NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/14/10

NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/14/10
Jan 14, 2010, 01:24 am
UConn's Gavin Edwards, Gonzaga's Robert Sacre, BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Missouri's Laurence Bowers are the latest to take the spotlight in our NCAA Weekly Performers series.

Gavin Edwards, 6’9, PF/C, Senior, Connecticut
10.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, 1.3 turnovers, 66% FG, 82% FT

Joseph Treutlein

A completely unheralded recruit coming out of high school four years ago, Gavin Edwards bided his time for three seasons and is now playing a significant role for UConn as a senior, earning a growing amount of draft buzz in the process. Standing 6’9 with good length and very good mobility and coordination, Edwards has an adequate physical profile for the power forward position in the NBA, even if his game may be more reminiscent of a center at this point in time.

Edwards does most of his damage on the offensive end around the basket, which is a big reason why he ranks first in our entire database in True Shooting Percentage, a testament to the excellent efficiency in which he operates.

In the post, despite having a limited arsenal of moves (relying mainly on hook shots with either hand), Edwards gets the job done with very good footwork and awareness in combination with a great sense of where to be without the ball, leading to a lot of open looks around the rim and good positioning when he catches entry passes. He shows good touch on his hook shots when he is able to create separation with his man, though he struggles with accuracy, sometimes significantly, when his shot is contested, something that is concerning in projecting to the next level.

While Edwards relies mainly on finesse for his post game, he does show flashes of a nice baseline drop-step, and can power up for dunks in space, but explosiveness is not among his strengths, and he isn’t a very reactive athlete. He makes up for it by doing a good job drawing contact around the rim, getting to the free-throw line at a very solid rate, where he hits for an impressive 82%.

Edwards’ lack of explosiveness shows up on off-ball cuts as well, where he at times has trouble finishing over weakside defenders in the lane. On the other hand, Edwards is an outstanding finisher in transition, due primarily to his very high level of coordination and body control, as he often catches the ball on the move and still makes the adjustment around the rim.

Edwards has also been mixing a spot-up jumper from 15-18 feet into his offensive arsenal, and while his results haven’t been great in terms of efficiency (0.55 points per possession on 11 possessions, according to Synergy Sports Technology), his form is solid and his 82% free-throw shooting leads you to believe this is an area of his game he’ll improve upon with repetition and experience.

On the defensive end, Edwards is a good defender at the college level, but there are some concerns about projecting to the NBA. In the post, Edwards does a very good job off the ball, manning up and denying strong position to his man, but he struggles a bit once his man gets the ball, prone to being beat on quick spin moves, not really having the foot speed and instincts to keep up.

On the perimeter, he’s likewise prone to being beat by a quick first step, but he does a very good job of riding his man’s hip to the basket, where he uses his length to contest and block a lot of shots. His effort level and awareness on this end of the court are both pretty good, but there are questions about if he’s quick enough to guard PF’s in the pros or big and tough enough to guard C’s. On the plus side, Edwards is a very good shot-blocker thanks to his length, timing and smarts, ranking in the top-20 in that category amongst all prospects in our database.

In terms of rebounding, while Edwards does a pretty good job on the offensive end, he doesn’t get involved nearly enough on defense, as he pulls in a very poor 5.0 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, third worst of all centers in our database. This appears to be more a matter of trying than anything else, as he certainly has the physical tools to do much better than this. For a big man who projects as a role player at the next level, this apparent lack of toughness and hustle is a fairly big concern.

Looking forward, Edwards should be firmly in second round discussions for the draft this year, and could do himself well to attend the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, where he should be able to perform well. Teams will likely be attracted to his solid physical tools, his smart and efficient post game, his developing mid-range jumper, and his ability to finish around the rim, but concerns about position and how some of his game will translate against bigger, stronger opponents could scare some away. At the end of the day, though, the quality of big men available to teams in the latter part of the draft is often fairly poor, which could make Edwards an attractive option.

Robert Sacre, 7-0, Redshirt Sophomore, Center, Gonzaga
11.7 Points, 5.1 Rebounds, 1.3 Blocks, 2.0 Turnovers, 55.6% FG, 66.3% FT

Matthew Williams

After redshirting last season due to a foot injury suffered just five games into the 2008-2009 campaign, 7-footer Robert Sacre has quietly emerged as an extremely valuable contributor for Mark Few’s young Gonzaga squad. Despite seeing limited minutes as a freshman and sophomore, Sacre has improved considerably and provides a fine interior presence for the Bulldogs and a quality replacement for Josh Heytvelt. Considering his size, aggressiveness, and the fact that he’s just a sophomore, Sacre is a player to keep an eye on as he continues building his draft resume.

A true center, Sacre’s size and physical attributes make him an intriguing player from an NBA perspective. Possessing good lower body strength, some mobility, and good height, Sacre has the tools that NBA teams look for at the five spot. Considering the lack of depth at his position in recent drafts, if he can add some weight to his frame, and continue improving his post game, he could easily find himself labeled as one of the better centers available when all is said and done.

