NCAA Tournament Performers, 3/26/09-- Part Two

NCAA Tournament Performers, 3/26/09-- Part Two
Mar 26, 2009, 01:42 am
After a full weekend of NCAA tournament games, we continue to analyze what we just saw, digging deep into a select number of prospects that deserve a closer look based off what they showed in March and during the regular season. JaJuan Johnson, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu and Sherron Collins are up next.

Evan Turner, 6-7, Sophomore, SG/SF, Ohio State
17.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4 assists, 3.5 turnovers, 1.8 steals, 50% FG, 44% 3P, 79% FT

Scott Nadler

Despite a disappointing first round exit at the hands of the feisty Siena Saints, our opinion of Ohio State's star guard Evan Turner remains unchanged. After a near triple double (25 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) in the biggest game of his young career against an experienced and tournament tested team, Turner showed great maturity and the ability to lead, with the defeat notwithstanding. This performance should not have come as a surprise to those who have been keeping a close eye on Turner, as he had an outstanding sophomore season and was recognized with first team all Big Ten honors.

Turner is one of only two players in the country to average at least 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists a game (Lester Hudson being the other), which is a great testament to his versatility and superb skill set. He can handle the ball, look over the defense to make good passes and also get to the basket virtually whenever he pleases. With an impressive 6'7 frame, it's not out of the question for Turner to play at least two and maybe even 3 positions at the next level.

The best part of Turner's game is in his ability to attack the basket. He can get there in a number of ways, whether it's beating his man off the dribble, or curling tightly off a screen. With that said, his go to move has to be his spin move. He's gotten better and better at this to a point where it is extremely difficult to defend. With the combination of his size and speed, coupled with his high basketball IQ and ability to change speeds, a move like this, if improved even further, can be very effective in the NBA.

This great knack for slashing to the basket has translated to an extraordinary 7.8 free throw attempts per 40 pace adjusted – and there is still room to grow. He's improved with using his upper body strength to draw contact, but he still resorts to floaters and in-between shots at times, when he could get all the way to the rim. This isn't too concerning, as the tear drop is necessary for his game. His improvement at the free throw line cannot be overlooked either - converting on almost 10 percentage points higher from the charity stripe than a year ago.

Turner's shot is still a work in progress. He displays good mechanics with a nice follow through, although his release is still slow and mechanical and lacking fluidity. His shot is more natural off the bounce than it is on catch and shoot opportunities and it's clear that he's more comfortable on his pull-ups – attempting double the amount of shots off the dribble than on the catch. He does shoot a respectable 42% off the catch however, albeit on a small sample size since he only attempts those when left wide open. His range is at about 15-17 feet right now, and if there is anything for him to improve upon this off-season, it will be just that. If he can develop a three point shot, he will be an even tougher matchup than he already is.

Due to injuries and a lack of depth in the backcourt for the Buckeyes this season, Turner was accountable for 25% of Ohio State's possessions this year – a major responsibility and a big reason for his 3.5 turnovers a game. Considering how often the ball is in his hands, that turnover rate isn't horrendous, but it's still an issue that has plagued his short career, and it's clearly something he needs to improve upon.

On the defensive end, he continues to show great promise. He's very keen to what's going happening on this end of the floor (1.8 steals) and appears to be into every defensive possession, whether it's in zone or man. His length and work ethic make him a bit of pest for opposing wings. Furthermore, he's a physical defender which makes him even more of an asset since he can defend bigger players.

Based on the comments he's made, it appears as if Turner will be returning to Columbus for his junior year, which should make all Buckeye fans ecstatic. He's clearly a high character guy and a pivotal part of their program in many ways. He wants the ball in late game situations and he also plays with a bit of chip on his shoulder. If he can put in the work to improve his outside shot and learn how to cut down on his turnovers, look for Turner to really blossom onto the national scene next season in what figures to be a competitive and up and coming Big Ten conference.

Al-Farouq Aminu, 6'8, SF/PF, Freshman, Wake Forest
12.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.2 blocks, 2.6 turnovers, 52% FG, 67% FT, 18% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

With Wake Forest's season coming to a disappointingly early end, it's time to take another look at Al-Farouq Aminu, especially with the NBA door knocking. Not much has changed for Aminu since we last looked at him in January, but a few more observations can be made.

