Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Three: #11-#15)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Three: #11-#15)
Oct 13, 2007, 08:16 pm
Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10:

Part One, Two, Three

Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC:

Part One, Two, Three

Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC:

Part One, Two

Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12:

Part One, Part Two

#11: Wesley Johnson, 6-7, SF/PF, Sophomore, Iowa State

Rodger Bohn

While there were many more heralded freshman entering the Big 12 last season, the most productive of them statistically came from off the beaten path-- Iowa State. Not even a top 150 high school recruit, Wesley Johnson caught the conference off guard, posting averages of 12 points and 8 rebounds per game—while beginning to familiarize his name with attentive NBA personnel in the process.

Standing 6-7, Johnson owns good size for a small forward prospect. He combines his height with freakish leaping ability and an outstanding wingspan, giving him even more of an advantage physically over most opposing wing players. Often the Cyclone freshman is able to jump two times in the same time that it takes others to jump once, a testament to the pogo stick leaping ability that he possesses.

As the season went on, it was more and more evident that we were looking at a legitimate small forward prospect, rather than the dreaded “combo forward” that so many 6’7 forwards often end up being labeled as. Johnson displayed the ability to shoot the ball from the three point arc as well as from midrange, although without any real consistency. He would go on stretches of hitting two or three 3-pointers for a couple of games in a row, but would then go without connecting on a single 3-point attempt in others. The lengthy forward even dropped five 3-pointers on Missouri last February, although in a blowout loss. In terms of the form on Wesley’s shot, there is very little to complain about. He releases the ball from a high vantage point and gets the ball off in a hurry, while maintaining consistent form either shooting off the dribble or on the catch and shoot. Simply put, Johnson appears to be a better shooter than the numbers reflect.

Despite only tipping the scales at a meager 195 pounds, Wesley has displayed the ability to consistently post up opposing forwards. He often goes to a turnaround jumper on the blocks, which he is able to turn to either shoulder and hit with regularity. Strength is an area of his game that he will need to improve upon however, as bigger forwards will look to abuse his lack of bulk at the next level. For the moment, though, his slender frame hasn’t posed too many problems for him.

Ball-handling is the one area of Johnson’s game that clearly has the most room for improvement. He is strictly a two dribble straight-line dribbler, unable to create much more than what he is able to get from catching the defense off-balance with his initial first step. Often Wesley will look for a high ball screen when he has the ball in his hands, primarily to make up for his inability to create off of the dribble. His first step allows him to create enough space to get his shot off on a consistent basis, somewhat minimizing the effects of his below average dribbling ability.

The defensive end of the floor is where Johnson truly shows promise of being a special player. He does an excellent job of staying on the floor, while fully utilizing his outstanding length, both in terms of blocking shots and creating steals. The Texas native proved that he can defend both small forwards and power forwards, owning the quickness to keep in front of wings and the length to alter post players’ shots. Often forced to guard the opposing team’s best forward prospect, Johnson proved to be one of Iowa State’s steadier defenders, despite only being a freshman.

With the departure of last year’s leading scorer Mike Taylor, the Cyclones will be Wesley Johnson’s team this upcoming season. He will have the opportunity to vastly improve upon the intriguing numbers that he put up as a freshman, given that many more plays will certainly be called for him. Look for this season to be Johnson’s breakout campaign, firmly placing him on the radar of NBA teams and making him a name discussed by die-hard basketball fans around the country.

#12: Kevin Rogers, 6-9, Power Forward, Baylor, Junior

Mike Schmidt

An athletic forward from the Dallas area, Kevin Rogers built nicely on his freshman campaign by doubling his scoring average as a sophomore. Baylor will rely heavily on his production this season, due to their lack of experienced front court talent. Rogers isn’t the type of player who jumps out as a great NBA prospect at first glance, but he does have the tools to make it worthwhile to keep tabs on him.

Rogers scores many of his points by picking up garbage baskets in the paint. A number of his offensive looks came as a result of offensive rebounds. The junior forward shows excellent anticipation on the offensive glass, and has a very quick second jump that allows him to rebound without the inside position. Physically, he has all the tools to help him as a scrappy player inside. Rogers has an explosive vertical leap, and a well built, but lean body that allows him to be both strong and agile.