Sacre has always been intimidating from a physical stand-point, but the improvements he’s made in the past two seasons in his post game have also played a role in his ability to garner attention. He’s always worked hard to gain position down low, but now displays the patience to take advantage of his opportunities to score from the block. Able to establish position easily against most college centers, Sacre uses his body extremely well to draw contact and his size to get off the methodical, basic turnaround jumpers and hooks that comprise his post repertoire.

None of his Sacre’s moves are particularly smooth, and he definitely lacks a degree of suddenness, but he’s shooting 56.9% from the post according to Synergy Sports Technology thanks to his ability to establish a base and be aggressive. He could definitely stand to improve his decision-making ability and develop some counter moves on the block, as he still forces some tough looks into defenders, doesn’t appear very discerning when well defended, and won’t be able to take advantage of his height as consistently on the next level.

Though Sacre has made some definite strides offensively, he remains notably limited in some areas. His lack of explosiveness hurts his finishing ability in a crowd, and will require him to make some adjustments to his post game on the next level. It also hurts his defensive presence in terms of shot blocking, though he’s a staunch one-on-one defender in the post because of his effort level.

Perhaps his biggest weakness as it stands right now is his rebounding. Averaging only 7.7 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted, one of the worst figures of any center in our database, Sacre doesn’t show much in the way of instincts on the glass, which is problematic given that he doesn’t project as a go-to type offensively, and thus may struggle to find a way to earn minutes at the NBA level.

Considering that he has two more years of eligibility, this won’t be the last time we write about Robert Sacre. As it stands right now, he’s firmly on the draft radar due to his size and productivity, but he still has a lot of work to do to solidify himself as a surefire NBA player. His work ethic bodes well for his future, but he’ll need to overcome his poor rebounding ability and find a way to diversify his offensive game to ready himself for the athleticism he’ll face in the NBA. He may not be the most glamorous player, but centers are always at a premium come draft time, and still has some time to establish his stock.

Jimmer Fredette, 6-2, Junior, Point Guard, BYU
20.7 points, 5.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 49% FG, 45% 3P, 93% FT

Scott Nadler

You would be hard pressed to find a player putting up better numbers across the board than BYU guard Jimmer Fredette. He has been spectacular this season and is a major reason for the Cougars’ 16-1 start. Although he’s currently battling mononucleosis and has been sidelined 2 of the past 3 games, something we’re surely going to keep our eye on, Fredette is nonetheless one of the best under the radar players in the country and is more than deserving of a mention in this space.

A relative unknown in the college landscape, Fredette made an impression on us already last season, especially during his 23 point, 9 assist performance against then #6 Wake Forest. He’s elevated his level of play so far this year and no game was perhaps more indicative of that then his recent off the charts 49 point barrage against Arizona.

Sporting an extraordinary 31.8 PER in his first 15 games proves that he’s not just a fluke, but a do-it-all guy who is doing just that for a very good nationally ranked team. With stellar numbers and consistent play from the start, we figured this would be a perfect time to evaluate the upstate New York native.

Fredette possesses a strong upper body and at 6-2 and close to 200 lbs, his strength enables him to cover up some of his athletic shortcomings. He’s not exceptionally quick and lacks great explosiveness when attacking the basket, but due to his physique he’s able to shield and bump off pesky defenders which he does a good job of. He’s strong with the ball, but he can afford to improve his overall ball handling skills. He tends to dribble the ball a bit too high and isn’t all that fluid with his handle, something that would likely become more of an issue at the next level.

The one area which needs little improvement is in his ability to shoot the ball. He currently has a true shooting percentage of 64% and the degree of difficulty at which he takes some of his shots makes the high percentage all that more impressive. He can make shots in a variety of ways including spot ups, off the dribble, off screens, fading away, or by pulling up and his smoldering 44.6% from downtown is one of the best percentages in the country - showing on multiple occasions that his range extends well beyond the NBA 3 point line.

He does a good job of getting on balance before he shoots – often coming to a quick jump stop before showing his solid elevation. He makes it difficult on his defender to time his shot as well, transitioning very quickly from the dribble and into his shot.

From the free throw line, he’s automatic, shooting 92.7%, good for 3rd in the country. He also gets there at a good rate – attempting 6.4 free throws a game. Despite the lack of quickness, he finds ways to get into the lane thanks to his tremendous aggressiveness and smarts. Once at the rim, Fredette has good body control and can maneuver his way well in traffic and doesn’t shy away from contact.

As “the man” for the Cougars, Fredette has the ball in his hands for most of his team’s possessions (16.8 a game or 23.7% of his team’s possessions to be exact). With the ball in his hands that often, he has shown a propensity to try to do too much – driving into traffic or splitting screens unnecessarily are just a couple of examples. He averages 3 turnovers a game as a result, and most of turnovers could be avoided as he doesn’t make very difficult passes. Most of his 5.7 assists come from finding shooters spaced out along the perimeter either in the half court or in transition.

