusted, he does not utilize his good first step or his outstanding athleticism around the basket nearly enough. His mid-range game is also almost non-existent, but last season he showed some hints of a pull-up jumpshot. Next season he is going to have to show that he can develop into a more versatile offensive player. He has made progress, but he has a lot of distance left to cover.

Defensively, he is actually very solid. Though he did not have the bulk last year to cover post-players effectively last season, he is a versatile defender and is capable of guarding multiple positions on the floor in both the post and on the perimeter. His lateral quickness and long arms allow him to harass defenders on the wing and he has the size to moonlight in the post. The problem seems to be consistency and focus. Sometimes Robinson simply gets lost on rotations, leaving his man open on the perimeter. Similarly, he bites on fakes, too, which on the perimeter lets his man drive to the basket and in the post gets him saddled with pointless fouls.

As a basketball player, Robinson showed a lot of improvement on both sides of the ball, which serve as a testament to his outstanding potential. There are not many players who were as raw as Robinson who improved as much as he did in a one-year span. Should he continue to work and improve, particularly his shooting form and his handle, he could develop into one of the best players in the Big East in a few years.

This is, of course, assuming that Robinson will be able to get his career back on track and re-enroll at Connecticut for second semester.

There is a lot of doubt swirling around Stanley Robinson’s ability to reach his potential at the next level, and that doubt will certainly factor into his future. There are the red-flags that were raised off of the record until Coach Calhoun announced his official suspension during the off-season. During first semester, Robinson will be taking online classes, working a job moving sheet metal, and trying to get his career back on track. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Assuming the best, the future holds much potential for Robinson, a player with incredible athletic ability and budding skills. The only question is whether he has the willingness to do what it takes to be a pro.

#12 Luke Harangody, 6-8, Junior, PF/C, Notre Dame

Jonathan Givony

No one is going to doubt Luke Harangody’s effectiveness and productivity at the collegiate level. The 3rd best returning scorer in the NCAA per-40 minutes pace adjusted in our database (tops amongst BCS conference players), and 5th best rebounder (third amongst returning BCS conference players), as well as a top-25 leader in a host of other categories, Harangody is a sure-first first team All-American and likely a top-two early candidate for player of the year honors along with Tyler Hansbrough.

The way that Harangody gets his production is likely to come under scrutiny from NBA decision makers, though. Nearly 40% of his offense comes from grinding in the post with his back the basket, according to Synergy Sports Technology’s quantified report. His whole game seems predicated right now around using his tremendous lower strength to seal his man off and establish position deep in the paint, in order to finish with excellent touch, in a variety of creative ways. The problem is, this is probably not going to work nearly as well against the type of athletes every NBA team seems to stock in abundance at the big man positions.

Harangody is an incredibly tough, competitive, undersized center who has great hands and loves to bulldoze his way through the paint for scrappy finishes through contact. He gets to the free throw line at an outstanding rate, and once there, converts a terrific 76% of his attempts. He has some problems at times already at the collegiate level getting his offense the way he does, though, as he lacks serious elevation around the basket and thus is extremely prone to getting his shot blocked. He seems to force the issue at times and tends to settle for bad shots if he’s unable to establish the type of position his game is predicated around, particularly if forced to shoot with his off-hand.

Facing the basket, Harangody has nice touch and looks more than capable of knocking down mid-range jumpers with his feet set out to about 16-18 feet. He seems to rush his shot at times, though, particularly when forced to shoot off the dribble, as he lacks the size to get his jumper off when being defended by longer and more agile players. Still, this part of his game shows very nice potential.

If presented with an open path to the basket, Harangody can put the ball on the deck in a straight line with a slow-developing first step and make his way to the rim, although his already average ball-handling skills are clearly much better with his right hand. He has a nice floater in his arsenal, and generally seems to have a nice array of swooping hooks and runners that let him get his shot off from angles his defender might not initially be expecting. There is a reason after all that Harangody averaged 21 points per game in just 29 minutes—he has an incredible knack for scoring and will usually “find a way” to get things done even when logic tells you he shouldn’t be able to.

Defensively, Harangody competes extremely hard and seems to have nice fundamentals to boot, but his poor combination of size, lateral quickness and leaping ability are likely going to be deemed major issues for the next level regardless of how hard he hustles. He just isn’t agile enough to stay with quicker players on the perimeter defending pick and rolls and such, and gets shot over quite easily by taller big men taking advantage of his lack of size. It’s tough to see him not being a liability on this end of the floor defending the Dwight Howards and Kevin Garnetts of the world.

