College Road Report: UConn – Georgetown

College Road Report: UConn – Georgetown
Dec 31, 2008, 10:34 pm
DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony and Joseph Treutlein hit the road to take in one of the top matchups of the season—UConn vs. Georgetown at the XL Center in Hartford. According to our database, there were no less than 13 NBA prospects participating in this game. For this article we’ll take a deeper look into what we were able to learn from four of the top prospects—Hasheem Thabeet, Greg Monroe, A.J. Price and DaJuan Summers—both from this matchup and on the season as a whole. 31 NBA scouts and executives were present, which should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the quality of the prospects involved.

Greg Monroe, 6-10, Freshman, Power Forward, Georgetown
12.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 1.8 steals, 1.9 blocks, 58% FG, 72% FT, 2-4 3P

Jonathan Givony

Considering the way he’s played this season, and the potential he shows, it’s probably not a stretch to call Greg Monroe the best freshman prospect in America thus far. Monroe has stepped up and produced consistently from day one for Georgetown, establishing himself as arguably the most important player on this top-ten ranked team, while erasing many of the doubts we had about him from his high school days. In this particular game against UConn, he thoroughly outplayed projected lottery pick Hasheem Thabeet from start to finish on both ends of the floor, showing an incredibly versatile skill-set and a feel for the game unlike that of any big man in the college ranks.

Monroe was responsible for 13 of Georgetown’s first 15 points, as the Hoyas jumped off to an amazing 15-1 start over the Huskies. Playing in his first ever Big East game, on the road, in a hostile environment, in front of over 16,000 fans, going up against the #2 ranked team in the country, the 18-year old freshman (who won’t turn 19 until June) displayed incredible poise and maturity right from the opening tip.

Not a freakish athlete by any means, Monroe’s game is all about timing, smarts and fundamental skills. He is not afraid of operating with his back to the basket, taking on last season’s National Defensive Player of the Year Hasheem Thabeet one on one repeatedly, and consistently scoring on him.

Monroe has great hands and excellent footwork in the post, being extremely patient with his moves and fakes, and showing particularly nice touch on a variety of hook shots that are in his arsenal. A jump-hook, a swooping running hook off the glass, and even shades of a sky-hook—all moves that Monroe can go to, showing a very natural sense for creating space to get his shot off, even against a 7-3 long-armed monster like Thabeet. He is almost exclusively left-handed, looking highly uncomfortable going to his off-hand and often struggling to finish when forced to—something UConn did not look to exploit in this particular matchup.

Despite his ability to operate with his back to the basket, it’s facing the hoop where he’s really at his best, acting as somewhat of a point-forward in Georgetown’s Princeton-type offense from the high post. Monroe can attack the basket off the catch with excellent ball-handling skills (again going exclusively left) or hit a spot-up jumper with range that extends beyond the 3-point line—as he showed in the UConn game knocking down a pair of threes when dared to by the flat-footed Thabeet.

Unlike most power forwards, Monroe can stop and start his dribble without getting out of control, something that gave UConn’s defense fits all night long as he repeatedly used subtle hesitation moves to fake a drive and then find the open man on a backdoor cut with a gorgeous bounce pass. This ability to drive and dish is a real weapon considering how much of a mismatch Monroe is, and as he continues to expand his shot-creating tools—he already is capable of shaking his man off the dribble—he’ll really develop into a unique threat. It’s pretty amazing to see the poise he already plays with—he’s already established himself as the top passing big man in our database for example, at just under 3 assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted.

Defensively, Monroe showed excellent tools in the UConn game, hedging a screen masterfully in one sequence going stride for stride with A.J. Price almost to half-court before picking his pocket and taking the steal back for an easy basket, and also playing strong defense on Thabeet in the post. He has terrific hands and excellent timing anticipating and jumping in front of post-entry passes in the paint—which helps rank him second in steals amongst big men in our database, and 16th in blocks.

Tall, long, with an excellent frame and very nice agility—he has all the tools to be a very solid defender if he puts his mind to it. He gets a bit lackadaisical at times, though—bringing back shades of his high school days with the lack of energy he shows—something that shows up most often on the glass, where he is doing a pretty poor job at the moment. Monroe ranks as one of the worst rebounders amongst all big men in our database, gathering a paltry 7.9 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted, which is an extremely disappointing rate.

Often criticized for being soft or passive in high school, it’s precisely this part of his game (his mental approach) that scouts will likely be following the most closely as the season moves on. Monroe will probably never be the toughest or most energetic player around, but it’s crucial for him to show that he’s capable of making some basic hustle plays. So far the early results look much more positive than initially anticipated—something that is likely in large part due to the program and coach he decided to play for. There could very well be some lingering doubts about his mentality moving forward, but for the most part Monroe has done a very good job addressing these issues thus far.

We will have to see how things look as the season moves on. Luckily for us, Monroe is playing in the toughest conference in college basketball, and just happens to be competing against one of the nastiest group of defenders you’ll find anywhere—this Saturday against Pitt. Stay tuned.

