A potentially intriguing name to keep an eye on for the future might be Florida International junior center Russell Hicks, a transfer from Pepperdine who has shown potential this year and clearly still has plenty of room to grow as a player.
Hicks is a 7-footer with a solid frame that still needs to fill out over the next few years. He has long arms and is a pretty mobile big man, getting up and down the floor well, able to get off his feet, and looking fairly fluid and coordinated for someone his size. He has good hands, and nice touch around the basket, being capable of doing some things on the offensive end, although nothing super polished at this point. He has some back to the basket skills, including a nice jump-hook shot he can get off after spinning to either shoulder, and a very effective turnaround jumper he executes softly with a very high release point. He can also step outside and knock down a 15-foot jumper. The fact that he shoots 55% from the field--while scoring nearly 21 points per game per-40 minutes pace adjusted--is even more impressive when you consider just how bad the guard play on his team is, as they seemingly have no system to speak of.
There are clearly some things to work with here, although his lack of strength is a major hindrance at this point. Hicks struggles to establish position in the post, and has a hard time finishing through contact, looking a bit soft at times in the process. His feel for the game isnt quite there either yet, as evidenced by the fact that he turns the ball over four times for every one assist he gets. His footwork needs a lot of work, and his motor is inconsistent both from game to game and from half to half even.
Defensively, we find a mostly mixed bag. On one hand, Hicks ranks 16th amongst all players in our database in blocked shots per-40 minutes pace adjusted. His size, length, athleticism and timing make him somewhat of a presence in the paint at the Sun Belt level. On the other hand, his lack of strength again serves as a major issue at this point, as he gets outmuscled in the paint regularly, gets posted up quite easily, and doesnt look aggressive enough trying to fight back considering his tools. We get the same impression when evaluating his reboundinghis tools are solid, and his production definitely isnt bad, but there is a lot of room for improvement here still.
As you can probably surmise, were talking about a guy who is nowhere near NBA-ready at this point, but is still intriguing enough to keep track of for the future.