NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/20/10

NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/20/10
Jan 20, 2010, 02:49 pm
Updated scouting reports on Ole Miss' Terrico White, Iowa State's Craig Brackins, Xavier's Jordan Crawford and UAB's Elijah Millsap.

Terrico White, 6-5, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Ole Miss
16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 turnovers, 0.9 steals, 45% FG, 37.4% 3P, 73% FT

Jonathan Givony

Few players in college basketball draw such varying opinions over his pro potential than Ole Miss’ Terrico White. A relatively unheralded high school recruit who was thrust into the role of Ole Miss’ starting point guard very early on in his freshman season, White was named freshman of the year in the SEC and has seen his draft stock fluctuate dramatically ever since.

The physical tools that White brings to the table are simply undeniable. With ample size at 6-5 to play either backcourt position, White sports a ridiculously long wingspan to go along with an outstanding frame and superior athleticism.

The place that White has clearly improved the most between his freshman and sophomore seasons is with his shooting stroke. His mid-range game looks like a potentially superb weapon for the NBA, sporting great elevation on his jump-shot, incredibly smooth mechanics, and an ultra quick release.

Despite the fact that he rarely gets to the basket (only 26% of his shooting attempts come around the rim), his field goal percentages have improved this season, largely due to the fact that he’s shooting 37% from beyond the arc. He shoots the ball the same pretty much every time—always looking extremely smooth and natural in the process—and would probably be converting at a much better rate if he were able to improve his shot-selection.

As a shot-creator, White has plenty of room for improvement, something that was probably masked to a certain extent last year when he played the point full time and had the ball in his hands all the time. His ball-handling skills—particularly with his left hand—are average, and he rarely gets to the free throw line despite showing a terrific first step and outstanding body control in the lane.

Too often White is content taking a pick and just settling for a pull-up jumper, rarely looking to get all the way to the basket. When he does get into the paint, it’s usually to try a floater from 5-8 feet away, a shot that is nice to see in his arsenal but he relies on far too heavily upon considering the degree of difficulty. He has a great deal to learn about the nuances of initiating contact and finishing strong around the basket, as he’s far too physically gifted to be content making a living in the mid-range.

As a point guard, White has clearly taken a step back from last year. He averages a miniscule amount of assists—1.7 per-40 minutes pace adjusted, ranking him dead last in assist ratio amongst all point guards or combo guards in college basketball. While there are plenty of counterarguments that can be made to justify this stat—he plays next to a very wild and often selfish point guard (Chris Warren) who thoroughly dominates the ball—there is no way around the fact that in the minutes that he does man the point he dribbles the ball with his head down and rarely shows much in the way of playmaking instincts.

To White’s credit, he does a terrific job of not turning the ball over—ranking 1st in that category as well. He’s been criticized at times for not being assertive enough, something that this stat seems to hint at, but clearly his role on this Ole Miss team is to act as a finisher and not a creator.

Defensively, White has taken a big step forward this year. That’s not a surprise when you consider his outstanding potential in this area, with his terrific size, length, strength and athleticism. On the ball he uses his tools exceptionally well to stay in front of his man and force contested looks, but off the ball his occasional lack of intensity and fundamentals will result in some easy baskets for the opposition.

White is the type of player who can come into an NBA private workout and absolutely blow a team away with his physical tools, shooting stroke and tremendous upside. At the same time, his lack of assertiveness as a slasher is concerning, and there is no doubt that he could use another season in college to stabilize his draft stock, become more confident on and off the court, and continue to add polish to his very improvable weaknesses. He’ll be facing a tough decision regarding whether or not to declare for the draft this spring. On one hand his talent is undeniable, but on the other we’ve seen plenty of players in his mold get shoved to the sidelines early on in their NBA careers playing for bad organizations and eventually get lost somewhere along the way.

