NCAA Weekly Performers-- 1/3/2007, Part Two

NCAA Weekly Performers-- 1/3/2007, Part Two
Jan 04, 2007, 01:49 am
Continuing with part two of our NCAA Weekly Performers series, we take a look at Kyle Visser of Wake Forest, as well as Taj Gibson and Nick Young of USC.

NCAA Weekly Performers-- 1/2/2007, Part One

Kyle Visser, 6-11, Senior, Center, Wake Forest
27 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks, 10/20 FG, 7/8 FT, 0 assists, 3 turnovers


Jonathan Givony

Possibly the most improved player in the country up until this point in the season, it’s stunning to see the type of bulk Kyle Visser has managed to add to his frame over the past 8 months or so, let alone what that newfound weight has done for his all-around game. From a frail, soft and often underachieving backup, who lost his confidence quickly when things didn’t go his way, we now find a 255 pound man who has improved his athleticism dramatically, is enjoying taking and dishing out contact, and is producing at an astounding rate—including a career high 27 point, 14 rebound outing this past week against South Florida.

Now that he’s no longer a string-bean, the reason for his appeal seems quite obvious on first glance. Visser is a legit 6-11, and possesses a well-proportioned frame that seemingly should be able to add plenty more weight. He has very good hands and excellent touch around the basket, and surely isn’t a stiff when it comes to his athleticism and reflexes. Not freakishly explosive, Visser is still a pretty mobile guy. He runs the court extremely well, and is able to get off the floor to challenge shots or finish on his own. When double-teamed in the post, he doesn’t force the issue and knows how to find the open man, and generally shows an excellent attitude on the court and a pretty nice feel for the game, as you might expect from a two-time member of the ACC All-Academic team. As mentioned already, he’s not afraid to mix it up even one bit and looked very aggressive on both ends in the three games we’ve seen of his (Bucknell, Vanderbilt, DePaul).

As you would hope from a player his size, Visser does most of his damage with his back to the basket. He seals off his man well, and is big and strong enough to establish deep position in the post. Once he catches the ball thanks to his excellent hands, he has terrific touch around the hoop to convert from difficult positions, even high off the glass—as evidenced by the outrageous 65% he shoots from the field. He knows how to move off the ball and cut to the basket for easy finishes, and his teammates definitely look to get him the ball in a position to score. His footwork in the post is definitely improvable, the mechanics of his jump-hook need work, he could possibly finish a little stronger around the rim, and he at times lacks the balance and a strong enough base to make his consistently take advantage of his shorter matchups, but these all seem like things that a 21-year old late blooming big man can and should improve on.

In terms of a face-up game, Visser doesn’t show much if at all in this area. His shooting mechanics from mid-range are not very good and he doesn’t have any real ball-handling skills either from the mid-post or out on the perimeter. He shoots only 60% from the free throw line, and this hasn’t translated into being able to knock down mid-range jumpers from the footage we saw this year or last.

As a rebounder, he’s aggressive and fundamentally sound in the way he boxes out, and therefore is fairly prolific—averaging 9 per game on the season. He isn’t quite quick or explosive enough to go out of his area, but the ones he does capture as a position rebounder leave a good impression.

Defensively, he gets baited into cheap fouls at times by being overly aggressive in his rotations. Slashing guards will enter the lane looking for contact, and Visser will often give them exactly what they want by leaving his feet prematurely and drawing a foul. Considering his importance to Wake Forest’s squad this year (his teammates are young, incredibly inconsistent and are for the most part poor decision makers), that means he’s often forced into playing matador defense just to avoid tacking on fouls and leaving for the bench, something that would kill his team’s already slim chances of winning any given game. He is able to take advantage of his size and relative leaping ability to block your occasional shot, but this doesn’t seem like something that will translate over to the NBA considering the frequency in which he does it against poor competition. What was interesting to see was the way he sticks his hands in to poke away in-bounds passes and come up with steals…something that confirms the fact that he has pretty good awareness on the court and the reflexes needed to react quickly to things around him.

Nearly halfway through the regular season, we’re still struggling with the decision of whether to jump on the bandwagon 100% or not. Visser has put up solid numbers against some decent teams—DePaul, Georgia, Bucknell, Air Force, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech for example, but all of those teams can’t be considered anything less than extremely weak in their frontcourt. Visser looks extremely comfortable dominating the 6-8/6-9 centers he’s been facing, but we can’t wait to see how he does playing against some legit ACC big men. Sean Williams comes to town in exactly a week. Josh McRoberts, Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright follow, as well as Ekene Ibekwe and others later on. If Visser can keep up this type of production through the ACC regular season, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him land himself a spot in the first round of this year’s draft. His team isn’t doing him any favors with just how flat out awful they’ve been this year, so winning some games in the ACC wouldn’t exactly hurt either.

