Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences (Part Four: #21-26)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences (Part Four: #21-26)
Nov 19, 2008, 10:55 am
We finish up our look at the top NBA draft prospects in college basketball with the final segment of the non-BCS conferences analysis. 24 articles are in the books, examining over 125 players, and we are now officially ready to get the college season started. This last piece kicks off with a look at Illinois State's Osiris Eldridge, followed by St. Joe's Tasheed Carr, UMass' Chris Lowe, Miami Ohio's Michael Bramos, Western Kentucky's Jeremy Evans and Siena's Edwin Ubiles.

-Top Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top Prospects in the Big East: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four,
Part Five
-Top Prospects in the ACC: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
-Top Prospects in the Pac-10: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 10: Part One, Part Two
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

#21 Osiris Eldridge, 6-3, Junior, Shooting Guard, Illinois State

Jonathan Givony

Few sophomores can lay claim to winning runner-up honors for the Player of the Year award in a strong league such as the Missouri Valley Conference, and Osiris Eldridge happens to be one of them. The 6-3 shooting guard could be on the verge of establishing himself as a legit NBA draft prospect in his third season of college basketball, largely due to his combination of productivity and outstanding physical tools.

Eldridge looks the part of an NBA guard, minus a couple of inches presumably. He sports a strong, muscular frame and is an impressive athlete to boot, showing an excellent first step, terrific body control, and nice explosiveness finishing plays around the rim. He finished just a tenth of a point behind Drake’s Josh Young as the top scorer in the conference last season, averaging a solid 15.8 points in 31 minutes per game, playing for one of the slowest paced teams in college basketball.

The main source of Eldridge’s production comes via his jump-shot at the moment—48% of his field goal attempts came from beyond the arc last season. He made a solid 38.5% of them, while shooting a somewhat pedestrian 43% from the field overall. Eldridge has nice mechanics on his jumper, albeit a fairly slow release. He can make tough shots from well beyond the college arc, and is capable of converting off the dribble as well.

Thanks to his strength and overall athleticism, Eldridge is also very much a dangerous threat creating his own shot at getting to the basket as well, where he can finish strong and creatively (sometimes with a powerful dunk), even if he still has significant room to improve on this part of his game.

Eldridge tends to bully his way to the basket rather than utilizing advanced ball-handling moves or an ability to change speeds. He dribbles the ball too high and does not do a great job of changing directions once he begins to make his move. His left-hand is almost non-existent at the moment, both in terms of creating and finishing, and he would be well served working on his mid-range game, as it would benefit him to be able to create separation for himself with his pull-up jumper to avoid the length and athleticism that NBA big men are known for inside the paint. Eldridge gets to the free throw line at a somewhat average rate, and only converts on 73% of his attempts once there.

Standing just 6-3, Eldridge is currently more of a 2/3 than he is a legit combo guard. He sports a negative assist to turnover ratio, and still struggles with his decision making skills at times, looking a little too trigger happy and not always quite knowing his limitations. This isn’t a shock considering his sophomore status, but teams will likely want to see him develop his playmaking skills and be able to spend at least a few minutes at the point when needed, as defensively he is already undersized for the shooting guard spot.

On a positive note, he does not seem like a selfish player, as he sees the court at least relatively well and is capable of making some plays for others, even if it’s clear that his mentality right now is to look first and foremost for his own shot. Watching some film of a player he somewhat resembles in Rodney Stuckey might benefit him.

One of the best things about Eldridge as a prospect is the toughness and aggressiveness he brings to the floor, not a surprise considering his upbringing on the South Side of Chicago. This comes to play particularly on the glass, where Eldridge stands out as one of the top rebounding shooting guards in college basketball, pulling down just under 8 per game, per-40 minutes pace adjusted. It’s not rare to see him elevate well out his area and ferociously pluck a rebound out of the air. The trademark Mohawk he sports is obviously not just for show.

