NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/16/09

NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/16/09
Mar 16, 2009, 11:31 pm
B.J. Mullens, 7'0, Center, Freshman, Ohio State
8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 1.6 turnovers, 64% FG, 56% FT

Joseph Treutlein

One of the more intriguing prospects in this freshman class, especially from a physical standpoint, B.J. Mullens has had an up and down freshman campaign. Things haven't changed very much for the young seven footer since we last wrote about him in December, but after a full season in college, including all of conference play, a more complete picture can now be drawn.

From a skills standpoint, there really isn't much to say about Mullens at this stage, as most of his production in all areas of the game come directly from his excellent physical attributes. The vast majority of his offense comes off of pick-and-rolls, alley-oops, transition lay-ups, and wide open dump offs in the lane -- all catch-and-finish moves. As we previously wrote, Mullens' size and tremendous mobility make him a huge asset as a finisher, something he's done a good job taking advantage of throughout the season, usually showing a desire to get open while often calling for the ball.

With his size and athleticism, Mullens isn't often strongly contested when he gets to the rim at this level, so it's no surprise he ranks in the 96th percentile of finishers at the basket according to Synergy Sports Technology. At the next level, however, Mullens will need to show a bit more of a mean streak at the rim, making better use of his explosive power, something he doesn't need to rely on much in college. The fact that his frame can probably support another 10-15 pounds of muscle without much detriment will certainly help him down the line. Playing with a good point guard will be a must regardless of where he ends up, as he really has outstanding potential in this area.

As a back-to-the-basket player, Mullens has looked pretty raw for the most part, not showing much prowess in backing his man down to get superior position, and showing inconsistent results with the hook shots and turnaround jumpers he tries to execute from 5 feet out and beyond. The form on these moves doesn't look bad, as he has a nice foundation in place, so it's just a matter of continuing to practice these moves while doing a better job of getting deep position.

On the defensive end, Mullens clearly has a long way to go as a man-to-man defender, leaving a lot to be desired in the area of fundamentals, frequently getting beat despite his towering size. In the post, he gives up position way too easily, showing little grasp of leverage, and he also doesn't seem to have much concept of angles, getting outsmarted by players a fair share. To his credit, he does seem to put in somewhat of a concentrated effort guarding his man, moving his feet and keeping his hands outstretched, though players are still frequently able to score over him.

We spoke about Mullens' problems keeping up with Ohio State's team defensive schemes earlier in the year, and while this isn't something Mullens has overcome, he's certainly shown some progress, doing a better job making rotations, being in the right position, and showing better attentiveness and awareness in Thad Matta's zone. His reaction time in making his rotations is not very good, but it's clear that he's put in more effort as the season has gone on. With his size and length, he has a lot of potential as a shot blocker, and he shows flashes of this at times, but he needs to improve his reflexes and timing to realize his potential in this area.

Mullens is still a fairly mistake-prone player, which is likely a product of his average basketball IQ. He often looks somewhat absent-minded boxing out opponents and such, and thus ranks as a pretty average rebounder relative to his physical tools. He's also an incredibly poor passer, garnering just one assist every four games (8 total in 32 games), and picking up six turnovers for every one assist. He has the second worst assist to turnover ratio in college basketball, and is the second worst passer per possession as well.

Looking forward, Mullens has a tough decision to make in regards to entering the draft, as he could be a lottery pick this year in what many view as a weak class, though you'd be hard pressed to find a talent evaluator who wouldn't think Mullens clearly needs another year or two in school to develop. The only thing he does at an NBA level at this point is get open and finish at the basket on the offensive end, so it's hard to see him contributing much to a team initially. The fact that his coach played him just 13 minutes per game in Ohio State's three conference tournament games is telling of how far along he is as a player at this stage in his development.

