Weekly Top Performers: Holiday Edition

Weekly Top Performers: Holiday Edition
Dec 20, 2006, 12:29 am
Greg Oden, 7’0” Center, Freshman, Ohio State
14 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks, 3 turnovers, 6/7 FG


Mike Schmidt

As the most well known high school player since Lebron James, Greg Oden has been given nearly unrealistic expectations to live up to. Thus far, Oden has done a fantastic job living up to the hype, and has done so with a bum right wrist. Against Cincinnati, Oden proved why he is widely considered the best center in college basketball.

Against the Bearcats, Oden helped Ohio State set the tone early, and they didn’t look back on the way to victory. Ohio State led 42-14 by halftime, and finished with a 72-50 win. Oden was bothered by the double team early in the game, and lost the ball on the right baseline when swarmed by extra defenders. He quickly recovered by sealing his man, and spinning to the hoop for an explosive dunk. In addition to getting many easy hoops in the paint, Oden also hit a nice hook shot from about 12 feet out.

Defensively Greg Oden displayed his fantastic leaping ability and great anticipation. His presence in the lane made the Cincinnati guards think twice about entering the lane, and when they decided to test him, Oden sent many of their shots back the other direction. On the glass, he uses his length well, and his effort led to 4 rebounds on the offensive end of the floor. Oden finished the game with 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.

Greg Oden has all of the tools you look for in an NBA big man. He had the reputation of being a raw offensive player entering college, but he has started to dispelled that notion early on in his college career. His footwork in the post is very polished for an 18 year old, and he doesn’t try to force his way through defenders. Oden also possesses the ability to hit the hook shot from the low block. Until he starts shooting his free throws right handed, we won’t know how far along he is on the offensive end, but he made a lot of progress with his shooting stroke his senior year in high school.

One thing many people who saw Oden play in high school questioned if he had the mentality of a role player, or the killer instinct of a star. He played with a lot of talent throughout his high school career, and sometimes seemed satisfied deferring to his teammates. In college, it appears he is developing the killer instinct necessary to be a star. He finishes inside with authority, and plays with a nice combination of fire and emotion.

For the rest of the season, it will be more of the same for Oden until he is selected with one of the top 2 picks in the NBA draft. If he can avoid injury and get his right wrist back to 100%, he will give Ohio State a great chance of taking the national championship.

Wilson Chandler, 6’8 SF, sophomore, DePaul
24 pts, 11-17 fg’s


Jonathan Watters

One player who has elicited widely varyin opinions since his arrival at the D1 level is DePaul wing Wilson Chandler. The Michigan product was billed as more of a PF as a prep, but it was clear from day one last season that he would eventually be spending all of his time at the wing. Chandler struggled through a rough freshman season, not always seeing eye to eye with the coaching staff and struggling with his perimeter shot. However, several huge games over the second half of the season gave many reason to believe that the best was still yet to come for the rangy, athletic youngster.

The very high-upside Chandler presents us with a bit of a dillema, in that he has always most productive using is explosiveness and length around the basket but his upside comes in brilliant flashes of midrange shot creating ability. Chandler struggled a season ago because he relied too much on his inconsistent perimeter game, and failed to translate his immense natural gifts into on-court production. A player with Chandler's combination of size, athleticism, and finishing instincts should never shoot the 43.6% from the field that he did a season ago.

This year, Chandler is showing some major improvement as far as his transition to the wing goes. His perimeter jumper has gone from inconsistent at best to downright dangerous (21.1% from 3 a season ago, 40.5% this year), and he is getting behind the defense for acrobatic, highlight reel finishes on a regular basis. His combination of size and leaping ability is quite formidable, and not many wing prospects can match Chandler's athletic tools at the college level.

In last week's emphatic win over Wake Forest, Chandler was a legitimate go-to force. He spotted up and created shots for himself in the midrange, spent some time picking up garbage points around the rim, and flew up and down the court for severasl spectacular alleyoop dunks. He poured in 20 first half points, and probably would have continued to dominate had the game still been a game in the second half. Very rarely do you see a player who can hang in the air and finish around the rim quite like Chandler, and the highlight of the night was a spectacular finish where he started underneath the basket almost toeing the baseline and somehow managed finish at the rim by half reversing his body, half using his length to flip the ball into the basket.

As far as tangible development goes, this was one of the more significant draft-related performances of the year so far. The sophomore has remained consistent all season, not a full time go-to guy just yet, but certainly sharing the load with Sammy Mejia. He put together an excellent showing in Maui, and has put together a nice stretch of scoring games since then. Chandler needs to continue to use his natural advantages in length and explosiveness around the basket, but it appears that an NBA future does await. It remains to be seen if this is the beginning of a breakout season, or if he will need to come back for a season as the full-time man once Mejia moves on. Either way,this is a player with the natural tools and upside to warrant a lot of attention from scouts even as an underclassman.

Mike Mercer, 6’4 G, sophomore, Georgia

19 points, 9-22 FG's, 7 reb, 4 ast


Jonathan Watters

It wasn't clear what kind of professional future Georgia combo guard Mike Mercer had after an up and down freshman season. The athletic gifts were there, but he struggled with a shaky outside shot and had a particularly tough time with consistency and decision making.

