Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC, Part Four (#16-20)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC, Part Four (#16-20)
Sep 27, 2009, 05:09 am
Our fourth and last look at the top NBA draft prospects in the incredibly deep SEC focuses on Ole Miss' Murphy Holloway, Alabama's Senario Hillman, Mississippi State's Ravern Johnson, Kentucky's DeAndre Liggins and Florida's Alex Tyus.

As a reminder, incoming freshmen have been excluded from this series.

-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10), Part Three (#11-15)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12, Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10), Part Three (#11-15)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10 (Part One: #1-5), Part Two (#5-10)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC Part One (#1-5)
, Part Two, Part Three

#16 Murphy Holloway, 6-7, Sophomore, Power Forward, Ole Miss

Kyle Nelson

While Terrico White emerged as Mississippi’s best freshman, power forward Murphy Holloway was not far behind in terms of contributing to the success of his team in his first season in Oxford. Holloway lived up to his status as one of the top 100 high school players in the country, posting averages of 8.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. His numbers per 40 minutes pace adjusted, however, were even more impressive, as he averaged 14.8 points, a whopping 11.7 rebounds, and 2.1 steals. Though he has a lot of work to do before achieving his potential at the collegiate level, Holloway is definitely a player to watch, as he could easily develop into a solid NBA prospect in time.

At 6’7 with a sturdy 225-pound frame and a big wingspan, Holloway has the physical attributes to be dominant in the post at the collegiate level. He is also a stellar athlete, combining explosiveness around the basket with good quickness in the open floor. At just 6-7, though, it is unclear whether he will able to translate his effective style of inside play against higher caliber NBA big men . Therefore, scouts will be watching to see if he can further develop his perimeter abilities at the collegiate level. After all, he was billed as a combo-forward coming out of high school, and being only 19 years old, shows potential to develop in this area.

On the offensive end, Holloway is very much a face-up power forward at this stage in his development. He is most effective scoring off of offensive rebounds and around the basket. His 5.3 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted ranked him fourth overall of qualified prospects in our database last season, which is impressive to say the least. His motor on the offensive boards is relentless, chasing every missed shot, even if his fundamentals in this area could still improve. He shows nice touch around the basket, as well, and though his footwork is still somewhat limited, he has quick feet in the post and looks like he will get better in the future.

Moving away from the basket, he shows tremendous potential, but he must improve considerably if he wishes to play on the perimeter at the collegiate and professional levels. He has a good first step, which allows him to beat his man on the perimeter and slash to the basket. His shaky handle stunts him here, though, primarily due to the fact that he goes left almost exclusively. With that said, he has better ball handling abilities than most young big men, which leaves room for optimism for the future considering his excellent athleticism. Similarly, his decision-making and court awareness must get better as well if he wants to maximize his potential off of the dribble. Far too often he puts his head down and attacks the basket without seeing the defense, leading to turnovers and bad shots.

Holloway showed flashes of developing into a solid spot-up shooter, but he must continue to improve in the future. His form needs considerable work, as it is far too slow and deliberate. His inconsistent release point and the fact that he shoots the ball on the way down certainly does not help him out either. In the future, he must prove to scouts that he has collegiate three-point range, let alone NBA three-point range. Though he shows potential as a spot-up shooter, he still has work to do before he can consider his jump shot a reliable, effective, and efficient part of his offensive repertoire at the college level.

On the defensive end, Holloway is just average and shows mediocre fundamentals. As a post defender, he lacks focus and sometimes lets his man establish deep position. As good as he is rebounding the ball on the offensive end, his lack of fundamentals hurts him significantly on the defensive boards, as he must do a better job boxing his man out on every possession. This is something that he can improve immediately. He did not play much perimeter defense last season, but displays solid lateral quickness, which should aid his transition in the future. Despite his deficiencies on the defensive end, Holloway’s combination of size, athleticism, and length suggest that he has the potential to develop into a solid defensive player in the future. Only time will tell, however, and next season he must continue to improve.

Holloway has much work to do before establishing himself as immediate NBA prospect, even if his future looks bright thanks to his rare physical tools and terrific motor. Undersized for the post and not skilled enough for the perimeter, he must continue to develop his skill set, primarily working on his jump shot and ball handling abilities. Knowing his limitations is important, as well, and next season, he must improve as a player while helping Mississippi win games. If he can continue to improve and expand his skill level on both sides of the ball, he will not go unnoticed by scouts.

