Hassan Whiteside, 7-0, Freshman, Center, Marshall
13.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, .3 assists, 1.9 turnovers, 5.4 blocks, 52% FG, 60% FT, 3-5 3P
Three months after posting our initial impressions of Hassan Whitesides freshman season (our first scouting report on him actually came back in 2008), the dust has settled and has allowed us a much clearer picture of his strengths and weaknesses.
Whiteside has emerged about as quickly as a prospect can when looking at where he was this time last yeara raw, rail-thin, anonymous big man coming off the bench in prep school, committed to play for a small Conference USA team in West Virginia. Whiteside faced significant question marks regarding his ability to even get eligible at Marshall from an academic standpoint, and was not receiving very much attention from the recruiting services.
Fast-forward a year and Whiteside is fresh off being named C-USAs top freshman and defensive player of the year, after leading the NCAA in blocked shots. Hes elevated his NBA draft stock significantly in the process, to the point that hes being mentioned by many as a potential lottery pick and perhaps even higher.
Whiteside has progressed notably as the season moved on, seeing increased playing time and shouldering a bigger share of the offensive load for Marshall. Though he remains largely an unpolished prospect, particularly in terms of his footwork, post-moves and decision making ability, he shows flashes of potential in many different areas, namely his ability to put the ball on the floor, knock down mid-range jumpers and utilize his tremendous length to score inside.
Extremely aggressive looking to make things happen on the offensive end, Whiteside gets to the free throw line at an excellent rate, converting 60% of his attempts once there, and does an outstanding job of crashing the offensive glass and finishing around the rim. He has very good touch around the basket, as well as from the perimeter (even knocking down a couple of 3-pointers this season), clearly showing better scoring instincts than your typically raw mid-major big man. The terrific extension he gets around the rim, excellent shooting mechanics and high-release point on his turnaround jumper all leave plenty of room for optimism regarding his offensive potential once hes able to fill out his lanky frame a bit.
Whitesides weaknesses as a prospect are often just as glaring as his strengths. His main issue revolves around his extremely underdeveloped frame, which hinders him on the offensive end, but more importantly makes him a constant target for post-up plays and renders him an exceptionally poor man to man defender against average college big men. Whiteside gives up deep position in the post with the greatest of ease--seemingly not even fighting back at times-- getting out of his stance quickly, bringing his hands down, and downright giving up on plays, thinking hell simply be able to recover and come up with a block, which at this level can indeed be the case on occasion.
As a weak-side shot-blocker its an entirely different story, though, as indicated by the fact that he led the entire NCAA in this category on both a per-game and per-minute basis, which is extremely impressive considering the stage of development hes currently at. Whiteside possesses freakish lengthhis wingspan is reportedly around 7-6and he has absolutely terrific timing rotating, contesting and rejecting shots. Hes one of the most productive rebounders in college basketball for these same reasons.
One of Whitesides biggest problems lies in his extremely poor passing ability. Playing 851 minutes on the season, Whiteside has dished out only 9 assists, a shockingly low number that ranks him amongst the worst in college basketball in that area. Watching him play, its clear that once he touches the ball, he sees nothing besides the rim, often forcing up extremely poor shots and having major issues dealing with double teams, which makes him very turnover prone.
Whitesides fundamentals, basketball IQ and overall awareness are well below average, even considering his freshman status. He at times looks out of place in Marshalls half-court offense, looking as if hes not quite sure where he should be at any particular moment, which at this late stage in the season makes you wonder about his ability to process an NBA teams far more complex playbook.
Whiteside had a very difficult time qualifying academically for college, only actually getting into school at age 20, and is reportedly having problems staying eligible now that hes already there, which will likely leave him no choice but to enter this years draft.
Immature is the word you hear most often associated with Whiteside both on and off the court, as there will certainly be a large degree of hand-holding and coddling that whichever team drafts him needs to do in order to help him reach his full potential. There are major questions about his work ethic and intensity level, which is a bit concerning considering how far off he currently is from being able to contribute to an NBA team. We also need to keep in mind that despite his freshman status, hes the same age as many college juniors, turning 21 this upcoming June. This obviously limits his upside to a certain degree.
Despite the numerous red-flags and his clear-cut project status, Whiteside is an extremely interesting prospect thanks to his rare physical tools and super intriguing skill-level. At a certain point in the draft, the reward of picking him definitely outweighs the risk, as were obviously dealing with a special talent. NBA teams will need to do quite a bit of research into his background and psychological makeup, and figure out how much physical potential his frame has in terms of being able to add weight. Whiteside is clearly the type of guy that needs to go to the right organization, as he could easily get lost in the shuffle and find himself out of the NBA if he lands in the wrong place.
