Terrence Jones, 6-8, SF/PF, Freshman, Kentucky
20.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.5 blocks, 1.5 steals, 1.8 turnovers, 51% FG, 44% 3PT, 56% FT
One of the most productive freshmen in the country six games into the season, Kentucky forward Terrence Jones has looked extremely impressive in the early going, playing with an extremely high level of confidence and maturity.
The 6'8 18 year old has a very mature physical profile for his age, boasting a thick, well-built frame in both the upper and lower body with good length to boot. From an athletic standpoint, his muscle mass doesn't hold him back much at all, as he's quick off his feet even in stride off the dribble, explosive around the rim, and has a very good first step with the ball.
On the offensive end, Jones has a versatile game and the confidence to put all his skills to use. Having a nice basketball IQ and very good scoring instincts, there isn't any one area where Jones isn't at least an adequate performer.
Doing the majority of his damage operating off quick catches on the wing and in the pinch post, Jones does a lot of work catching and putting the ball down on the floor to go to the basket. Heavily favoring his dominant left hand, Jones has a controlled albeit somewhat upright dribble that he's very confident with both in and out of space.
Being most comfortable when he has room for a quick, straight-line drive to the rim, Jones is capable of getting separation with his explosive first step and either driving all the way to the rim or pulling up for a floater with either hand. While Jones favors his finesse game perhaps a bit too much, he's capable of going up for strong dunks in traffic when he's built up enough momentum, elevating fairly effortlessly and not being shy about drawing contact, getting to the line at a very high rate, being amongst the top players in the NCAA in that category early on.
In space, Jones will occasionally show off a rangy spin move or behind-the-back dribble, both of which he can seamlessly transition into one of his floaters, though he doesn't show much ability getting off advanced moves in traffic, and to his credit he seems to recognize his limitations pretty well, rarely making ill-advised decisions with the ball considering how frequently he's been creating his own shot. He turns the ball over on just 14% of his possessions, which is an extremely low rate considering his freshman status and his style of play, which would seemingly lead to a large amount of lost possessions.
While Jones vastly prefers going to his left, he's also decently comfortable with his right hand, not having as much wiggle but being able to finish with right-handed lay-ups and floaters and still having a good degree of control with the ball.
Not just a one-dimensional scorer attacking the basket, Jones also possesses range slightly beyond the college three-point line, having a pretty consistent jump shot with a decently quick and high release. He has somewhat of a stagger stance with his left foot far in front of his right and he has a tendency to shoot some line drives while pushing the ball in front of his face, but he's shooting an accurate 46.2% on 1.2 makes per game thus far, and shows great confidence shooting the ball even with a hand in his face. While not showing anything in terms of shooting off the dribble, Jones has a very dangerous shot fake in his arsenal which he uses to open up big driving lanes to the basket.
Surprisingly for a freshman combo-forward, Jones has also shown himself to be a willing passer with strong court vision, dishing out 2.2 assists per game in the early going, doing so in transition, hitting cutters in the lane, kicking out of double teams in the post, and just moving the ball in the flow of the offense. He sometimes will get in trouble not recognizing a passing lane closing down and force the ball through, but his errors are mostly good ideas and he shows a good feel overall in this area that can be developed further.
In terms of post offense, Jones isn't very adept at the moment, having trouble getting separation and finishing over larger opponents at times, not really having much in terms of rangy moves, relying heavily on simple hooks and spinning hooks. He seems to do a much better job operating from the perimeter where he's capable of building momentum and having more initial separation from his man, looking far more comfortable in that regard.
Off the ball, Jones also does a solid job finishing on cuts to the basket and crashing the offensive boards, doing an excellent job throwing his weight around and establishing deep position, showing good instincts running to the rim when shots go up and showing good hands and getting off the floor quickly for putbacks.
On the defensive end, Jones has shown a solid effort level thus far, not giving up on many plays and being pretty consistent in closing out on perimeter jumpers, always running full speed with his arms outstretched. Unfortunately, a good deal of those situations are created when Jones gets caught ball-watching off the ball, making him prone to losing his man in the flow of offense, leading to an easy shot.