#17 Senario Hillman, 6’1, Shooting Guard, Junior, Alabama

Joseph Treutlein

After flashing potential in a very limited role as a freshman, largely due to his freakish athleticism, Senario Hillman saw his minutes double as a sophomore, with him also improving in quite a few areas. However, while he’s made strides in some areas, his increased role has also magnified some of his flaws, and there is much work to do before he becomes a legitimate NBA prospect.

On the offensive end, Hillman is still very much a shooting guard, playing the majority of the time off the ball, clearly being a shoot-first player, not doing much in terms of creating for others, and being very turnover prone with the ball. Hillman still does most of his damage with his mid-range jump shot, being able to get excellent separation off the dribble with his athleticism and rangy step-back move. However his shot is still very inconsistent, and the large percentage of shots he takes off the dribble with a hand in his face certainly does not help his efficiency.

While Hillman still has a long ways to go with his outside shooting, he is considerably improved from three-point range this season, doubling his shooting percentage and hitting five times as many shots from behind the arc, albeit that still only makes him a 29% shooter on 29 makes. Hillman’s mechanics have a plethora of inconsistencies and potential issues, namely his tendency to fade away on almost all of his shots, rarely keeping his feet underneath him. In spite of these concerns, he does appear to have some good natural shooting ability, capable of hitting a lot of tough shots and showing good range, but he’ll never become a consistent and efficient thread if he doesn’t clean up his mechanics and focus on getting more high-quality attempts (feet set, body squared, on balance).

In terms of attacking the basket, Hillman’s separation abilities from his mid-range game do not carry over, with him looking a bit sloppy and out of control on many of his forays to the hoop. His handle does appear to be improving, but he still struggles very much when going to his right hand, and the array of floaters and pull-up jumpers he relies on in the lane are largely inconsistent. With that said, there is much to be impressed with in this area of his game, as Hillman takes long and quick strides with the ball while being able to effortlessly elevate around the basket, making this an area of his game where he still has considerable potential.

Defensively, Hillman still shows the same ability he showed as a freshman, capable of locking players down on the perimeter with an aggressive stance in combination with his excellent length and lateral quickness. However, some bad habits seem to be forming, as Hillman is prone to easing up, not getting into a full stance, and not always moving his feet, leading to some unnecessary beats. On the positive side, Hillman is a disruptive force in the passing lanes, making many plays leading to fast breaks by picking off passes.

Looking forward, Hillman clearly has work to do in virtually every facet of his game, which he should have plenty of opportunities to do with leading scorers Alonzo Gee and Ronald Steele now graduated, putting a much larger offensive burden on Hillman. With his athletic tools and defensive abilities, Hillman should get some looks down the line if he can become a more efficient player, however it’s going to be very much an uphill road if he isn’t able to develop his playmaking ability, as he is undersized and lacking in any plus NBA offensive skills at the moment.

#18 Ravern Johnson, 6-7, Junior, Shooting Guard/Small Forward/Power Forward, Mississippi State

Kyle Nelson

After an unimpressive freshman campaign, Mississippi State wing Ravern Johnson emerged as a top contributor for Mississippi State. Johnson averaged 12.1 points as the Bulldog’s perimeter shooting specialist and finally began to live up to his high school hype. Even though he showed much improvement, Johnson is still a very raw prospect, very much one dimensional on offense and somewhat nonexistent on defense. This season, he must continue to show improvement while better using his size and athleticism on both ends of the floor.

At 6’7, Johnson has excellent size for wing positions, though he must add strength to his extremely skinny 190-pound frame. He is a solid athlete, even if he is not particularly explosive, but his lack of strength makes it difficult for him to really capitalize on his physical gifts at the collegiate level. By getting stronger and working on his fundamentals, he can improve his athleticism significantly and prove to scouts that he can physically withstand competition at the NBA level.

On offense, Johnson is primarily a shooting specialist, though he has shown flashes of developing into a more complete scorer. Even though he is a good perimeter shooter with outstanding range, making 39.5% of his 3-point attempts last season, his form could use some serious work. He elevates nicely and has a very high point of release, but his form is disjointed and he has a hitch at the top of his shooting stroke that interrupts the fluidity of his shooting motion. When he rushes his shot, his form falls apart and he shows all sorts of excess movement in his lower body. Similarly, improving his shot selection is essential in order to maximize his efficiency at this level. Last season, he showed a tendency to take difficult and off-balance shots, sometimes without any teammates underneath the basket to rebound his misses. As a likely role player at the next level, such lapses in judgment are unacceptable.