Craig Brackins, 6-10, Junior, Power Forward/Center, Iowa State
16.3 Points, 8.1 Rebounds, 2.7 Assists, 1.8 Turnovers, 1.4 Blocks, 44.6% FG, 46.9% 3FG, 75.6% FT

Matthew Williams

After putting up outstanding individual numbers during his sophomore season and laboring over his decision to declare for the 2009 NBA Draft throughout the spring, Craig Brackins surprised most of the basketball community with his decision to return to school. Pegged as a potential lottery pick last spring, the 22-year old California native took a huge risk in returning to Ames at the urging of his former AAU coach T.J. Otzelberger (now an assistant coach at Iowa State), as he’d be asked once again to shoulder a heavy load at ISU, for better or worse. Thus far, the risk hasn't paid off, as Brackins’ team looks far from being NCAA tournament worthy and his draft stock is faltering badly as his efficiency and rebounding numbers have taken major hits.

When we analyzed the situational statistics of last year’s power forward crop, we identified Brackins as one of the prospects who wasn’t benefiting from the play of their teammates. Little has changed in that regard this season, as Brackins still has to create most of his offense on his own, earns very few easy baskets around the rim working off the ball, and is relied on as a go-to-scorer virtually all the time.

Though he displays the versatility to create his own shot in the post, he is unable to do so consistently, as his frame does not appear to have improved much from last year and he’s still just an average athlete by NBA standards at best. Competitive teams are honing in on him more this season and are making a conscious effort to stop him, further limiting his ability to take advantage of his long frame and finesse game. The presence of Marquis Gilstrap hasn't helped either, as Brackins is deferring quite a bit to the athletic junior college transfer, looking very passive in some of Iowa State’s games down the stretch.

The most prominent improvement Brackins appears to have made on paper revolves around his 3-point shooting, as he’s hitting 47% of his 3-pointers on the season, compared with 28% last year. This may be a bit of a mirage, though, as he’s only taken less than two attempts from beyond the arc, and hasn’t been all that consistent from mid-range this season. Though Brackins is capable of hitting shots from range with more consistency when he’s on, his form still wavers possession to possession, he’s too eager to pull the trigger with a hand in his face early in the shot clock, and he’s not nearly as effective when forced to take a contested jump shot a step inside the arc. His improved spot up ability has a lot to do with his comfort level shooting in rhythm with his feet set, but ultimately, his perimeter game is still a work in progress for the 22-year old.

Closer to the rim, not a lot has changed for Brackins from last season. He continues to get upwards of 40% of his touches in post-up situations according to the data we have at our disposal. Brackins’s go-to-move in the post remains a quick jumper, which allows him to exploit his touch and length, but often forces him to settle for tough shots over defenders. He still tends to establish position closer to the midrange than the block, and doesn’t make assertive moves to the rim unless he already has his man sealed to one side on the catch. Brackins often looks most comfortable letting his man push him out to the perimeter and then going one-on-one, though opposing defenses are doing a better job forcing him to give the ball up in such situations. There are plenty of question marks about how this part of his game will translate against NBA caliber athletes considering his average physical tools (frame, strength, explosiveness) and toughness.

Defensively, Brackins still looks shaky defending the perimeter, and his frame doesn’t project well when trying to determine how he’ll fare against NBA caliber post scorers. Even more concerning is the fact that his rebounding numbers have come back down to earth this season, something that was a major concern going into his sophomore season as you can read from his earlier scouting reports on this site. Brackins isn’t the strongest, most explosive or active player, which limits his impact on the glass when surrounded by better athletes.

With Marquis Gilstrap translating his dynamic rebounding ability to the NCAA level, Brackins has regressed as a rebounder; his production in this area has dropped by 25%. He continues to be a paltry offensive rebounder, ranking last amongst all collegiate draft prospect centers in that category and 8th worst out of the 117 power forwards in our database.

This isn’t a new development for Brackins--he simply isn’t able to compete for loose balls in traffic. He displays active hands and has his moments defending the rim, but needs to become a more fundamentally sound defender to overcome his lack of outstanding lateral quickness, explosiveness and bulk and show better intensity to answer the serious question marks scouts have about his motor.