Greg Monroe, 6'11, Power Forward, Georgetown
12.7 Points, 6.7 Rebounds, 2.5 Assists, 2.5 Turnovers, 1.9 Steals, 1.5 Blocks, 57% FG, 70% FT

Matt Williams

The last time we checked in on Greg Monroe in-depth, he had just posted an impressive performance against Hasheem Thabeet and the Connecticut Huskies, was a reason for optimism on a top-10 ranked Georgetown team that was in the midst of a seven game winning streak, and appeared to have all the makings of a one-and-done talent. While the latter observation may still be true, Monroe couldn't carry the Huskies through their Big East schedule as seamlessly as some had hoped, and has fallen under quite a bit of scrutiny as his team lost 13 of their last 19 games and barely made it into the NIT. Like other Big East prospects, the strength of the conference put him in the spotlight on a bi-weekly basis, making his strengths and weaknesses that much more apparent to NBA decision-makers.

Monroe's best asset moving forward is his unusual blend of size, versatility, touch, and instincts. Though he could stand to add some muscle to his frame to handle the rigors of the NBA, his body should be ready for the pro-level after a summer in the weight room. He's not a great athlete, but he demonstrates great fluidity in some aspects of the game, displaying a promising finesse game and some unique floor skills for a center. For a player as young as he is, Monroe has a good feel for the game as evidenced by his court vision, ability to finish with his left hand over and around defenders, and his ability to execute in offensive sets. Unfortunately, Monroe didn't always have the easiest time using these skills on a regular basis due to a handful a rectifiable flaws in his game.

The most apparent weakness Monroe has at this point lies in his lack of ball-handling and finishing ability with his right hand. He has proven capable of putting the ball on the floor to attack the rim off the dribble from the high post against slower defenders, but has an incredibly difficult time changing directions with the ball when his initial penetration gets cut off. His 2.5 turnovers-per game can be attributed almost entirely to situations where he was forced to crossover, attempted to take more than one dribble with his right hand, or tried too hard to come back to his left hand after initially driving right. Monroe's ability to improve his right hand should dictate how easily he is able to create match-up problems on the next level –which will be a key to his offensive development. He was able to score effectively in one-on-one situations essentially one-handed this season, but will find NBA defenses more proficient at keeping him out of the lane.

One of the other primary factors that prevented Monroe from having more success as a freshman was the lack of polish on many of his offensive tools. Though he made a handful of long jumpers this season, the mechanics on his jump shot are extremely inconsistent. He has some potential as a jump shooter, but will need a ton of reps to make it a useful part of his game moving forward. Down low, he was able to score at a solid rate with his back to the basket, but his moves are a bit methodical and he doesn't do the best job maintaining his body control when he gets bumped. Monroe's touch with his left-hand often bailed him out of situations where he was forced to shoot a hook moving away from the rim or found himself a bit out of position.

Monroe's struggles with physical defenders around the basket are indicative of the general aversion to physical contact that presents itself in some parts of his game. Though he does a nice job establishing position on the block and attacking his man's shoulder when he drives for the most part, Monroe looks tentative to go right at his man when attempting to score in the paint, and often lacks the explosiveness to go up and finish strong in traffic. The fact that he still manages to get to the line at a solid rate is a testament to just how easily he puts himself in position to score –not to how physically he plays. This ability to get by doesn't translate to his rebounding ability, where he ranks last in our database in rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted amongst centers and near the bottom amongst true power forwards. Monroe's lack of production is largely due to the fact that he doesn't make a great effort to rebound outside of area and has a hard time finish his box outs consistently.

The apathy that is sometimes an issue for Monroe as a rebounder is a big concern. Georgetown went 7-11 in Big East play, and Monroe seemed to be coasting at times. He doesn't impose his will on the game like he is capable of, seeming to lack the assertiveness and aggressiveness that his team desperately could have used down the stretch. This is especially concerning on the defensive end, where Monroe has the size and instinct to make a huge impact.

He puts up impressive defensive numbers –recording steals at an elite rate for a center and altering quite a few shots as well. However, he proves to be a poor one-on-one defender and only a mediocre stopper in the post. His instincts and hands allow him to be statistically productive, but his motor and tenacity against players attempting to back him down leave a lot to be desired. He also gets turned around too easily, having a tough time staying square to his man when he makes a move in the post. Some of Monroe's issues can be attributed to the fact that he is actively trying to stay out of foul trouble and just isn't that quick laterally, but he has never been known for having the toughness or mean streak that would make him an impact defender.