In terms of man-to-man defense, Jones actually has a good stance and moves his feet pretty well on the perimeter despite a high center of gravity and somewhat stiff movements. With more work here and consistent focus, he should be able to hold his own against most NBA small forwards, but could be overmatched against the elites. In the post, Jones has done a very good job thus far, bodying up pretty well, keeping his arms outstretched, contesting anything shot above him, and moving his feet. He also seems to be pretty far away from his potential here as he doesn't show great understanding of leverage, which makes his overall effectiveness in this area more impressive.
Looking forward, Jones was already thought of as a potential lottery pick before the season began, so the mature and confident game he's shown thus far has definitely helped, especially because its rare freshmen instantly contribute in such a complete manner. While still more of a combo-forward at the moment, Jones' early prowess with perimeter shot creation and adequate comfort with perimeter defense so early in his career also make an eventual transition to full-time small forward more likely, something that also should help his stock. With his physical tools, NBA-ready body, and strong and growing skill set, Jones has a high ceiling and should stay put firmly in the early-to-mid lottery if he can continue this play all season.
Reggie Jackson, 6'3, Junior, Shooting Guard / Point Guard, Boston College
17.7 Points, 4.2 Rebounds, 4.3 Assists, 1.5 Turnovers, 1.8 Steals, 44.6% FG, 37% 3FG, 95% FT
Flying under the radar as a sophomore playing for a solid but unspectacular Boston College Team that struggled in ACC play, Reggie Jackson has been pretty impressive through the Eagles' first six games this season. Leading his team in scoring, assists, and steals in the early going, Jackson appears to have blossomed in his third season in Chestnut Hill under first year Head Coach Steve Donahue. Known for his athleticism in his high school days, Jackson's ability to pick and choose his spots and play with poise have been keys to his success this season and could plant him on the NBA radar if he continues to improve his playmaking ability and all-around game.
Much of Jackson's development since last season can be attributed to the way he utilizes his athleticism. Standing 6'3 with a giant wingspan, but an underdeveloped frame, Jackson has excellent size for a point guard, and while he does a lot of scoring at the college level, he has the makings of a potential floor general on the NBA level if he improves his ability to orchestrate an offense. He took a big step towards that end by learning how to play at different speeds, something that he didn't do effectively last season. That change has allowed him to cut down on his mistakes considerably, yielding his impressive 2.9 assists-to-turnover ratio. Slowing the game down and using his excellent quickness to exploit seams within the flow of the offense instead of using it to force action, Jackson has looked terrific in the open floor and in most half court situations early this season.
Though Jackson has been producing at a high-level as a passer and a scorer in the early going, he still has plenty of room to grow to become a legitimate point guard. The Colorado native shows great court vision, is not one to miss an open teammate to take his own shot, and has become extremely adept and scoring and passing in pick and roll situations, but spends a considerable amount of time off the ball where Steve Donahue can best exploit his scoring ability and give his team a dynamic athlete on the wing to complement Joe Trapani's shot-up shooting and off-ball scoring ability.
Though Jackson looks good handling pressure and has developed into a very solid ball-handler, he isn't relied upon exclusively to run Donahue's offense as a facilitator or bring the ball up the floor regularly. While the pieces of the puzzle certainly seem to be there for the talented junior, the development of his draft stock will be influenced heavily by his ability to continue to improve his playmaking skills.
Though Jackson's point guard skills will be important to his pro prospect, his improved jump shooting has been the biggest part of his impressive play this season. A reliable threat to pull-up off the dribble in the past, Jackson has improved his shot selection considerably this season, taking far fewer off-balance shots and sticking to his mechanics with a hand in his face. Though Jackson has a long release that he quickens at times under pressure, he has been much more efficient in catch and shoot situations. His 37% shooting from three-point range is a major improvement from the sub-30% mark he posted last season, even if he still needs to continue shoring up his footwork and consistency.
Around the basket, Jackson proves to be a capable finisher, but forces an occasional shot from a tough angle, needs to improve his ability to finish with his left hand, and could stand to get stronger to handle the contact he'll deal with at the next level. A somewhat flashy, but highly functional ball-handler who will surprise with his leaping ability when given space, Jackson has no trouble getting to the rim off the dribble at the NCAA level. This season, he's seeing considerably more touches running the pick and roll and receiving hand offs than he did last year, giving him a bit more room to operate in the lane.
