Jamie Skeen has had an interesting journey leading up to his emergence as the anchor behind VCU's surprise NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 run.
A highly regarded recruit in the class of 2006, ranked above the likes of Hasheem Thabeet, Luke Harangody, and Greivis Vasquez, he tore his right meniscus as a high school senior, but recovered and made the ACC All-Freshman team at Wake Forest.
That summer, his coach and mentor Skip Prosser tragically died, while recurring knee trouble hampered his sophomore season. Early in his junior year, Skeen was suspended for violating Wake Forest's academic policy (reportedly for cheating), and despite the support of his coaching staff and school to apply for reinstatement; he transferred to VCU.
Despite his turbulent career, however, Skeen maintains an excellent reputation as a teammate and as a coachable player, which makes his development and performance as a senior particularly intriguing to scouts considering his pedigree.
Skeen has solid size for a post player at 6'9, to go along with a strong frame and excellent length. His athleticism is underwhelming, however, evident in his average explosiveness and the awkward way in which he runs the floor.
Although he may have regressed athletically, he has improved considerably on the offensive end from his Wake Forest years, transitioning from a freshman spot-up shooting specialist to a rugged inside-outside threat as a senior. Skeen averages just under 20 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted while making 56.1% of his shots inside of the arc and 38.9% of his three-point attempts. Skeen has regained his excellent shooting touch from the perimeter, where he has NBA range and smooth, albeit unorthodox mechanics.
Though he continues to show flashes of a face-up game, he is most effective in the post, where he has evolved into a gritty finisher. While his footwork and touch around the basket are much improved, his post arsenal remains limited and predictable as he lacks much in the way of countermoves. He is best when executing a simple spin move into a jump hook over his left shoulder, where he can create space using his bulk and finish with his soft touch. He must work on improving his off hand, as his effectiveness as a post-scorer finisher is limited at the next level.
As has been the case throughout his career, Skeen is just an average rebounder, lacking the fundamentals and explosiveness to stand out at this level. His somewhat pedestrian production in this area is a bit disappointing considering the level of play he competed at in the Colonial conference this season, and is something that scouts could nitpick when evaluating him.
Skeen is oftentimes at a disadvantage on the defensive end due to his average size and lateral quickness. Though he struggles to stay in front of his man away from the basket, he is an effective post defender at the collegiate level. He does just an adequate job of denying his man in the post, but he when he drops into his stance and digs in, he can really disrupt dominant post scorers such as Purdue's JaJuan Johnson and James Madison's Denzel Bowles. Coupled with his wingspan, his strength, smarts and intensity allow him to remain a factor despite his average athleticismand is something he can likely continue to improve on down the road.
NBA scouts have surely taken notice of his unlikely evolution this March from journeyman role player into an offensive threat against some of the nation's best teams. While Skeen does not really stand out in any one area at the moment as a pro prospect, his size, length, frame, versatility, basketball IQ and skill-level will definitely draw him some looks this spring during the pre-draft processas he has all the makings of a solid rotation player, in the mold of Dante Cunningham. If he is unable to endear himself to teams during the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and in private workouts, then he has an excellent skill set for European basketball and the potential to put together a successful professional career.
Demetri McCamey, 6-3, Senior, Point Guard, Illinois
14.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.9 turnovers, 1 steal, 45% FG, 72% FT, 45% 3P
When we last wrote about Demetri McCamey, he had Illinois off to what seemed to be a promising start to the 2010-2011 season, with wins over Maryland, Gonzaga, and North Carolina, and only one loss, to a talented Texas team in a close game at Madison Square Garden. McCamey was also at the top of our database in virtually all point guard metrics, including assists per-40, pure point rating, and assist-to-turnover ratio. His body looked improved, he was shooting the ball extremely well, he was playing with great confidence, and he looked like he was establishing himself as one of the premiere point guards in the country, and a player that would earn many fans amongst NBA scouts during his senior season.
Unfortunately for McCamey, the rest of his final season at Illinois didn't go so well, as the Illini went 11-13 in their last twenty-four games, his production dipped across the board, and he was publicly called out by Head Coach Bruce Weber regarding off-court distractions and lack of effort. This once again brought to light many some of the red flags scouts have had about him in the past regarding his work ethic, shot selection, decision-making, and conditioning level.
We noted earlier in the season that his conditioning level looked to be better and that he was playing with an extra burst, but as the season went it on, he struggled to get by his man off the dribble due to his lack of speed and explosiveness. This has always been an area of concern when projecting McCamey to the next level, especially considering how much NBA teams now covet jet-type point guards who can get into the lane at will off the dribble. McCamey will never be that type of player, so he'll need to make tightening up his body and maximizing his explosiveness one of his top priorities going forward.
Further illustrating McCamey's lack of athleticism is the trouble he had scoring inside the arc this season. He struggles to get all the way to basket off the bounce, and his lack of elevation and a reliable floater prevent him from finishing at the rim with great effectiveness, as evidenced by the 45% he shot on 2-pointers this season, a mediocre rate historically.