Hasheem Thabeet, 7'3, Center, Junior, Connecticut
13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.0 blocks, 1.5 turnovers, 67% FG, 66% FT

Joseph Treutlein

Hasheem Thabeet got off to an excellent start this season, as he's increased his production and efficiency across the board, but he's probably hoping his matchup with Georgetown and freshman Greg Monroe is not a sign of things to come for the rest of the Big East season.

In his worst offensive performance this season, Thabeet scored just 4 points on 4 field goal attempts, being completely neutralized by Georgetown's aggressive defense, which took both Thabeet and UConn's point guards out of their element. Nothing came easy for Thabeet in the game, as he was in a constant battle for positioning in the post, where Greg Monroe, Julian Vaughn, and Dajuan Summers used their leverage to body him away from the basket on many occasions, keeping him from getting comfortable in areas where he can catch and score. When the ball did come to Thabeet, Georgetown blanketed him, while he struggled to make quick decisions with the ball and looked extremely tentative, leading to a few awkward possessions.

With a very high center of gravity, along with below average balance and coordination (it's worth noting Thabeet has improved tremendously in these two areas over the past two seasons, and he's likely to continue improving there in the future), Thabeet doesn't have the easiest time getting leverage on post battles, and can be pushed off the block by shorter, thicker opponents who aren't afraid to get physical. Combine this with some weakside swiping by Georgetown's guards when Thabeet did receive the ball, and it put Thabeet in a situation where he wasn't able to do very much. It'll be interesting to see if the other Big East teams try and emulate this strategy (Arinze Onuaku and Samardo Samuels are capable of similar physicality in the post), and if so, how Thabeet will adjust to it.

Looking away from this specific game, which obviously is not an accurate indicator of Thabeet's progress alone, there is much to be impressed with in the early going this season. His points per 40 minutes pace adjusted are up from 13.0 to 18.4, while his TS% rose from 64% to 68%, and you can look to a few things for reasons why. The competition level in non-conference play of course has to be mentioned, especially with Thabeet scoring more than 9 points in only one of his four big matchups thus far (19 points vs Miami along with 9 vs Wisconsin, 9 vs Gonzaga, 4 vs Georgetown). That's definitely not the only reason, though, as watching his game, a few things stand out.

In the post, Thabeet is looking more comfortable with his back-to-the-basket, and while he still doesn't really have a go-to move, his mini right-handed hook off his left shoulder is getting there. He's also faking right shoulder at times, showing semblances of counter-moves, and in a recent matchup against Fairfield, he converted on a left-handed hook from 5 feet out, something to possibly look out for in the future. As was the case against Georgetown, however, Thabeet looks considerably less comfortable against physical defenders, especially ones with size and athleticism. In these matchups, his post-up moves look a little more rushed, and his effectiveness drops.

Thabeet's still at his best catching and finishing off cuts, getting open in the halfcourt and in transition. While he's done a pretty good job of it this year, Thabeet still has instances where he doesn't look instinctive on these plays, not being decisive to finish strong as soon as he gets the ball, which can lead to missed opportunities.

On the defensive end, despite his blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted going down in each of his three seasons at UConn, it's hard to argue that he's improving on this end, as it's also important to mention how his fouls per 40 minutes pace adjusted have also gone down. Also, in actually analyzing the tape, Thabeet's awareness and hand-eye coordination definitely appear improved with his shot-blocking, both in man and help situations, however his reaction speed is still lacking at times, which isn't so much an issue against most college opponents, where his length and size allow him to recover.

In man-to-man defense, Thabeet still has some major problems, however, specifically on the perimeter, where his high center of gravity and lack of balance disallow him from getting into proper defensive stance and moving laterally, leaving him highly vulnerable to face-up players. His length allows him to recover from behind on drives at times, but this won't be as reliable of a bail out for him at the next level. In the post, Thabeet can get pushed back with his lack of leverage, however he usually plays fairly smart these days, relying on his length and size and forcing opponents to shoot over him. He struggles with quick lateral movements, though.

Looking forward, Thabeet is still a likely lottery pick if he decides to declare and continues with his strong production, however more games like this one against Georgetown are certainly not going to help him in the eyes of NBA scouts.

DaJuan Summers, 6-8, Junior, SF/PF, Georgetown
14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 54% FG, 75% FT, 42.5% 3P

Jonathan Givony

Georgetown’s leading scorer thus far, DaJuan Summers appears to have turned the corner midway through his college career and become a far more productive and efficient player. Not only is his scoring rate up by 25%, he’s also shooting the ball much more efficiently from the field, going from hitting 43% of his field goal attempts as a sophomore to 54% as a junior. From beyond the arc he’s making 42.5% of his 3-point attempts as opposed to 34% last season, while getting to the free throw line at a substantially better rate (7.4 attempts per-40 pace adjusted compared to 4.7). These numbers will likely drop as Georgetown enters the tougher part of their schedule with 17 more Big East games on tap, but his improvement thus far should be duly noted.

