NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/4/10

NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/4/10
Feb 04, 2010, 01:27 am
Updated scouting reports on West Virginia's Devin Ebanks, Duke's Kyle Singler, Memphis' Wesley Witherspoon and UC Davis' Mark Payne.

Devin Ebanks, 6-9, Sophomore, SF/PF, West Virginia
11.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.1 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks, 43% FG, 12% 3P, 82% FT

Jonathan Givony

With the college basketball season nearing its most important stretch, it’s difficult not to feel somewhat disappointed when appraising the progress made by one of the more scrutinized prospects in the sophomore class, West Virginia’s Devin Ebanks.

Starting off the season suspended for his team’s first three games for undisclosed reasons (reportedly academic), and then hurting his hand in early December in an unconfirmed fist-fight with teammate Truck Bryant, Ebanks has been very up and down all year long both on and off the court.

This culminated in an extremely underwhelming performance in 2010 thus far, being able to hit double-digit scoring in just 4 of his last 10 games. While his team is nonetheless surging at 18-3 and is currently ranked in the top-10 of the various polls, Ebanks’ off-court issues and disappearance in Big East play has to be giving NBA decision makers cause for concern when assessing his draft stock for this upcoming spring.

Ebanks’ numbers have mostly stagnated or regressed slightly when comparing with last season. His scoring production, rebounding, shooting percentages, free throw attempts and turnovers are all pretty much the same, while his assists and free throw attempts are down.

Considering the spike in production most college players see between their freshman and sophomore seasons, and the fact that Ebanks is already older than some members of his class (he was expelled from Bishop Loughlin high school and forced to redo his junior year), this can’t be viewed as a positive development. His skinny frame doesn't look much better than it did last year either.

The impression you get from watching Ebanks largely depends on the game in which you catch him, as his energy level and assertiveness seems to fluctuate drastically for reasons that are still unknown.

We’ve discussed Ebanks’ limitations as a half-court player in a fair amount of depth in previous reports, and there’s not much new to report on this front. He’s 3/26 on the season from beyond the arc, and has not hit a 3-pointer in over a month, which tells you all you need to know about where he stands as a perimeter shooter at this point in time.

His ball-handling skills remain porous, particularly with his left hand, as he struggles creating his own shot against set defenses, and thus does not get to the free throw line at a great rate.

The incredibly slow pace that West Virginia plays at (they are the 288th fastest paced team in college basketball according to doesn’t help matters much, as Ebanks is far better off running the floor in the transition where his length and athleticism really allow him to shine. The fact that he remains a willing passer despite the increased expectations that have been put on his shoulders this year is a good sign, and you regularly see him finding teammates for easy baskets with nice passes in the half-court.

Where Ebanks continues to excel is on the offensive glass, as his physical tools and the aggressiveness in which he plays allows him to make a major impact at the collegiate level when he’s truly dialed in.

Defensively, Ebanks is effective guarding small forwards thanks to his combination of size and length, even if laterally he’s not the quickest player around. He does a good job of contesting shots out on the perimeter, and doesn’t have much of an issue with his lack of bulk when being posted up by stronger collegiate big man, due to the toughness he brings to the floor. Ebanks puts a great deal of pride into his work on this end of the floor, and you’ll regularly see him switching between guards and big men over the course of the game. That’s the type of versatility he has, and this manifests itself in his ability to generate extra possessions for his team in the form of steals, blocks and rebounds.

All in all, this season hasn’t gone exactly the way Ebanks may have hoped thus far, even if there is still plenty of time to turn things around. He’ll need to do that in order to give his draft stock a boost, but we should keep in mind that he didn’t really get going in a major way last season until March rolled around either, which means there may still be hope. NBA teams will want to look at his entire body of work when deciding how he stacks up with some of the numerous other combo forwards in this draft, but a deep and productive NCAA tournament run could benefit him greatly.

Kyle Singler, 6-8, Junior, SF/PF, Duke
16.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 1.3 steals, 41% FG, 33% 3FG, 77% FT

Kyle Nelson

After entering the NCAA ranks as one of the most heralded players in an incredibly deep and talented recruiting class, junior combo-forward Kyle Singler has finally emerged as arguably the most important player on Duke’s roster.

From a scouting perspective, however, Singler has yet to reach the potential his lofty recruiting rankings indicated and does not appear to have improved all that much from last year, even taking somewhat of a step back in the minds of some. He continues to play a similar role, that of a tweener who is not quite sure of his role and is still in search of a consistent jump shot, rather than a complete perimeter scorer who can carry a team on his back.

At 6’8, Singler still has good size for a stretch-forward, combo-forward, or small forward at the next level. Though he has filled out his frame nicely since his freshman season in Durham, he lacks great length and explosiveness, which will not ease his transition into the next level.

On the offensive end, Singler has regressed since last season, but nonetheless displays the talent that made him an interesting prospect as a freshman and sophomore. Over a third of his field goal attempts come from beyond the arc, but he is shooting a career low 33% from that range, and a disappointing 46% on 2-pointers.

