I continue my early look at the potential draftees in the Early Season NCAA Tournaments with the 76 Classic from Anaheim. An interesting field in this event, with all of the main teams coming off of major player losses with the exception of Virginia Tech. With Tech’s problems getting some NCAA tournament love recently, winning this tournament may go a long way in boosting their resume come March.
76 Classic Pre-Preview
This will be the season that Virginia Tech gets the respect from the NCAA Selection Committee that it has deserved under Coach Seth Greenberg. The key to this season was made in the spring when the ACC’s leading scorer, Malcom Delaney, decided to return for his senior year. With the ability to play the point, Delaney is the catalyst to the Hokie offense. He has a great first step, finds holes in the defense easily and has the ability to hit from beyond the arc. His biggest flaw is his decision-making, which needs significant improvement. Whether it is forcing bad shots or missing open teammates, Delaney needs to have more trust in the rest of the team. While not a collection of All-Americans, there are solid role players, and at least 2 other potential pros – Jeff Allen and Allen Chaney. Chaney, a transfer from Florida, has great size, can play in the post or on the perimeter, and has nice touch around the basket. Unfortunately, Chaney has not been cleared to play due to a heart issue, but hopefully he will return soon. Allen is a bull in the lane, is an excellent rebounder and does a good job setting picks to spring the guards. I hope to see him become more aggressive in looking to get his own shots this season, as well as improving his perimeter defense.
Oklahoma State was not as lucky as Virginia Tech, as they lost their leading scorer, James Anderson, to the NBA. Also gone is 2nd leading scorer Obi Muonelo. While this season may not be as successful as last, Coach Travis Ford has started putting the pieces in place for long-term success. Leading the team this season is 3-point sniper Keiton Page and power forward Marshall Moses. Page has a lightning quick release and seemingly unlimited range on his jumper. At only 5’9, his NBA potential is limited, though if he can show that he can be a playmaker, while also playing tough defense, he could be a player to keep an eye on. However, he really needs to improve his agility, especially his lateral movement on defense. Moses has improved slowly his first three seasons, but he has shown the potential to be a much better player. He uses his body well and is quick for his size, though he is too passive on both ends of the floor. If he can be motivated to take a greater role on the team, he has the potential to be a double-double player almost every night.
Another team hit hard by graduation and early defections, DePaul is looking to rebuild under new coach Oliver Purnell. Will Walker and Mac Koshwal accounted for almost half of the team’s points last year, but look for Purnell to install a more up-tempo system to take advantage of the team’s athleticism. The players to watch from this year’s team are all freshmen – Moses Morgan, Cleveland Melvin, and Brandon Young. Morgan is a scorer, does a great job getting to the basket, has a decent mid-range game, and is active on the boards. He will need to improve his defense, and work hard on adding muscle, but he has the ability to be the Blue Demons’ top scorer right away. Young has good size for a point guard at 6’3, does a good job running a half-court offense and can push the ball in transition. He needs to work on cutting down his mistakes, especially his tendency to be a bit slow in his decision-making. Defensively, he does a good job, though his effort can be inconsistent. Melvin is a long, athletic forward, who plays much better at this stage with his back to the basket, though his long-term future will probably be on the perimeter. Watch for him to slowly transition to working on the perimeter as Purnell brings in bigger players to fill the front line positions.
The big question facing UNLV is if star player Tre’Von Willis will play this season. Willis is facing criminal charges after being accused of choking a woman in June. Coach Lon Kruger has not given any indication yet how he plans to handle this, but my guess is that unless Willis is cleared before 2011, his UNLV career is over. If that is the case, the Rebels will need to rely on point guard Oscar Bellfield and small forward Chace Stanback. Bellfield is an excellent distributor, knows how to get his teammates the ball in the right place, and can get to the basket in transition. He is a very good on-ball defender and can be a nuisance the whole length of the court. Stanback was once a heralded UCLA recruit and last season started to show some promise. He is extremely athletic with fantastic leaping ability. He goes strong to the basket and doesn’t shy away from contact. He needs to improve his perimeter shot, especially the 16-18 foot range. He also should work on becoming more aggressive on the defensive end, especially using his leaping ability to block shots.
Add Stanford to the list of teams here who lost their leading scorer, though life without Landry Fields will not be that bad for the Cardinal. Jeremy Green is an excellent long-range shooter with consistent form and a quick release. He needs to improve his first step to the basket and should add some muscle to allow him to take a few shots on his way. He is a very good defender, and can guard either guard position if needed. Without Fields, I am interested in seeing how Green handles being the focus of the defense. The other player who can be a difference maker is freshman Dwight Powell, a long, lean shot blocker. He has good footwork for his size (6’10) and has a soft touch around the rim. He will need to work hard at adding some bulk to play in the post. He will be especially hindered on the defensive end where he is just not strong enough yet to keep players out of the lane, though his shot-blocking ability may make them think twice.
With the graduation of team leaders Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh, it now falls to Justin Hurtt to take over the team. Hurtt is an excellent long-range shooter and does a good job without the ball, making strong cuts to the basket and drawing contact. An excellent free-throw shooter, Hurtt will need to be more aggressive going to the basket with the ball if he is to continue getting points from the line. Defensively, he is not a great ball defender, but he does a good job anticipating missed shot and getting in position for rebounds. He does a good job filling lanes in transition, though I would like to see how he does running the break for the team.
Apologies to fans of Murray State and Cal State Northridge, but as this is a NBA Draft blog, I don’t see any players on either team being NBA material.
Note: I have made the decision that even if a team has no NBA prospects, I will still give them their due. So Murray State fans, here you go:
One of the most storied mid-major programs in the country, the Racers return a solid group of players who will give any team here a much tougher game than they may expect. Coach Billy Kennedy, one the the best young minds in the game, has many key players back from last year’s 31 win team. Led by point guard BJ Jenkins and power forward Ivan Aska will be called upon to lead the team if they expect to come close to last year’s win total. Jenkins is under-sized, but has extremely quick feet and hands, a killer handle, and does a great job getting penetration. However, his lack of size and strength can be an issue against more physical guards. Aska does an excellent job using his body to create space in the lane and has a nice touch around the rim, though he still needs to develop some skills in the 10-15 foot range, and on the defensive end, he needs to be more aggressive, especially going after rebounds.
Tomorrow, I will take a look at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, starring North Carolina and Minnesota. Remember, comments are always appreciated, so leave them and I will always respond.