After a phenomenal freshman season (18.2 points, 3.8 assists per game, 47% FG) and a less impressive injury riddled sophomore season (13.2 points, 3.1 assists, 37% FG), Aaron Bruce has again been streaky this year. Though he is adapting to a different role playing next to two fellow combo guards with fairly questionable decision making skills, in an offense that has little rhyme, rhythm or balance to it, he finally displayed many of the skills that make him an NBA draft prospect against Texas on Saturday. He will have to show plenty more before the end of the season on a much more consistent basis, but Bruce has a lot of assets to work with, and always seems to display different wrinkles to his game every time we watch him play.
Against Texas, Bruce started out the game by setting the pace for Baylor. He hit a couple early three pointers, and also made a nice layup in transition where he used the left side of the rim on a reverse to shield the ball intelligently from a defender. Bruce continued to score well throughout the first half, and finished near the hoop after using ball fakes to get his defender off balance. Baylor had a 6 point lead at halftime, and it was largely due to Bruces contribution. In the second half, he continued to shoot the three-pointers with confidence. He also displayed his ability to be smart with the ball around the rim. Despite Bruces 25 points, Baylor couldnt hold Texas and Kevin Durant from coming away with the home win.
Bruce has a few things working for him when it comes to the NBA. He has good size for a point guard, and very good court vision as well. His passing ability sometimes goes unnoticed because of his role within the team, but its very clear that he has no problem finding the open man either in traffic or the half-court. Bruce also has the ability to knock down 3-pointers at a good clip, and shoots the mid-range shot well, especially when moving to the left. He can use ball-fakes to compensate for his lack of explosiveness and get to the rim, and has the ability to fool defenders by changing speeds in traffic.
The main weakness for Aaron Bruce at this point is his body and lack of athleticism. The lack of foot speed was obvious on Saturday, when Bruce would be alone in transition, and the defender managed to catch up to him before he reached the other end of the floor. The lack of lateral quickness hurts him as well, though his fundamentals on this side of the ball are solid. Bruce also lacks a great first step, and usually settles for jump shots anyway. This is highlighted by the lack of free throw attempts he has this season.
Baylor is overloaded with dominant ball-handlers who like to make things happen off the bounce this year, and Bruce doesnt have the chance to be a full time point guard at this point in time. He is clearly better with the ball in his hands, but has started playing better recently thanks to the reemergence of his outside shooting touch. As a 22-year old junior, Bruce is free to test his draft stock this April. He has a chance to be a second round pick if NBA teams like his passing ability enough, but will also have considerable opportunities to play overseas for a lucrative contract thanks to his skill-set, basketball IQ and high-level experience in international basketball. Hes probably better than hes able to show right now playing for Baylor, but unless he decides to get up and do something about that, well probably never know for sure.