NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/22/07-- Part One

NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/22/07-- Part One
Jan 23, 2007, 01:47 am
Dominic McGuire of Fresno State, Ron Steele of Alabama, Mike Conley Jr. of Ohio State and Stanley Robinson of UConn are featured in part one of this week's NCAA performers series.

Dominic McGuire, 6-8, SG/SF, Junior, Fresno State
Vs. Nevada: 19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 blocks, 7-16 FG, 1-3 3P, 4-4 FT


Jonathan Givony

While every team in the NBA is going out to Fresno State to watch Quinton Hosley this year, its Cal transfer and redshirt junior Dominic McGuire that people are coming away raving about. After putting up a terrific stat-line a few weeks ago against Stanford (25 points, 13 rebounds in a heartbreaking loss), we wanted to wait to see him one more time before we were willing to really confirm what we saw and have been hearing so much about. From what we can tell, it was certainly worth waiting for.

Watching him again this past week on the road against a very talented Nevada team, it’s really hard not to get excited about his potential. McGuire is a legit 6-8 swingman who plays all five positions for his team, showing freakish athleticism, a terrific frame, and the kind of emerging versatile skill-set that draws comparisons to a young Joe Johnson from his days at Arkansas. “He’s the most talented wing player on the West Coast besides Budinger,” says one NBA scout who has been out to see him on multiple occasions. “We’re talking lottery-type upside here.”

McGuire passes the eye test and then some for an NBA swingman, possessing great size, terrific length, and a very nice frame. He is silky smooth on top of that, showing outstanding fluidity, excellent body control and the type of explosiveness needed to get into the lane and hang in the air for some incredibly creative finishes. He is used at the power forward position mostly for Fresno State, but will at times swing over to point guard for a stretch or just explode off the floor for a rebound and go coast to coast himself. His ball-handling skills are extremely impressive, being capable of shaking guys off the dribble going left or right, and creating his own shot to pull up smoothly from mid-range or quickly make his way to the hoop. On first and second glance, he appears to be a pretty smart player who plays within his team’s offense unselfishly and would rather not force the issue, even if his decision making skills aren’t always the best. He’s a nice passer as his 3.1 assists per game average would indicate, and will show some nice creativity at times by threading the needle with tough passes.

Defensively, McGuire is averaging an outstanding 3.6 blocks per game thanks to his combination of size, length, excellent timing and the quickness in which he gets off his feet. While this strength is not particularly likely to translate over to the NBA, he does have the tools to become an extremely disruptive defender on the wing, especially in terms of his lateral quickness. Likewise, he is a very strong rebounder at the WAC level, pulling down just under 9 per game to complete a very versatile picture. Just to illustrate that point, he had a triple-double a few weeks ago against San Diego, with 14 points (4-6 FG), 14 rebounds, 10 blocks. Just for good measure, he added 4 assists and 6 turnovers.

In terms of weaknesses, McGuire has quite a few wrinkles to his game he’ll need to iron out. For one, he’s not a great finisher around the basket, lacking a bit of strength and craft in terms of using the glass in traffic. His perimeter jumper shows promise at times, but is not consistent in the least bit, as he does not have very good balance or footwork, and therefore does not have a steady release point. Like many smooth swingmen who can get their shot off virtually at any time, he has a tendency at times to settle from the perimeter for off-balance shots when he’d be much better off taking the ball strong to the hoop. He shows great toughness on the defensive end as his shot-blocking and rebounding numbers would indicate, but this toughness and hunger does not quite translate over to the offensive end the way you might hope.

Generally speaking, McGuire is not the most polished player you’ll find despite his status as a redshirt junior. He is still young for his class, though, just having turned 21 three months ago. He certainly lacks some focus on the court as his up and down numbers would indicate, and there were some minor off the court rumblings from his days at Cal, mainly regarding his overall maturity level. In terms of pure talent, though, it’s tough not to be extremely intrigued by what he’s showing this year—albeit inconsistently—at Fresno. Guys who are 6-8 and possess his kind of skill-set and athletic ability certainly don’t come around every day. It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone to see his name on the early-entry list when it’s all said and done, but he’s going to have to put up more performances like he did against Stanford and Nevada to improve his chances of landing in the first round. With that said, he’s the type of guy who is absolutely tailor-made to the NBA private workout setting.

For those wanting to take a look for themselves, McGuire’s next game will be televised on ESPN Full Court on Thursday at 9 PM EST.