As an option in the half court offense, Rogers scores the majority of his baskets by knocking down the mid-range jumper when left open. His accuracy in this area declines greatly when on the move, however, something he tends to try and force too often. Rodgers has yet to develop any type of consistent back to the basket game. On the low block, he tends to use the same spin move and fade-away jumper, which falls at a low rate.

Rogers could make a bigger impact in the paint if he chose to draw contact rather than settle for fade-away shots. The lefty forward seems too timid to aggressively attack the defense, and often loses the ball against bigger players in the post. It would also help if he made a better effort to get up and down the floor. For a big man who runs the court like a guard, Rogers rarely gets out and takes advantage of his natural tools on the break. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that he’s in the paint rebounding, but he rarely leaks out when caught on the perimeter on the defensive end.

Defensively, Rogers has the tools to become a capable weak-side shot-blocker, but his anticipation and effort are lacking. To improve in this area, a better understanding of the proper rotations is necessary. As a man to man defender, he could use his body more effectively when fighting for position.

Kevin Rogers has the potential to possibly develop into a complimentary big man in the NBA, with his ability to rebound and face the basket. To reach his full potential, he must focus on tougher play inside and an improved understanding of how to play defense. Baylor should land in the top half of the Big 12 this season, and Rogers will certainly have his chance to shine against some very talented front courts. He has two years of eligibility remaining to prove that he can become a player that scouts must focus on.

#13: Curtis Jerrells, 6-1, Junior, PG/SG, Baylor

Joseph Treutlein

After a promising freshman season, 6’1 combo-guard Curtis Jerrells came back strong again for Baylor as a sophomore, leading the guard-heavy team in points and assists, while improving his assist-to-turnover ratio and points per field goal attempted. Jerrells is both skilled, physically gifted and fairly versatile, with the biggest questions surrounding his game being if he can make a full transition to the point, or if he can make it in the NBA as a combo guard.

The left-handed Jerrells can beat the opposition in many ways on the offensive end, being equally skilled taking the ball to the basket and shooting from long range. Jerrells has an excellent combination of strength and quickness when taking the ball to the hole, and complements those attributes well with his good understanding of how to change speed and direction en route to the basket. He has a tight, low-to-the-ground handle, especially with his left hand, a nice array of crossover and spin moves, and he accelerates very well coming around the corner. Jerrells also does a very good job adjusting his shot in the lane, finishing with good touch around the rim, while taking contact well with his strong upper body. Jerrells’ only major flaws with his dribble-drive game are the lack of a strong floater in the lane and a tendency to dribble into trouble at times, sometimes forcing the issue with his own offense.

As for Jerrells’ outside shot, he has good form on his shot, has shown flashes of NBA range, and shot .365 on a high volume of shot attempts. Unlike most shooters, Jerrells actually seems to be more effective on the move, either pulling up for his own shot off the dribble or catching and shooting in transition, as opposed to taking spot-ups on kick-outs in the half-court. He has excellent body control and keeps his form fairly consistent when not shooting from a standstill, not tending to take many off-balanced, ill-advised attempts.

Overall, Jerrells plays a very aggressive style of offense, often looking for his own shot attempts first and foremost, while showing the same aggressiveness attacking the offensive boards, having a great second bounce around the basket.

Jerrells’ aggressiveness doesn’t always mesh well with his running of his team, though, as he doesn’t seem to have the greatest feel for managing an offense. Baylor had four lead guards seeing considerable time this season, oftentimes all on the floor at once, so this didn’t require Jerrells to play as a pure point guard, with him often being able to attack from the wing. Still, most of Jerrells’ assists came from finding open shooters in the flow of the offense, or making late dump-offs on drives in the lane, as opposed to looking to consistently create offense for teammates. Jerrells tends to hold onto the ball a lot and predominantly look for his own shot, which works well in Baylor’s situation, but doesn’t allow scouts to see what he’s fully capable of as a floor general.

Defensively, Jerrells doesn’t put in near the effort he does on the offensive end, and has a lot of room to improve. He doesn’t read pick-and-rolls especially well, and rarely fights hard through screens, which is also an issue when chasing his man without the ball. Overall, Jerrells isn’t very aggressive staying with his man without the ball, and sometimes drifts too far away, leaving his man open on the perimeter for a kick-out. His lateral quickness is also questionable, but it’s tough to tell if he is lacking in ability or effort there. Jerrells does show dynamic flashes as a weak-side defender, though, using his athleticism and length to disrupt opposing players.