Unfortunately this same scrappiness does not seem to translate itself to the defensive end, at least not in the games we saw at least. His fundamentals appear to be fairly poor here, looking very upright in his stance and seemingly exerting very little effort into staying in front of his man. He gambles excessively for steals and often looked out of position in the possessions we observed, something that will have to change significantly if he’s to stand any chance at making the NBA down the road. Considering his lack of size, most teams would likely be able to project him defending both guard spots eventually, while right now he doesn’t seem to be able to guard even one.

Illinois State was one of the last teams left out of the NCAA tournament last season, something that they will obviously be looking to change this time around. A somewhat weak out of conference schedule won’t help matters much, but the Redbirds will have the chance to earn their spot through the perpetually tough Missouri Valley conference.

#22 Tasheed Carr, 6-4, Senior, Point Guard, St. Joseph’s

Scott Nadler

After a year of learning a new system and playing a different position, Tasheed Carr enters the 2008-09 season with the hope of taking his game to the next level. Carr played shooting guard his fist couple years at Iowa State before Phil Martelli transformed him into a point guard upon his arrival at St. Joseph’s. The transition was difficult at times, but Carr certainly showed his potential to be a force in the Atlantic 10 conference. With his athleticism and defensive capabilities, it will be interesting to see the difference a year makes.

Carr brings an attitude and personality that has been missing from the Hawks squad for quite some time. He’s very outspoken and the unquestionable vocal and emotional leader of the team. He actually has the words, “Born Leader” tattooed on his wrists, and his teammates will be the first to attest to that. In fact during the full season that he sat out because he was a transfer, he was named co-captain of the team – which says a lot about his character and the immediate impact he made.

Carr is also an exceptional athlete and shows off this athleticism on both ends of the court. On the offensive end, he is very good at pushing the ball down the court and leading fast breaks. With good size for a point guard at 6-4 and 211 lbs, he can pretty much get in the lane at will and uses his upper body strength to get tough shots off in traffic or kick the ball out to shooters.

In the half court, it’s a different story as he’s been inconsistent and is too indecisive for someone trying to run an offense. He’s still adjusting to playing his new position, as he’s more of a natural combo guard as opposed to being a pure point guard. He has a tendency to either over dribble or pick up his dribble too early, which is common during this positional transition. He turned the ball over on more than 1/4th of his possessions last season, which is an extremely high rate. After playing for a year, however, the mistakes that were tolerated last year will not be this season and he will be expected to be more fluid with the ball in his hands.

One aspect of his point guard skills that were impressive was his vision. He sees the court well and that’s evident by his 5.6 assists a game, which was good for 2nd in the conference (32nd in the nation). He also had a 2 to 1 assist/turnover ratio, which is solid for a new point guard.

If Carr is ever going to be a serious draft prospect, he will need to improve his shot. He has a nice midrange game and can get his shot off with relative ease, as he has great elevation. His three point shooting however needs work. He only makes about one a game on three attempts (34.1%) and missed many wide open threes last season. He must become a more consistent outside shooter which will surely open up the rest of his game. He also needs to become a better free throw shooter (only 67.8%) as he has the ability to get to the charity stripe whenever he wants. Currently he’s getting there about 3 times a game, which is a fairly average rate, and if he can increase his free throw productivity his stock will increase as well.

His strongest is probably his prowess on the defensive end. He has good lateral quickness and can be a nightmare for opposing guards with his long wingspan. He has a lot of energy on this side of the ball as his relentlessness is tough to contend with for 40 minutes. He is also very physical and benefits greatly from officiating crews who let things go. That physicality can back fire for Carr however, as he was whistled for a few fouls on jump shooters last season – a cardinal sin for any defender. He can show a little bit more discipline, but overall he is outstanding on this end. He also averages 1.6 steals a game, which was 6th in the conference.

Coach Martelli and the Hawk faithful will be looking for Carr’s offensive game to come together this season. If he can become more comfortable at the point and expand his range, he will definitely cause havoc in the A10. His defensive and leadership qualities are his strong attributes and will help St. Joes make a run for another tournament bid.

