NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/20/08-- Part One

NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/20/08-- Part One
Feb 21, 2008, 05:38 am
Anthony Randolph, 6-10, Freshman, Power Forward, LSU
14.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.9 turnovers, 1.3 steals, 2.3 blocks, 47% FG, 12.5% 3P, 66% FT, 32 minutes

Jonathan Givony

Although he continues to largely slip underneath the radar screen as far as national attention goes, few freshman have shown more glimpses of potential than LSU power forward Anthony Randolph.

It all starts with his physical tools…6-10 or 6-11, incredibly long, left-handed, fluid, quick, explosive off his feet, with great open-court speed…Randolph fits the bill and then some. He does have an extremely lanky frame, though (think Brandan Wright), one that might struggle to put on significant weight even down the road.

Skinny or not, Randolph wows you at times with the versatility he displays offensively. He’s a very good ball-handler for his size, able to grab a rebound and take the ball all the way down the floor (weaving through traffic impressively) and finish the play himself, or even create shots for himself in the half-court. His first step is excellent, and he has some basic jab-steps or wiggle moves that keeps his matchup guessing constantly as to what his next move will be. Although he’s left-handed, he seems to be just as dangerous going right, which is quite intriguing considering his size, youth, and the fact that he’s seemingly living purely off his instincts at this point. This ability to face up and attack his man off the dribble makes him a huge mismatch threat at the next level, especially as he continues to polish up his ball-skills, learns how to minimize his turnovers, and becomes a better finisher around the basket. He also has some basic (mostly finesse) moves he can execute with his back to the basket, but his lack of strength hinders him from being as much of a presence here as he could.

Randolph’s jump-shot needs lots of work, even if there are definitely some things to work with as he’ll show from time to time by knocking down a smooth mid-range jumper, sometimes coming off a pick and pop play. His mechanics are strange, though, like many left-handed shooters (especially from 3-point range), releasing the ball while almost standing sideways, not quite squaring his shoulders or elevating off the floor, and getting extremely poor results—just 2/16 from behind the arc on the year.

That wouldn’t be so bad if Randolph didn’t have as much of a tendency as he does to settle for bad shots and force out of control drives. His whole team seems to play incredibly selfish basketball, and Randolph is at times just as much a culprit as his shot-happy guards. He doesn’t seem to quite know his limitations at this point, settling for weak, off-balance, turn-around jumpers from mid-range, fading away from contact in the post, and generally showing poor shot-selection and a limited feel for the game. It’s not hard to tell that Randolph still has plenty of room to improve with everything that has to do with his fundamentals.

Where Randolph seems to need the most work, especially when considering how he’ll have to be used at the next level, in his defense. He gets pushed around in the post mercilessly; being unable to hold his spot on the block, and thus letting most big men just have their way with him as they please.

The problem here is that Randolph doesn’t seem to put up much resistance, giving up too much space in the post, not showing a great deal of fire fighting back against stronger players, and displaying a laid-back demeanor that is somewhat concerning at times. He gambles for steals, shows poor awareness on the perimeter, and isn’t always quite as active as you might hope. He clearly has the quickness and length to hedge screens and stay in front of his man, as well as the instincts to get after the ball and make his presence felt, but he doesn’t seem to quite know how at this point. With that said, it’s hard not to be impressed by the physical tools, reactivity and nose for the ball he shows coming up with blocks, getting in the passing lanes, grabbing offensive rebounds and more—you’d just like to see it happen more often. There seems to have been some improvement in his effort (particularly as a rebounder) since LSU switched coaches a few weeks ago, so we’ll have to see how this continues in the near future.

All in all, Randolph might be viewed as one of the more intriguing long-term prospects in this draft once you get past the top 5-6 names on most team’s boards. He’ll probably be viewed as the type of hybrid face the basket 4/3 that is becoming very much en vogue in the NBA these days (see: Shawn Marion, Travis Outlaw, Tyrus Thomas, etc) as a mismatch threat playing on a very up-tempo team. There are still a lot of kinks he needs to work out in his game before he gets there--both physically and mentally--but considering the fact that he won’t turn 19 until July, time is obviously on his side. From what we’ve been hearing for quite some time, there is a very good chance that he’ll be in the draft.