While Monroe obviously has a number of weaknesses as a player, the silver-lining is that almost all of them are correctable. Monroe is highly coachable on all accounts, and though John Thompson III no doubt took some time to tutor his star pupil, Monroe's problems couldn't be solved in a single campaign. Pegged as a major option on the a middle-of-the-pack Big East team out of necessity rather than preparedness, Monroe was not as ready (or possibly willing) to play the role of star that many of the players in the freshman crop that came before him had no trouble filling. This year's crop of freshman had no chance to live up to the expectations provided by their predecessors, and it wouldn't be surprising to see many of the players that return to school blossom with a year of experience under their belt.

This offseason should be a key to Monroe's long-term development, whether he be preparing for the draft or readying himself for another run in the Big East. At this point, he may be in position to be a lottery pick, and though he's a strong candidate to struggle through some growing pains at the next level, his progression could be accelerated significantly under the right coaching staff. Monroe could become an excellent role-player if he finds the right mentor, but his development into a bonafide star will be a tenuous one.

Devin Ebanks, 6-9, Freshman, SF/PF, West Virginia
10.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2 turnovers, .9 steals, .7 blocks, 47% FG, 70% FT, 13% 3P

Jonathan Givony

After somewhat of an inconspicuous start to his college career, Devin Ebanks has been far more productive as of late, establishing himself as one of the most productive freshman in college basketball, and a significant contributor on a very good West Virginia squad. Ebanks was especially impressive in this week's Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, establishing career-highs in scoring (20 and then 22 points) and rebounding (18) and in the process marking himself down in the notebooks of every NBA executive in attendance as a top-shelf prospect to keep an eye on next season.

Ebanks is attractive mostly thanks to his intriguing combination of size, length, athleticism and aggressiveness at the combo forward position. He's not a particularly polished player at this point, with most of his offense coming in transition, on the offensive glass or off cuts to the basket, but he does find a way to be productive despite his limitations. Ebanks is capable of taking players off the dribble despite possessing shaky ball-handling skills--he has no left hand to speak of, and can't really change directions with the ball or execute advanced moves—but his long strides and nice quickness do allow him to get to the rim from time to time. He lacks the strength to finish through contact, but he can be fairly effective in the paint regardless thanks to his length and explosiveness.

As a perimeter shooter is where Ebanks needs the most work if he's to make the transition to playing the small forward position full time. He's only made 5 of 38 attempts from beyond the arc on the season, although his shooting mechanics lead you to believe that he should be able to become respectable down the road. In the Big East tournament he knocked down a number of pull-up mid-range jumpers, showing pretty smooth touch in the process. Ebanks is also a solid passer, displaying nice court vision and looking fairly unselfish in West Virginia's deliberate and extremely well executed half-court offense, helping him pick up an unusual amount of assists in his freshman season. He's clearly bought into Bob Huggins' system, and is already playing 30 minutes per game for him right off the bat.

Defensively is where Ebanks is currently at his best, as he combines great physical tools—size, length and lateral quickness, with a real hard-nosed mentality, being extremely intense and active, just like his coach demands him to be. He already understands the nuances of using his wingspan to contest shots out on the perimeter (without fouling), which leaves a lot of room for optimism regarding his ability to defend perimeter players down the road. West Virginia likes to switch on pretty much every screen, and Ebanks really suits their style of play in that regard. In the post he can be backed down due to his lack of strength, but will not allow players to score on him without a fight. He's a tough, aggressive young player who takes a lot of pride on this end of the floor—something that also translates to his rebounding ability, where he has been very good this season. Ebanks has had five games already with 14 or more rebounds, which is quite impressive considering how underdeveloped his frame is.

All in all, Ebanks still has a long ways to go before being able to legitimately consider entering the draft, but he shows quite a bit of potential as long as he continues to develop. He'll need to improve his shooting and ball-handling skills to project as a full-time small forward, but already some things he can hang his hat on in regards to his defense, rebounding and passing ability. It will be very interesting to see how he looks next season.