According to Summers, the difference has been in his overall mentality and approach to the game. In the press conference following the UConn game, he readily admitted that he was not always as team oriented as he needed to be last season, while talking about the importance of shot-selection and decision making. It was pretty impressive to see him take that type of responsibility rather than deflect the blame.

Summers is a pretty unique threat in the college game. Standing 6-8, with above average athleticism, and an excellent body, wingspan and frame, he’s a big-time mismatch threat at the power forward position for Georgetown. Now that he’s not relying quite as heavily on the 3-ball as the lone source of his production (42% of his field goal attempts come from beyond the arc this season, compared with 52% last season), he’s far more capable of making use of those physical tools to get the job done. Georgetown’s offense gets him many open looks around the basket thanks to the extensive motion and ball-movement they employ, and Summers has done a great job taking advantage of that, showing nice athleticism in the process.

Still a bit too turnover prone, Summers has regardless improved his ability to put the ball on the floor on straight-line drives and get to the rim, where he finishes very well. He’s using the threat of his shot to pump-fake and then take the ball strong—the main reason he’s getting to the free throw line so much better. Not the greatest ball-handler you’ll find, he definitely has his limitations as a shot-creator, and will still get into trouble on occasion when he tries to do too much with the ball.

Until he improves his skill-level—becoming more dangerous shooting off the dribble, being more explosive creating his own shot, improving his passing ability, or adding something resembling a post-game—Summers still projects primarily as an off the ball role-playing specialist—think Donyell Marshall. While he has the tools to be a very good defender (a big key for him as an NBA prospect), he’s not quite always as tough or active as you might hope, and is a pretty poor rebounder—something he must continue to work on this season. Whether NBA teams are ready to project him as a full-time small forward is anyone’s guess, but he’s certainly making strides in the right direction, and will have plenty of opportunities to continue to show himself.

A.J. Price, 6'2, Point Guard, Senior, Connecticut
10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 turnovers, 39% FG, 61% FT, 43% 3P

Joseph Treutlein

Returning from a torn ACL suffered in the NCAA Tournament only last March, A.J. Price obviously hasn't started the season in top form, though as Conference play begins, he appears to be inching closer and closer to his play level from last season, which earned him recognition as one of the best point guards in the country.

Looking at his statistics, there's a noticeably drop in most areas for Price this season, to be expected for many reasons. His points per 40 minutes pace adjusted and FG% have both dropped substantially, while his assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted are down as well. The assists have as much to do with the four ball-handling guards (Price, Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson, Craig Austrie) averaging 25+ minutes per game on UConn as it has to do with Price's injury. The scoring and efficiency, on the other hand, appear to be a direct byproduct of the injury, and looking at Synergy Sports Technology's detailed statistics, a few things stand out. Last season, Price attempted 4.1 shots per game finishing at the basket, while he's down to 1.4 this season. Even worse, his efficiency on those possessions has dropped from 0.92 PPP to 0.64 PPP.

In analyzing the tape, it's very noticeable that Price doesn't look nearly as comfortable attacking the basket this season, still recovering from a serious injury to his knee. His ability to get separation, both at the rim, and on pull-up shot attempts, is not as effective just yet, forcing him into some tougher shots, and making it necessary for him to adjust his game, which he has. Price still does a good job getting into the lane, but he's not nearly as quick turning the corner or getting his defender off his hip, which is a large reason why he's attacking much less, and only has attempted 23 free throws in 11 games this season.

As a jump shooter, Price is showing signs of improvement, and his increased three-point percentage (up from 37% to 44%) is one of the main reasons his TS% hasn't plummeted with his decreased efficiency inside the arc. Price is taking 1.6 more three-point attempts per game as well, making the improvement that much more impressive. It's a little too early to tell if this is simply statistical variation, as Price's shooting form still has a few possible issues, with the kicking of his feet forward, the flailing of his right arm, and the sometimes slow release, but it's hard to argue with the results.

As a point guard, there's much to be impressed with for Price, as he shows the type of floor general game many NBA teams look for in a backup point guard. He keeps his head up, distributes the ball, makes smart passes, runs the pick-and-roll, and finds the open man in transition. He wasn't a great drive-and-kick point guard last season, and his injury certainly hasn't helped him there, but the rest of his point guard game is still solid, with him making precision bounce and chest passes to cutters and post-up players.

Defensively, there is still much concern with Price, as he doesn't show a great stance or lateral quickness, and he struggles to get around screens, either not powering through them or going wide around them, leading to open shots.

Looking forward, there's reason to be optimistic for Price this season, as he just had an excellent game against Gonzaga (including hitting an overtime-forcing, contested, pull-up three-pointer), while he was also seemingly one of the only players to show up in Connecticut's loss to Georgetown. If he could get back into form towards the end of Conference play, namely in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, it would do great things for his draft stock, especially if he can combine his effectiveness as a scorer and point guard last season with his improved three-point shooting this season.

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