NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/27/07-- Part Two

NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/27/07-- Part Two
Dec 28, 2007, 03:16 am
NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/26/07-- Part One --Stefon Jackson of UTEP, DeJuan Blair of Pitt, Josh Shipp of UCLA, and Will Daniels of URI

Shan Foster, 6-6, Senior, Shooting Guard, Vanderbilt
20.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 54.6% FG, 54.9% 3P, 32.7 minutes

Jonathan Givony

Averaging over 20 points per game on absolutely outrageous shooting percentages (54.6% FG, 54.9% 3P) playing for an undefeated team is a good way to draw attention to yourself, and that’s exactly what Shan Foster has done over the past few weeks. A guy that we somewhat wrote off over the summer after appearing to be a pretty one dimensional shooter on film, he was always going to look a lot more interesting shooting 55% from behind the arc over the 34.6% he shot last year. And while you could probably still label Foster a pretty one-dimensional guy—the dimension he does have in his game looks absolutely incredible at the moment, and will surely be enough to draw him considerable interest from the NBA if he can keep up anywhere near the same pace over the course of the season.

Foster has good size for the shooting guard position, at a lanky 6-6 with a very nice wingspan. He’s a skinny player who’s frame probably isn’t the best, but at his position and considering his skill-set, that’s probably not the end of the world. Athletically, Foster is average at best, showing a poor first step and underwhelming lateral quickness. That’s part of the reason why he wasn’t considered a great prospect up until this year.

The one saving grace, though, has everything to do with his shooting stroke. Foster has a slightly unconventional release, cocking the ball behind his head (think Michael Redd) with a super high release point and putting a great deal of arc on the ball. He shoots the ball with unbelievable confidence, though, coming off screens and just throwing the ball in the basket with the greatest of ease, showing outstanding touch and an incredibly quick release. In case you wondered whether his numbers might be a fluke 11 games into the season, consider that he’s attempting just under 7 ½ 3-pointers per game. He is absolutely money once he sets his feet, featuring NBA plus range on his jumper and absolutely no conscience running off a screen (which he does quite well) and firing away.

Foster was very streaky from behind the arc last year, being somewhat feast or famine in the sense that he could go 1 for 7 in one game and then 5 for 8 just a few days later. The reason for that is that he has a tendency to cock the ball too far behind his head when he’s being very closely guarded, making his release point a bit on the inconsistent side. He’s done a better job at finding and taking much cleaner looks this season, reading ball screens better and not forcing the issue, and thus shooting a higher percentage.

If a defender runs out wildly trying to contest his initial catch, Foster is smart enough to put the ball on the floor and step inside the arc for a better shot. He can stop and pull-up from mid-range, much preferring to do so rather than take the ball all the way to the basket and finish at the rim. If he does take the ball all the way, you’ll often see him finishing a play with a nifty right-handed floater from about 8-10 feet out.

Not being a terribly explosive athlete, Foster is not a very good ball-handler either, particularly with his left hand. He did not attempt even a single free throw in four of Vanderbilt’s 11 games this season, which gives you a small indication of his lack of offensive versatility. He’s a player that can be nullified for long stretches by a big, long and athletic defender that gets right in his grill and does not give him the daylight he needs to get his shot off on the catch and shoot, but to his credit, Foster realizes his limitations and does not force the issue. Foster is currently ranked #1 in points per possession amongst draft prospects, as well as 7th in True Shooting Percentage. He’s an unselfish player who seems to have a very nice feel for the game.

Defensively, Foster puts in a solid effort, and can even find some success at times due to his intensity combined with his excellent size and wingspan. His lateral quickness as mentioned is fairly average, though, and he also seems to suffer trying to go through screens due to his lack of strength.

When it comes to his final evaluation, we have to think that he rates favorably at the moment in comparison to other shooting guard prospects in the draft. It is early in the season, though, so we’ll have to see how he fares once the competition stiffens for Vandy in their SEC slate. It’s hard to fathom him shooting the ball at the same 55% rate all season, so once the shots inevitably stop falling temporarily, Foster would be well served to pick up the other parts of his game. At the moment, it’s hard to look at the stats and call him anything else but the best shooter in college basketball.

Manny Harris, 6’5, Point Guard/Shooting Guard, Freshman, Michigan
15.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.5 turnovers, 1.7 steals, 37.3% FG, 81% FT, 27.9% 3PT

Rodger Bohn

The main bright spot in Michigan’s disappointing season thus far has been the play of Manny Harris, a heralded freshman hailing from Detroit. He was one of the more prized recruits that Tommy Amaker brought in during his tenure in Ann Arbor, and made the decision to stick with UM after Amaker was dismissed, one that is looking like a wise one given John Belein’s open style of play. This brand of basketball caters well to Harris’ style of play, shown by the intriguing statistics that he’s put up thus far in his debut campaign.

