NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/9/09

NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/9/09
Mar 10, 2009, 12:16 am
Willie Warren, 6-4, Freshman, Shooting Guard, Oklahoma
14.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 turnovers, 48% FG, 78% FT, 38% 3P

Jonathan Givony

Willie Warren has made quite a bit of progress since the last time we evaluated him in late December, establishing himself as arguably the best scorer in this freshman class, but continuing to do so with excellent efficiency. Warren shows a pretty complete offensive repertoire, and has terrific potential to continue to develop down the road, as he’s a very good athlete with extremely advanced scoring instincts.

Warren’s 3-point shot seems to have steadied out significantly over the past few months, as he’s shooting over 38% in Big 12 conference play, up from 32% when we last looked at him. Despite possessing unorthodox shooting mechanics—with his elbow flailing way out and a low release point—Warren gets outstanding elevation on his jumper and shoots the ball identically on every attempt. He has range that extends past the NBA 3-point line, and great touch from anywhere on the floor—giving him excellent potential in this area.

Warren looks increasingly comfortable operating in the mid-range area as well, doing a nice job setting his feet before pulling up off the dribble, which makes him very dangerous when considering his ability to effortlessly create separation from defenders. From time to time Warren will show questionable shot-selection, settling for tough jumpers with a hand in his face—but this has been far less of an issue than previously thought going into the season.

What gives Warren truly special potential as an NBA shooting guard is his ability to put the ball on the floor and create offense for both himself and his teammates. He can handle the ball with either hand, showing a terrific first step, the ability to change gears and directions, phenomenal body control weaving his way through the lane, and the strength to finish aggressively through contact. It’s pretty obvious that creating his own shot is something that comes quite naturally to him, and certainly makes him a rare commodity in college basketball. As he continues to gain experience in this area and learns to truly harness his talent, he could potentially develop into a primary offensive option, even at the NBA level.

Warren has looked better and better at running the pick and roll as of late, showing nice patience and surprisingly good vision finding teammates on drive and dish plays. He’s seen quite a few minutes as Oklahoma’s primary ball-handler, and although it’s pretty clear that he’s most comfortable looking first and foremost for his own shot, he does appear to have the ability to facilitate an offense and handle some spot duties at the point, at least for a few minutes each game. Considering that he’s slightly undersized at 6-4, this might be something NBA teams want to see from him.

Defensively, Warren continues to show a good attitude on this end of the floor, looking pretty intense and very much willing to contribute. His strength, wingspan and lateral quickness give him excellent potential here down the road, but his lack of fundamentals and experience look very evident on a couple of possessions every night, where he can get taken advantage of. He tends to lose his focus at times, particularly off the ball, but in time he should be able to develop into a capable defender as long as he continues to display a good attitude here.

Not many players have helped their draft stock as much as Warren has over the past month or so, not only by showing outstanding upside, but also with his production and approach. You don’t find many freshman with his combination of shooting, slashing and physical tools, and it wouldn’t be shocking to possibly see him emerge as the next shooting guard taken off the board after James Harden. For now Warren is saying that he will be staying in school for another season, so we’ll have to see how things play out once he gets through the tournament.

Jerome Jordan, 7’0, Center, Junior, Tulsa
14.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 60% FG, 76% FT

Joseph Treutlein

After coming on strong towards the end of his sophomore campaign, Jerome Jordan has taken his game to the next level as a junior, increasing his production and efficiency in a number of areas, while still playing the same amount of minutes. Jordan started off the year slowly but really came on strong once conference play kicked off, upping his scoring averages to over 17 points per game.

The most apparent area you can see Jordan’s improvement is on the offensive end, where he looks much more comfortable in the post compared to last season, having a stronger repertoire of moves and better recognition of how to use them. Jordan’s game still lacks obvious polish in the post, however he has established a versatile groundwork of moves to use, showing flashes of jump hooks, turnaround jumpers, and drop steps with range out to 8 feet and the ability to turn off either shoulder to execute his moves. While Jordan looks quite awkward at times in the post, his footwork given his lack of experience and his coordination given his undeveloped strength are both things to be encouraged about.