His uncharacteristically bad shooting percentages are curious considering his fluid mechanics and quick release. Even though he does not get a tremendous amount of elevation, his size and fundamentals should allow him to be a more reliable threat from beyond the arc.

His shot selection does not make things easy for him, though, as most of his attempts are heavily contested. While Duke’s lack of perimeter depth, a somewhat undefined role, and the excessive minutes (35 per game) he sees all likely contribute to his offensive inefficiency, his inability to consistently make shots hurts his NBA potential severely.

Inside of the arc, Singler is clearly a skilled player, though whether or not these abilities will translate to the next level is still up in the air. His average first step will not do him favors as a slasher at the next level. He is not a great finisher either, lacking the length and explosiveness around the basket to utilize his size and strength.

Improving his handle would help him in this area, as he needs to work on dribbling closer to the ground and not losing the ball when he drives in traffic. As we have written before, Singler’s mid-range game is very solid at this point, and he is able to create his own shot against most collegiate defenders. He is one of the few big men in the country who can score from anywhere on the floor, the type of versatility that makes him a potential match up threat at the next level and certainly puts a silver lining on an otherwise disappointing season.

Singler’s defensive potential at the next level is somewhat questionable. He has proven to be a solid man defender for Duke when he puts his mind to it, but his lack of length and lateral quickness already shows up when defending college players on the perimeter, let alone NBA caliber athletes. Singler is grabbing 8.2 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, which is solid considering his size and Duke’s deep frontcourt and, despite a slight drop from last year, his competitiveness and willingness to mix it up on the glass should be duly noted by NBA types.

Singler may be kicking himself for not even attempting to test the NBA draft waters last year, as there is a very good chance that he would have been a first round pick. This year, his draft position is less certain. While this season has been somewhat of a disappointment thus far, it is not too late for Singler to reemerge as a viable NBA player. After all, it was not too long ago that Singler was considered to be one of college basketball’s elite talents.

With big tests remaining against Georgia Tech and North Carolina, not to mention in the NCAA tournament, Singler will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself on the big stage. He will almost surely test the NBA draft waters this summer and if he can find his game again, and especially snap out of his shooting funk, there is no doubt that Singler can work his way back into a legitimate first round draft pick.

Wesley Witherspoon, 6-8, Sophomore, Small Forward, Memphis
11.1 Points, 4.2 Rebounds, 1.4 Assists, 1.9 Turnovers, 1.4 Steals, 1 Block, 47% FG, 45% 3P, 76% FT

Matthew Williams

After being named the 6th man of the year in Conference USA last season, Wesley Witherspoon appears to have turned the corner in 2010. With the departure of both Tyreke Evans and John Calipari, Witherspoon has performed admirably for the 15-6 Tigers. A do-it-all-type that remains inconsistent as he continues to mature and gain experience, Witherspoon has shown more than enough versatility to garner NBA draft attention and is more valuable to Josh Pastner’s young team than his statistics suggest.

A key to Witherspoon’s ability to make an impact in multiple areas lies in his excellent physical profile for the college game. Standing 6’8 with long arms and possessing decent leaping ability, good quickness and nice fluidity, Witherspoon’s consistent energy allows him to maximize his body on both ends of the floor. A long strider who appears to be more smooth than explosive, the Georgia native needs to continue adding weight to make a smooth transition to the next level, as his skinny frame would be more problematic pitted against better athletes.

Last time we checked in on Witherspoon, he was coming off a season where he shot a meager 21.4% from beyond the arc and seemed to be having trouble shooting with ideal rhythm. A few months later, we find him ranked amongst the top shooters in the country in terms of 3-point percentage at a stellar 45%.

Taking 5-times as many threes as he did last season, Witherspoon clearly put a lot of work into his shot last summer and is benefitting from the open looks he receives while playing the power forward position. He no longer shoots on the way down, and has developed a level of comfort and repeatability in his form that makes him a tremendous threat in catch and shoot situations from beyond the arc.

Though he doesn’t stick to his form quite as well when closely contested, Witherspoon displays a somewhat streaky pull up jumper that could be a tool for him down the road if he learns to maintain his balance and not lean as frequently. Considering how poorly he shot as a freshman, and the fact that he’s taken only 50 attempts on the season in 21 games, it will be interesting to see how Witherspoon continues to shoot the ball down the stretch, as the improvement he’s made is nothing short of remarkable.

When putting the ball on the floor, Witherspoon is outrageously predictable. Despite shooting with his right hand, he drives left almost exclusively. Capable of slashing with straight line drives to the rim, Witherspoon is able to exploit slower power forwards with his quickness, but isn’t as successful against comparably gifted athletes. Not a terribly flashy ball handler or passer once on the move, Witherspoon continues to be a fairly turnover prone player.

If he can’t get all the way to the rim with his initial drive, Witherspoon hasn’t developed the advanced ball-handling moves to create separation and get to the basket, resulting in some questionable drives, passes, and short-range attempts into traffic. Similar observations can made about his play on the block, where he isn’t as effective when he can’t simply shot-fake and attack.