Toney Douglas, 6-2, Senior, Point Guard/Shooting Guard, Florida State
21.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 1.9 steals, 44% FG, 81% FT, 38% 3PT

Kyle Nelson

By the time that Florida State made its way to the ACC Tournament Championships for a marquee matchup against Duke, senior point guard Toney Douglas had become a household name. Before falling to the Blue Devils, Douglas proved that he could score against some of the most versatile defenders in the country, and in the process elevated his name into the NBA Draft conversation. He is currently enjoying his most efficient season ever, posting career highs in a number of statistical categories. There is certainly a lot to like about a player like Douglas, but an in-depth analysis reveals quite a few flaws that complicate his chances to succeed at the next level.

At 6-2 and 205 pounds, with a good frame and a long wingspan, Douglas certainly looks the part of an NBA point guard. He has nice quickness as well, to the point where he can both beat most collegiate defenders off of the dribble and stay in front of some of the conference's deadliest scoring guards. Though he doesn't have elite leaping ability or explosiveness, Douglas is a good athlete with the physical tools to be competitive at the next level.

On the offensive end, Douglas's best weapon is his perimeter jump-shot, which he hits at a 38.4% clip on 6.4 attempts per game. His form is very solid, with a lightning quick release and a consistent release point. As he moves inside of the arc, he has improved gradually throughout his career, developing a mid-range game that includes an array of pull-up jump shots and floaters. His outstanding ball handling skills help him in this area, but so too does his quickness. This also allows him to be an effective slasher at the collegiate level, showing the quickness to get to the rim and, consequently, to the foul line, where he shoots a very good 81% on 6.6 attempts per game. His lack of explosiveness might stunt his ability to finish at the next level, and already hurts his percentages inside the arc in the NCAA.

The real question on scouts' minds, however, is whether or not Douglas is a point guard. After watching tape, however, it is immediately clear that Douglas is most comfortable looking for his own offense. He is the prototypical collegiate combo-guard, oftentimes playing off of the ball at shooting guard next to fellow guards Derwin Kitchen and Luke Loucks. That said, Douglas is by far Florida State's best handler and distributor. He turns the ball over just 2.4 times per game, despite getting 26.1% of his team's possessions. When he is not looking for his own offense, he shows decent court vision and is capable of finding his teammates. He doesn't run the pick and roll particularly often, which probably has something to do with the fact that Florida State's big men are extremely raw. When he does run the pick and roll, however, he looks for his offense first and foremost, only passing the ball off to one of his big men if he cannot find the daylight to get his shot off. Considering his career at Florida State and Auburn, it is not likely that Douglas will ever show a pure point guard's mentality, though anybody interested in him at the next level will surely know this already.

On the defensive end of the floor, Douglas has a stellar reputation around the NCAA—being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year last week. He displays very good lateral quickness, which combined with his strength and wingspan, should make his transition to the next level easier. He has an aggressive mentality on the defensive end, constantly pressuring the ball, and proving to be one of the most relentless defenders in college basketball. This aggressive style of play also results in him getting beaten off of the dribble, though in fairness, it is very effective in Florida State's team defensive scheme considering the shot-blockers he has playing behind him.

Too small to be a shooting guard, and lacking the mentality to thrive at the next level as a point guard, Douglas's future at the next level may be limited. Though he is a good scorer and defender, there are quite a few players in a similar mold currently plying their trade on the other side of the ocean. Powering Florida State to a run in the NCAA tournament would certainly help his stock, as would proving to scouts that he has the ability to run the point guard position as a distributor. Thus, the odds may be stacked against Douglas, although he does have the NCAA tournament, Portsmouth, and private workouts left to prove his case to NBA personnel that there is a niche for him in the NBA. With the newly established NBA combine in Chicago rumored to only be inviting 50 draft prospects to participate in the proceedings, a tournament like Portsmouth becomes all the more important for a player like Douglas, as well as his fellow seniors. If he is unable to carve out a niche in the NBA, a long and successful career overseas surely awaits him.

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