#23 Chris Lowe, 6’0, Point Guard, Senior, Massachusetts

Joseph Treutlein

Chris Lowe had a strong junior season for the Minutemen, helping to lead his team to the Finals of the NIT while dishing out 6.3 assists per game on a very strong 2.16 assist-to-turnover ratio. The quick 6’0 lefty point guard had a nice set of scorers to set up in guards Gary Forbes and Ricky Harris, though with Forbes now gone, more of that burden will fall on him.

Lowes’ offensive game starts with his outstanding first step, something he combines with a very strong combination of shot fakes, ball fakes, and hesitation dribbles to take his man off the dribble at will. He’s able to break his man down going left or right, though prefers his dominant left hand. While he does an excellent job using craftiness to get his initial first step, he’s a bit more predictable in the lane, opting mostly to go with straight-line drives, not being the greatest with making quick changes of direction, though he’ll occasionally mix in a spin move and he does do a good job changing hands with the ball.

At the rim, he’s a good finisher against most competition, but struggles a bit when matched up against strong interior defenders, as evidenced by him shooting 2-for-26 combined against Syracuse and Ohio State in the NIT Tournament. He finishes much better with his left hand, even stubbornly forcing to it at times, but he’s shown some ability with his right as well. He has an unorthodox push shot floater that he has decent effectiveness with in the lane, and given his size and struggles against strong help-side defense, this is definitely something he’ll want to work heavily on.

Lowe’s jump shot is a major work in progress, and is not something he was very effective with last season. While he scored 1.05 points per possession on drives to the basket last season, according to Synergy Sports Technology, he scored a woeful 0.62 PPP on jump shots, which is a large reason why his TS% was a disappointing 51%. A large portion of the problem stems from the fact that he takes the majority of his shots pulling up off the dribble, often off balance and sometimes with a defender in his face, not showing the best decision making in this regard, often doing so early in the shot clock for no reason. His decision making isn’t the only problem, though, as evidenced by his sub-par 68% FT%. His shot has quite a few inconsistencies, namely inconsistent balance and body control, most of which stems from his Lebron James-esque shooting motion, unnecessarily fading away on every shot attempt.

As a point guard, Lowe is pretty efficient and effective, mostly relying on simple drive-and-kicks, finding open shooters, and pushing the ball ahead in transition. He doesn’t strike as a very creative point guard, and his court vision won’t blow you away, but he more than gets the job done, managing his team’s offense and dishing the ball in a variety of ways. In the aforementioned NIT Tournament games against Syracuse and Ohio State, where he struggled scoring the ball, he managed to pick up the slack in the assists column, dishing out a combined 21 between the two games, even though the Minutemen fell short of winning the title.

As a defender, Lowe is pesky and quick, showing a great motor, good fundamentals, and having the ability to play very effective pressure defense. He gets far up on his man well, sticks to him without the ball, and makes good use of his length and hands both in man-to-man defense and in the passing lanes. His Achilles heel at the moment would be pick-and-roll defense, where he goes under the pick very often and doesn’t fight hard when going over. He also has a tendency to overreach in man defense, trying to pick the ball from behind and completely giving up positioning in the process, though he does have a decent success rate making the plays.

Looking towards the next level, Lowe appears to be physically capable of playing in the NBA with some work, passing the athleticism test with some useful skills to boot, even if his size may be considered a hindrance. How much he improves his shooting will likely be what makes or breaks him, especially seeing how his dribble-drive game might not translate extremely well given his struggles against interior defenders. With Gary Forbes out of the picture, Lowe should have a good chance to shine this season, and should be a perfect candidate for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in April.

#24 Michael Bramos, 6-5, Senior, Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Miami (OH)

Kyle Nelson

Senior wing Michael Bramos entered this season with a reputation for being one of the best scorers in the MAC, averaging 16.3 ppg on 43.5% FG, 84.1% FT, 36.3% 3FG shooting. Even after a late season hand injury slowed him down, he still powered the RedHawks to their fourth consecutive post-season appearance. This year, he has already been named to the Pre-Season First Team All-MAC, and is expected to be the first option on one of the more dangerous mid-major teams in the country. Already, he is showing improvement as a player, most notably through a 22 point, 3 rebound, 2 assist, and two block performance in near upset against UCLA.