When it comes down to it, Brackins simply hasn’t had the season that his talents and play last season seem to warrant. As of now, it is clear that he would have been better served to declare in 2009. He’s still talented enough to warrant a pick in the first round, but unlike last season, he has significantly more to prove in the draft process, and much stronger competition at his position this time around. A year older than many of his classmates, Brackins seems destined to at least test the waters this summer to see if there are any teams still enamored with his potential. His play in the Big 12 will dictate just how much work he’ll have to do to solidify his NBA draft stock.

Jordan Crawford, 6-4, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Xavier
19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 43.7% FG, 38.6% 3FG, 73.7% FT

Kyle Nelson

After a solid freshman season at Indiana alongside the likes of Eric Gordon and D.J. White, in the wake of the Kelvin Sampson recruiting scandal, swingman Jordan Crawford transferred to Xavier. This season, the 21-year-old sophomore has emerged as the premier perimeter scorer in the Atlantic 10, known for hitting clutch jumpers and creating his own shot at will. With averages of 19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists and a 30-point (on 25 field goal attempts), six-rebound, and 4-assist performance at Wake Forest on his resume, Crawford is distinguishing himself as one of the most potent scorers in the country, forcing scouts to taking notice.

Standing at 6’4 with just a decent frame, Crawford does not exactly look the part of a can’t-miss collegiate wing prospect. He does have nice length, however, and, though his explosiveness set online communities abuzz when he posterized LeBron James in a pickup-up game this summer, he will be just an above average athlete at the next level. Similarly, while his first step and agility are impressive, they do not stand out amongst the crowd when comparing him with your average shot-creating NBA shooting guard.

On the offensive end, Crawford has improved significantly since his time at Indiana and is one of the better overall scorers in the country. Attempting almost 16 field goals per game and responsible for almost a quarter of Xavier’s possessions, Crawford does most of his damage in isolation situations, taking his man off of the dribble and creating his own offense. As a slasher, Crawford utilizes his quick first step and impressive body control to get to the basket. He is not a particularly adept finisher, particularly when he drives left, as evidenced by the pedestrian percentages he shoots from 2-point range.

His lack of strength certainly hurts him here, but he also does not show the greatest touch around the basket. Furthermore, like most young scoring guards, he could definitely improve his ball-handling skills. His sizable role as principle scorer and distributor does him no favors, either, in terms of his overall effectiveness around the basket and at this stage he forces the issue far too often. Regardless, improving his decision-making and shot selection will be essential for him to reach the next level.

Crawford has developed into a proficient shooter both from beyond the arc and from mid-range. He still has inconsistent shooting mechanics, which vary from smooth and fluid to hitched and awkward. He is at his most fluid while spotting up from beyond the arc, but he is gradually becoming a more proficient catch-and-shoot player, aided by his ability to move without the ball and find open spots on the court.

His shot selection needs some significant work, as he takes far too many contested 30-foot jump shots, but his sizeable role in the Xavier offense surely doesn’t help matters and despite these criticisms, he is shooting almost 39% from beyond the arc. Continuing to improve as a shooter, however, is essential regarding his future at the next level, since he likely won’t be able to make a living as a slasher quite as much as he does in the A-10. From mid-range, he has developed a variety of pull-ups and floaters that ensure that he will be able to create a shot (for better or worse) on nearly every offensive possession.

On the defensive end, Crawford is solid, though unspectacular. He gambles quite a bit, both in terms of his man-to-man defense and on shot-fakes closer to the basket. Similarly, he does not show consistent focus, not closing out nearly as often as one would like to see. Given Crawford’s incredibly taxing role on the offensive end of the floor, his average defensive fundamentals are somewhat understandable, though certainly not excusable. Scouts will likely want to see increased intensity and focus on defense when considering his role at the next level, as his lack of size and strength will do him no favors on this end.

Crawford is a bit older than your typical sophomore at age 21, and that probably doesn’t help his case as an NBA prospect. There is no denying the fact that he is an adept scorer, one of the NCAA’s best, but scouts will be watching to see whether or not he can transition into a roleplayer at the next level, with a fraction of the possessions at his disposal. There are question marks pertaining to Crawford’s ball-dominant style and unselfishness--is he merely playing the way his team, which lost three of its top scorers last year and is under the leadership of a rookie coach, needs him to play? Regardless, from what we’re hearing it seems like that Crawford will seriously consider testing the NBA draft waters this spring. In the meantime, however, he has a lot of work to both raise his draft stock and lead his team back to the NCAA Tournament.