Jordan’s best move at this stage would have to be his right-handed hook shot, which he shows nice touch on and range out to 6 or 7 feet. Aside from that and drop steps deep in the post, however, Jordan’s is just inconsistently successful with his other moves, especially against defenders who can match up with him physically—unfortunately very few and far between in the conference he plays in. Jordan also needs a lot of work on moves with his left hand, and he reacts very poorly to double teams, often leading to turnovers. Jordan’s footwork is good enough to get the job done when he gets matched up with his defender on an island, however in the tight spaces created but double teams, his lack of polish becomes painfully evident. Jordan’s underdeveloped strength also becomes apparent when he’s getting bodied up, throwing off his finesse moves. Jordan shows flashes of power moves in the post, having the size, extension, and athleticism to dunk over players from a few feet away from the basket, but he needs more lower and upper body strength to consistently take advantage of this, while he may also lack a mean streak.

As for the rest of Jordan’s offense, he does a good job on the offensive boards, taking advantage of his size and showing the mobility and hands to track down some rebounds, while he’s also capable of catching and finishing at the basket, even though he isn’t used much on pick-and-roll plays in college. Jordan doesn’t show much of a jump shot yet, but his 76% free-throw shooting (up from 69%) and solid form from the line suggest he should be able to add a mid-range jumper in time. As a passer, Jordan does show decent court awareness from the post, however he is prone to making bad decisions and he definitely can get flustered when reacting to double teams.

Defensively, Jordan hasn’t been as effective a shot blocker this season as last, but he still ranks 8th in our database per 40 minutes pace adjusted, using his size and timing to swat away a decent number of shots. Jordan’s improved nicely with his man-to-man defense, however, showing good patience and decent fundamentals in the post, always keeping his hands up and using his length to force tough shots. He is prone to being backed down at times with his high center of gravity and still developing body, but he’s showing signs of improvement. Jordan also shows potential hedging pick-and-rolls, showing great mobility for his size and flashes of surprising ability to change directions at decent speed without losing balance. He is still a bit too foul prone, averaging just under 5 fouls per-game per-40, which is definitely a concern considering the type of big men he typically faces.

Jordan’s level of competition also has to be taken into consideration, as many of his Conference USA opponents lack the frontcourt players to give him much of a challenge, and his production and efficiency levels were inconsistent against major conference competition, especially those with strong, physical big men.

Looking forward, Jordan is still quite a raw player, lacking experience, polish, and not having a fully developed body just yet, but the pieces he’s added to his game and the improvements he’s made in multiple areas in such a short time should be very encouraging to many talent evaluators, as his learning curve appears to be very steep. Jordan still has some work to do before he would be able to consistently contribute in the NBA, and in the long term he’d likely be best served by spending another year in school expanding his game, but teams would have a tough time passing on a player with his physical tools and upside in the mid to late portion of the first round, making the draft a potentially enticing option.

Greivis Vasquez. 6’5, Junior, Point Guard, Maryland
17.0 Points, 5.4 Rebounds, 4.8 Assists, 2.8 Turnovers, 40% FG, 33% 3P, 88% FT

Matthew Williams

With the ACC Tournament just around the corner, this seems like a great time to check in on one of the most productive and versatile guards in the country, Greivis Vasquez. The top-dog for the unpredictable Terrapins (18-12), Vasquez has lived up to his reputation for aggressive play this season. While his take-no-prisoners mentality has led to a few great games, including a 35 point, 11 rebound, 10 assist performance in Maryland’s overtime upset of North Carolina, it has also yielded some very poor ones. With his team falling off the bubble, Vasquez’s consistency, or lack thereof, will be the deciding factor in where Maryland stands when the regular and post-seasons end, and where his draft stock sits heading into the summer.

After the strong campaign Vasquez put together last year, he has had a difficult time surpassing the lofty expectations he set for himself in some areas, but has remained eerily consistent in others. The most notable change has been in his aggressiveness as a passer. Lacking a comparably dynamic scorer, Gary Williams has made some small adjustments to open up more scoring opportunities for Vasquez in half-court settings, allowing him to do a little more work off the ball to create easier scoring opportunities for himself. This, coupled with improved discipline on the floor, has helped Vasquez steer away from his tendency to be too assertive when trying to set up his teammates, a propensity the landed at the top of our database in turnovers per game last season. However, it has also hurt his creativity as a passer, despite the fact that he still remains among the top assistmen in our database.