While he is known primarily as a perimeter shooter, Johnson has showed some potential in other areas of his game. At times, he showed some flashes of a mid-range game, pulling up off of the dribble inside of the three-point line in both transition and half court situations. He can also get to the basket by utilizing a decent first step and solid body control before finishing with a soft floater, lay-up, or dunk. His ball handling certainly has to improve if he wishes to increase his versatility on the offensive end, primarily with his left hand. His lack of strength also hurts him here as he has trouble finishing with contact around the basket, and almost never gets to the free throw line. At this point, he is most effective almost exclusively as a perimeter shooter, and scouts will be watching to see if he can add new moves to his repertoire.

On the defensive end, Johnson has a tremendous amount of work to do if he wants to play at the next level. Despite decent size, lateral quickness, and length, he has very poor fundamentals and lacks consistent focus on the defensive end. He is inefficient guarding perimeter players and far too skinny to defend power forwards at this level or the next. Similarly, despite his physical gifts and the fact that he sees quite a few minutes at the power forward position, he grabs just 4.0 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, which indicates a distinct lack of toughness. His lack of strength certainly plays a role here, as well, but so too does his inability to box out his man and his general lack of intensity and timing. His defense absolutely must improve if he wishes to stay relevant in scouts’ eyes during the next two years.

Ravern Johnson is an intriguing basketball player at the collegiate level, but he has a long way to go before fulfilling his potential and solidifying himself as an NBA prospect. His lack of strength, offensive versatility, and defensive efficiency are significant obstacles and it is vital that he improve in these areas. Johnson is almost certainly a four-year collegian, but if he can continue to improve on both sides of the ball, scouts will notice.

#19 Deandre Liggins, 6-6, Sophomore, Point Guard / Shooting Guard, Kentucky

Matthew Williams

Lost in all of the news surrounding John Calipari, the hype of a John Wall-led recruiting class, and the return of Patrick Patterson to Lexington, we find the versatile, excitable, and sometimes immature headliner of Billy Gillespie’s last recruiting effort. A 6-6 guard capable of playing every perimeter position, Liggins started off last season with a string of productive performances before seeing both his playing time and effectiveness tail off as the season went on. Opting to return to the Wildcats instead of transferring or being shown the door like some of his former teammates, Liggins has accepted a huge challenge by returning to Kentucky. With potential top-draft pick John Wall assuming minutes at point guard along with Eric Bledsoe, a high ranked 2009 point guard recruit in his own right, and a handful of returners joining him on the wing, Liggins will have to improve significantly if he’s to earn the trust of his new head coach.

Measuring in at a long and lean 6-6, Liggins is a good overall athlete, and while he’s not super explosive, he possesses fine leaping ability and nice speed in the open floor due to his stride length. Born in 1988, Liggins is a year older than most of his classmates due to the additional year he spent at iconic basketball school Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Skilled, smooth, and capable of making some difficult passes look easy, Liggins offers an assortment of offensive tools, but his highly questionable decision-making held him back from being an efficient player last season.

When functioning as a primary ball-handler, Liggins shows solid ball-handling ability, but his tendency to get tunnel-vision to the rim as soon as he receives an outlet pass and the way he seems enamored with holding near half-court in some half-court sets limit him considerably. Liggins is the type of player that on one play will turn the ball over immediately by telegraphing his initial pass to the wing before splitting two defenders in the lane with a no-look pass on the next possession, before forcing a contested three on the next. Posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.23, the Chicago native is a polarizing figure with the ball in his hands, ranking amongst the top-10 players in our database in assists per-40 pace adjusted, but ranking second in turnovers per-possession as well. Not showing much restraint when deciding when to push and when to trot the ball up the floor, Liggins has a natural feel for making the tough pass in traffic, but his penchant for the spectacular doesn’t compensate for the wide array of mistakes he makes.

Compounding those mistakes are Liggins’s lack of scoring efficiency. Though he ranks amongst the top-5 players in our database in terms of assists per-field goal attempt, the possessions that he does use don’t often yield positive results.

Shooting an incredibly mediocre 36.2% from the field, Liggins doesn’t get great elevation on his jumper, pushes his elbow out to the side like Ronnie Brewer, and forces too many outside shots with a hand in his face. Though he’s capable of connecting from the outside, mainly when given considerable time to catch and shoot, his 23.5% shooting from deep compounds the limitations his lack of blow-by quickness and great leaping ability put on his finishing ability. Liggins’s shot isn’t terribly quick either, which limits him when he puts the ball on the floor to pull-up. His ability to earn playing time and put himself firmly on the NBA radar will have everything to do with the development of his efficiency and maturation on the offensive end, which may be difficult at this stage with how much he appears to need the ball in his hands to be successful.