It is clear that Mercer has taken a step forward as a sophomore. He has firmed up the release on his outside shot and is doing a better job as a passer. Georgia shocked a highly regarded Gonzaga team on Saturday, and Dennis Felton's three guard lineup of Mercer, Sundiata Gaines and Levi Stukes were the major reason why. The trio overpowered a very talented 'Zag backcourt with their athleticism and defensive pressure, scoring a total of 65 points, handing out 11 assists, coming up with 9 steals and committing only 5 turnovers.

Mercer still has issues with playing within the flow of the offense, but his athletic gifts are very hard to ignore. He is a legit 6'4, but with long arms and elite-level athleticism he plays like he is 6'7. He can get around his man at will, and does a good job of finding the open man on penetrations to the basket. He gets great elevation on his forays into the lane, able to hang in the air and shoot over almost any college-level defender. This skill is almost too much of a good thing at the moment, as he tends to fade away instead of drawing contact and getting to the line. Mercer is an active and opportunistic defender, averaging 2.6 spg so far this year and certainly capable of defending the position at the next level.

Mercer struggled to finish at the rim against Gonzaga, on several occasions failing to convert relatively easy finishes after spectacular initial moves, but was so overpowering athletically that he was able to anticipate and put in several of his own misses. This is a player that is certainly in need of more polish, but guards with the natural tools of Mike Mercer are almost always given the benefit of the doubt come draft day.

Bobby Brown, 6’0,” Point Guard, Senior
47 pts, 17-20 fg’s, 11-13 3-pt, 2 ast

Mike Schmidt

Bobby Brown had a good season last year, and decided to enter his name into the draft to test his stock. After struggling in Orlando at the pre-draft camp, he decided to return to Cal-State Fullerton for his senior year. Brown struggled with an injury early in the season, and missed the first three games of the year.

Against Bethune-Cook, Brown exploded for one of the best individual NCAA performances this season, and displayed many of the tools that make him a prospective back-up point guard in the NBA.
He has a nice stroke from behind the three point line, and he couldn’t miss on Saturday. Brown can create separation off the dribble, and gets his shot off very quickly. He also has a solid first step and good quickness with the ball in his hands. He has the ability to finish inside thanks to nice touch and a knowledge of where to put the ball on the glass to keep it from larger shot blockers.

Unfortunately, Brown has a lot to prove when it comes to being a point guard. For now, he plays off the ball quite a bit because of his scoring abilities, and doesn’t display ideal point guard skills. His court vision is limited, and he hasn’t totaled more than 4 assists in a game this season. In 6 games this year, Brown has more turnovers than he does assists, and his career high in assist to turnover ratio is only 1.5, less than ideal for a point guard. His size limits him on the defensive end, and he will need to learn to make better use of his lateral quickness in this area. Offensively Brown lacks a mid-range game when his inconsistent tear drop floater isn’t falling. In the future, he will face much bigger and more athletic big men, and it will be vital for him to develop some consistent means of scoring when he is having an off night in terms of outside shooting.

To best improve his draft stock, Bobby Brown will need to continue to score the ball well, and show more in terms of being a point guard. If he can improve his assist to turnover ratio, it will greatly improve his status in the eyes of NBA decision makers. Brown has a bright future playing basketball, but the question for now is will it be in the NBA.

Hasheem Thabeet, freshman, Connecticut
9 points, 3-6 fg's, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks in 16 minutes


Omar Samhan, freshman, Saint Mary's
13 points, 5-10 fg's, 10 rebounds, 27 minutes


Jonathan Watters

Where many other elite freshmen have already showcased their abilities in big time non-conference matchups, Jim Calhoun has essentially protected his young group with a laughably easy non-conference schedule. Sunday was no different, as the Huskies rolled over St. Mary's. However, 7'3 freshman C Hasheem Thabeet actually had his hands full with a legit big man in 6'11, 265 pound freshman Omar Samhan - a solid prospect in his own right.

Even though the outcome was never in doubt after the opening minutes, this individual matchup stayed interesting the entire game. Thabeet and Samhan are almost polar opposites in terms of development, with Samhan displaying outstanding skill and feel for how to score in the post, but still having to work very hard to produce against the unfathomable length of the very raw Thabeet. Where Thabeet is nothing short of an natural athletic freak for his size, Samhan had to work very hard to lose weight and get into the passable shape he is in today.

The Gaels looked for Samhan early and often, attempting to get Thabeet into foul trouble. Samhan was generally more active and physical, able to react to plays much more quickly than Thabeet, and forcing Calhoun to pull the plug on the freshman early in the first half. Samhan showed great footwork, solid touch around the rim, and an excellent activity level for such a young big man. Even with Thabeet on his back and the rest of the Connecticut defense collapsing around him, Samhan found ways to produce.

Thabeet generally showed how far off he is, but the flashes of potential he displays are still downright staggering. He is already running the floor much better than he did early in the season, and is improving his mental awareness slowly but surely. The one area where he is furthest along is on the glass, where he does a solid job of sealing his man and corrals just about anything in sight with ease. When he reacts naturally on the defensive end, the results are scary. However, he still doesn't use his length to its full potential - oftentimes opponents can get the ball over his arms by shooting it quickly, due to that slow reaction time. Offensively, Thabeet is well behind the curve. If it isn't a layup or dunk, Thabeet probably shouldn't be shooting it at this point.

Nonetheless, it is hard not to get caught up in what Thabeet could become if he continues to develop as a player. At the same time, Samhan is a youngster worth keeping an eye on. Players this young and this big are rarely this far along skill-wise.

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