Quincy Pondexter, 66, SF/PF, Senior, Washington
20.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.0 turnovers, 55% FG, 39% 3PT, 83% FT
Always exceptionally talented, especially from a physical standpoint, its taken Pondexter time to put all his tools together and develop into a well-rounded basketball player, which hes without a doubt become at this point. Pondexters production and efficiency levels have both skyrocketed this season, and most importantly, hes shown a very high feel for the game as well as an understanding of his own strengths and weaknesses.
Generating most of his offense out of isolation situations in the pinch post and short baseline areas, Pondexter has an excellent first step, very rangy strides, and simple but effective ball-handling ability, allowing him to get separation fairly easily against most opponents, either going to the basket or pulling up for a shot in his defenders face. Despite operating out of an area of the floor that doesnt lend itself to high scoring efficiency, Pondexter is posting a very high 63% TS% this season, evidence of his wise shot selection. Pondexter is also turning the ball over on just 12% of his possessions, a very low number for someone who generates so much offense through individual shot creation.
As a shooter, Pondexter has come a long way in his four seasons, and the rise of his free throw percentage from 68% to 74% to 82% the past three years is pretty indicative of his overall growth. According to Synergy Sports Technology, hes scoring 0.94 Points per Shot on his jumpers, an impressive number given that almost all of his shots are coming inside the arc, with nearly half of his shots being off the dribble with a hand in his face. Pondexter does a good job going to turnaround jumpers out of his pinch post plays, getting very good elevation and showing pretty good body control, allowing him to get off high percentage shots.
Pondexters three point shot is still not what youd call reliable, as hes hit just 18 shots from range on the year despite shooting 39%. Given his young age, the way hes improved his shot from other areas of the floor and his learning curve in general, its possible this is something he will improve on down the road, which would make him an extremely useful player.
Attacking the basket, Pondexter is an excellent finisher, and has shown a very high activity level this season, getting to the free throw line at a strong rate and showing a good motor going after offensive rebounds. His ability to jump both off first and second bounces helps him a lot here, as does a decent floater in his repertoire, which can throw defenses off guard. In general, Pondexter shows a very high motor on the offensive end, constantly moving off the ball to get open and attacking seams in the defense.
Defensively, Pondexter has continued his great play all season, showing outstanding versatility in man-to-man defense, good fundamentals in the post and on the perimeter, while also showing very good rotational awareness, being a vocal leader for the Huskies defense. Hes not the biggest or strongest player youll find, as definitely projects as a small forward defensively in the NBA, having nearly ideal physical tools otherwise for that role, but also possessing the versatility to defend multiple positions, along with a high level of focus and effort.
Looking to the NBA, there are some concerns about how Pondexter might need to re-adjust to playing more off the ball, creating less of his own offense, and getting stronger and more reliable as a spot-up shooter, but he brings a variety of tools to the table and plays well on both ends of the floor, and should have little trouble finding a role. The learning curve and maturation hes shown in his four years at Washington is also extremely encouraging, especially seeing how he just turned 22 years old this week. Pondexter should be firmly in first round discussions come draft time, and could even move up further if a team falls in love with him.
Terrico White 6-5, Sophomore, PG/SG, Ole Miss
14.4 points, 1.5 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 4.5 rebounds, 43.3% FG, 34.9% 3P, 70.1% FT
After an uninspiring end to the season for Terrico White and his Ole Miss team, the athletic combo guard will have a chance to show once again why hes an intriguing NBA prospect with his teams invitation to the N.I.T. White has a lot of things going for him, including his terrific physical tools and stellar mid-range game, but questions still linger regarding his lack of a defined position, poor production this season and nonchalant nature.
Whether hes playing point guard or as a wing playing off the ball, as long as White is on the court he is thinking shot. He has great natural scoring instincts and as mentioned in our previous write up, his mid range game is one of his strongest assets showing the ability to stop on a dime off the bounce or curling off a screen. The difference however from our last evaluation is that his field goal percentage has dipped to 43.3% (White was shooting close to 45% in the 1st half of the season) leveling out to about the same percentage as a year ago. Part of the season for this drop is his shot selection as hes continued to take contested shots all season long and settle for tough floaters in the lane, part of the season his team struggled as badly as they did to close off the year.
Another skill that he is yet to fully incorporate into his game is that of getting to the foul line. He currently shoots 4.2 free throws per 40 pace adjusted, and with someone with his superb athletic ability and strong frame, he should be getting there more often.
After watching the 67 shots at the basket in the 23 games that we have at our disposal, its obvious that White has the ability to get in the paint, but he noticeably shies away from contact most of the time. His shots at the rim come in transition, two foot tear drops, fade-aways in the lane or using his athleticism to avoid defenders - getting cute and creative to finish.
Once, or more likely if he begins showing the propensity to use his outstanding body to go through players and embrace that contact, his production will surely increase.
Another contributing factor to his lack of free throw attempts is Whites below average ball handling skills. He rarely alters his pace, isnt fully capable of changing direction, and hes not strong enough with the ball to handle it consistently against pressure right now. At times he appears tentative to go out and make plays, which has caused him to disappear in quite a few important games this season, one of the reasons his exceptionally talented team missed the NCAA tournament. On the positive side though is Whites improved free throw percentage, going from 62.8% last season to 70.1% this year.
