A few weeks until the first games of the college basketball season, and the road to the 2013 NBA Draft has begun. It’s time to start my look at this year’s sophomore class and give some brief notes on areas where they need to show improvement to maximize their appeal to the NBA if they choose to leave school.
Remember, these are not meant to replace scouting reports, which will come out during the season. Some of these players are already pro candidates, while others will clearly need more time. These are not all-inclusive and just meant as a brief primer for those who want to track draft prospects throughout the season.
Cody Zeller, Indiana, Forward/Center, 7’0, 240
15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.2 bpg, 62.3 FG%, 75.5 FT%
Zeller proved to be the missing piece in Tom Crean’s return of the Indiana program to its place among the nations’ best. Zeller is a highly-skilled big man with a number of ways to score around the basket. He has very good footwork and hands in the post and a soft touch. He has very good instincts on the offensive glass and can get 2nd chance shots off quickly. He understands court spacing well and is runs the pick-and-roll as well as any college big man. Similar to his brother Tyler, Zeller also runs the court well in transition and can finish on the break. On the defensive end, Zeller works hard to deny post entries and positions himself well. He does a good job hedging on the pick-and-roll and uses his length to make passes difficult.
What he needs to show this season: Without improvement, Zeller is still the best big man in college basketball, but with an eye on the NBA, there are some steps he needs to take to become more versatile. Getting stronger is a must, and it looks like he has bulked up some heading into this season. Defending the post, he needs to work on using his lower body better to force players off the blocks. Also, he needs to work on reacting better as a help defender in the lane and around the basket. On the offensive end, Zeller needs to start to incorporate a face-up game out of the post, including improving his ballhandling to go by his man and working on a consistent mid-range jumper.
Trey Burke, Michigan, Guard, 6’1, 190
14.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 43.3 FG%, 74.4 FT%, 34.8 3FG%, 1.66:1 A/TO
There was talk that Burke was considering a jump to the NBA last season and you can read my scouting report from that time which is relevant heading into this season.
What he needs to show this season: Again, the scouting report covers most of it, but some key areas where he needs to improve are his on-ball defense, especially lateral movement, and making quicker reads on offense.
Tony Mitchell, North Texas, Forward, 6’8, 235
(23 games) 14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 56.7 FG%, 73.9 FT%, 43.9 3FG% (41 attempts)
Mitchell is well-known as one of the most athletic players in college basketball, but he brings a good deal more in his game. He has great rebounding instincts, gets in position quickly and goes strong after the missed shot. He reacts well as a help defender and challenges almost every shot, including on the perimeter. On the offensive end, he uses his body well to get position in the post and is able to score with his body to the basket or facing up. He is quick to the basket and can finish as strong as anyone in college. He has the ability to hit the mid-range jumper consistently and has shown that he can hit the open 3.
What he needs to show this season: Mitchell did not join his team until the 2nd semester last season, in time for the Sun Belt conference schedule, but he did not play against any really strong teams. Mitchell needs to show that he can physically dominate the game against stronger competition. On the defensive end, he needs to work on the fundamentals of good defense. In the post, he needs to not stand straight up, even if it does help him block shots. He gets backed down too easily by mediocre post players and high-level players will score at will against him. Also, he needs to work on his footwork and positioning on the perimeter. He needs to understand that he can’t try and block every shot. It is very easy to get him in the air with a pump fake, and he has to be more aware of when he will be goaltending. On the offensive end, Mitchell needs to work on polishing the skills he has already. His footwork, ballhandling, and passing can all be improved, and he needs to work on bringing the release point of his jumper up higher if he plans on being able to get shots off around defenders.
B.J. Young, Arkansas, Guard, 6’3, 180
15.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 50.4 FG%, 74.3 FT, 41.3 3FG%
Young had a very good freshman season, and he seems to be a great fit in Coach Mike Anderson’s up-tempo system. Young has great speed, is a very good ballhandler, and can break down most defenders off the dribble. He has a crossover that is very hard to stop and he gets into the lane very quickly. He has good body control and can finish at the basket or with a floater. He has a quick release and good range as a spot-up shooter. He can control the pace of the game and he has good court vision. On the defensive side, Young uses his quickness well when he pressures the ball and he plays passing lanes well. Young is very good in the open court, either pushing the ball or running one of the wings.
What he needs to show this season: Young needs to do a better job getting his passes to his teammates where they can make a play off of them. Also, he needs to make a better job making reads off of screens instead of always looking to the basket. When he gets into the lane, he needs to not shy away from contact as much and look to draw more fouls. Young should also improve his ability to hit the mid-range jumper and using his dribble to create space for his shot. Defensively, Young needs to work on his awareness and his lateral movement. Also, he needs to do a better job getting through screens.
Chasson Randle, Stanford, Guard, 6’1, 180
13.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 44.0 FG%, 76.1 FT%, 44.0 3FG%
Randle’s strong freshman season was an integral part of how Stanford was able to win the NIT Tournament. Randle was an excellent perimeter shooter, having excellent range and a quick release. He is a good ballhandler, uses screens well to get into the lane and finds ways to finish at the rim. He does a good job drawing defenders and finding open teammates, and he is very good in a two-man game with his post players. Randle is an average defender, positioning himself well and being quick to react as a help defender.
What he needs to show this season: With Aaron Bright handling a lot of the playmaking duties, Randle does not get a lot of chances to show the skills he needs to have at the NBA level. While having Randle playing off the ball is a luxury for Stanford, he will need to show his ability as a playmaker and running the offense. As mentioned, he is a good spot-up shooter, but he needs to work on being able to hit his jumper off of screens and off the dribble. With defenders needing to cover him tightly on the perimeter, Randle should be able to use his dribble to create space and hit his jumper. As a defender, he needs to work on his on-ball defense, improving his lateral movement and getting over screens. Stanford seems to switch on screens automatically in most cases, but he won’t have that luxury at the next level.
LeDontae Henton, Providence, Forward, 6’6, 215
14.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 45.4 FG%, 70.6 FT%, 39.3 3FG%
Henton had a very impressive freshman season, especially considering that he was playing almost a full game every night (37.2 minutes per game). Henton is very athletic and runs the floor well. He is a strong finisher in transition and is able to finish with both hands around the basket. He plays much bigger than his size, and he uses his body and length well to guard bigger players. He goes strong after rebounds and is very quick after misses on the offensive end. Henton is able to score both inside and out, and he does a good job filling open spots created by Vincent Council’s penetration. He has good range on his spot-up jumper and his confidence in it seemed to improve during the course of the season.
What he needs to show this season: Henton needs to take the next step with his offensive skill-set – improving his ballhandling and working on taking defenders off the dribble to the basket. Also, he needs to work on hitting his jumper off the dribble and using ball and shot fakes to draw defenders in the air. He can improve his free throw shooting and he can certainly work on drawing more contact. Defensively, Henton needs to work on his perimeter defense, both on and off the ball. He needs to be aware of his positioning, especially when he is on a shooter, and improving his lateral movement. He uses his athleticism well to get rebounds, but I would like to see him be more physical in clearing space and getting position.
Check back soon as I finish my look at the seniors, as well as some more from the junior and sophomore classes. Follow me on Twitter – @NBADraftBlog and leave your comments below or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org