Another day, another early season tournament to take a sneak peek at. Today we will look at a newer entry into this field, and the tournament I hope to get to this season, the Charleston Classic. The great thing about this tournament is that it is filled with up and coming teams, including Wofford, East Carolina and Charlotte.
While only 6 teams have been announced out of the field of 8, I couldn’t wait to take a look, so let’s do an early breakdown of the Charleston Classic….
Charleston Classic Pre-Preview
The Hoyas’ season came to a shocking end in March with a First Round NCAA loss to Ohio. On top of that, Greg Monroe took his all-around skills to the NBA; yet the Hoyas are still in good shape coming into the season. Led by the guard trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, and Jason Clark, the Hoyas have a variety of ways to score and will continue to play extremely tough defense. Wright did a great job last year stepping up as a leader of the team, while also improving almost every part of his game. The biggest flaw in his game is that he lacks the speed of a lot of the point guards he plays against, though he is stronger than most. With the lack of a solid post presence other than Julian Vaughn, Wright will need to become more aggressive looking to score. Freeman is a great perimeter shooter, and he has the ability to shoot off the dribble or off a screen. He is also extremely strong and can muscle his way to the basket to score. Defensively, he is an average on-ball defender, but needs to become better away from the ball. Clark is a fantastic defender, who showed some flashes of very good offensive skills last season. A much improved shooter, I expect him to become much more of a scorer this season. A good athlete, Clark should look to get to the basket more often instead of settling for jumpers. Vaughn will be the muscle in the middle, and he showed steady improvement last season, especially in his ability to operate in Coach Thompson’s offense. Freshmen Nate Lubick, Moses Abraham and Markel Starks will provide depth along with sophomore Hollis Thompson.
North Carolina State
Coach Sidney Lowe has not had the success that State fans expected since he took over a few years back. This year looks like the year that the Wolfpack take a big step forward. This became a bit easier in April when Tracy Smith decided to stay for his senior season. An athletic forward, Smith has excellent footwork with his back to the rim and great touch on his shot. He also has the ability to take the ball strong to the basket and finish. While he still needs to improve his ability to handle the ball, he has added some nice moves along the baseline to his arsenal. On defense, Smith still needs to become more aggressive, especially battling for position with stronger forwards. The key to the Wolfpack season though rests in the hands of a stellar recruiting class led by CJ Leslie. Leslie is very athletic with the ability to out-jump most of the other players on the court.
He does an excellent job finishing at the rim, though he needs to add some muscle to his upper body. Unfortunately, his free throw shooting is dreadful, which he needs to improve quickly, especially with the style of game he plays. Defensively, he is still learning to guard out on the perimeter and can be a bit awkward following his man. In the lane though, he can be a terror with his shot-blocking ability. Point guard Ryan Harrow is an explosive scorer, though his size (5’11, 155) may be a problem at this level. Harrow also needs to work on becoming more of a distributor than a scorer, especially with his decision-making and passing. Lorenzo Brown has the ability to play either guard position, though he plays much better at this point with the ball in his hands. Defensively, he has a lot of work to do, especially keeping his man in front of him.
A few years removed from its magical Final Four run, the George Mason program seems to be back on the upswing again. Led by forward Ryan Pearson and guards Cam Long and Andre Cornelius, the Patriots will put a good mix of veterans and new players on the floor. Pearson is very tough, playing much bigger than his 6’6. He does most of his scoring around the rim, though he may run into trouble against stronger defenders. Long is an excellent scorer, with the ability to take the ball to the rim or to hit the mid-range jumper consistently. He needs to become more of a threat from 3 though to help keep the defense off-balance and open up the floor. Cornelius is a quick point guard with very good passing and ball-handling skills. He has good range on his jumper, though he loses focus when a defender closes on him. Look for him to be much better at penetrating this season. His defense has improved enough that it is now a strength for him. He will be key to keeping the team’s defensive intensity up.
The pieces are in place for Wofford to make another NCAA tourney trip this season, and with the talent they have, a chance to survive the first weekend. The team is led by Noah Dahlman, a do-everything forward who has the ability to drop 20 points on you any night. Jamar Diggs and Cameron Rundles are an experienced backcourt, and they do a great job moving the ball around and getting it to the open spots. Both are good enough shooters to keep the defense honest, though I am hoping they become a bit more consistent from long-range this season. As is normally the case, size could be an issue for the Terriers, so they will need someone to step up and rebound – possibly freshmen Aerris Smith or Cameron McQueen.
New coach Alan Major enters a decent situation with the 49ers returning their top 3 players and scorers, as well as an assortment of role players. Big Shamari Spears is back and expect him to play more of a throwdown, physical style on offense, especially in the lane. While he improved a bit from the perimeter last season, I expect him to take the next step and become a legitimate mid-range threat. Defensively, he does a good job as an under-sized power forward, though he has a tendency to be off-balance if he guards out on the perimeter. Chris Braswell is developing well and getting into better shape. He is very talented on the offensive end, where he has shown the ability to get position in the post, has decent footwork and a nice touch. He still needs to improve his power game, but I expect to see more of it this year. Defensively, he will need to show improvement this season. I would like to see him play more aggressive on defense, and not get caught a step behind his man. Derrio Green had a good first season in Charlotte, and I expect him to become more efficient in the offense this season as well as more consistent from the perimeter.
Jeff Lebo takes over the Pirates this season and he will look to make big strides immediately with 6 of the top 7 scorers from last season returning. Led by point guard Brock Young and big man Darrius Morrow, ECU has strong scorers up top and in the post. Morrow is excellent at breaking down the defense and getting to the rim, though he is extremely erratic and needs to improve his shot selection. Morrow is very efficient with the ball, though he needs to work on going stronger to the basket. Also, Morrow needs to become a better rebounder on the defensive end, and hopefully has come back this season with some added muscle. The player I want to see is Jamar Abrams, an athletic wing with a great first step and the ability to knock down jumpers with a hand in his face. He also has the ability to be a disruptive defender, though he needs to not fall for ball and head fakes as much as he has previously.
The other two teams in the field will be announced soon and as soon I find them out, I will make sure to update this post. As we get closer to the season, this preview will be expanded to include full player scouting reports and team breakdowns.
Tomorrow’s tournament will be the Pre-Season NIT, including Villanova and Tennessee. Make sure to leave your comments or feel free to email me at ed @nbadraftblog.com or find me on Twitter – @nbadraftblog with any questions or comments.