Less than two months from the start of the college basketball season, and the road to the 2013 NBA Draft has begun. It’s time to continue my look at this year’s senior class and some brief notes on areas where they need to show improvement to maximize their value at the next level.
Remember, these are not meant to replace scouting reports, which will come out during the season. These are not all-inclusive and just meant as a brief primer for those who want to track draft prospects throughout the season.
Solomon Hill, Arizona, Forward, 6’7, 226
12.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 50.0 FG%, 72.4 FT%, 38.9 3FG%
Hill has proven to be a versatile player on both ends of the floor for the Wildcats. On the offensive end, he attacks the rim well off the dribble, has a good first step, and has the ability to knock down open jumpers. He is careful not to force bad shots. He does a good job crashing the boards on both ends of the floor. On the defensive side, Hill is capable of guarding multiple positions, and can play much bigger than he actually is. He is active on and off the ball, and will get after loose balls. Hill runs the floor well and can finish in transition.
What he needs to show this season: Hill did an admirable job defending against big men due to Arizona’s lack of size, but at the next level he will spend more time guarding on the wings, so he has to continue to work on his positioning, his lateral movement and foot speed, and getting through screens. On the offensive end, while Hill does a good job taking his man off the dribble, he will usually bail on a play at the first sign of a help defender. I want to see Hill start to follow more drives through to the basket, looking to finish strong and take the contact. This doesn’t mean every time, as he does a good job not forcing when there is obviously no good shot. Also, Hill needs to continue to work on becoming a consistent perimeter shooter, and hopefully down the line, add the ability to shoot his jumper off the dribble.
Will Cherry, Montana, Guard, 6’1, 177
15.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.6 spg, 44.5 FG%, 77.6 FT%, 37.2 3FG%, 1.2:1 A/TO
Cherry has built his reputation as one of the top defenders in the country, but he has also improved in many other areas over the past few seasons. He is strong defending on and off the ball, and he has excellent court awareness. He does a good job sensing gaps in his team’s defense and can help very quickly all over the court. Cherry is also very good at understanding when pressuring the ball works and when he should lay off his man. He has good control running the Grizzlies’ offense, and shows patience in letting plays develop. He understands how to run the pick and roll, and does a good job drawing defenders off of screens. He is an above average ballhandler and knows how to use mismatches to his advantage in getting to the basket.
What he needs to show this season: While Cherry is a strong defender, it is still important for him to work on getting stronger. You could see in his matchups with Damian Lillard last season where Lillard would use his strength against Cherry when he couldn’t beat him with his feet. I also want to see Cherry become more of a playmaker off the pick and roll, especially coming off of screens quicker and tighter, and looking to get into the lane when possible. Perimeter shooting is also an area where there is room for Cherry to improve. He can knock down open jumpers, but I want to see him use his dribble more to create his jumper as well as looking to take more mid-range jumpers. Turnovers can be an issue at times, especially when he is pressured, so he needs to try and keep his normal level of composure.
Jud Dillard, Tennessee Tech, Guard, 6’5, 190
17.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 51.7 FG%, 82.4 FT%, 21.2 3FG%
Dillard’s great junior season was often overshadowed by his former teammate, Utah Jazz draftee Kevin Murphy. Dillard is active on both ends of the floor, crashing the boards and mixing it up with bigger players. On offense, he is aggressive off the dribble, going strong to the basket and getting to the free throw line, where he is very good. He is also good at finding holes in the defense and making quick cuts into the open space. On the defensive end, Dillard is an above-average on-ball defender, positioning himself fell and keeping his hands and feet active. Off the ball, he can be a good help defender, and is strong getting to the lane to grab rebounds.