On the offensive end, Aminu's skill set is still pretty raw, where he relies mostly on his tremendous physical tools to get the job done. Aminu excels at getting open without the ball, showing a high motor and doing a good job of finding ways to put his tools to use, attacking the basket in transition, on the offensive glass, and on off-ball cuts. At the basket, in addition to his excellent athleticism and length, Aminu shows pretty good body control and coordination, taking advantage of his tools to finish around and over defenders.

Things aren't quite as easy for Aminu when he's attacking off the dribble, however, as in addition to his lack of advanced ball-handling, his footwork and decision-making aren't up to par yet either, which can be seen in his 2.6 turnovers per game. His handle is too high off the ground and he lacks great control of the ball, looking shaky at times even when not making hard changes of direction. He's usually able to compensate for this in the open court, where his speed makes up, but in the half court things don't turn out as well.

Aminu's jump shot is also still a problem area, as he's hit for just 18% from behind the arc on the season, and isn't much better from mid-range or even the free-throw line, where he's shooting just 67%. As a set shooter, Aminu's form isn‘t terrible, as he has a solid base and a high release in spite of the push motion in his mechanics, though he is very inconsistent, and his mechanics fall apart when he's contested or shooting on the move.

Defensively, Aminu is still lacking in the fundamentals department, but his attentiveness and effort level have been impressive, and that combined with his length and athleticism make him an effective defender at this level. In spite of not getting much flex in his legs, keeping a high center of gravity, Aminu is able to stay with most of his covers on the perimeter, a testament to his great lateral quickness. He's been switched onto everyone from point guards to centers over the course of the season, not looking much out of his element, and if he can improve his fundamental base, he has the potential to be an immensely versatile and effective defender.

Word we're hearing is that Aminu is heavily considering entering the draft, however no decision has been made yet, and it's certainly possible he returns to school. Despite his underdeveloped skill set, Aminu is a likely lottery pick due to his outstanding potential, and it'd be hard to fault him for passing that opportunity up. Most would agree another year in school would be best for his long-term development, especially if he wants to make the transition to being a full-time small forward.

JaJuan Johnson, 6-10, Sophomore, PF/C, Purdue
13.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, .6 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 2.1 blocks, 54% FG, 74% FT, 27 minutes

Jonathan Givony

When we first wrote about JaJuan Johnson following his freshman season, in which he averaged just 5.4 points on 42% shooting in 16.6 minutes, many may have wondered how he even qualified as an NBA draft prospect. Fast forward to the end of his sophomore season, and it's a lot easier to see why, as he's playing 10 more minutes per game, has more than doubled his scoring average, is shooting 12% better from the field, and has seen his blocks, rebounds, free throw attempt and assist rates rise—even on a per-40 minute basis—while his foul rate has dropped. Just to make sure that the rest of the country caught on, Johnson exceeded all expectations by dropping 22 points on the Washington Huskies (to go along with 4 blocks) this past weekend in a very tough second round NCAA tournament victory, and now is headed to the Sweet 16 to take on Hasheem Thabeet and UConn.

Johnson's offensive role expanded significantly this past season—going from shouldering a paltry 8% of Purdue's possessions to a much more normal 17% this season. Lately he's become even more important for them. While he's still at his best cutting off the ball, running the floor in transition, crashing the offensive glass, and finishing pick and roll plays—thanks to his excellent length and athleticism--he's become much more of a threat creating offense with his back to the basket in the post this season. His frame is still painfully underdeveloped, but he's become much more adept at making quick, confident moves in the paint, to get off his turnaround jumper or jump-hook shots—which he shows terrific touch on. His very high release point (shooting the ball from way above his head) allows him to get his shot off even while being bodied up intensely, and he seems to have a great knack for just throwing the ball in the basket in difficult situations, which may hint at exciting things to come in the future.

Where Johnson may have improved the most is in his ability to face the basket. He shows comfortable range out to 16-18 feet, and does not hesitate at all to attempt jumpers when left open on the perimeter. He still needs to improve his ball-handling skills, but you can see that there is some potential here as well. It's important that Johnson continues to improve on his perimeter skills, since he likely won't be much of a factor on the interior in the NBA with his lack of strength—you can already see how he struggles to establish position inside and has a hard time finishing through contact around the rim.

Defensively, Johnson has the length and athleticism to be a real factor as a shot-blocker at the collegiate level, and he currently ranks in the top-20 in this category per-40 minutes pace-adjusted. Because of how nimble his feet are, he's also able to step out and hedge screens fairly effectively, showing solid lateral quickness in the process. His lack of strength is a real problem against relatively productive big men, though, as he has a hard not giving up deep position in the paint, and can be backed down fairly easily in post-up situations. This would make him a pretty big liability at the higher levels of basketball, particularly the NBA.