Outside the 3-point arc, McCamey demonstrated that he's a top notch shooter at the point guard position, connecting on an excellent 45% of his 3-pointers this season. He's comfortable shooting off the dribble or off the catch, and he has range well past the NBA 3-point line. This bodes well for him going forward, and should help to open up the floor for dribble penetration for himself and his teammates, especially if he needs to spend time playing off the ball, which is certainly a possibility at his size.
McCamey's defense also looked to drop off this season. We've noted before that he'll likely face questions about his lateral quickness, but he seemed to lack the focus and consistent energy level on the defensive end, leading to him getting caught out of position and beat off the dribble far too often.
These defensive struggles and lack of effort go hand-in-hand with the public feud between McCamey and Weber this season. McCamey's poor conditioning level and inconsistent shooting throughout his career at Illinois have always raised concerns to his commitment and work ethic, and his struggles this season only further backup those concerns.
Much of the evaluation that NBA teams will need to do with McCamey will center around gathering information on his character and commitment to the game. His size, feel for the game, and shooting ability are all very attractive to teams searching for point guards, but scouts will need to get a better feel for whether or not they believe that he'll ever fully dedicate himself to working on his game and getting his body into the type of condition to where he can maximize his talents.
He'll have opportunities to boost his stock with workouts and interviews with teams between now and this summer's draft, but his senior season will likely have NBA decision-makers using more caution in projecting his NBA future.
Papa Dia, 6-9, PF/C, Senior, Southern Methodist
18.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.3 blocks, 3.6 turnovers, 58% FG, 75% FT, 43% 3PT
Steadily improving his game his four years in school, Papa Dia is finally making a case as a prospect in his senior season, where he's been extremely productive and has flashed some intriguing skills. A bit old for his class at 24, Dia was brought to America five years ago (by Amadou Gallo Fall) to attend prep school, prior to which he lived in his native Senegal.
Standing 6-9 with a decent frame and good length, Dia possess impressive mobility and agility for his size, to go along with respectable power and explosiveness. His movements and skills look somewhat crude at times, but he has good overall coordination to go along with excellent hands, while he also shows a pretty good overall feel for the game on both ends of the floor.
On the offensive end, Dia has emerged as a go-to scorer for the Mustangs this season, operating primarily out of post-ups and pick-and-rolls. With his back to the basket, Dia possesses unpolished but rangy footwork, using simple drop steps and spin moves along with the occasional counter move. He shows pretty good touch and has a solid hook shot in his arsenal, but he's incredibly reliant on his left hand and moves off his right shoulder in general, something that will be far more problematic at the next level, where this aspect of his game would likely have significant trouble translating initially.
While competing in a solid conference, Dia isn't performing well against a bunch of nobodies, but SMU's out-of-conference schedule leaves something to be desired and Dia isn't often tested against NBA-caliber big men, something his skill set could very well have problems with.
The other area Dia does a lot of his damage is off pick-and-rolls and cuts to the basket in general, something he excels with due to his good body control and very good hands. He does a solid job maneuvering around the rim to get off high percentage shots, and shows good awareness and decision-making in this area, leading him to rank in the 97th percentile of finishes around the basket in the NCAA according to Synergy. Dia also does a very good job slipping screens and making reads off pick-and-rolls here, having a good feel for this area of the game and reading situations well.
One of the most interesting aspects of Dia's game going forward is actually his jump shot, something that was used infrequently at SMU due to their reliance on him as an inside scorer. Dia hit an impressive 13-of-30 three-pointers as a senior prior to not making any in his three seasons prior, while he also shoots a solid 75% from the free-throw line. His shooting form isn't the prettiest around, but he has a high and relatively quick release to go along with consistent mechanics, while he seems to have a good ability to just put the ball in the basket.
Combining Dia's pick-and-roll prowess with his underused shooting ability presents an intriguing package from an NBA perspective if it can be nurtured, and this will likely be what NBA decision-makers are most curious to see from Dia in the pre-draft process. It's also worth noting that Dia's commitment to doing the offensive duties SMU's offense required of him rather than showcasing his jumper, which is more attractive from an NBA standpoint, is probably a good indicator of his character and coachability.
On the defensive end, Dia has a decent package of tools, though his fundamentals are still coming along. He doesn't show great concept of leverage or using his hands in the post, often giving up position and relying on his shot-blocking ability to contest, but he's very active and focused in moving around and sticking with his man, showing a good effort level overall. His perimeter defense is actually a bit further along considering his size, as he shows solid lateral ability and does a good job getting his hand up to contest shots, though his polish could still use some work.
On the glass, Dia does a solid job boxing out but shows very good pursuit abilities of rebounds, tracking caroms off the rim pretty well and often going out of his area with his good mobility. He gets a lot of opportunities for easy shots by grabbing rebounds on the offensive end, showing especially good pursuit after his own close misses.
Looking forward, Dia has some ground to make up in his exposure as a late bloomer whose team played an unimpressive schedule this season, but he possesses some interesting qualities teams look for in role playing bigs. His learning curve and work ethic would appear to be strong pluses to those evaluating him, though his advanced age tempers that somewhat.
How he develops his perimeter jumper will likely have the biggest bearing on his long term success, but he should have ample opportunities to get looks in the league, starting with the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in a few weeks. He has work to do from a draft perspective, but could impress in workouts and have a team elect to take a flyer on him in the second round.