Defensively, Jackson is able to use his wingspan and lateral quickness to force some turnovers, and he rebounds the ball well for a guard, but tends to find himself out of position and has a hard time getting over screens. His activity level has improved under Steve Donahue, and many of his current defensive weaknesses are correctable, but it will be important for him to improve his fundamentals to overcome his lack of elite lateral quickness to facilitate his transition to the next level. Getting stronger should also help. As his frame develops, Jackson has the size and length to potentially guard both backcourt positions at the pro level, which definitely helps his long-term outlook.
A player who has come a long way since his high school days, Reggie Jackson has clearly benefitted from Steve Donahue's presence at BC. While he's had strong performances against Texas A&M, Wisconsin, and Cal, it will be worth keeping an eye on how he plays in ACC competition. If Jackson continues to score and distribute the ball with efficiency, adds weight to his frame, and becomes a more consistent shooter, he will surely draw attention from NBA decision-makers down the road.
Charles Jenkins, 6-3, Senior, Guard, Hofstra, 22.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 3.0 turnovers, 2.6 steals, 60.0% FG, 43.8% 3FG, 74.1% FT
Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins established himself as one of the nation's best scoring guards as a junior, averaging 20.6 points per game on his way towards being named the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year. Though Hofstra has struggled early in 2010, Jenkins has continued to excel, including a 24-point, 4-assist, and 3-steal performance against North Carolina and a 27-point outing against Western Kentucky.
At 6'3, Jenkins is undersized for a shooting guard, but he has above average length and solid athleticism to compensate. While he is not overly explosive around the basket, he is very strong and has good quickness, both in the open court and off of the dribble.
Jenkins improved his offensive efficiency across the board as a senior to the tune of 24.9 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted on 60% shooting. He is an elite scorer from beyond the arc where he is currently shooting 43.8% on 3.2 attempts per game and where he shot an impressive 40.9% as a junior. Regardless of whether or not he can maintain his high shooting numbers this season, Jenkins shows consistent mechanics, a quick release, and terrific touch, which suggests that he will continue to be successful at the next level.
Jenkins is shooting a blistering 64.8% from inside of the arc while displaying a versatile scoring arsenal. His mid-range game is a major weapon, and he has improved his ball handling abilities significantly and is an excellent shot creator at this level. He looks more comfortable pulling up off of the dribble, but he is still at his best utilizing his quick first step and strength to get to the basket. He shows excellent body control and aggressiveness around the rim, as well, but lacks the raw explosiveness needed to go up and finish through traffic at times.
Though Jenkins is shooting the ball very well inside of the arc this season, he struggled as last year to the tune of an unremarkable 45.6%. Despite his strength and quickness, his lack of explosiveness continues to limit his ability to finish against big and athletic frontcourts. His aggressiveness sometimes results in tunnel vision, as well, and many of his 3.4 turnovers per 40 minutes pace adjusted are the result of over-ambitious forays into the paint. We must take into account the team he plays for, though, as besides Jenkins, they don't have many scoring options, making it easier for opposing defenses to key in on him.
Also of concern is Jenkins's position at the next level. Jenkins has solid court vision, but he is not a point guard at this stage. Though he is an unselfish player, he still looks for his own shot first and foremost and he rarely is asked to run the offense. This is not to say that a transition to the point guard position is impossible, but it is far more likely that Jenkins remains an undersized scoring guard at the next level.
Size will continue to be an issue for Jenkins on defense, as well, but his energy level will help him to adapt. Jenkins is a physical defender, always willing to scrap. He plays with solid energy, closing out on perimeter shooters and always attempting to disrupt shots, even if his man gets by him. Furthermore, his lateral quickness looks to be above average and, while he will not be a defensive stopper, he will not be a liability, either.