Ron Steele, 6-2, Point Guard, Junior, Alabama
Vs. Georgia: 13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 4/9 FG, 3/7 3PFG, 2/3 FT


Mike Schmidt

After a strong sophomore campaign in which he proved to be a clutch leader, Steele opted to return to Alabama for his junior season rather than claim a likely spot in the first round of the 2006 NBA draft. He has struggled to get into any kind of flow this season, and appears to be clearly bothered by ankle and knee injuries he suffered early in the season. Despite clearly looking like a shadow of his former self, he managed to again step it up with clutch plays for a big home win against Georgia on Saturday, where Alabama had to dig itself out of an early 18-2 hole right off the bat and was behind for almost the entire game.

Steele struggled to find his shot early, settling for far too many jumpers and displaying uncharacteristically bad shot-selection. He clearly lacks the explosiveness he possessed last season, and he never was going to blow you away with his quickness to begin with. This has negatively affected Alabama’s entire rhythm, as they’ve counted on him to be their sole offensive catalyst ever since Chuck Davis went down with a season ending ACL tear mid-way through last season. He still did a good job of controlling the tempo the best he could against the Dawgs, and created some nice looks for his teammates, even if his team never really got into any kind of real offensive flow.

Late in the game, Steele displayed the clutch ability he has been noted for throughout his college career. He hit 3 shots in the final couple minutes of the game, and made an off-balance buzzer-beater from 15 feet to give 8th ranked Alabama their 15th win of the season. The ability to lead a team has been one of the positives for Steele throughout his college career, and he proved that his leadership qualities were still there despite his struggles this year.

Steele’s jump shot looks worse than it was last year at this point, and this can probably be attributed to his injury. He barely elevates off the floor, but is regardless relying on his jumper as a main scoring tool for the time being, despite not being able to create any separation from his defender. He is hitting over 44% of his three point attempts regardless, though, so the Georgia game could probably be considered just an off game as far as his 3-point stroke goes. Off the dribble, he struggles to get by anybody, and has to pass the ball off early in the offense on many occasions. This hurts his ability to create in the halfcourt, and score inside. Steele also lacks the energy he played with the past two seasons, and often struggles to stick with his man on defense.

Though he has clearly struggled this season, Steele still does a good job of involving everyone the best he can on the offensive end. He sees the court very well, and is actually averaging comparable assist numbers to last season. His assist to turnover ratio is almost at 2 to 1 on the season. Much like a savvy veteran NBA point guard would, Steele is using his head to get the job done effectively for his team, rather than his legs. It’s not quite clear if this is exactly what NBA teams are looking for in terms of drafting a point guard in the 1st round, though.

Steele’s numbers are still comparable to where they were last season, but the way he is playing has taken a step back when it comes to the NBA. It is clear that the injuries have taken a toll on him this season, but at this point he would have been better off declaring last season. If he can get his legs back for the conference season, and lead Alabama in the NCAA tournament, it could do wonders for raising his draft stock back to where it was. If not, look for Ron Steele to return for his senior campaign. Much will depend on the severity of his injury and the potential long-lasting effects he might be causing by playing over 32 minutes a game on it. If he can eventually be expected to return to his old self, he will surely be evaluated in a different light by NBA teams with strong scouting departments.

Mike Conley Jr., 6-1, Freshman, Point Guard, Ohio State
2 Games Combined: 25 points, 20 assists, 4 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 8 steals, 10-16 FG, 2-4 3P, 3-6 FT


Rodger Bohn

As each game comes and goes, it has became more and more clear that the nation’s finest pure point guard is currently residing in Columbus, Ohio. Over the last week, we saw him post 20 assists with only 4 turnovers, while also picking up 8 steals in leading the Buckeyes to victories over Northwestern and Iowa respectively. Mike Conley Jr. has been dishing out nearly 7 assists per game and maintained a ridiculous 3.31/1 assist to turnover ratio, and is leaving many Buckeye fans wondering if he will bolt along with pal Greg Oden to the NBA after this season.

Over these last two games, Conley gave college basketball fans a taste of what he has been doing all year. He runs a team better then any guard in the country, period. It has been quite some time since we have seen as good of a “pass first” point guard on the collegiate level, His vision, ability to break down defenses, and point guard instincts have been the main reason why the Buckeyes have been able to maintain a position in the top 10 all year, despite the absence of Oden early in the year. The rookie playmaker’s unselfishness has been contagious, with “gunners” Ron Lewis and Daequan Cook even occasionally deferring to teammates who have better look then themselves. This just goes to show that the effect that he has on this year’s Ohio State team goes far beyond the impressive statistics that he has put up thus far.

Athletically, Mike is as close to a freak as you can get for a point guard prospect. He has an incredibly explosive first step, outstanding lateral quickness, and nice leaping ability for a player who stands only 6’1. It is nice to see a player use all of his athletic abilities to the fullest on both ends of the floor, a rarity by today’s standards in the college game. Conley has shown that he can break down any opposing guard he has went up against all season long, keeping his head up the entire time and making all of the right passes. If he does decide to shoot the ball however, the Indianapolis native is as close to ambidextrous as one can be, using both his right and left hands in all of the proper situations. We’re not just talking about the rim either, as Conley has shown the ability to consistently hit floaters out to 10 feet with either hand as well, a very unique skill indeed.