Physically, there is a reason Bramos excels at this level, but still does not project particularly well at the next level. At 6’5, he is somewhat undersized for both the shooting guard and small forward position, though his strong 221-pound frame and long wingspan certainly help his cause. He is also quite an athlete, with a solid vertical leap as well as good quickness on the perimeter. His lack of height, however, does not help his cause, and whether or not he can develop into a marksman from beyond the arc is certainly something scouts will be paying attention to this season.

Offensively, he is very much a tweener at the next level. His jumpshot is a work in progress, looking great with space, but less solid when contested. The problem for Bramos seems to be two things: his slow release and his shot selection. His motion is fluid and his form does generally look nice, but his release is slow and susceptible to being blocked. Quickening his release would do wonders for him at the next level, whether it be overseas or in the NBA. His shot selection does not seem to the best, as he settles for some very questionable shots on the perimeter that both hurt his team as well as his percentages. Seeing as he gets most of his shots as a jumpshooter and this seems to be the way that he will make a living at the next level, he must improve upon last year’s shooting averages of 43.5% FG and 36.3% 3FG.

He does show the ability to score elsewhere on the floor, though on some nights and against good defenders, you would never know it. He shows semblances of an in between game, including a solid pull-up jump-shot, but his lack of ball handling ability, and therefore, his sub-par first step really hurt him. Similarly, his shaky handle also negatively affects his slashing game. Against smaller and weaker MAC competition, he was able to get to the basket based off of his strength and athleticism, but against the likes of Brandon Rush, Terrence Williams, and most recently Sam Young, his power slashing game shows little results.

Bramos does show a lot of promise on the defensive end, as well, seen in his averages of 1.3 spg and 1.5 bpg. His long arms and solid lateral quickness help him stay in front of his man on the perimeter and, should he get beaten, remain a presence around the basket. While he sometimes gets caught off-guard by a fake, in which case he is usually called for a foul, Bramos is a good man defender at this level. His defensive awareness in the team defense, though, seems somewhat lacking. Bramos often roams around on defense, looking for easy steals and shots to block. The problem with this is, however, that he is often out of position, giving his man on the perimeter plenty of time and room to launch a shot. He also isn’t much of a rebounder, averaging just 4.5 rebounds per 40 minutes. With his size and athleticism at this level, Bramos’s production should be better here.

Bramos is an interesting prospect because he is a solid scorer and defender at this stage of his career. That said, he must become better at both. The key for him is to maintain his focus at all times and let his solid basketball IQ guide his game. Too often, he tries to force things on both sides of the court, which will not be acceptable this year if he wishes to find success at the next level. Part of the problem is that it looks as though he is being asked to do too much, and is simply failing because he is playing outside of his skill level, when he would be better suited acting as a role player. This season, he must prove to scouts that he can be consistent shooter at the next level and be able to match up defensively on the wing on a nightly basis. We’re yet to see what his bread and butter will be in the pros.

#25 Jeremy Evans, 6'9, Junior, Power Forward, Western Kentucky

Rodger Bohn

Simply a role player on last year's Sweet Sixteen bound Western Kentucky squad, there will be added pressure placed on Evans with the graduation of Courtney Lee and Tyrone Brazelton. Given the substantial amount of scoring that the Hiltoppers lost, there will be plenty of opportunity for this junior to boost the 5.9 point per game average he put up last season.

Evans certainly fits the mold of a long-term NBA prospect physically, standing a legit 6’9 with an enormous wingspan. At only 190 pounds, he definitely will need to bulk up before he hits the next level, and although his frame is a bit narrow, he could likely get up to 220 pounds or so by the time it is all said and done. In terms of running the floor, Evans gets up and down the court very well and shows a great motor, despite his lack of strength.