Utilizing his length and instincts on the defensive end to create some turnovers, Liggins is not the most disciplined or fundamentally sound defensive player. Often getting turned around as the ball moves around the floor, Liggins makes an effort to keep his man out of the lane, but his defense off the ball leaves a lot to be desired. Lacking great lateral quickness and having some issues getting through screens, Liggins has little trouble using his big wingspan to contest shots, but will need to make some major improvements to have a bigger impact on the defensive.

Considering the obstacles he’ll face in earning playing time next season, DeAndre Liggins is a player that may not factor into draft conversations for some time. An oversized play-maker at this point, Liggins will need to mold his game to legitimize his stock, as his current feast or famine productiveness and maturity need an overhaul. With John Calipari bringing a new offense to Lexington, Liggins’s poise will be tested every time he’s on the floor, and if he refines his capacity to pick and choose his spots and works on his game, he could become an interesting prospect. With minutes at a premium at UK this season, Liggins needs to take advantage of this season to learn and improve, even if he’s not seeing more than the 16.5 minutes per-game he saw last year.

#20 Alex Tyus, 6-8, Junior, SF/PF, Florida

Scott Nadler

After renouncing his plans to transfer out of Gainesville back in April, Alex Tyus is committed to Billy Donovan’s hopes of restoring the Gators back to national relevance. Hardly a household name, Tyus has earned his keep over the past two seasons as a blue collar inside player with tireless energy, proving to be one of the most efficient players in college basketball. Used primarily as a role player in the past, Tyus will be expected to shoulder more of a responsibility on the offensive end this season, while continuing to maintain his hustling nature.

Tyus’ wishes to transfer lied primarily in his discontent with playing out of position all of last year. On a stunted Florida squad, the 6-8 Tyus played center, when in fact he sees himself as a small forward, even though scouts would probably argue that he’s actually an undersized 4 man. If he wants to play on the perimeter at all, he must make vast improvements this season, or relish the role he’s given and learn how to become an even more effective inside player.

Tyus currently possesses little of the skills necessary to play the small forward position. His ball handling skills are average, and even though he was successful in the few opportunities he was given to show his slashing ability, he was always matched up with the opposition’s biggest player. Along with that, he was never pressured beyond the 3 due to his lack of range, which in turn allowed him a running start to beat slower defenders.

Despite lacking 3-point range, his midrange game definitely stands out. He was very effective in pick and pop and pick and slip situations and shot a very solid 50% on jump shots last season. He has a high release point and gets up well off the ground, although he does have a tendency to shoot it on his way down from time to time, resulting in flat shots. His improved free throw shooting from 54.3% to 68.5%, albeit on a little over 2 attempts per game, is also rather encouraging.

Another area which is extremely encouraging is in his production around the basket, where he shot a sizzling 67.1%, taking full advantage of his elusiveness and dexterity inside. The majority of his offensive production comes off of cuts, post-ups, transition, and offensive rebound put backs, which speaks volumes about his mobility and work ethic. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, to either clean up a teammates miss, or by freeing himself up for an easy pass. These skills allowed him to be 2nd on the team in scoring at 12.5 PPG and 1st in rebounding with 6.2 RBG in 26.2 minutes a game.

His superb athleticism didn’t hurt him either as he was one of, it not the best athlete on the floor each night. He is a quick leaper and can get high above the rim, not to mention his ability to sprint the floor and beat almost any forward down the court. His great motor allows him to play a relentless style, which is essential for a player who doesn’t have too many plays run for him.

All of those characteristics are apparent when watching him on defense as well. He’s very active and uses his long wingspan to contest every shot – regardless of where he is on the court. He maintains a good stance when off the ball, and is not afraid to pressure his man when he has it. He’s also very physical as a post defender, often pushing his opponent away from the hoop by establishing a strong base. Whether or not he can defend perimeter oriented forwards remains to be seen, and is something that will be watched closely this season.

Undersized power forwards have found success in the NBA over the past decade, including two former Florida Gators in Udonis Haslem and David Lee, both of whom posted numbers eerily similar to Tyus’ during their sophomore campaigns. Going into his junior season now, Tyus, who is most likely a four year player like Haslem and Lee, will attempt to follow in their footsteps. To do this, he will have to stay true to his hustle and bustle style and refrain from going outside of his element.

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