Conley’s use of his superior athletic gifts does not end there however, as he is an absolute shut down defender as well. Whether we are talking about his on the ball ball-hawking or his off the ball defense, there is probably not a finer perimeter defender in this freshman class. Conley uses his great lateral quickness, quick hands, and heady play to lock down opposing playmakers without getting in foul trouble. Off the ball, he has shown the ability to make defenders think twice about throwing a lazy pass, bolting through the passing lanes to get steals to the tune of 2.7 per game (which leads the Big Ten).

While the positives certainly outweigh the negatives in the case of Mike Conley Jr., he certainly does have some areas that he needs to improve upon, most notably his shooting ability. His outside shot has been virtually non-existent to say the least this year, only knocking down 8 three pointers in 19 games so far. What has been even more invisible was Conley’s mid-range game, which we have seen no resemblance of whatsoever unless we are considering floaters, which allows defenders to predict that he is looking to go all the way to the rim each and every time he touches the ball. At only 6’1 and 165 lbs., he does not have the ideal size teams are looking for in a point guard prospect either, but is still bigger then fellow elite point guard prospects Tywon Lawson and Dominic James.

It is certainly not out of the question to fathom Conley leaving Columbus next year if the Buckeyes make a strong tournament run, despite his insistence that he will stay for all four years. The fact that he's established himself as one of the best pure point guards in college this early will make teams think long and hard about him, despite his lack of a perimeter shot. The possibilities of Mike’s departure from OSU rely heavily on what teammates Greg Oden and Daequan Cook decide to do, as the three are extremely close and have played together since age 14 on the AAU circuit. Conley's father (and former AAU coach) is even rumored to be looking into representing Oden as his agent once he enters the draft this April. Either way, draft fans must keep a closer eye on Mr. Conley to see the best pass first point guard in the land lead a team full of freshman deep into the tournament this March.

Stanley Robinson, 6-9, Forward, Freshman Connecticut
Vs. Indiana: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 0 assists, 4 turnovers, 2 blocks, 7-11 FG, 6-6 FT


Mike Schmidt

Throughout the season Stanley Robinson has displayed many flashes of potential, although in small increments. His production for Connecticut has been inconsistent so far, but he has to constantly fight for minutes in a young but talented front-court, without the support of an effective point guard to deliver the ball. Against Indiana, Robinson finally put everything together over a 32 minute stretch, and had his best game as a college player thus far.

Robinson used his athleticism early in the game, finishing on two thunderous dunk attempts inside. He continued to make impressive athletic plays near the basket throughout the game, and was able to finish strong or get to the line nearly every time. Robinson also displayed the ability to hit the set jump shot, and made his only attempt from behind the 3-point line. In the clutch, he made a number of plays to get to the basket, and collected a key rebound on the offensive end of the floor. His overall effort wasn’t enough to lead UConn to the victory, but it was a good setting to get a look at what he has the potential to do.

Robinson measures around 6’9,” and already has an ideal body for an NBA small forward. He possesses more than enough athleticism for the next level, and uses it very well on the interior. His jumper works well when he can get his feet set, and his ability to put the ball on the floor is improving. Defensively, Robinson uses his quickness very well, and plays defense well at a couple positions in college. He can block shots coming from the weak-side, and this will only improve as he better learns how to rotate and position on defense. On the season, Robinson is shooting 50% on his 16 three point attempts, but only 69% from the free throw line.

Before Robinson is ready to play in the NBA down the road, he will need to become more proficient at scoring off the dribble, particularly when shooting. He already gets to the basket well at times, but sometimes looks a little mechanical when slashing to the hoop. When his feet aren’t set, his shot looks a little different as well.

The biggest thing Robinson will need to do is put everything together on a consistent basis. Early in the season, he was used more sparingly, and would come in and display some fantastic flashes of potential, but struggle to produce over the course of the game. His production has increased as Coach Calhoun has given him more minutes, but he still has games from time to time where nothing is working. For example, in his very next outing on the road against Louisville, Robinson was held scoreless in 30 minutes of action.

Stanley has all the tools to develop into a first round draft pick over the next few years, but he will have to earn the playing time needed to develop his game on the court. Only now has he started to get minutes at the 3-spot for UConn after backing up Jeff Adrien at the PF spot, where he played in high school, and he’s still making the transition to being a full-time wing. If he can maintain his spot in the rotation this season, he has a chance to be a very important contributor for UConn.

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