The strengths of Manny’s game begin with his excellent athleticism. He does a great job of applying his gifts to his offensive game, particularly in the shape of his excellent first step. Getting past defenders is not a problem for him at all, nor is finishing at the rim despite his slender frame. Harris’ quickness allows him to slice in and out of traffic at difficult angles, giving him opportunities to finish at the basket uncommon for most freshman guards. Harris has also shown very nice court vision for a player his size, able to frequently find the open man in situations where the defense collapses on him. Michigan’s new up and down offense gives him the opportunity to handle the ball more then he would have at most other programs, something that will benefit him greatly down the line in the eyes of NBA scouts.

Just as impressive as Harris’ ability to get to the rim is his potential as a defender. Not only having the physical gifts to shut opponents down with his size, length, and foot speed, he has actually proven to already be an adept defensive player in his young collegiate career. In the games that we watch, Harris was able to keep some of the nation’s better guards in front of him in the possessions he matched up with them. His quick hands and long arms allow him to get plenty of deflections and place great pressure on the ball, something that the stat sheet doesn’t always reflect. Manny is still a work in progress on the defensive end due to the fact that he is still young and gambles a bit too much at times, but all of the pieces are there for him to be a lockdown defender down the road.

Despite the many intriguing areas of Harris games that have been on display this season, he still has a great deal of work to do before considering making the jump to the next level. His outside jumper is very erratic and lacks consistency, while he can be very out of control at times when going into the lane. Manny’s wild style of play is exhibited in his assist to turnover ratio, where he is averaging .86 assists for every turnover, which is completely unacceptable for a player who is billed as being able to play some point guard down the road.

The physical gifts are all there for Harris to eventually become an NBA player, but he needs to gain discipline and develop a better feel for running and operating within a team. Michigan has a relatively marginal recruiting class for 2008, but is very much in the running for top-25 recruit Terrelle Pryor, who also serves as the nation’s finest football recruit. With or without Pryor, Manny will have the opportunity to put up big numbers throughout his tenure as a Wolverine and will have plenty of opportunities to showcase himself in front of NBA personnel.

Danny Green, 6-6, Junior, SG/SF, North Carolina
13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 1.6 steals, .9 blocks, 54% FG, 40% 3P, 20.6 minutes

Jonathan Givony

Quietly establishing himself as one of the most improved players in the country so far, Danny Green is having a spectacularly efficient season for #1 ranked North Carolina, acting as the consummate glue guy that brings everything together as their sparkplug 6th man.

Standing 6-6, with a nice wingspan and a good frame that he will surely grow into, Green has ample size for an NBA wing player. He’s not a terribly explosive athlete, but he still seems to get the job done on either end of the floor, being a mobile player with a certain smoothness to his game and the mental fortitude needed to take advantage of the athleticism he does possess.

Offensively, a huge reason for the progression Green has shown this year has to do with the improvement he’s made in his perimeter shot. He’s knocking down his 3-point shot at a rock-solid 40% clip, taking over three 3-pointers per game on the season so far. Green shoots the ball with a little hop while pushing the ball forward from in front of his chest. It’s not the most orthodox release in the world, but he gets it off quickly and most importantly shoots it the same exact way every time with a firm and consistent release point, making it quite effective in spot-up fashion. He’s not as good shooting the ball off the dribble, but considering what his role will likely be at the next level, just being able to punish defenses who play off of him is a more than good enough start considering the other things he brings to the table.

As a ball-handler, Green does a solid job at picking his spots. He doesn’t make many mistakes as his 1.6 turnovers per game would indicate, but he’s not just a one-dimensional spot-up shooter either. Green likes to use shot-fakes to get his man off balance and then attack him in under-control fashion with his dribble. Not being the most explosive player in the world, he seems to prefer pulling up off the dribble rather than taking the ball all the way to the basket, and will find some success offensively in this fashion, sometimes finishing with a nifty floater. If the defense collapses, he’s smart enough to know how to find the open man passing while on the move.

Although he’s a solid offensive player, as his 13 points in 20 minutes per game would indicate, defensively is where Green is clearly at his best. He’s a physical, pesky defender, bodying up his man on the perimeter, using his excellent size and length at 6-6 to disrupt, being very fundamentally sound and taking great pride in shutting down his man. He might lack just a degree of lateral quickness to be considered an elite defender at the next level, but he really shows nice instincts on this end to compensate for that, doing a terrific job getting in the passing lanes anticipating steals, and also recovering quickly after getting beat and picking a smart angle to the rim to come up with a blocked shot. He’s a tough guy who isn’t afraid to stick his nose into take a charge.

Successful NBA teams are typically built around 1-2 stars surrounded by a group of excellent role players who do all the little things needed to come away with the victories. Teams typically go through the process of drafting former star college players and hope to successfully mold them into being what they need them to be for their particular situation, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. The advantage that a player like Danny Green brings to the table lies in the fact that he’s already proven as a role player who is willing to accept his situation as a cog in his team’s offense, having played for a program like North Carolina that can get him to buy into their system. That gives him valuable experience as both a teammate and a winner that NBA coaches don’t need to spend time teaching.

He doesn’t look like your typical early-entry prospect, but Green will surely find his fans amongst NBA personnel once his time to play his hand in the NBA draft comes.

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