On top of that, Johnson is an extremely poor rebounder, ranking amongst the worst players in college basketball at his position in the NCAA. His poor frame is obviously an issue here, but he also doesn't show a great deal of hustle or toughness going outside of his area and cleaning the glass.

As talented a prospect as Johnson is, he still is very much a raw player who needs time to gain experience and continue to develop his all-around game. His lack of strength is a serious hindrance on both ends of the floor, and would make it nearly impossible for him to see minutes in the NBA until he addresses that problem in a major way. With that said, Johnson could be on the verge of a breakout season at the collegiate level next year, and will be a very interesting prospect to keep an eye on as a junior.

Sherron Collins, 5'11, Point Guard, Junior, Kansas
18.9 Points, 2.9 Rebounds, 5.0 Assists, 3.2 Turnovers, 1.1 Steals, 42.7% FG, 37.5% 3FG, 80.0% FT

Matt Williams

After spending two seasons playing behind Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson, Sherron Collins finally took the reins of a young Jayhawks squad looking to retool after their National Championship run. Despite questions about his work ethic stemming from some early-season conditioning issues, Collins was just what the doctor ordered for the Jayhaks, leading them to a surprising 27-7 record and a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After his excellent performances against North Dakota State and Dayton in the first two rounds, it seems like an ideal time to take a look at how Collins has performed in a feature role this season.

Collins has come a long way since the last time we checked in on him. After seeing his role (and his production) remain stagnant during his first two seasons in Lawrence, Collins has almost doubled the amount of possessions he's using each game, nearly doubling his numbers across the board. Doing a lot more ball handling and playmaking than he had in past seasons, the short, but well-built point guard showed that he is capable of doing more than just changing the pace of games.

The development of his mid-range game may be the biggest reason he's been successful in that endeavor. Earlier in his career, Collins wasn't terribly efficient as a jump shooter when he was forced to put the ball on the floor, but he's become a very reliable shooter off the dribble this season. He now complements his ability to create separation with smoother perimeter footwork and reliable mechanics that have come a long way in the last two years.

While his jump shot has improved in some ways, this season has also exposed some of his weaknesses as a finisher. Though Collins is completely capable of turning the corner and getting to the rim, his lack of height limits his scoring efficiency in traffic. In the past, he was able to pick and choose his spots and be more opportunistic when attacking the basket, but with defenses keying in on him, he's had a tough time scoring with defenders bearing down on him. At the next level, Collins will need to continue honing his perimeter shooting ability to offset the difficulties he'll have scoring at the rim.

As a point guard, Collins shows the explosiveness and ball handling ability to make an impact, but is a bit too assertive for his own good with his dribble and simply isn't a pure point guard. Though he's amongst the top assist-men in our database, he's also amongst the most turnover prone. His numbers as a passer aren't staggering when compared to the players he's competing with for draft position, and are highly representative of the fact that Collins is a scorer in a point guard's body. Head Coach Bill Self has looked to Collins for point production, but he has shown some impressive flashes of point guard ability during the tournament, especially on the pick and roll and in drive and dish situations. He may have a scorer's mentality, but in the NBA, he'll likely be asked to take fewer trips deep into the lane and focus more on orchestrating offensive sets.

On the defensive end, Collins doesn't utilize his athleticism as well as he could –a fault that became abundantly obvious when Ben Woodside beat him off the dribble repeatedly in their opening-round matchup. Despite having all the physical tools to be at least a passable defender, Collins doesn't always show the greatest intensity, seeming to merely go through the motions on many possessions, but being a somewhat effective defender when he wants to be. Given his lack of size and only average lateral quickness, improved attention to detail on the defensive end could be very beneficial to his stock.

With the end of the season just around the corner, Collins is in position to toss his hat into the draft-ring, but would probably be well served returning to school. He has all the makings of a future NBA player, proving to be very productive on the highest levels of college hoops, but he is still an undersized shooting guard that lacks a defensive presence. With essentially everyone on the roster returning to school, Collins could boost his stock significantly next season when he can do more play-making and not have to carry his team. Whether he decides to explore that option remains to be seen, and may not even be an issue if he continues to step up with big performances in the coming weeks.

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