There’s a possibility Jerrells could test the draft waters this season, with him having nothing to lose by playing his card as a Junior, and he could definitely make a splash at the pre-draft camps, which are very important for combo-guard with questionable point guard abilities. Jerrells is no sure thing to be drafted whenever he declares, but he is a very talented and physically gifted player who has potential as either a sparkplug scorer or a point guard in the NBA. Showing the same aggressive on defense that he shows on offense, and working on his point guard game, should be among his main priorities this season.

#14: Richard Roby, 6-6, SG/SF, Senior, Colorado

Kyle Nelson

Richard Roby began his career at Colorado as one of the most heralded freshman prospects in the country. Shooting 44.5% from the field and 37.4% from the perimeter, Roby averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game during his first season in Boulder. By the time he had finished his sophomore year, Roby was considered one of the premier shooting guards in the country, and led the Buffaloes to a 20-10 record. Despite flirting with the NBA following his sophomore year, he didn’t find the waters particularly welcoming and ended up returning to school. He then went onto have one of the most fascinating regressions in recent memory. By the time the disastrous season had come to an end, Roby had seen his percentages drop across the board, and had an embarrassing 7-20 record to show for his efforts.

Roby still displays the skills and ability that made him a prospect two years ago. He has a scorer’s mentality and has refined shooting instincts with the potential to make him a potential contributor down the road. However, the key word is potential. He has good touch with a quick release and limitless range, but his mechanics could use work. While his shot looked pretty consistent during his sophomore year, he now has one of the most inconsistent release points among draft prospects. In fact, he shoots the ball from the perimeter differently almost every time he takes one. Sometimes he has a smooth and fluid shooting motion that recalls a player like Reggie Miller, and then on the next play, he kicks his feet out like Dirk Nowitzki and launches it from above his head. The next time down he might even try a fade-away shot released from his chest. He must work on establishing consistency in his release point.

As with his perimeter jumpshot, Roby’s turnaround jumper and ability to pull-up from midrange would be far more of an offensive weapon if he was more consistent. Because he’s a volume shooter and a 17.3 point producer for the Buffaloes, his ability to shoot the ball has the ability to win and lose games. Last season, as the pressure mounted with NBA scouts watching and the Buffaloes relying on him more than ever as a primary scoring option, his shot selection went down the drain, and he started settling for too many tough and ill-advised jump shots. He finished last season shooting 38.3%, which ranked him near the bottom of legitimate draft prospects, mostly near guys much younger than him (he will be a 23 year old senior). Even more disturbing is that he ranks fourth amongst returning draft prospects in field goal attempts as well.

If Roby were to improve his ball-handling ability, then he could become a much better scorer because he already possesses the instincts to be a formidable shooter. He creates space well and uses screens to get open, but in the NBA, as is proving accurate in college, the fact that he is big for a shooting guard will not be nearly enough to compensate for his lack of a handle. He dribbles the ball out of control and too high to really be considered a threat to score off the dribble at the next level.

Roby likes to slash, being able to go to the basket with either hand. Though because of his poor decision making skills, it isn’t hard to see why he turns the ball over more than he should. When he drives to the basket, he is the only player on the floor. Drive and dish is not really in his vocabulary at this point. Roby can finish with either hands, and though he is not overwhelmingly athletic, he is a good finisher with a variety of different ways to the ball in the basket, adding a nice floater by the end of the year. But perhaps more impressive than his finishing ability is his creativity with the ball when he’s driving. Roby has the ability to spin in the lane to avoid defenders and has shown the ability to evade defenders with other similar tricks. We can only imagine what would happen if he tightened up his handle.

Roby isn’t a bad rebounder, primarily due to his length, as his 5.5 rebounds per game would indicate. However, because of his lack of quickness, this length is not as much of a factor and defenders around the basket constantly beat him. He is a little on the skinny side as well and does not do a good job of fighting through screens, often going behind them and giving his man far too much room on the perimeter. His instincts are not as refined as they should be at this stage in his development, making him a fairly average defensive prospect as far as the NBA is concerned. In terms of his athleticism, Roby is not as smooth as you might expect a player with his game to be. He is a step slow, and though he is fast in the open court, he is not fast enough to blow by defenders in the lane. This lack of quickness puts him at somewhat of a disadvantage on the defensive end as well.