The bulk of Jeremy’s scoring is done within five feet of the basket, usually off of an offensive rebound or some sort of drop-off pass. Having good hands and great athleticism allows him to catch and finish against most players in his conference with no problems whatsoever. The Arkansas native seems to have a knack for finding himself in the right place at the right time, which might explain why he shot 62.5% from the field as a junior.

Likewise, Evans is still incredibly raw in virtually every facet of creating his own shot. He appears incredibly uncomfortable shooting the ball from the perimeter, hesitating as if he needs to ask permission before launching one up. Evans shoots a slower set shot, but actually shoots it with decent accuracy when he has the confidence to put it up. We didn’t see him put the ball on the floor one time and try to create for himself, and considering his limited skill-level offensively, it’s likely that this is out his repertoire.

There is much potential for Evans on the defensive end. Already a solid shot blocker, he primarily relies on his athleticism and length to block shots rather than actually learning the craft. He has shown the ability to contain face the basket power forwards by keeping in front of them laterally, but struggles holding post position inside. Evans tends to play awfully upright, establishing basically no center of gravity and allowing him to get knocked off balance quite easily. Similar to his shot blocking skills, his rebounding ability is also completely reliant upon his natural gifts, rather than fundamental boxing out and attacking the ball.

It is quite rare that you find a player with Evans’ size and length in the Sun Belt, so he will definitely be a name keep an eye on down the road. Only entering his junior season, he still has two years left to continue to fill out physically and polish up his skill-set. Whether he will ever develop on the offensive end is yet to be seen, but he is a player who could certainly receive an invite to Portsmouth and possibly more if he is able to continue to develop.

#26 Edwin Ubiles, 6-6, Junior, Small Forward, Siena

Jonathan Givony

6-6 combo forward Edwin Ubiles is coming off a very solid year, being the leading scorer on a team that won the Metro Atlantic conference and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament last season. Siena looks poised to make an even deeper run this season after being named the unanimous favorites to win the MAAC, as they returned all five starters from last year.

Ubiles is fairly productive right now (17 points in 33 minutes per game), but it’s his upside that potentially makes him intriguing. He has nice size for the wing at 6-6, and is a good athlete with a decent frame and a terrific wingspan. Physically he looks like he has the tools to play at the next level, even if he needs to add significant strength to do so.

Ubiles’ offensive game is largely based inside the arc, as he plays a good deal of minutes at the power forward position for Siena, which is a fast paced team. He has very nice touch on his long-range and especially mid-range jumper, shooting a very solid 53% from the floor and 42% from beyond the arc, albeit on just 2.4 attempts per game from downtown. It will be interesting to see what kind of production he can get from his 3-point stroke this season, as he will rely heavily on this part of his game if he’s to make it to the NBA. He only shoots 70% from the free throw line, which clearly needs to improve.

Ubiles can put the ball on the floor in a straight line and make his way to the basket, showing nice aggressive, solid creativity and even a bit of initial shake trying to beat his man from the perimeter. His ball-handling skills need plenty of work, though, as evidenced by the paltry amount of free throws he attempts at the MAAC level (3.4 per game), as he struggles changing directions with the ball. Ubiles is a very effective finisher around the rim, despite his lack of strength, showing really nice touch and smarts using the glass effectively, where his terrific length really becomes a factor helping him extend over MAAC defenders.

Defensively, Ubiles competes on almost every possession, using his size and length effectively to contest shots in the post and especially on the perimeter. His lack of strength is somewhat of a hindrance, as he struggles getting through screens and can get pushed off the ball going up against more physically developed matchups. His nice wingspan allows him to come up with a decent amount of blocks and steals, although he is a fairly poor rebounder for his position.

All in all Ubiles looks like a productive college player who may be able to develop into an NBA prospect down the road if he can continue to improve his body and polish up his skill-set. He has no consistent way of creating offense for himself, and there are major question marks about whether he’d be able to play in quite the same fashion if he had to go up against NBA sized athletes at his position on a nightly basis. Regardless, he still has two more seasons left to improve, so he’s definitely a name to keep in mind.

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