D.J. White, 6’9, Power Forward, Senior, Indiana
17.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.1 turnovers, 1.7 blocks, 62% FG, 72% FT

Joseph Treutlein

After not really blowing scouts away with his performance as a redshirt junior, D.J. White has come back very strong in his senior season, improving in virtually all facets of his game, specifically many of those that’ll be important for his potential transition to the next level. The 6’9, lengthy power forward has carved himself out a very nice niche at the college level, and his production and efficiency this season have been outstanding.

One area White’s improved is his back-to-the-basket game, where he’s developed a nice array of moves, with solid footwork to consistently get them off. D.J. White’s go-to move is his turnaround jumper from the 5-8 foot range, which he can impressively use turning off either shoulder. His consistency suffers as he gets farther away from the basket, and he’s shown some reduced effectiveness with it against longer defenders, but this has become a nice staple of his game, and is something that could serve him well in the long-term, though he needs to continue to improve with it. White also makes use of a right-handed hook shot in the lane, with range out to five feet. White adjusts his game to defenses accordingly, relying on these finesse moves when matched against bigger opponents, and attacking the rim using dropstep moves when matched against smaller opponents, showing pretty good sense of what move to use at any given time. His shooting percentage has improved impressively by over 11% thus far this season, and he’s also getting to the free throw line at a considerably better rate.

Another area White’s improved with is his mid-range jumper, which he shows excellent consistency with from the 10-15 foot range, where he can spot up or pull up off one or two dribbles in space. His range doesn’t extend beyond here, but he rarely will stray from his comfort zone with his jump shot, recognizing his limitations. In terms of facing up with the ball, White has shown brief flashes of mini-drives from the 10 foot range, though his handling is suspect and he usually will try to finish the drive with a half floater/half pull-up jumper move that isn’t very effective. This is something he’ll need to work on moving forward.

White also has looked good cutting to the basket, either from the weakside or off pick-and-roll situations, liking to throw down emphatic dunks when in space, but struggling to finish at the rim when contested. His athleticism is just decent, which should be enough to get him by at the next level, but finishing at the rim when contested is something he probably won’t be doing much of. As for the rest of his offensive game, White doesn’t really stand out as a passer, not looking to pass much except to reset in the post, and he does most of his damage on the offensive glass when matched against smaller opponents, not really standing out much for his abilities there.

On the defensive end, White has looked very strong this year, moving well all around the floor on this end of the court, helping his team in multiple ways. Indiana switches between a 3-2 zone (where he plays center) and man-to-man defense, where White finds ways to excel in both. In terms of man-to-man defense, White shows an aggressive stance against bigs in the 5-15 foot range, playing up and using his length to really contest and block shots, always keeping his hands near the ball. He plays well against both face-up and post-up game for the most part, though can really get pushed around in post-up situation against larger opponents, such as Illinois’ Shaun Pruitt. Improving his lower body strength should be a priority. With shot-blocking, White uses his excellent timing and length to be a force in both man-to-man and help situations, making a strong impact. White also looks good in pick-and-roll situations, hedging the ball-handler very aggressively and quickly changing directions to get back to his own man. On the perimeter, White shows an aggressive stance on defense and contests shots out to the three-point range, though his lateral quickness rarely gets tested. In terms of rebounding the ball, White does a very good job on the defensive end, boxing out and pulling in boards close to the basket, while also showing the mobility to pursue boards away from the basket. Here too he has improved considerably this season, grabbing three more rebounds per game per-40 minutes pace adjusted.

As a very young senior (only turning 22 next September), White will be automatically eligible for the draft, where he should get looks strong looks from the late first to the second round. He should consider playing at the Orlando pre-draft camp, where he could look to stand out in quite a few areas. Due to his suspect ball-handling and lack of range on his jump shot, White likely projects as purely a power forward in the NBA, where he could rely on his mid-range jumper, rebounding, and versatile defense to find himself a niche. His finesse post game has more question marks about how it will translate, but could also be a weapon for him. His athleticism isn’t what it used to be due to the numerous injuries he suffered throughout his career, but he has developed into an excellent college player, and is in the midst of a very strong senior season.