While Vasquez has turned the ball over considerably less, he hasn’t had a great season shooting the ball. The 6’5 point guard has always been known for his somewhat sporadic outside shooting ability, but this season he has experienced the lion’s share of his issues inside the arc as well. Without another game changer on the perimeter to game plan for, opposing defenses have done a very good job keying in on Vasquez when he puts the ball on the floor. He has seen many of his drives to the basket strung out on the perimeter, leaving him to attack with help-side defenders already waiting for him. His lack of blow by quickness has been especially noticeable this season, as he’s been forced to take a lot more difficult shots from inside of 17-feet than he has had to in the past. Vasquez is making a very pedestrian 45% of his 2-pointers, while continuing to settle excessively from beyond the arc (2/5th of his field goal attempts)—making just 32% of his 3-pointers. This type of inefficiency will give most scouts serious room for pause, especially when considering his shortcomings as a defender and decision maker.

With defenders attempting to slow down his floor-game in the half-court, Vasquez has continued to make a living in transition, showing nice ball-handling ability and creativity, while showing better recognition on the pick and roll –an improvement that will help him immensely on the next level. Despite making fewer trips to the line this season, Vasquez has significantly improved his free throw percentage to the point that he is one of the top qualified foul-shooters in college basketball –quite an accomplishment for a player who had a career free-throw percentage under 80% coming into the year.

Defensively, Vasquez has made some small improvements from last season, but still largely projects as a liability at the next level. Vasquez’s poor combination of strength and lateral quickness will make it very difficult for him to defend NBA point guards, and the lack of interest he generally shows on this end of the floor doesn’t help matters at all. Vasquez has good instincts getting in the passing lanes, allowing him to come up with quite a few pass deflections that lead to easy transition opportunities, but he has a tendency to gamble excessively to get those.

Though Vasquez has grown in some areas and struggled in others, he remains very much the same player that he was last season. He’s a big point guard who produces offensively at a high rate with a rather erratic style of play, and is below average defensively. His efficiency as a scorer is questionable to say the least, but his role on the next level won’t be as demanding as the one he takes on at Maryland and will probably be more focused on his passing ability and versatility. With that said, he doesn’t show many of the key elements NBA teams look for in a backup point guard—mainly the ability to limit turnovers, play solid defense and make shots efficiently from the perimeter. It appears likely that Vasquez will declare for this year’s draft, at least to test the waters, although next season could be a very interesting one if Lance Stephenson spurns Kansas and St. John’s to play for Gary Williams. A player like Stephenson will drastically change the dynamic Vasquez has to play in the offense, possibly for worse considering the fact that he also a dominant ball-handler who needs everything to revolve around him—so it will be interesting to see how he reacts. Vasquez’s talent is undeniable, but he will need to become a much more consistent player in all facets of the game (decision making, perimeter shooting, defense in particular) if he’s to reach his full potential.

Stefon Jackson, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Senior, UTEP
23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 1 steal, 42% FG, 29% 3FG

Joey Whelan

We last took a look at Stefon Jackson before the season started and now down to perhaps his final week of collegiate basketball (barring a run through the C-USA tournament) there is no better time to examine the conferences all time leading scorer.

Once again the senior finds his name amongst the nation’s scoring leaders at nearly 24 points per game, but his shooting numbers have taken a very alarming dip. Jackson’s primary offensive weapon is still his tremendous quickness which he uses to slice up defenses at every opportunity. His handles have continued to improve and he has reached a point where he is almost equally adept at going to either his right or left when attacking the basket.

Jackson’s mid-range game has always been one of the more intriguing facets of his offensive repertoire. His first step is so quick with the basketball that he regularly has his defenders back pedaling when he pulls up for a shot. Even when he is faced with pesky defenders who can stick with him, the two-guard’s release is fast enough that he needs almost no space to get his shot off cleanly. This season two things about Jackson’s mid-range game have become apparent though. First, his release while quick and smooth, isn’t always consistent. He has shown a tendency, when facing defensive pressure, to short arm his shots; not completely following through. Jackson has also at times shown poor shot selection, attempting tough fall away jumpers with defenders right on him, rather than dishing to a teammate or looking for a better option.

