Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (#81 Scout, #65 Rivals, #32 ESPN), the UConn bound forward from Tilton, put on perhaps the best performance of the tournament here in Springfield. He finished the game with 33 points (10-19 FG, 11-11 FT), 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 turnover in 27 minutes, absolutely dominating the game on both ends of the floor. At 6'7, he's slight of build, but plays strong and is very light and active on his feet. There was little not to like about this kid, and the fans in Storrs should be looking forward to Coombs-McDaniel making an impact down the road in the Big East. It appears that he's made a pretty nice jump from his last year to this, quieting the critics who once wondered whether he is good enough to play for UConn.
On the offensive end, he can do many things that make him a difficult player to defend. When off the ball, he is constantly in motion, either cutting hard to the hoop or curling very tight off a screen showing that he really knows how to play the game. When he does have the ball, his ball handling ability was on display as he lead many fast and secondary breaks, making smart decisions along the way. He read his numbers well, finding open shooters in transition and never forcing the action.
Coombs-McDaniel handles the ball well and was able to get to the basket when he wanted by using great hesitation moves and jukes to get his defender off balance. He primarily drove right, not showing much of a left hand, but still managed to penetrate when he pleased. He has good but not great athleticism, and the same can be said about his speed as well. He does a good job of leaning into his man, baiting the refs to give him the benefit of the doubt. His persistence in the way he attacked the basket was fun to watch, refusing to give up until he finished or got to the line. His aggressive attitude set the tone early and his teammates fed off of it elevating their own games to new heights.
Coombs-McDaniel's shot was good but not great. He has a rather slow release, only taking shots when wide open and didn't show the ability to pull-up or create a shot off the dribble. He has nice mechanics and elevates well but could get a little more rotation on his shot. He does have great shot selection, and he does a good job of knowing when to pass and when to shoot, which is a very difficult thing to do on any level, let alone in high school.
On the defensive end, his leadership skills really came to the forefront as he was always talking. He would often pick up the opposing coach's play calls and inform his teammates of what was to come, for example warning his point guard of a high screen before the ball was even inbounded. He is long and active on this end as well, and moves well to prevent penetration. There were a few times when he got caught up on screens or stood up out of his stance off the ball to relax, but overall he showed the effort that is necessary at this end.
His leadership skills, maturity and high basketball IQ are the ingredients that are going to make Coombs-McDaniel a favorite of Jim Calhoun. He's unselfish and seems like he'll sacrifice anything from his game in order to get a win. He was a pleasure to watch, and although we can't expect too many outings like this one in college, he showed the intangibles and skill set that will bode well at the next level. Long-term, his upside may not be as high as some of the other small forwards in this class, but his all-around game and maturity should give him a chance to see minutes fairly soon as a college player.