What our staff was told were going to be practices, really turned out to just be shoot-arounds. Nonetheless, we were able to get an up close and personal look at some potential draft picks that most fans can only dream of having. These shoot-arounds were basically just shooting drills, free throws, and lay-up drills. Only one team, West Virginia, did anything that involved any defense whatsoever. Here are our observations from today's open practices:
Alabama's practice only contained shooting drills and free throws. While it was not the most exciting practice, it gave me the chance to watch all of their players put a lot of shots up so I could get a real good feel of each individual player's shooting ability, as well as the form on their shot. Here are my observations:
Kennedy Winston, JR. 6'6 230 lbs SG/SF
The first thing that stood out as soon as Kennedy walked out on the floor was his chiseled, muscular frame. He looked much, much bigger in person then he does on the television. Winston looked to definitely be a legitimate 6'6 with an above average wingspan. All Alabama's team basically did were shooting drills, but I started thinking to myself wow, he is not missing at all, so I started keeping count of his makes. At one point, Kennedy made 14 straight three pointers from NBA range, with a hand in his face from one of his assistant coaches. It was an absolutely amazing shooting display. Kennedy then did numerous curl cut drills to simulate coming off screens, and he constantly knocked down deep three pointers and mid range jump shots. He showed nice lift on his jump shot, with a relatively quick release. In my eyes, Kennedy impressed me more then any prospect today with his outstanding shooting ability.
Chuck Davis, JR. 6'7 230 lbs PF
The Alabama coaching staff had all of their players partake in the same drills, so I was able to see all of their players regardless of position put a lot of shots up. Chuck looked to be a little shorter then listed, maybe 6'6 or so. Once he started shooting, I immediately noticed the low release point on his shot and the fact the he had very little lift on his jumper. He was however knocking down jump shots all the way out to the three point line. All in all, I would say that today's shoot around did not truly show the stronger facets of Davis' game (low post play, rebounding, etc) and mainly catered the areas that he needs to work on.
Jermareo Davidson, SO. 6'10 210 lbs. PF
Ron Steele, FR., 6'2 185 lbs. PG
Steele, a 2004 McDonald's All American, showed pretty nice range on his shot today. However, he did not quite look to be his listed 6'2, and he has a very low release point on his shot. Ron has three more years to work on getting more lift on his shot, so I'm not too worried about him.
BC had by far the most laid back practice of all the teams. It seemed as everything was done at half speed. Like Alabama, they did not play any defense throughout the entire practice. BC started off with some lay-up drills, and then the guards and posts split up for individual skill drills based on position.
Craig Smith, JR., 6'7 250 lbs. PF
The first thing that stood out as soon as I saw Craig Smith was his extremely muscular build. Smith looked more like a football player then a basketball player. Other then that, Smith did not impress me with one single thing. He looked like he didn't want to be there, and went quarter speed throughout all of the drills. His jump shot was very inconsistent out to 17 feet, and he did not try to take it one step beyond that. Smith did not dunk in any of the drills that he participated in while all others were dunking every time. He just seemed like he didn't want to be there, and his performance showed that.
Jared Dudley, SO., 6'7 220 lbs. SF
Dudley, like Smith, did not look like he really wanted to be there either. He showed a nice stroke on his shot out to about 22 feet, however he didn't show much lift at all on his shot. However, he was still the most consistent shooter on the team. I am guessing that Dudley and Smith were just taking it easy before their big game, and it was very noticeable to everyone in attendance.
Sean Williams, FR., 6'10 230 lbs. PF/C
Wake had their players go through a number of shooting drills, as well as some full court lay-up drills. They then divided up into guards and posts, where they each did drills relating to their position. Here are observations from the Demon Deacons:
Justin Gray, JR., 6'2 186 lbs SG
Gray put on a great all around shooting performance today. Whether he was coming off a screen, shooting off the dribble, or catching and shooting, Justin was money from just about anywhere on the floor. He showed all fans in attendance the good lift he has on his shot, as well as his quick release. However, his impressive shooting display today does not discard the fact that he is a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body, which will hinder his chances of making the NBA.
Chris Paul, SO., 6'0 175 lbs. PG
Paul didn't really show much lift on his shot today, but it went in consistently. Showed leadership by gathering all of the players together before practice, but also showed his sense of humor by poking fun at other teammates throughout practice. Paul showed the ability to knock down the three going left or right, but he did not really show NBA range today in practice. Regardless, he's still going to be a top pick and showed today that he is the type of player that anyone would like to have on their team.