What he needs to show this season: With Murphy in the NBA, Dillard will need to adjust his mindset on the offensive end. While there were plenty of times he was the team’s leading scorer, his opportunities were mostly created by the attention that Murphy received from the defense. Dillard will need to be that main threat now, and handle the attention that comes with it. First, he will need to add variety to his offensive game, especially becoming a more consistent shooter from mid-to-long range. At the next level, he will be a 2, and his team will need him to be able to draw the defense out to the perimeter. On the defensive end, he needs to be more careful off the ball. He has a tendency to wander, especially when he is more than one pass away, and as a ball is moved by the offense quickly, he finds himself stuck away from his man. It helps him get some extra rebounds, but at the next level, he will need to keep a better handle on his man.
Rodney Williams, Minnesota, Forward, 6’7, 200
12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.4 bpg, 56.9 FG%, 59.1 FT%, 30.9 3FG%
With the return of Trevor Mbakwe this season, Williams should be able to return to his more natural small forward position, which won’t affect his offensive role much, but will help him on defense. He relies on his great athleticism on both ends of the floor, but he will need to finally live up to the promise he had entering college. On offense, when he looks to get to the rim, he can be tough to stop, using a decent first step and good body control to finish. Defensively, he can use his long arms and quickness to disrupt passing lanes or pressure the ball.
What he needs to show this season: His athleticism is always going to be intriguing to NBA teams, but he hasn’t shown enough to justify any serious merit for next year’s draft. Part of this can be blamed on Coach Tubby Smith, whose offense makes Williams almost an afterthought. But, a lot of the blame falls on Williams. He has yet to develop a reliable mid or long-range jump shot, he needs to be more aggressive looking to get to the basket when he does get his chances, and he has to find a way to convert at the free throw line when he gets there. On the defensive end, he is not going to be able to rely on his athletic ability at the next level. He needs to understand positioning and how to move his feet to keep his man in front of him. Finally, he needs to raise his effort and intensity levels to the same high point every game. He finished the end of last season playing some of his best basketball, so let’s hope he starts of this season the same way.
EJ Singler, Oregon, Forward, 6’6, 215
13.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 46.7 FG%, 90.9 FT%, 36.8 3FG%
Similar to his brother, Detroit Pistons forward Kyle, Singler has a great understanding of the game on both ends. On the offensive end, he is a decent perimeter shooter with good range. He sees the floor well and has a good ability to hit open cutters or shooters cross-court. An average ballhandler, he uses his dribble well to get to the rim quickly. He doesn’t shy from contact and is an excellent free throw shooter. On the defensive end, he does a good job guarding on the perimeter and is also capable of handling himself against larger players around the post area. He goes strong after rebounds and can help get the ball upcourt in transition if necessary.
What he needs to show this season: Singler is a better athlete than he is given credit for, but he needs to work on becoming more explosive, especially off the dribble. As noted above, he is a decent perimeter shooter, but he needs to work on creating more space to get good looks at the basket, either off the dribble or coming off of screens tighter. He plays tough on the defensive end, acting more physical when he is at an athletic disadvantage. He still needs to work on increasing his foot speed and improving his lateral movement on the perimeter. Also, he needs to learn to work through screens, instead of switching often.
Khalif Wyatt, Temple, Guard, 6’4, 210
17.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.2 spg, 47.9 FG%, 85.6 FT%, 37.9 3FG%
Wyatt is coming off a very strong junior season, increasing his numbers in almost every major category. He is solidly built and does a good job using his body to his advantage on the offensive end. He is an above-average shooter, and he uses his dribble well to create space for good looks, especially his mid-range jumper. He is capable of taking defenders off the dribble to the rim and absorbs contact. His free-throw shooting is a major strength. He is an average defender on the ball, but he is good off the ball and as a help defender.
What he needs to show this season: Wyatt is a streaky scorer, so he needs to work on becoming more consistent, especially with his long-range jumper. He is capable of handling the point guard position, but he needs to improve his ability as a playmaker, especially making decisions off of the pick and roll. He can have a tendency to overdribble when looking for an opening to get a shot and can become careless with the ball. Defensively, he has to work on becoming a better on-ball defender, especially using his strength in combination with improved footwork to keep his man out of the lane.