Elijah Millsap, 6-6, Shooting Guard, Junior, UAB
17.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.1 steals, 43% FG, 32% 3P, 72% FT

Joey Whelan

The Blazers have gotten off to a torrid 15-2 start this season, highlighted by wins over Cincinnati and Butler and are well on their way to challenging for the regular season Conference-USA title after winning their first three conference games. Part of the credit for the team’s early success is due to junior transfer Elijah Millsap, who is in his first season with the program since arriving one year ago from Louisiana-Lafayette. The 6-6 combo forward and brother of Utah Jazz PF Paul has been a revelation for the Blazers, leading the team in scoring, rebounding and steals.

Millsap definitely possesses physical attributes that will attract pro scouts, starting with his length and well built frame. Dubiously listed at 6-6, but packing a solid 210-pounds and a terrific wingspan, he has the strength necessary to absorb contact on his way to the rim while still finishing plays in addition to being able to post up same size or small backcourt players. He is a very good athlete on top of that, showing the willingness to take advantage of his tools as well. Where he will really benefit against pro level competition though is in his tremendous body control that he has exhibited on a regular basis this season.

Millsap’s offensive game is built around slashing to the basket at this point, something he does effectively against Conference USA-type competition. Millsap has decent ball-handling skills, exhibiting a low, controlled dribble that allows him to operate in traffic when attacking the basket in a straight line. His first step is quick enough that he can usually gain an edge against most college defenders, particularly when operating at the power forward position, where he currently finds the most success.

Not an amazing shot-creator when isolated on the perimeter in the half-court, Millsap has a tendency to push off with his free hand when executing spin moves and such, resulting a higher number of offensive fouls accumulated. As previously mentioned, it is Millsap’s body control and ability to absorb contact that makes him such a handful in the lane, allowing him to get to the free throw line at a truly outstanding rate.

He seems to know where the basket is and does a nice job of staying square to the rim when flying through defenders in transition, but often looks out of control when operating in the half-court. Millsap ranks as one of the most turnover prone small forwards in our database, at nearly 5 turnovers per-40 minutes pace adjusted. Reeling in his aggressiveness and learning how to make better decisions with the ball will be very important for him moving forward.

Possibly his biggest asset would be his physical toughness, especially on the glass where he rebounds at an excellent rate, totaling 12.4 per 40 minutes, which ranks him amongst the top small forwards in our database. He’s a no-nonsense type player who is not afraid to throw his body around, something that certainly bodes well for his future.

There is still a good deal of work for Millsap to do as far as improving his perimeter game is concerned. He shoots a modest 32% from beyond the arc on just under three attempts per game, showing a smooth, quick release, but tending to fade away when firing. He looks comfortable shooting off the dribble at times, exhibiting a nice step back move on a regular basis, but his release tends to be a bit rushed and inconsistent against better defenders when on the move, and his shot-selection is just average at best.

Defensively Millsap is intriguing, showing great physical tools and aggressiveness, despite being somewhat of a tweener at this point. He posts nearly three steals per-40p, an excellent number, due to his length and anticipation skills, often jumping passing lanes for easy transition baskets at the other end. When faced with isolation sets against smaller players, he can make an impact thanks to his size and length, but doesn’t appear to have great experience guarding on the perimeter, operating as more of a power forward collegiately. Continuing to hone his defensive ability will be paramount to his chances of cracking an NBA roster, as this will likely be his most primarily role if he is able to make it at the pro ranks.

Despite turning 23 this summer, Millsap is a player who may benefit from another year of school, not only because it will allow him to further develop his skill set, but it will give him the chance to make a bigger name for himself in the basketball community. He has proven himself as a solid but very inefficient scorer thus far at UAB, and his tremendous rebounding numbers will certainly win him the favor of many scouts. With that said, his game still has plenty of holes to it, primarily when looking at his ability to efficiently operate on the perimeter.

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