Eric Williams, JR., 6'9 291 lbs. PF
Eric really impressed me today most with his athleticism. The Wake coaches did a drill in which they bounced the ball off of the ground high into the air to simulate a rebound, the posts then had to jump and get the ball, and go right back up and dunk it. He really wowed me with his explosiveness in that drill. He then showed off his nice midrange game, knocking down jumper after jumper. He showed nice lift on his shot, but it seemed to have a lot of wasted motion. If he got rid of the wasted motion, his shot would be much, much quicker. In regards to his build, to put it simply, Eric looked jacked. He looked to be all muscle, and was not chubby in the slightest amount. He has really toned up over the years, and it will only help him once draft day rolls around next year.
Vytas Danelius, SR., 6'9 237 lbs. PF
Vytas showed really nice form on his shot today as he knocked down three pointer after three pointer. He had a really nice stroke on both his jumpers and his foul shots. He also had nice lift on his jump shot. During the post drills, he showed the ability to knock down the jump hook with either hand, and even had a few impressive dunks. Overall, pretty impressive day for Mr. Danelius. He must show scouts that he can defend the post if he hopes to be drafted though.
West Virginia probably had the most intense practice of the four teams that I watched today. They did shooting drills, post drills, and were the only team to play any defense at all in some 3 on 3 drills. All of West Virginia's players played hard throughout the whole practice, which made it a pleasure to watch. The only prospects they have on their team are big men Kevin Pittsnogle and D'orr Fischer. Here are my thoughts on them:
Kevin Pittsnogle, JR., 6'11 250 lbs PF
Pittsnogle showed the stroke of a shooting guard today in practice. That is how smooth his shot was today. While he doesn't get much lift off of the floor, he has perfect rotation on his shot, making the net swoosh every time he shoots. One thing that he must improve on his shot though, is he must stop bringing the ball down to his waist. Once they went into the post drills, Kevin showed a nice jump hook with both hands, and showed nice touch on his face up jumper. In the 3 on 3 drills, he struggled a bit defensively against their other post players. I'm sure that Kevin will have no problem finding a job playing basketball once he graduates based on his rare ability to shoot the ball that well for a near seven footer.
D'Or Fischer, SR., 6'11 255lbs PF
D'or showed really good athleticism in the full court drills, evidenced by his numerous emphatic slams. In the shooting drills, he showed a very soft touch, using the glass on most of his jumpers. A few times, he even extended his range out to three point range, where he calmly knocked those in as well. The one problem with his shot is that he barely jumps at all, he actually only hops. I'm sure that he will work on this once the season is over. Defensively, he was flat out dominant in the 3 on 3 drills with his great timing and shot blocking skills. I actually had a chance to speak with D'Or before practice, and here is what he had to say :
Rodger: D'Or, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
D'Or: Sure, no problem man.
Rodger: Ok thanks. Ever heard of draftexpress.com? We just featured you in our players to watch for the NCAA tourney.
D'Or: No, I haven't heard of it, but I'd like to check it out.
Rodger: Are you planning on attending Portsmouth?
D'Or: Yeah, I'll be there for sure.
Rodger: What are your plans for after the tournament? Have you decided who you're going to work out with or where you're going to work out to prepare for the draft?
D'Or: I don't know who I'm going to work out with. I'm just going to go down to Portsmouth, and from there, we'll see what happens.
Rodger: Say I was someone who had never seen you play before, give me a scouting report on D'Or Fischer.
D'Or: I'm definitely a defensive presence, everyone knows that. I've only been at my school for two years and I've already broken the shot blocking record. I just bring defense, and I bring a lot of energy to the table.
Rodger: What would you say your strengths are as a player?
D'Or: Ummmy strengths. Like I said my strengths are that I'm able to react defensively. My defense opens up my offense. You know, I mean I'm able to help my teammates out a whole big deal.
Rodger: Do you have any clue what your height and weight are right now?
D'Or: Yeah, I'm 6'11 and about 250 lbs.
Rodger: Now I know you have some really long arms, do you have any clue how long your wingspan is?
D'Or: Yeah, I have a 91 inch wingspan
D'Or: I actually have to get going now. As you can see, I'm the last one out.
Rodger: Ok man, thanks for your time. Best of luck with the tournament and Portsmouth.
D'Or: Thanks man.
While today was not the most eventful day in the draft world, it was still a very rare experience to be able to sit down and actually watch draft prospects in their college settings. Not only was I able to see what their work ethic is like, but I was able to see a bit of their personality that the average fan cannot see just by watching a game on the television. Draftcity has shown you guys how these players faired in practice today, but we'll just have to wait and see how it translates onto the court tomorrow when the games actually count.