Deemed a marginal prospect out of high school, Eric Moreland
didn't garner too many accolades early on in his career, signing with UTEP initially after a year of prep school. Once the coach who signed him, Tony Barbee, left for Auburn, Moreland was told his services would no longer be needed by the new coaching staff, headed by Tim Floyd. He was forced him to transfer to Oregon State, but was given a waiver by the NCAA and thus not required to sit out the year.
One man's trash is another man's treasure, and after only playing four games and eventually redshirting due to a shoulder injury, Moreland emerged as one of the most intriguing young big men prospects in the Pac-12 this past season.
Moreland didn't play a huge role for the Beavers, only ranking 7th in both minutes played and possessions used, but was nevertheless able to lead the Pac-12 in blocked shots
per-40 minutes pace adjusted.
Moreland's appeal as a long-term prospect is readily understandable on first glance, as he possesses rare physical attributes standing 6-10, with a pterodactyl (reportedly 7-4) wingspan and excellent mobility. He runs the floor well, is extremely fluid and agile, and is capable of playing above the rim with ease.
Not a prolific scorer by any stretch, averaging just 5 points per game last season, Moreland lives off whatever scraps his teammates are able to create for him around the basket as well as whatever he can find by running the floor and crashing the offensive glass. He doesn't have the bulk or footwork to do any real damage with his back to the basket, and can't really step away from the paint and threaten opposing defenses with his jump-shot.
Nevertheless, Moreland shows intriguing glimpses of potential in other areas. He's capable of finishing with either hand around the basket, sometimes from extremely difficult angles due to the sheer extension he gets with his freakish wingspan. He also has the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack unbalanced defenses from the perimeter, showing much better ball-handling ability than you'd expect from your typical skinny and raw 6-10 big mana testament to his upbringing as a point guard until hitting a late growth spurt. His athleticism and aggressiveness allows him to draw fouls at a very high rate, as he indeed led the entire Pac-12 in free throw attempts per possession
last season. Unfortunately he wasn't always able to convert these opportunities, as he only made 49.5% of his free throws, again hinting at how unpolished his jump-shot is as the moment.
Clearly still in an early stage of his development, Moreland doesn't seem to quite know the limitations of his game just yet, as he can be very turnover prone at times, especially with his wild forays to the rim. His basketball IQ is not bad, as he'll often show by making some very creative passes, but he just doesn't have much experience at the moment. With Oregon State's most talented and creative guard, Jared Cunningham
, off to the NBA, it will be interesting to see how his role develops this year.
Defensively, Moreland shows tremendous potential with his rare combination of length and mobility. He is a bit inconsistent on this end of the floor, though, as was his entire Oregon State last year, a big reason they finished 7-11 in a very weak Pac-12 despite possessing a decent amount of talent on their roster.
Moreland's fundamentals on this end of the floor are fairly average, as he tends to lose his focus easily, and doesn't always put the work in early in possessions. Older, more experienced players can take advantage of his lack of experience and get him to bite on pump-fakes or gamble for a steal on the perimeter. To his credit, Moreland is often talented enough to still recover and make a play at the rim with his tremendous length and mobility. This helps explain his propensity for accumulating steals and blocks, as he possesses terrific timing for getting his hands on loose balls, and indeed ranked as one of the sixth best per-minute rebounder
in the country amongst freshmen last season. This leaves a lot of room for optimism about how he might develop on this end of the floor down the road.
Showing the size of a power forward but the offensive skill-level of a center, Moreland is a bit stuck between positions. He has a tough time keeping stronger big men out of the paint, giving up deep post-position early in possessions, and not having the bulk to avoid getting backed down in one on one situations. He will need to improve his toughness and lower body strength substantially to defend NBA big men effectively. With his narrow frame, the question is, how much weight can he put on? This will likely play a major role in how he's viewed as a pro prospect, especially since he's older than most of the players in his class, turning 21 at the end of December.
Players with Moreland's physical attributes and prowess as a rebounder and shot-blocker are highly coveted at the next level, so many scouts will likely be watching with intrigue to see how he develops moving forward. If he can continue to produce at the same rate in a larger role this season, he is likely to draw plenty of attention to himself.