On the glass, Harangody can’t be considered anything less than a rebounding machine, thanks to his combination of timing, outstanding hands, huge motor and impeccable technique boxing out opponents. He pulled down an excellent 14 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted, ranking him amongst the top players in the NCAA in that category.

You’d be hard pressed to find many sophomores who put up the type of numbers Harangody did in a conference like the Big East who did not go on to play in the NBA. Even though it appears that he will have a very difficult time translating his production to the next level, history tells us that we should be very careful about ruling out players like this. Harangody needs to become much more versatile offensively, meaning polishing up his all-around skill-set, working on his left-hand, expanding the range on his jump-shot, improving his ball-handling skills and getting his body in optimal shape (right now he’s carrying a lot of excess weight) in order to maximize himself defensively as well. No one is ever going to be blown away by his upside, but there is very likely a place for a player like him in the NBA. The question is, in what capacity?

#13 Jerel McNeal, 6-3, Senior, PG/SG, Marquette

Joey Whelan

After testing the NBA Draft waters in the spring, Jerel McNeal is back for his final season at Marquette, with lofty expectations for a deep run into March. The defensive stopper extraordinaire saw marginal improvements last season in his offensive game, particularly in his scoring and shooting numbers. Most encouraging though was a significant decrease in the number of turnovers he committed last year. With a new coach this season, McNeal will be expected to team with fellow backcourt mate Dominic James to lead the Golden Eagles through a loaded Big East.

Size is somewhat of an issue for McNeal, as his 6’3” frame is somewhat small for a combo-guard, even at the collegiate level. His length is very solid, though, allowing him to harass opposing players and put tremendous pressure on the ball, something he does often. He’s as tough as they come, throwing his body around and refusing to back down from anyone.

McNeal’s offensive game is built around him being on the move and putting the ball on the floor. Showing a terrific first step and a fearless mentality attacking the rim, he gets to the free throw line at a great rate and puts tremendous pressure on the defense. He is a far better ball-handler with his right hand than he is with his left, though, noticeably preferring not to use his off-hand, and usually pulling up off the dribble before reaching the basket if forced to do so. There is still generally plenty of room for improvement on his ball-handling skills with both hands if he’s to be used in a combo-guard role in the NBA, as he won’t be able to rely so heavily on his athleticism at the next level.

As a shooter, McNeal is most effective shooting mid range jumpers off the dribble. According to Synergy Sports Technology’s quantified report, McNeal converted on 42% of his jumpers off the dribble, but only 30% of his catch and shoot jumpers with his feet set. He only made 30% of his 3-point attempts last season, indicating that he has a long ways to go before he can be considered even an adequate shooter.

McNeal is a very creative player, with a wide variety of moves to get his own shot, including a developing turn-around jumper, a one handed runner in the lane, and of course his pull-up jumper. When he opts to take it to the rim McNeal often uses his body to shield the ball from defenders, a practice he has had to develop due to his lack of size and strength finishing in traffic.

Defense is where McNeal really shines. When discussing the top defenders in the country his name will be at or near the top of nearly every list compiled for this season. Combining great instincts, lateral quickness, fantastic work ethic and quick hands, McNeal is nearly impossible to get consistent good looks against. Even when guarding elite scorers who are able to get their points against him, often times it is a result of these players hitting tough shot after tough shot.

There may not be a better player in the country when it comes to staying in front of his man; McNeal uses his wingspan to his advantage, but at the same time stays low to the ground to swipe at any balls that come his way. His 200-pound frame helps him fight his way through screens very well and he does a nice job of closing out on shooters. McNeal’s great quickness on this side of the floor allows him to better contest shots without having to worry about getting beaten by a quick first step.

McNeal is an interesting prospect and a player that is seen on a regular basis at the college level. He is undersized and likely doesn’t have the perimeter shooting ability to be a two-guard in the NBA, but he could very well endear himself to an NBA coaching staff as a combo guard off the bench thanks to his athleticism, tough-nosed mentality and defensive ability.

While his turnover numbers have dropped recently, he still loses the basketball on 20% of his possessions. Continuing to be a major scoring threat this season will be enough to keep McNeal on most people’s board, with the opportunity to show off what he can do as a floor general likely to come at events like Portsmouth and Orlando.

#14 Austin Freeman, 6’4, Shooting Guard, Sophomore, Georgetown

Rodger Bohn

Like many freshman, Freeman had a debut season in which he showed flashes of brilliance mixed with periods of inconsistency. Through the good and the bad, he remained one of the more efficient freshman in the season, combining an outstanding field goal percentage with above average decision making for a shooting guard. The departure of seniors Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace, along with the transfer of Jeremiah Rivers will open up plenty of opportunity for Freeman on the offensive end.