Defensively, Witherspoon is both productive statistically and effective within his role. Using his length to get in the passing lanes, block shots, and bother shooters when closing out, Witherspoon shows the ability to get down in a stance and move his feet when defending the perimeter. Though he isn’t the quickest player laterally, his rangy frame and ability to anticipate make him a capable one-on-one defender.

While he certainly makes some impressive plays surprising shooters with his length at the rim, he still has quite a bit of room for improvement. Witherspoon is excessively foul prone on a per-minute basis, being very aggressive using his body when his man puts the ball on the floor. Additionally, he tends to ball-watch a bit too much, leaving huge cushions when the ball is skipped and failing to close his man out due to just how far he’ll commit to help his teammates. If he can shore up his help side rotations and add some bulk to his frame to help defend the post, Witherspoon could become a very high quality defensive player.

On the whole, Witherspoon is a very interesting player due to his size and versatility. With that said, he’s been extremely inconsistent all season long. Some nights he gets to the line at will and is a major presence defensively, while in others he lacks focus and is nowhere to be found. As it stands, he’s made some excellent strides in his game, but still has a lot of work to do to polish his skill set for the next level.

With the talent Memphis has coming in this summer, Witherspoon may be tempted to think about entering his name in the draft, as its unlikely he will play as big a role in Memphis’ offense with the likes of Joe Jackson and Will Barton in the fold. Regardless, an additional year in school could be extremely beneficial in the long-term, as he still has plenty of maturing to do both on and off the court and clearly isn’t ready to play much of a role in the NBA. His situation is one to keep a close eye on, as his play late in the year will have a big impact on his perception headed into draft season.

Mark Payne, 6’7, PG/SG/SF, Junior, UC Davis
16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.6 steals, 2.6 turnovers, 54% FG, 44% 3PT, 82% FT

Joseph Treutlein

After having a very limited scoring role his first two years at UC Davis, Mark Payne has upped his production significantly as a junior, taking on a much larger role in the offense and looking pretty good in the process, showing an expanded skill level and maintaining good scoring efficiency (64% TS%).

Not ever showing any propensity for three-point shooting prior to this season (only 2 made threes on 16 attempts last season), Payne has done a nice job adding in some range on his shot this season, making 15 of 34 attempts on the season. While he isn’t taking or making a high volume of threes at all, he has very nice form when spotting up and is hitting for high efficiency, while his excellent free-throw shooting (82%) suggests this probably isn’t a fluke occurrence. Projecting to the next level, spot-up three-point shooting will definitely be something Payne will need to rely more on, so continuing to improve this area of his game is a must.

Payne has also looks better with his mid-range game, showing very good accuracy on open shots in the 15-20 foot range, and doing a very good job getting separation for these moves off the dribble, being capable of hitting these shots moving in either direction. Payne shows extremely good coordination and balance in all aspects of his game, and it really shows here, as he does a great job keeping his form in these situations. That said, when defended closely by the opposition, Payne doesn’t fare that well with a hand in his face, and his lack of short-range burst makes it questionable how this aspect of his game will translate to the next level.

Going to the basket, Payne showed good explosiveness last season when he mostly operated off the ball and on straight-line drives, but his explosiveness hasn’t really translated over very well as he’s expanded his dribble-drive arsenal, as he just doesn’t appear capable of powering up nearly as well without a full head of steam. Instead, Payne has done a good job using his body control and coordination to maneuver through defenders in the lane, also showing very good touch off the glass, which still allows him to be a strong finisher in the paint.

In terms of ball-handling, Payne definitely is above average for a shooting guard, and he performs very well in space and transition, but he doesn’t really have the quick, low-to-the-ground handle to split double teams, while he also struggles to turn the corner in some instances, not having the greatest first step. He makes up for this with craftiness, showing good changes of speed with the ball and doing a good job creating high percentage shots in the paint by shooting over the opposition.

In the passing game, Payne has cut back a bit on creating for others due to the development of his own scoring game, but he still exhibits excellent court vision and an ability to pass on the move, excelling in the pick and roll and transition, while also having a knack for the simple passes. It’s still questionable if he could be a full-time point guard at the next level, but his passing will definitely be a strong asset from the shooting guard position, where he is more likely to play.

Defensively, Payne is a scrappy and active player who uses his length well in the passing lanes, averaging an impressive 2.6 steals per game (7th in our database). He shows a good stance in man-to-man defense on the perimeter as well, though his foot speed is definitely lacking, as he’s very prone to being beat laterally, and this is something that should be even more concerning at the next level.

Looking forward, Payne is best served coming back to school for his senior season, as there are still concerns about how his game will translate to the pros, and given the learning curve he’s shown this year, he could definitely help his stock by coming back and working on some of his weaker areas, namely becoming more of a three-point shooter and working on better transitioning from dribbling to finishing, where he doesn’t make full use of his athletic abilities. At the pro level, he will likely have to transition to a full-time shooting guard. The adjustments he’s made to his game this season definitely help ease some of the concerns about how his game will translate, though he still is likely to be a defensive liability no matter what position he plays.

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