A.J. Price, 6-2, Junior, Point Guard, UConn
15 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 1.4 steals, 45% FG, 38.5% 3P, 75% FT, 33 minutes

Jonathan Givony

A very easy player to write off after the horrendous season he had last year, A.J. Price has bounced back incredibly strong to deliver a Big East player of the year type season, leading UConn to 10 straight wins at the moment, and solidifying himself as one of the top point guards in the country in the process.

In hindsight, it’s easy to realize why Price has struggled so badly last season, after sitting out two full seasons with health (a brain hemorrhage) and then legal (the laptop scandal together with Marcus Williams) problems keeping him off the court. He had a hard time shaking off the rust last season, struggling through poor conditioning and a complete lack of confidence, but is now starting to show some of the terrific offensive skills that made him such a highly regarded high school player to begin with.

Price is a scoring point guard, quick, with average size and solid ability to change speeds and get by defenders off the dribble. He’s a very skilled and very aggressive offensive player, who makes his living primarily in the mid-range area. He loves to use the pick and roll to find space to get his shot off, looking terrific hitting step-back shots, and showing a terrific right-handed floater with range that extends all the way out to the free throw line. He elevates off the floor extremely well to create separation from his defender, is outstanding hitting shots on the move, and has one of the most lethal 15-foot pull-up jumpers you’ll find anywhere in the country.

When extending beyond the 3-point line, Price’s jump-shot loses some effectiveness, although he can still make shots at a solid rate. He is hitting 38.5% of his attempts from behind the arc, albeit on a limited number of attempts. There are some question marks about how well he’ll be able to expand his range past the much further NBA line, though, as his shooting mechanics are somewhat unorthodox—kicking his feet, flailing his elbow out, and sometimes even releasing the ball on his way down.

In terms of his slashing, Price is quick enough to get by his man, and does a fairly good job of creating opportunities for himself, but still leaves something to be desired in his ability to finish around the basket. He lacks some size (he’s probably closer to 6-1), strength and explosiveness, and therefore has a tough time finishing plays in traffic (hitting around 47% of his attempts at the rim). His very advanced mid-range game helps alleviate a lot of concerns here, though.

What makes Price intriguing is that beyond his scoring, he is also having a pretty spectacular season as a playmaker, surely when evaluating him statistically. Out of all the players in our database, Price currently ranks 4th in pure point guard rating, and 3rd in assist to turnover ratio. Even though he is a scorer by nature, Price does a very good job creating not only for himself, but also for teammates, especially with the work he does on the pick and roll. He executes UConn’s offense efficiently, finding the open man unselfishly, making solid post-entry passes from the perimeter, pushing the ball up the floor, and rarely turning it over.

Price is the type of point guard who does a better job finding players from the perimeter (often with bullet passes straight into the teeth of the defense) than he does on the drive and dish. At times he gets a little stubborn or single-minded looking for his own offense, but UConn would probably not have it any other way. Once he’s on the move, though, particularly in transition, his court vision looks somewhat average, and he’ll at times miss an open man. Even though he’s a redshirt junior, his all-around experience level isn’t where you would normally expect it to be, and at this point, he is swimming in uncharted waters still. That could all change very quickly if he manages to lead his team deep into the NCAA tournament.

As skilled a player as Price is offensively, he might be just as poor at times defensively. It doesn’t look like he was ever really pushed much on this end of the floor in high school, and it’s not hard to see how little effort he puts into this part of his game now. He gets caught behind screens on a regular basis (his lack of strength hurts him here), and doesn’t quite have the size or length to fight through them and contest shots. Considering his average physical tools (his lateral quickness is nothing to write home about either), he will have to put much more effort into this end of the floor if he’s to be considered adequate in the NBA.

From what we can tell so far, Price looks to have all the makings of a very solid backup point guard at the next level, but he could probably still show that he has even more potential for the NBA by returning to school next season. Unless he really explodes in the NCAA tournament, he’d likely be best served using his senior year to improve on expanding his range, his perimeter defense, and his all-around experience as a floor general.

Dar Tucker, 6-4, Shooting Guard, DePaul, Freshman
13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 43% FG, 31.1% 3P FG, 22.3 minutes

Joey Whelan

Despite a rocky season thus far for Depaul, there is plenty of reason to be hopeful for the future if you are a Blue Demons fan, thanks to the exploits displayed by athletic freshman Dar Tucker. While by no means as heralded as many of the other members of this talented freshman class, Tucker’s success hasn’t exactly been a complete shock either. Ranked #45 in the class of 2007 by Rivals, the swingman has made an immediate impact despite playing only 22 minutes per game. Currently he ranks 8th amongst all freshman in scoring per 40 minutes adjusted pace at 22.9 points.

Even at this early point in his career, the question of what position will he play is being asked of Tucker. He primarily lines up as a small forward for Depaul, but his frame clearly makes him a candidate to play the off guard spot at the next level. Even as a two, though, he is somewhat undersized at just 6’4”, and as a 31.1% shooter from beyond the arc, he will need to improve his perimeter shooting to be considered a consistent scoring threat. What Tucker does have going for him is his tremendous athleticism. He has an explosive vertical jump, great open floor speed and a terrific first step.

Tucker is a versatile offensive player, getting his touches in a variety of scenarios. A lefty, Tucker has nice form on his shot and a quick release; if defenders lose him behind the arc for even a second he will fire away. While his form is encouraging, his tendency to force shots isn’t. Tucker attempts over five three-pointers per game, and as previously mentioned is only a 31.1% shooter from deep. From what we see of his mechanics he has all the makings of being a solid threat from the outside, the biggest key now is learning when to shoot and when not to. Tucker has a tendency to force a lot of contested shots rather than looking for a better option.

The majority of Tucker’s shots come when he is attacking the basket. He shows some nice ability to pull up from mid-range, able to combine a quick first step with the ability to stop on a dime. Tucker’s ability to change speeds typically gives him all the space he needs to get off his shot. He is equally as dangerous when he decides to attack all the way to the rim. Tucker is explosive enough to elevate with almost any defender in the country when he gets a head of steam going. He exhibits great body control and fair touch around the hoop. What is really holding Tucker back though are his rudimentary ball-handling skills, being unable to go left on a consistent basis, and not looking very advanced with his shot-creating ability. Despite possessing the ability to be a lights out finisher around the rim, he does struggle at times since defenders can play him to his right side.

At this point, Tucker is at his most dangerous in the transition game. He struggles a little bit with his ball-handling skills, so you won’t often see him leading a break, but he is a constant threat when he is able to get out and run. He shows a real knack for knowing when his teammates are going to come away with defensive rebounds, and when to leak out of the pack. Tucker is a big time finisher when teammates get him the ball on the break. It isn’t uncommon to see him pull off windmill jams when he is ahead of the defense, and it isn’t often you see a player of Tucker’s size be at the receiving end of so many alley-oops.

Where Tucker has been surprisingly impressive this season is on the offensive glass. He averages less than five rebounds per game, but two of them come at the offensive end. Tucker’s 3.6 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes is a testament to not only his athleticism but his hustle as well. Tucker is the type of guard that defenses can’t ignore on the perimeter when shots go up. On many occasions where defenders haven’t boxed him on the outside, he has come flying down the lane for a tap in or emphatic put-back dunk.

Defensively, Tucker has room to improve. As is common amongst physically talented freshman, Tucker has a tendency to get a little overzealous and thus more seasoned players are able to exploit his aggressiveness. He does a fairly good job of closing out on perimeter shooters, but inexplicably he often flies out with his hands at his sides, not actually contesting the shots. He also has a tendency to look a little out of control, so often a head fake is enough to shake Tucker when spotting up. DePaul has played a decent amount of zone this season, but from what we have seen of Tucker, in man-to-man situations he shows promise. He has good lateral quickness, excellent length and active hands, but has a tendency to lose his defender sometimes. Tucker also struggles sticking with his man coming off of screens, especially when his man fades back to spot up.

At this point Tucker is caught somewhere between athlete and basketball player. He already shows polish in certain aspects of his game, particularly with his shooting mechanics, the key now is improving his decision making. Clearly Tucker is already showing the potential to be a big time scorer at the college level, and he’s doing it against strong competition. His most recent offensive outburst came against Louisville in a game where he dropped 22 points in just 25 minutes of play. No matter how many points he scores, though, Tucker is always going to have doubters because of his size. His perimeter shooting will have to improve since it is unlikely he could make a living as just a slashing guard in the NBA with his undersized frame. For now though, there is plenty of potential already being shown for Tucker to emerge as a top flight backcourt player in the Big East next season.

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