His point guard skills as a whole however are less than impressive. Hes still only averaging 1.5 assists a game which ranks him as one of the worst passers in our database amongst starting guards. He simply was not looking to create shots for others this year, appearing far more concerned with going out and getting his own offense. He is only averaging 1.3 turnovers a game, which is impeccable for any guard, but a lot of that has to do with him shooting on most possessions and not even trying to attempt to create for others.
White's fundamentals, feel for the game and understanding of how to maximize his physical tools in a half-court offense all need quite a bit of work.
On the defensive end, White has all the physical tools to be a very good defender, but has been inconsistent at this end. He goes through spurts of playing hard or using the defensive possession to relax. Closing out on shooters is an area hes struggled with, but hes certainly improved in containing the ball handler and stopping dribble penetration.
White has the makings of a Flip Murray-type rotation player with his terrific ability to put the ball in the basket. With that said, he had a very poor sophomore season and could likely use another year of college basketball to further develop the areas in his game that need improving. After a rather disinterested finish to the regular season however, it appears as though White will be testing the waters, as he does not seem to have faith in his situation being different next year.
Elliot Williams, 6-4, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Memphis
18.8 Points, 4.3 Rebounds, 3.8 Assists, 1.4 Steals, 3.0 Turnovers, 47.7% FG, 37.5% 3FG, 7.8 FTA, 76.2% FT
Few players have done as much for their respective draft stocks since last season as Elliot Williams. As we noted when we checked in on him in late January, the Duke transfer blossomed in his sophomore season as the go-to-guy for Josh Pastners Memphis Tigers. Firmly on the radar for the 2010 draft, Williams has had an outstanding campaign, but his play down the stretch exposed some of the weaker aspects of his game that will give NBA decision-makers pause as they evaluate his potential as a scorer.
Before delving into Williams weaknesses, which became especially apparent in Memphis last two games against Tulsa and Houston, it is important to note what Williams has continued to do well. Considering this is his first season playing a big role in his teams offense, a degree of inconsistency was inevitable, and while he certainly struggled at times, he remained a major offensive threat and showed some consistent weapons. Continuing to shoot the ball with confidence, impact the game with his speed in transition, and turn the corner off the bounce, Williams proved that his strong start was no fluke, but his glaring weaknesses allowed opposing coaches to plan against him more effectively late in the year.
Williams most apparent weakness is his lack of finishing ability with his right hand. Down the stretch, it became very clear that opposing defenders were actively trying to take away his left handed dribble drive, forcing the Tennessee native out of his comfort zone and limiting his explosive one-on-one scoring ability.
Proving very difficult to defend when he can turn the corner going left, Williams shows no confidence in his right hand around the basket. Bringing the ball back to his strong-hand on every drive to the rim, he looks too eager to force up difficult shots, unwilling to shoot with his off-hand, and uncomfortable finishing sweeping moves across the lane in traffic. Lacking the degree of advanced ball handling ability that would allow him to smoothly transition back to his left hand on dribble drives, these issues proved problematic, especially since he does not possess a great mid-range game at this point in time.
The significant imbalance between Williams scoring ability with his left and right hands make him predictable in half court situations. With Isolation situations accounting for 23% of his total offense according to Synergy Sports Technology, this was clearly one of the things that held Williams back late in the season. With defenders keying in on his tendencies, he was forced into difficult shots at the rim and couldnt compensate by pulling up off the dribble preferring to go straight to the rim after beating his man with his first-step.
Another key point of interest for NBA decision-makers is Williams point guard play. Though he didnt show a great deal of progress as the season went on, his ability to draw additional defenders allowed him to create some easy looks for his teammates. Long and athletic enough to play the two, Williams still needs to continue to polish his ability to orchestrate an offense in a half court setting and cut down on his turnovers by developing his ball handling ability and in-between game. Looking much more comfortable creating in transition than in half court situations, many of Williams turnovers were a byproduct of his tendency to force drives instead of taking what the defense was giving him.
Defensively, Williams shows a solid activity level, and his length and quickness prove to be useful tools in defending the passing lanes. However, his lack of physical strength hurts his ability to defend the pick and roll, and he remains a bit too eager to leave his feet when closing out shooters.
Moving towards decision day for underclassmen, Williams is definitely a name worth keeping an eye on. He could factor into this summers draft, even if he has some weaknesses that have to be addressed for him to be successful down the road at the next level. Regardless of whether he returns to school or goes pro, if he can polish his perimeter shooting, develop his right hand, and iron out some of the wrinkles in his mid-range game and defense, he could continue to build on the impressive resume hes already put together this season in private workouts. A strong NIT run wouldnt hurt either, though it certainly wont make decision makers forget for his poor performance in the Conference USA Tournament.