Charles Jenkins has the scoring instincts and overall talent to play in the NBA, even if he's surely not a lock to be drafted. He could find a niche, however, as an off-the-bench scorer such as Toney Douglas or Marcus Thornton. After performing well in games against North Carolina, Western Kentucky, and Nebraska, he must continue to score efficiently in conference play, while continuing to play unselfishly and aggressively on both ends of the floor. At the end of the day, he'll need to catch some breaks and fall into the right situation to make a team and find a role at the NBA level, as there have been many talented players in his mold who weren't quite so fortunate in the past. Even if the NBA is not in his immediate future, there are many teams overseas that could use his talents, and he could still continue to improve his cause playing in Europe or the D-League.
Steven Gray, 6-5, Senior, Shooting Guard, Gonzaga
22.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 3.4 turnovers, 3 steals, 50% FG, 78% FT, 40% 3P
Steven Gray has gotten off to a blazing start in his senior season at Gonzaga with career-high averages in nearly every statistical category. And while it's tough to draw too many conclusions from a small sample size of only six games, Gonzaga has faced quality opponents in three of those outings in San Diego State, Kansas State, and Marquette, giving Gray a few opportunities already to prove that his hot start is no fluke.
In his first few seasons at Gonzaga, Gray was a solid contributor and double digit scorer for the Bulldogs. This season, however, with the departure of Matt Bouldin, Gray seems to have embraced his role as the team's go-to scorer, something that probably suits his game more than it ever did Bouldin's. Gray has always played with a scorer's mentality, and he's seemed more comfortable through his first five games this season knowing that he has the green light from Coach Mark Few.
On the offensive end, Gray's game is built around his perimeter jumper, as 75% of his shot attempts this season have been jumpers. Coach Few runs the 6'5 shooting guard off screens to free him for looks in their halfcourt sets, and Gray does a nice job of squaring himself up on these catch-and-shoot opportunities. He's shooting a solid 46% through six games from the 3-point arc, which is way up from the 33% he shot as a junior. He did shoot 46% from 3 as a freshman, and he has an excellent stroke with deep range, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him maintain his early season percentages from behind the arc, or at least close to it.
An area where Gray has been outstanding so far this season has been his ability to score at the rim. He's converted on most of his attempts in the basket area and is shooting an outstanding 59% overall on 2-pointers. Much of this can be attributed to Gray learning how to use his size at 6'5 against some of the smaller guards he often has defending him at the college level. He's also shown a nice feel for the game and sense of craftiness to score in the lane. While he lacks explosiveness and great elevation, he's been able to make up for that by playing at a nice pace, utilizing head fakes and spin moves, and finishing with either hand at the rim. This isn't necessarily a skill that would translate to the NBA level, however, as he's only about average size for an NBA 2-guard, and the players he'd run into in the lane would be much longer and more athletic than anything he's seen so far this season.
It's also worth noting that Gray shot a total of 24 for 55 from the field (44%) in the 3 games against quality opponents, and most of his stats across the board are probably padded a bit by Gonzaga's first two games, where Gray looked to be far superior than any of the opposing players.
Gray's lack of explosiveness shows up quite a bit on isolation opportunities. He lacks the footspeed and explosive first step to get by his man off the dribble, and he's gotten himself into trouble trying to create shots and make plays in the mid-range area. This has led to some ill-advised, contested shots as well as turnovers. He's averaging 3.4 per game and had 6 in each game against Kansas State and San Diego State.
Defensively, Gray is able to hold his own against the competition at the NCAA level. His size and instincts are good, and he's also used his anticipation skills to average 3 steals per game so far this season. When projecting him against NBA-level competition, though, his mediocre lateral quickness would probably make him a liability on isolation situations.
Gray's early season numbers will likely come down a bit as the season goes on, but he does have the potential to have a great senior season. So far he's been extremely efficient against two weaker teams, and while he still scored against stronger opponents, his limitations athletically and as a playmaker showed up as well. This season in the WCC, his good size for the 2 guard position, combined with his shooting, feel for the game, and overall offensive skill level should put him in conversations for conference player of the year. When evaluating his pro potential, Gray's lack of physical tools could make being drafted an uphill battle, but there is always the chance that some NBA team falls in love with his basketball IQ and perimeter shooting ability in summer league or training camp. If not, there is much to like about his game that could lead to a terrific career playing overseas.