Defense is the area of Fredette’s game which needs the most work if he’s to play in the NBA. He’s a below average on the ball defender and lacks the lateral speed to keep up with quick guards. When watching him, it’s easy to see he’s giving a step to his opponent, almost baiting them to shoot and he still struggles to stop dribble penetration. Off the ball, he’s often out of his stance and appears to be resting. He’s a step slow on closeouts, but does make an effort to contest almost all jump shots when isolated on the perimeter.

Fredette isn’t a sure-fire NBA player at this point, but the gaudy numbers he’s putting up and the manner in which he’s producing is surely making scouts and NBA personnel aware of who he is. It’s tough not to like the outstanding skill-level and feel for the game Fredette displays, and the confidence and aggressiveness in which he plays with makes him a difficult guy to bet against.

Only a junior right now, he’d be wise to stick around for another season and try to maximize his athletic potential with a professional over the summer – something that would surely elevate his stock. If he can keep up this torrid pace and if his illness doesn’t affect him for too long, Fredette has the game to make a bigger impression on a national stage come tournament time.

Laurence Bowers, 6-8, Sophomore, Power Forward, Missouri
10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.2 steals, 64% FG, 84% FT, 20 minutes per game

Jonathan Givony

While still in a very early stage of his development, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the intriguing combination of production and potential being displayed by Missouri sophomore forward Laurence Bowers.

Not very highly regarded by the various recruiting services coming out of high school, Bowers played just 7 minutes per game as a freshman. He’s been making major contributions this season for a Missouri squad that is still retooling after a strong showing in last year’s NCAA tournament, advancing all the way to the Elite Eight. He plays only 20 minutes per game at the moment, but that is fairly normal on a squad where the leading scorer (Kim English) averages just 22 minutes per game, and no one on the roster plays more than 26.

Bowers’ intrigue revolves heavily around his excellent physical attributes. Standing 6-8, with a nice frame, a superb wingspan and tremendous athleticism, Bowers has great tools to build off. He still needs to add a good amount of weight to his lanky frame before he can reach his full athletic potential, but he’s clearly a very smooth and fluid athlete with very nice quickness and explosiveness around the basket.

Offensively, Bowers is mostly an off the ball role player at this stage, getting the majority of his production running the floor in transition, cutting and finishing around the rim, putting back offensive rebounds, and so forth. He doesn’t have the strength or girth to hold position or operate effectively with his back to the basket, but is able to make things happen in the paint at this level regardless. His extremely soft hands, coupled with his incredibly long arms and terrific finishing ability make him a phenomenal target for his guards to throw passes to, and he truly excels in Missouri’s extremely up-tempo offense.

Facing the basket, Bowers shows excellent potential as a spot-up shooter, knocking down a decent amount of jumpers (including 4/6 3-point attempts) on the season and 84% of his free throws. The terrific touch he shows here should allow him to develop into a solid mismatch threat from the perimeter in time. He already ranks 3rd amongst all prospects in true shooting percentage, and makes an impressive 64% of his attempts from the field. Bowers is clearly an unselfish and intelligent player who understands his role well, and that translates to his passing ability as well, where he shows good instincts and already posts a positive assist to turnover ratio.

As a ball-handler is where Bowers needs to improve the most if he’s to try and make the conversion to playing out on the wing full time down the road. He struggles to create his own shot, having a difficult time changing directions with the ball in the half-court if he’s unable to beat his defender purely off his first step. He is fairly quick with his initial move and shows great body control making his way to the rim at times, but just doesn’t have the offensive polish or strength to make much happen with the ball in his hands in one on one situations. Similarly, he has trouble finishing through contact at times due to his underdeveloped frame.

Bowers is a very active player who gets his hands on plenty of loose balls and fills up the stat-sheet in a variety of categories. He’s an excellent offensive rebounder who gets in the passing lanes at a great rate and also contributes significantly as a shot-blocker. His length helps him out tremendously in this area, as does the extremely fast pace that his team plays at undoubtedly. Missouri likes to let him wreak havoc at the top of their full-court press, and also puts him at the top of the key in their half-court defense, where he causes all kinds of problems.

Missouri’s unique style of play allows us to watch Bowers guard virtually every position on the floor, which is very helpful. He looks fairly comfortable out on the perimeter, doing a great job using his length to close out on shooters and contest most jump-shots in his area, and shows great feet and hustle switching out and putting pressure on smaller players. In the post, Bowers struggles at times defending some of the bulkier big men he’s forced to match up with on occasion, likely lacking a certain degree of physical toughness, and making you wonder whether he’ll ever have the strength to guard power forwards at the NBA level.

As an NBA prospect, Bowers has plenty of things going for him at the moment, and doesn’t appear to be very close at all to reaching his ceiling either. There are some question marks he’ll have to answer about his future position in the NBA, though, which may force the sophomore to stay at Missouri for at least another year, if not two. The perimeter seems to be the most likely direction for him to head in down the road, but he must improve his offensive polish while continuing to gain strength and experience first. Very few NBA scouts and even fewer draft outlets have Bowers on their radar on the moment, but from what we can tell that is very likely to change sometime in the next year or so.

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