The NBADraftBlog.com early look at the November NCAA tournaments motors on with a look at Orlando’s Old Spice Classic. Now in its fifth year, the Old Spice always provides great match-ups and many NCAA Tournament breakthrough teams started their seasons at the Old Spice Classic. Teams with the potential to do that this season who are here are Georgia and their star Trey Thompkins, and Fran Dunphy’s Temple squad.
Keep in mind, this is just an early look at the teams, and come November, I will take a much more in-depth look. Again, the focus here is not on the teams themselves, but on the players, specifically players with pro potential. So let’s take a look at The Old Spice Classic….
Old Spice Classic Pre-Preview
Coach Mark Fox has slowly been righting the Georgia program, and this is the year we should see a major breakthrough. Led by future lottery pick Trey Thompkins and shooting guard Travis Leslie, the Bulldogs will be contenders for the SEC title and most likely a NCAA team. Thompkins is dominant in the post, has great footwork and uses his body to get great position on the blocks. With a soft touch and the ability to finish strong, there will not be many in the country who can stop him. Leslie is very strong for a guard and he does a good job muscling his way to the basket. He has a good mid-range jumper, but he needs to be more confident with his long-range shooting. Also, he has to become better working without the ball, coming cleaner off of screens and sharper cuts to the rim. Freshman Marcus Thorton should be a major contributor immediately on the wing. A fantastic athlete with the ability to play on the perimeter or around the basket, Thorton should be able to show his scoring ability against the average defense of the SEC. He will need to improve his defense, especially guarding on the perimeter.
With Luke Harangody finally of to the NBA, Mike Brey will rely on Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough to guide the Irish back to the NCAA Tournament next March. Abromaitis is an excellent shooter, but will need to be a much bigger force on the boards to help alleviate the loss of Harangody. Hopefully he has added some muscle in the off-season. Hansbrough plays the game like his brother, taking no possessions off and doing whatever the team needs to win. While he doesn’t to any one thing very well, he is good at a lot of little things. Unless someone steps up to be a post presence, Hansbrough may need to get used to shooting with a hand in his face. He does have a quick release and good range, so he may be able to help stretch defenses, though I would expect him to spend more time running the offense. Tyrone Nash will start the season as the main big man though he is undersized and will need to spend most of his energy guarding bigger and stronger players.
No team has a bigger rebuilding job than the Cal Golden Bears. Gone are Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, and Jamal Boykin. Combined this group accounted for around 60 points and 20 rebounds a day. While the remaining players don’t cause much excitement, the group of freshmen that Coach Mike Montgomery has brought in should keep Cal near the top of the Pac-10 in the upcoming years. Led by guards Gary Franklin, Allen Crabbe and Alex Rossi, the Cal recruiting class may be the best in the Pac-10. Franklin is a score-first point guard, though his court vision and passing are under-rated. Franklin has a nice shot from the perimeter, and has the ability to beat defenders quickly off the dribble. He still needs to improve his decision-making, which should come with experience. Rossi is an excellent perimeter shooter, can shoot off the dribble or off a screen, and has slowly improved his ability to find holes in the defense. He has good size and needs to work on using it to his advantage. Crabbe has very similar skills to Rossi, though he needs to work on getting stronger. Crabbe is the better defender, and has the potential to guard either guard position.
Coach Fran Dunphy has continued the Temple tradition of being a team that no one enjoys playing against. The talent level will fluctuate, but Temple squads will always play tough D and keep games close. This season could be one of the up years in terms of talent. Guard Juan Fernandez and forward Lavoy Allen are both legitimate pro prospects. Fernandez is an average point guard, but an excellent shooter. However, he plays much better with the ball in his hands, and must improve working to get open off the ball. Defensively, Fernandez does a good job on the ball, but he does have issues with quicker guards. He is much more effective guarding shooting guards. Allen is a beast in the middle, and while not overly athletic, he makes offensive players want to avoid meeting him in the lane. He is a very good rebounder, using his bulk to get position and aggressively going after the ball. On the offensive end, he has improved his footwork, but is still most likely to score off of put-backs and tip-ins than from a set play. If he can show the ability to step out to 10 feet or so this season, he could be a very good NBA power forward prospect.
Bo Ryan is another coach who does a great job making sure his players play solid fundamental basketball and are always prepared for their opponent. Not to say that they aren’t talented, because they have some very good players. Jon Leuer is back for his senior season and he may be the Big 10’s best player. With great size at 6’10 and the ability to stretch defenses with is jumper, Leuer could provide many match-up problems this season. He does need to add more muscle to his frame, though he is stronger than he looks. I would like to see him take the ball to the basket more often instead of settling for jump shots, and also hopefully he can become a better rebounder for his size. Jordan Taylor will take over the point guard duties from Trevon Hughes, and should continue to improve the very good ball-handling and passing skills he already possesses. While not as much of a scorer as Hughes was, Taylor does have decent range on his jumper and a good first step to the basket, though he is not as aggressive as Hughes was on the offensive end. Freshman Evan Anderson is a legit big man prospect, who loves to play physical and is aggressive on both ends of the floor. His development will well be worth watching.
The Aggies has a successful season last year, but will need to replace the scoring and leadership of Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis in 2010. Point guard Dash Harris will lead the team this season, though he will primarily be a distributor and defensive stopper. BJ Holmes is another small, quick guard, but he does a much better job penetrating the defense and getting to the rim. Sophomore Kris Middleton will need to contribute more scoring from the wing this season. Hopefully his shot selection has improved over the summer. Look for the smaller guards to open up the floor to give Middleton more room to operate. A pair of big Freshmen, Daniel Alexander and Kourtney Roberson should be able to contribute immediately with the dearth of players in the middle. Alexander projects more to a small forward, though he needs to add a lot of strength. He has great range on his jumper and does an excellent job seeing the floor when he has the ball. Roberson is solidly-built and is excellent at battling around the basket, something this team will need a lot of this season.
New coach Steve Donahue has stepped into a good situation with a veteran BC team returning its three leading scorers. Joe Trapani is a smooth shooting wing with a variety of moves to create space or to get to the rim. Defensively, he needs to become more aware of his positioning on the court, especially leaving too much of a cushion to his man. Corey Raji is a monster on the offensive boards and does a very good job muscling the ball in against bigger opponents. Unfortunately, his game is more suited to a power forward, and he just doesn’t have the size for that. If he can learn to play more from 10 to 15 feet out, he will be a much more effective player and he could open up the floor more for his teammates. Reggie Jackson is a decent guard, though the lack of a consistent perimeter shot really holds back his game. I am looking forward to seeing if he has fixed that over the summer. I am impressed with his court vision, though he can be a bit tentative when creating plays, which allows the defense time to recover. It will be interesting to see if Coach Donahue tries to install a version of the offense he ran at Cornell, or will he try to create and offense around the personnel he inherited.
Manhattan was hit with the surprise defection of leading scorer Rico Pickett to Europe, so things may be a bit rough this season for the Jaspers. A large recruiting class is coming in, though I will need to watch them a bit more before I get a feel for them. Of the returning players, I am hoping to see Andrew Gabriel step up and show some of the promise he had a high school player.
Make sure to check back later today for a look at the Charleston Classic, featuring Georgetown and North Carolina State, and tomorrow a look at some of the smaller tournaments going on early in the season.
Remember, leave your comments here, or if you want, feel free to email me directly at ed @NBADraftBlog.com.