The rest of the time, Jackson is almost always putting the ball on the deck and attacking the rim; he isn’t much of a catch and shoot player at this point. He is a tough assignment for any college defender given his quickness, ball handling prowess and ability to improvise; it isn’t unusual to see him dribble through three or four defenders on his way to the basket. Jackson has added a soft floater in the lane which is able to execute in traffic or against taller players, as he showed several times in a recent 24-point performance against Memphis. He is at his most efficient when he gets into the lane because of his excellent body control and soft touch. Jackson still gets into trouble inside though due to his average combination of strength and leaping ability—which could severely hamper him from translating his slashing ability over to the NBA level. As is the case with his mid-range game, the senior has to take a great number of off balance, contested shots in the paint, since he isn’t able to elevate with many big men. He only converts on 44% of his shots from inside the arc, which is pretty poor any way you slice it, particularly considering the level of competition he plays at.

While Jackson has never been a proficient perimeter shooter, his numbers have dipped to a career low this season. Jackson shoots the ball with an awkward, ugly hitch, releasing the ball on the way up, and seeing terrible results in turn. He almost doesn’t have to be guarded in catch and shoot situations, but his unorthodox shooting mechanics strangely translate into being very effective pulling up off the dribble from mid-range. In order to make it at the next level Jackson will almost assuredly have to become at least respectable from beyond the arc, at least when given open opportunities. What has improved a great deal (something we mentioned in his preseason report that would be a big plus) is his free throw shooting. Jackson continues to get to the line at a ridiculous rate and ranks second in our database at 11.4 attempts per 40 minutes. His free throw shooting numbers have increased by nearly 12 percent, a factor that has helped a great deal with his scoring numbers, in spite of a huge drop in efficiency.

The transition game has continued to be a comfortable place for Jackson. He has great open floor speed and much like in the half court set, he is more than capable of dribbling through an entire defense on his way to the basket. He shows great ability to change direction on a dime, although sometimes he tries to get a little too fancy and this gets him into trouble. Still, Jackson doesn’t turn the ball over nearly as much as you would expect considering his style of play and the huge offensive load he’s forced to shoulder—he only coughs the ball up on 11% of his possessions, which is a sparkling rate.

Defensively, Jackson is a tough-nosed kid who doesn’t defend like a typical 24-point per game scorer. He has the lateral quickness and length to be a pesky defender, and brings a very intense mentality to this end of the floor—which certainly serves him well. He would certainly benefit from getting stronger in his upper body as bigger guards (James Harden in November) have been able to bully him around for easier looks at the basket. Jackson continues to be fearless in his play though, fighting much bigger players inside for more than five rebounds per game.

We see a player or two like Jackson almost every year; a mid-major scoring machine whose game and physical abilities seemingly don’t translate very well over to the NBA. The senior has no problem creating his shot, has an excellent mid-range game and shows all kinds of ability with his dribble drive game, but it’s questionable whether his scoring ability will translate. Jackson will need to improve his perimeter shooting, as well as his shot selection, as he isn’t going to be going to the free throw line at the same rate he does at UTEP. His advanced age for his class (24) will always be a question mark with him, but his scoring prowess and hustle at both ends of the floor are major pluses. With likely only the C-USA tournament remaining for him to showcase his stuff at the college level, it will be a big week for Jackson.

Recent articles

11.0 Points
2.8 Rebounds
5.1 Assists
16.6 PER
16.9 Points
5.1 Rebounds
8.5 Assists
18.7 PER
15.9 Points
8.1 Rebounds
2.7 Assists
19.7 PER
2.3 Points
0.7 Rebounds
1.7 Assists
4.1 PER
14.1 Points
6.6 Rebounds
4.6 Assists
15.5 PER
12.5 Points
4.3 Rebounds
2.8 Assists
37.2 PER

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop