NCAA Weekly Performers -- 1/18/07, Part Two

NCAA Weekly Performers -- 1/18/07, Part Two
Jan 18, 2007, 02:57 am
Marcus Williams, 6’7, SG/SF, Sophomore, Arizona
Vs Oregon State: 27 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 10-18 FG, 6-7 FT
Vs Oregon: 34 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 11-20 FG, 10-10 FT

Joseph Treutlein

Arizona’s Marcus Williams had his best collegiate game on Thursday night, only to follow it up with an even better performance Sunday. After a very promising freshman season that left scouts salivating over his potential, Williams isn’t disappointing as a sophomore, living up to all of the expectations as he takes hold of the feature role on his very strong Arizona squad. In the six games since conference play has begun, Williams’ point total hasn’t dipped below 18, and he’s set a new career best in each of his past two games.

In terms of NBA potential, it’s tough to say there’s an area where Williams is lacking, besides the fact that he may not have a true bread and butter to his game. He has a solid frame, excellent length, good athleticism, and a skillset that already boasts inside, outside, and mid-range scoring. As for any question marks about him being able to be a go-to scorer… well, he’s off to a very good start in answering those.

Williams projects to be a consummate NBA swingman, being versatile enough to do a little bit of everything NBA teams expect from the position. The most impressive aspect of his game thus far would probably be his mid-range game. Williams has excellent shooting form with a high and quick release, high elevation on his jump shot, and with his long arms, the release point on his shot is unblockable by most. He can get his shot off in an instant with very little space, and he uses a nice combination of crossovers and fakes to get the little separation he needs to get his shot off. Equally impressive is that he’s able to get the shot off on the move when it would appear he doesn’t have great balance, though he does a good job keeping his body upright even while moving. He’s not entirely consistent with this aspect of his game yet, but he’s farther along with it than many players ever get, and considering he’s shooting 54% from the field in a feature role this year, it’s tough to get down on his shot selection.

Another area where Williams really excels is moving without the ball, specifically getting open underneath the basket by slipping behind the defense. He does this probably a handful of times every game, and even if he catches the ball on the baseline under the rim, he still usually manages to find a way to get the ball in the basket, using a combination of his length, flexibility, and his savvy in using reverse lay-ups and the backboard to score from places many other players can’t. He also does a good job cutting through the lane without the ball, and shows a good touch around the rim, using his creativity to finish even in tight traffic.

Williams has range out to the college three-point line with his shot, but it’s not a major staple of his game, as he usually favors the close and mid-range, where he’s more reliable at this stage. His shooting form remains solid from the farther distance, though his percentage is only at 36% so far this year, down from 44% last year, albeit the sample size is relatively small. He’s shown flashes of range out to the NBA three-point line, but he will likely need to put in some extra gym work to make that a more consistent staple of his game when the time comes.

Williams has really made a concerted effort in the hustle areas this season, almost always being the first man out on fast breaks, attacking the board relentlessly with his length and leaping ability to help him, and anticipating and picking off the passing lanes on defense. Williams is a very versatile defender, as his length and lateral quickness allow him to guard pretty much any position on the floor, and his aggressiveness and solid understanding of fundamentals help him out here as well.

The way Williams is performing, if he keeps it up, he should be a virtual lock to be a top 20 pick in this year’s draft. With his skills, physical attributes, and approach to the game, it’s very tough to see him not succeeding in some capacity in the NBA. Whether that is as a versatile swingman as a third or fourth option for a team or a legitimate go-to player is yet to be seen, but the way he’s progressed over the past season and a half, there’s a very good chance he could reach his full potential.

Herbert Hill, 6’10, PF/C, Senior, Providence
Vs Louisville: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 9-12 FG, 5-11 FT

Joseph Treutlein

You may not yet be familiar with the name Herbert Hill, but it’s one you should get accustomed to, as you’re certain to start hearing more of it in the months ahead. Hill, a senior at Providence, never averaged more than 18.4 minutes per game until this year, but he’s suddenly exploded onto the college basketball scene, and is quietly making a legitimate run at Big East Player of the Year honors. Hill thus far is averaging 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, and is shooting a remarkable 70% from the floor.

Hill stands 6’10, weighs 240 pounds, and has a pretty solid frame to boot. He doesn’t have the broadest shoulders, but certainly has enough to get by in the NBA, and he has room to add some more weight as well. Hill has decent size right now, and he doesn’t show any noticeable problems getting overpowered, but with some more upper body strength he could elevate his already formidable game. Hill also has pretty good length and athleticism for his size, and he uses these qualities to his advantage in his game, especially rebounding the basketball.

Hill’s offensive game is surprisingly refined for someone who hasn’t logged many minutes over the course of his college career, and with his physical tools, it’s perplexing how his game didn’t start to shine earlier. Hill gets his points in a variety of ways on the offensive end, though he seems to be at his best putting the ball on the floor from mid-range with his face-up game. For his position, Hill’s first step is pretty quick, and he has enough ball-handling ability to take a few dribbles en route to the basket, sometimes showing the ability to change directions or pull off a spin move in the process. He reacts very well when a defender is in his way, altering his path so not to plow into them, and adjusting his shot when it’s contested by the opposition. He also has a solid understanding of how to use jukes and fakes to his advantage, combining all these skills together to form a very fluid game when he gets in motion. In this game he showed the ability to finish with lay-ups or hook shots, and does a good job of taking what the defense gives him.

Hill also showed off a very solid mid-range shot, which has good form, a high release point, and a pretty quick release. With his height, length, and shooting motion, he should have absolutely no problems getting this off at the next level. He’s only shooting 59% from the free-throw line thus far this season, so his shot is obviously not perfected yet, but all the tools are there, and with work, it should come around.

Hill has a great touch around the rim, and this, coupled with his rebounding ability, leads to a lot of putback attempts, most of which he converts with ease. In this game he drew contact pretty well, not letting it affect any of his shots or tip-in attempts. As for rebounding the ball, Hill uses his relentless motor and physical gifts to try and track down pretty much every rebound, and he also displays good timing on his jumps, a good second bounce when needed, and excellent hands to pull the rebounds in. With his length and leaping ability, he can often go over the opposition to pull down a board.

Offensively, Hill likes to stay within fifteen feet of the basket where he’s at his best, as he’s always in a position to shoot the mid-range shot or use his face-up game to get to the basket. He shows some flashes of solid court vision and passing ability from the high post, and once he improves this aspect of his game, he will be an excellent triple-threat option out of the high-post. Hill already seems very poised, plays within himself, and seems to have a solid understanding of his strengths and limitations as a player. He also seems to have a strong sense of court awareness and offensive spacing, and recognizes what the defense is giving to him, and proceeds to take advantage of it.

Defensively, Hill shows the same consistent motor he does on offense, and he’s very active in contesting shots that enter the lane. Providence plays a lot of zone defense, so it’s tough to get a read on his man-to-man skills, but when forced to step out on the perimeter in this game, he looked like he had at least above average lateral quickness for a power forward, along with a solid understanding of how to play fundamental man-to-man defense, getting his center of gravity down and sliding his feet.

It’s likely not going to remain this way for long, but as of now, Hill is quite possibly the biggest sleeper in all of college hoops, and he should certainly be in discussions about the first round in this upcoming draft. Hill’s been consistently putting up numbers all season long, and in the four games since conference play began, he’s scored 20+ points three times and has three double-doubles, along with a game where he netted seven blocks. If he continues to perform the way he has been, with his combination of physical abilities and developed skills, the first round is not out of the picture for him.

Malik Hairston, 6’6, SG/SF, Junior, Oregon
Vs Arizona: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 7-11 FG, 3-3 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

After an underwhelming sophomore season, Oregon swingman Malik Hairston may finally be ready to play himself back onto the scene. Despite dealing with groin and heel injuries that have sidelined him for a few games this season, Hairston has been a large part of his team’s early success. In his second game following his recent heel injury, Hairston put up a very strong performance in his team’s win over Arizona, scoring 18 points, pulling down eight rebounds, and dishing out four assists, all while shooting an excellent percentage from the field.

Most of Hairston’s skills were on display in the game, and despite not living up to the high expectations that were set for him in the past year and a half, Hairston still is a legitimate potential NBA prospect. Standing 6’6 with long arms and built like a tank, Hairston is an imposing presence at the swingman position. He’s stepped up his rebounding and defensive efforts this season, being very aggressive on both fronts, and he really had an impact doing such in this game. Defensively he was most frequently matched up with Chase Budinger, and Budinger wasn’t able to contribute much of anything against Hairston, scoring only four points despite playing 33 minutes. Hairston was equally aggressive on the boards, using his strength and length to pull down boards in a crowd, getting a nice putback with an and-1 on one occasion.

Hairston hit all three of his three-point attempts in the game, all of them being of the spot-up variety. He has a nice, smooth stroke on his shot, and he gets it off with a high and quick release. He showed a bit of a dribble-drive game as well, though most of his attempts at such are routine straight-line drives to the basket, and he doesn’t appear to be all too comfortable getting creative with the ball in those situations. His dribble isn’t very low to the ground, and while he doesn’t have much trouble handling the ball in the open court, he doesn’t appear as comfortable with it in half-court sets at this point. He did however do a very good job moving without the ball, cutting to the basket and scoring a few baskets off passes in this manner.

Hairston also showed off some nice court awareness on a few occasions, dishing crisp passes to his teammates for open shot attempts, hitting cutters and spot-up shooters alike. He’s bringing a lot of skills to the table for Oregon this year, and if he can remain healthy and consistently take a more affirmative role in his team’s offense, he could play himself back into discussions among NBA scouts. With teammates Bryce Taylor and Aaron Brooks both having solid seasons, it will be tough for Hairston to take on a larger role in the offense, but he’s still likely the best NBA prospect on the team.

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