Size isn’t on Freeman’s side, given that he is 6’4 and not especially long. His athleticism has suffered a bit since his high school days with some of the weight he has gained, reportedly weighing around 235 pounds last season. A strong player for his size, he utilizes his strength on both ends of the hardwood to its fullest capabilities.

The main selling point on Freeman as a prospect is his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter. He is perfectly comfortable shooting the ball off of the dribble, from a static position, or on the move with the same effortless motion. The D.C. native has some serious range that extends out to the NBA three point line, but also possesses a nice pull-up game from mid-range to keep defenders honest.

Freeman is fairly limited in terms of ball handling skills and owns a quite average first step. However, he has proven to be a capable slasher on occasion because of his high basketball IQ and sturdy body. It was not uncommon to see the sophomore barrel his way into the lane and finish (with either hand) once or twice a game against taller defenders, while absorbing contact.

There is a considerable amount of room for improvement on the defensive end for Austin. Struggling guarding shooting guards, he often was asked to guard the opposing team’s small forward last year, despite being only 6’4. He just didn’t seem to have the foot speed to keep up with quicker swingmen, whereas he was able to rely upon his strength a little more when guarding small forwards.

Certainly not a player who is going to blow anyone away with his NBA upside, Freeman is a player who appears to be on pace to put up some solid scoring numbers over the remainder of his career. Though he will likely finish his collegiate career as the primary option for Georgetown, he will have to obviously adjust his game if he hopes to stick around the NBA. Regardless, we are looking at a very productive freshman who has plenty of time to prove himself to NBA personnel.

#15 Scottie Reynolds, 6’2, PG/SG, Junior, Villanova

Joseph Treutlein

After bursting onto the scene impressively in his freshman season, Scottie Reynolds mostly kept the status quo as a sophomore, upping his scoring production and efficiency slightly while his assist numbers slightly dropped. The 6’2 point guard didn’t regress as a sophomore, but he didn’t really expand his game much either, still being looked at as very much the same prospect a year later.

At 6’2, Reynolds has nice size for the point guard spot, however his athletic ability is underwhelming, having just a decent first step and not showing much in terms of elevation in the lane. Reynolds does do a good job of getting to the rim consistently, however, doing a lot of his damage by pushing the ball in transition, leaking out in transition, or by creating transition opportunities on the defensive end. Despite his lack of athleticism, Reynolds shows excellent creativity in the lane, moving the ball freely from hand to hand, finishing with either hand, using his body to shield the ball, showing exceptional touch, and using a lot of unorthodox finger rolls to get the job done.

The way he scores inside with his physical tools is outstanding for the college level, however it’s doubtful it will translate successfully to the next level. In the half court, despite his just decent first step, Reynolds uses high screens and hand-offs well to get a step on his man, getting into the lane frequently. He gets to the line often as well, where he shoots a solid 78%.

As a shooter, Reynolds is extremely talented, possessing an incredible feel for shooting the ball, often making very difficult attempts. He has pretty good fundamentals, with a high and quick release, and he isn’t phased when a defender has a hand in his face. According to Synergy Sports Technology, he nets 1.18 points per possession on catch-and-shoot situations when unguarded, and actually improves to 1.21 when guarded. Reynolds does run into some problems with his shooting, though, specifically when pulling up off the dribble. His PPP drops to 0.85 in these situations, and it becomes much worse when he’s moving either left or right off the dribble. He has no problems moving forward or pulling up straight from his dribble, but when going side to side, he runs into issues with his balance and accuracy. He also has a bad tendency to not always hold his follow through. In terms of mid-range game, Reynolds could definitely use some work, as he’s not able to get great separation for his shot and as aforementioned, he struggles when shooting moving side to side.

Playing in Villanova’s one-in, four-out offense, Reynolds shares the ball-handling duties with a few other guards, and rarely looks like a true point guard out there. He clearly has a shoot-first mentality, and his court vision is not something that stands out especially. He does a good job running pick-and-rolls, pushing the ball in transition, and keeping the offense flowing, however there are question marks if he could transition to the point full time in a more NBA-friendly offense.

On the defensive end, Reynolds shows decent fundamentals and focus, sticking with his man off the ball, keeping his hands up, and contesting shots, however his lateral quickness is sub-par and he’s prone to biting for moves that fake change of direction.

In terms of the NBA, Reynolds will likely either need to prove himself as a more complete point guard or a more consistent multi-dimensional shooter to have a chance at finding a permanent role in the league. He still has another two years at school, though, and his talent will definitely get him some looks whenever he decides to come out. If not the NBA, he should have a very successful career in Europe regardless.

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