We are a few months from the start of the college basketball season, and the road to the 2014 NBA Draft has become. To kick things off, I am going to spend the next couple of weeks looking at this year’s senior class and some brief notes on areas where they need to show improvement to maximize their value at the next level.
These are not meant to replace scouting reports, which will come out during the season. These are not all-inclusive and just meant as a brief primer for those who want to track draft prospects throughout the season. These are also not in any particular order other than who I choose to write about each post.
Joe Harris, Virginia, Guard/Forward, 6’6, 226
(2012-13) 16.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 46.8 FG%, 74.0 FT%, 42.5 3FG%
Harris drew national attention last season when he scored 36 points against Duke in a UVA victory, but he had been a consistent scoring threat for 3 seasons for the Cavaliers. Harris is capable of scoring in a variety of ways, both mid-range and long-range jumpers, as well as posting up smaller defenders. He moves well without the ball and does a good job coming off screens or cutting to the basket when overplayed. He is an above-average ballhandler, and has no problem taking the ball to the basket with either his left or right hand. Harris also sees the floor well and he uses his size well to make good passes over the defense. Defensively, Harris is fundamentally sound, positioning himself well and looking to force his man into help defenders.
What he needs to show this season: Harris does a good job getting past his defender and getting into the lane, but he needs to work on finishing around the basket, either taking the contact or pulling up for a short jumper. Also, shot selection can be an issue for Harris at times, especially forcing his jumper when defended well. On defense, Harris can have problems with his lateral movement, and I wonder how well he would defend quicker guards at the next level. He has a good understanding of the game and should find ways to adjust, but he still needs to get quicker.
Jordan McRae, Tennessee, Guard, 6’6, 185
(2012-13) 15.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 42.3 FG%, 77.1 FT%, 35.5 3FG%
McRae capped off as season as one of the SEC’s top scorers by taking part in the Lebron James and Kevin Durant Skills Academies this summer, raising hopes as to what he will provide the Volunteers this year. McRae is a versatile scorer, capable of knocking down mid and long-range jumpers as well as using his length well to create scoring opportunities around the basket. He has a quick, high release on his jumper and his range is already close to NBA distance. With good size at the 2, he is capable of getting good looks fairly easily. McRae is a good defender, capable of guarding multiple positions and using his length well to disrupt passing lanes. He is fundamentally sound on defense, staying low and moving laterally, while also doing a very good job being aware of what’s going on around him.
What he needs to show this season: Shot selection is a major issue for McRae, both settling for jumpers when guarded well and not being aggressive looking to get to the basket. Also, McRae needs to work on becoming a better ballhandler, as well as using his dribble to create space for his jumper. McRae has the athleticism to finish well around the rim, but he needs to not shy from contact. While McRae is a good defender, he has to watch not getting turned around when guarding off the ball, as well doing a better job knowing who he can pressure with the ball and when it is right to do so.
Omar Oraby, USC, Center, 7’2, 270
(2012-13) 6.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 60.9 FG%, 58.8 FT% (14.6 minutes per game)
After 2 years at Rice, Oraby was given a waiver to play immediately at USC last year, but his contributions were minimal. A massive presence in the lane, Oraby’s biggest contributions come from setting screens on the perimeter or protecting the rim on defense. He can be an effective scorer right around the basket, though his actual post moves are limited. Oraby does a good job using his body defending the post and sealing off space to get rebounds. While he doesn’t get up quickly to block shots, he does a good job extending and going straight up after the ball. Oraby also gets up and down the floor well for his size
What he needs to show this season: There is so much about Oraby’s game that needs significant improvement. On offense, he needs to do a much better job using his size, especially his lower body, to battle for position in the post. Oraby also has to work on becoming more fluid with his footwork, develop some reliable post moves, and work on his shooting touch out to 10 feet. Oraby’s footwork can also improve on defense. He needs to learn how to defend in pick-and-roll situations, hedging and recovering, instead of dropping straight back to defend after the screen. This often leaves the ballhandler plenty of room to get a good shot off. Oraby hasn’t logged many minutes over 3 years, and I’m not exactly sure what new USC coach Andy Enfield’s plans are for him, as he doesn’t seem suited to Enfield’s style of play. Still, at 7’2, NBA teams are going to have interest and Oraby needs to show that he can handle some of the basic parts of the game.
Jerrelle Benimon, Towson, Forward, 6’8, 245
(2012-13) 17.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.9 bpg, 53.3 FG%, 65.4 FT%, 40.8 3FG%
Benimon is coming off a huge season, his first at Towson after transferring after 2 years at Georgetown. An old-school power forward, Benimon uses his body well to establish position around the basket, and he has a nice shooting touch and footwork to go with his strong body. He is capable of knocking down open mid-range jumpers and in certain match-ups, can take his man off the dribble over short distances. Benimon is an active rebounder on both ends of the floor, and he does a great job anticipating where the ball will go and getting to the spot quickly. It seems that Benimon’s time at Georgetown also taught him about how valuable court spacing can be, and you can see him finding open spots in the defense and making some good passes, especially out of the posts.
What he needs to show this season: As I mentioned, Benimon plays well as a prototypical 4, though with the game changing a bit, it will be important for Benimon to show that he can do a better job guarding on the perimeter. He needs to work on both his positioning and his lateral speed/movement. On the offensive end, Benimon does a great job establishing himself in the post, but I would like to see him do more on the left side of the court, and do some more work with his left hand, both shooting and handling the ball.
Bryce Cotton, Providence, Guard, 6’1, 165
(2011-12) 19.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 43.7 FG%, 79.8 FT%, 36.4 3FG%, 2.0:1 A/TO
Last year’s leading scorer in the Big East, Cotton established himself as one of the top scorers in the nation. He is a very good perimeter shooter, with good range and a quick release. He also does a good job using screens and his dribble to create space to get his shot off against taller defenders. He is an above-average ballhandler and has a good enough first step to get past his defender, though he does have some trouble finishing once he hits the help defense. Cotton is also strong in transition, capable of pushing the ball himself or spotting up behind the 3-point line. On defense, Cotton has good speed and is capable of pressuring the ballhandler or jumping passing lanes, though he falls easily for ball fakes.
What he needs to show this season: We see a lot of these players every years – undersized 2’s whose best hope at the next level is to show the ability to play point guard. It wasn’t much of a concern for Cotton the past few years, because he played alongside one of the best distributors in the country in Vincent Council. However, by the looks of the Providence roster, Cotton should end up taking over Council’s role. The big question is he capable? Council has shown the ability to get into the lane and make some passes once he draws the defense, but he will need to show that he can make proper reads more consistently. Also, more than 50% of his shots last year were from 3, and he will need to find a balance between his desire to score and his need to set up his teammates. Cotton will also need to work on his defense, including working on his positioning, reacting to his man, and getting through screens.
See Part 1 here – McDermott, Bachynski, Fair, Joe Jackson, Payne
See Part 2 here – Craft, Sheehey, Burton, Alec Brown, Patric Young
See Part 3 here – Russ Smith, Kendall Williams, Sykes, Moser, Kilpatrick
See Part 4 here – Cory Jefferson, Saddler, Dwight Powell, Napier, Early
See Part 5 here- CJ Wilcox, Releford, Melvin, Josh Smith, De’mon Brooks
See Part 6 here – McKie, Josh Davis, Davante Gardner, Edwin, Andre Dawkins
See Part 7 here – Javon McCrea, Tarik Black, DeAndre Kane, Roberto Nelson, Armand
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