Despite how badly Roby played last year, his senior year might bring about a certain amount of redemption. With the signing of former Air Force coach Jeff Bzedlik and the inevitable institution of the Princeton offense, shooters like Roby should thrive. His NBA potential depends on such improvement, as he’s going to have to show that he is the same player he was as a freshman and sophomore, as well as prove that he can win games as a primary option for the Buffaloes.

#15: Mamadou Diene, 7-0, Junior, Center, Baylor

Kyle Nelson

Averaging 4.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots in 19 minutes per game, Mamadou Diene’s numbers don’t indicate him being one of the more serious NBA prospects in this conference. However, as the saying goes, you can’t teach size, and Diene has plenty of it. He is a legitimate seven-footer that enjoys a gigantic wingspan; displaying a frame that could still fill out in the future. However, we are talking about a major project. As of now, Diene is slow, mechanical, and awkward when on the floor and, though he has improved, he still has a long way to go before he enters the NBA Draft conversation.

Raw is an understatement when describing Diene’s offensive ability. Possessing poor hands and court awareness, he has trouble getting himself in positions to receive the ball and score. However, it is of note that he runs the pick and roll extremely well compared to the rest of his skill set. He also does a good job establishing position in the post, but just cannot catch the ball consistently. When he receives the ball in the post, his offense is incredibly predictable. He catches it, pump fakes once or twice, then goes up, no matter how many people are around him. Occasionally the ball goes through the net, but he is stripped and blocked just as often. A guy with his size and length should be going straight up and attacking the hoop. That being said, he is generally a below-average finisher and lacks the aggression to take the ball to the hoop strong and dunk. He does, however, do a good job of following his shot and is always in the mix for offensive rebounds, even if he doesn’t get them.

However, his jump-shot is an area of interest. When left open, Diene has shown the ability to make shots from anywhere from 5 feet to 17 feet away from the basket. As of now, he is shooting midrange jump-shots flatfooted and usually banking them off the backboard. This versatility to step out and hit shots is interesting because of the opportunities it could create for him elsewhere on the floor if he can hit them consistently. He has bad form, launching the ball with an over exaggerated arc at this point. However, he knows how to use the backboard surprisingly well. Diene has shown the potential to hit a baby hook or jump hook shot from the baseline as well, but his combination of bad touch and general inexperience hinders him in this department. Practice is the key for Diene, because once he gets comfortable with his shooting, he’ll get more opportunities underneath the basket, where he should be getting more production.

On defense, Diene is not nearly as good as his physical attributes would suggest. He only averaged 1.6 blocked shots per game last season, and after watching tape, it is clear why. He has very little concept of timing on the defensive end and would rather stay in the post than actively challenge shots. This is a shame because a guy with his length is an intimidator at the collegiate level the moment he steps on the floor, let alone when he is contesting a shot. And while he tries to block everything in sight, he’s not really quick enough to succeed. That being said, opposing teams exploit the fact that he is so post-bound. Missouri scored on him five times in a row by just having their big men shoot mid-range jump-shots in the high post. Diene didn’t recognize what was going on even after the fifth time, as every play looked exactly the same. He frequently gets backed down in the post by smaller players too, and is often caught biting for pump fakes. He rebounds well if he gets position, but this doesn’t happen very often, and is not particularly strong in traffic because of this. The one thing that Diene really does well on defense is to disrupt passing lanes. He uses his long arms to harass post defenders and steal the ball. Regardless of actual ability, however, it is an understatement to say that the sight of the 7 foot, 250 pound Diene is not a deterrent to slashing perimeter players. Therefore, at the very least, Diene is a presence on defense.

Diene is still learning the nuances of the game, and therefore, the intangibles he possesses are fairly limited. For example, he sometimes looks disinterested when the play does not involve him in anyway and is not very aggressive with the ball in his hands. He also shows the tendency to hack and get pointless fouls. Diene has some decent tools to work with and shows some surprising versatility for a player as limited as he is. A lot of work is going to have to take place in order to turn Diene into a solid basketball player, and these days in the NBA, scouts are going to want to see it happen on both sides of the ball.

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