Three months after posting our initial impressions of Hassan Whiteside
s freshman season (our first scouting report on him actually came back in 2008), the dust has settled and has allowed us a much clearer picture of his strengths and weaknesses.
Whiteside has emerged about as quickly as a prospect can when looking at where he was this time last yeara raw, rail-thin, anonymous big man coming off the bench in prep school, committed to play for a small Conference USA team in West Virginia. Whiteside faced significant question marks regarding his ability to even get eligible at Marshall from an academic standpoint, and was not receiving very much attention from the recruiting services.
Fast-forward a year and Whiteside is fresh off being named C-USAs top freshman and defensive player of the year, after leading the NCAA in blocked shots. Hes elevated his NBA draft stock significantly in the process, to the point that hes being mentioned by many as a potential lottery pick and perhaps even higher.
Whiteside has progressed notably as the season moved on, seeing increased playing time and shouldering a bigger share of the offensive load for Marshall. Though he remains largely an unpolished prospect, particularly in terms of his footwork, post-moves and decision making ability, he shows flashes of potential in many different areas, namely his ability to put the ball on the floor, knock down mid-range jumpers and utilize his tremendous length to score inside.
Extremely aggressive looking to make things happen on the offensive end, Whiteside gets to the free throw line at an excellent rate, converting 60% of his attempts once there, and does an outstanding job of crashing the offensive glass and finishing around the rim. He has very good touch around the basket, as well as from the perimeter (even knocking down a couple of 3-pointers this season), clearly showing better scoring instincts than your typically raw mid-major big man. The terrific extension he gets around the rim, excellent shooting mechanics and high-release point on his turnaround jumper all leave plenty of room for optimism regarding his offensive potential once hes able to fill out his lanky frame a bit.
Whitesides weaknesses as a prospect are often just as glaring as his strengths. His main issue revolves around his extremely underdeveloped frame, which hinders him on the offensive end, but more importantly makes him a constant target for post-up plays and renders him an exceptionally poor man to man defender against average college big men. Whiteside gives up deep position in the post with the greatest of ease--seemingly not even fighting back at times-- getting out of his stance quickly, bringing his hands down, and downright giving up on plays, thinking hell simply be able to recover and come up with a block, which at this level can indeed be the case on occasion.
As a weak-side shot-blocker its an entirely different story, though, as indicated by the fact that he led the entire NCAA in this category on both a per-game and per-minute basis, which is extremely impressive considering the stage of development hes currently at. Whiteside possesses freakish lengthhis wingspan is reportedly around 7-6and he has absolutely terrific timing rotating, contesting and rejecting shots. Hes one of the most productive rebounders in college basketball for these same reasons.
One of Whitesides biggest problems lies in his extremely poor passing ability. Playing 851 minutes on the season, Whiteside has dished out only 9 assists, a shockingly low number that ranks him amongst the worst in college basketball in that area. Watching him play, its clear that once he touches the ball, he sees nothing besides the rim, often forcing up extremely poor shots and having major issues dealing with double teams, which makes him very turnover prone.
Whitesides fundamentals, basketball IQ and overall awareness are well below average, even considering his freshman status. He at times looks out of place in Marshalls half-court offense, looking as if hes not quite sure where he should be at any particular moment, which at this late stage in the season makes you wonder about his ability to process an NBA teams far more complex playbook.
Whiteside had a very difficult time qualifying academically for college, only actually getting into school at age 20, and is reportedly having problems staying eligible now that hes already there, which will likely leave him no choice but to enter this years draft.
Immature is the word you hear most often associated with Whiteside both on and off the court, as there will certainly be a large degree of hand-holding and coddling that whichever team drafts him needs to do in order to help him reach his full potential. There are major questions about his work ethic and intensity level, which is a bit concerning considering how far off he currently is from being able to contribute to an NBA team. We also need to keep in mind that despite his freshman status, hes the same age as many college juniors, turning 21 this upcoming June. This obviously limits his upside to a certain degree.
Despite the numerous red-flags and his clear-cut project status, Whiteside is an extremely interesting prospect thanks to his rare physical tools and super intriguing skill-level. At a certain point in the draft, the reward of picking him definitely outweighs the risk, as were obviously dealing with a special talent. NBA teams will need to do quite a bit of research into his background and psychological makeup, and figure out how much physical potential his frame has in terms of being able to add weight. Whiteside is clearly the type of guy that needs to go to the right organization, as he could easily get lost in the shuffle and find himself out of the NBA if he lands in the wrong place.