Taj Gibson, 6-9, Freshman, Power Forward, USC
22 points, 10 rebounds, 8/11 FG, 6/7 FT, 2 blocks, 41 minutes


Jonathan Watters

As if the Pac-10 needed another impact freshman, it is clear that Tim Floyd's first major impact recruit isn't going to be OJ Mayo, but rather current newcomer Taj Gibson. Gibson quickly took over as USC's feature big man after arriving on campus and has been putting up double-doubles consistently since the beginning of the season. His physical presence around the basket gives the Trojans an unexpected new dimension and Gibson could be the difference between NIT and NCAA this year for Floyd.

Gibson isn't an overwhelming prospect physically, checking in at a lean 6'9. At the moment he certainly fits into that tweener category in terms of NBA potential, with a skinny frame more suited for SF at the next level, but a playing style and skill level that is going to keep him in the paint for a while in college. While Gibson doesn't have a lot of room to add bulk on his frame, he makes up for it with a ferocious, reckless manner around the basket. He is a phenomenal rebounder, showing great anticipation and the ability to fight through contact for loose balls. He is certainly athletic enough to make the move to the perimeter someday, but for now he can dominate the glass with his quick leaping ability.

While Gibson's game doesn't shout go-to scorer by any stretch, he displays a solid understanding of when to look for his own shot and a well-rounded offensive game. He can use his quickness from the mid-post, knock down the midrange jumper when it is there for him, as well as do some damage directly on the low block. This isn't a player who needs a large number of looks every game, but will find ways to contribute in the scoring column nonetheless.

Washington's heralded frontcourt found out about Gibson the hard way, as the freshman was physically dominant down the stretch in USC's overtime win. He consistently beat Husky big men to loose balls and rebounds, almost single-handedly keeping the Trojans in the game at times with numerous crucial hustle plays. He finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds, but it honestly felt like Gibson grabbed 10 boards in the first half.

Taj Gibson doesn't have a whole lot of obvious NBA upside at the moment, but is a prospect who is playing at a very high level and has a lot of time to further develop his game. Already 21 years old, he can’t really be compared equally to other 18 or 19 year-old players in this freshman class, but he still has a nice upside to continue to round out his game. He understands what plenty of talented big men never do, and that is how to play aggressively without playing out of control. Gibson has three years to develop a perimeter game, and considering his frame and athleticism, it is easy to see him ending up as a starting-quality NBA forward someday.

Nick Young, 6-6, Shooting Guard, Junior, USC
25 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 8/16 FG, 8/10 FT


Mike Schmidt

After a solid sophomore year in which he scored 17 points per game, Nick Young returned for his junior year and has so far played very well. His scoring is down, but there are a lot of reasons to like what Young and USC are doing this season. In a double overtime win against Washington, his strong play not only helped his draft stock, but led his team to an impressive overtime win against a stacked Washington team.

Young has a good body for the NBA, as well as legit size for the 2-guard position. He is athletic enough for the next level, and can put his physical attributes to use on both ends of the floor. He also possesses long arms, and uses them effectively on the defensive end.

When it comes to scoring, Young is good at pretty much everything, but doesn’t stand out in any one area. He has improved his three point shooting percentage to over 42% this season, but he only makes about one per game, which is not exactly the best sample size. Young has a good first step, and the ability to finish inside around the basket or pull up smoothly from mid-range, so he’s always a threat to create his own shot. He also has the ability to get to the line with some frequency. His free throw shooting percentage is down from last year, but Young’s shooting stroke produces plenty of arch and spin on the ball.

Against Washington, Young’s all-around ability was on display for much of the game. He did most of his damage slashing to the hoop against the solid defense of Quincy Pondexter. Young made 8 of his 10 free throw attempts in the game, and used his ability to hang in the air and control the ball to create the free throw attempts. Despite starting off slow, his jumper looked very solid, as did his defense. During both overtime periods, Young was responsible for making some huge shots from both the field and the three point line. Without these clutch shots, there is no way USC would have pulled this game out.

Young has solid all-around ability, but we’re still wondering what exactly his bread and butter is. He doesn’t stick out as the type of player with all-star potential at the next level, and he still hasn’t quite carved out a niche for himself as a go-to guy at the college level. Still, Young is the type of player that GMs will have a hard time passing up when searching for a complete role player. To best help his draft stock, Young will need to help USC be competitive in the Pac 10 for the rest of the season, and preferably make and win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament. If he can do this and get his free throw shooting back to where it was last season, he will have a shot at landing in the first round if he decides to come out.

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