Top NBA Draft Prospects in Non-BCS Conferences, Part Four (#21-25)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in Non-BCS Conferences, Part Four (#21-25)
Nov 08, 2010, 03:46 pm
Continuing our coverage of the top returning NBA prospects in Non-BCS conferences, we profile Norris Cole of Cleveland State and Denzel Bowles of James Madison while rankings the like of Akron's Zeke Marshall, Mark Payne of , and Matt Howard of Butler.

Freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA circuit before we attempt to draw any long-term conclusions.

-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the Big Ten
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the Big 12
-Top 10 NBA Prospects in the Pac-10
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the SEC
-Top 25 NBA Prospects in the Big East
-Top 25 NBA Prospects in the ACC

Top NBA Draft Prospects in Non-BCS Conferences Part One, Part Two, Part Three

#1 Elias Harris
#2 Kenneth Faried
#3 Kawhi Leonard
#4 Wesley Witherspoon
#5 Aaric Murray
#6 Keith Benson
#7 Greg Smith
#8 Damian Saunders
#9 Jimmer Fredette
#10 Lavoy Allen
#11 Shelvin Mack
#12 Arsalan Kazemi
#13 Chris Wright
#14 Juan Fernandez
#15 Robert Sacre
#16 C.J. McCollum
#17 Will Coleman
#18 George Odufuwa
#19 Andrew Nicholson
#20 Gary Flowers

#21 Zeke Marshall, 7'0, Sophomore, Center, Akron
5.1 Points, 3.9 Rebounds, 1.7 Blocks, 1.5 Turnovers, 2.1 Fouls, 47.1% FG, 46.6% FT

Having profiled Marshall before his freshman season, we've decided to reassess what type of progress he's made in a few months rather than scrutinizing his development with a small sample of game footage.

#22 Mark Payne, 6'7, Senior, Point Guard/Shooting Guard/Small Forward, UC Davis
15.6 Points, 4.0 Rebounds, 4.4 Assists, 2.1 Steals, 2.6 Turnovers, 53.4% FG, 45.8% #P, 83.4% FT

Having profiled Payne late last season, we've elected to wait and see what type of progress he's made with a fresh perspective in a few months, rather than rehashing many of the same comments made last year based off his 2009-2010 game footage.

#23 Matt Howard, 6'8, Senior, Power Forward, Butler
11.6 Points, 5.2 Rebounds, 1.6 Turnovers, 3.5 Fouls, 48.1% FG, 78.4% FT

Having profiled Howard in depth in 2009, we've elected to wait and see what type of progress he's made with a fresh perspective in a few months, rather than rehashing many of the same comments made at that time.

#24 Norris Cole, 6'2, Senior, Point Guard, Cleveland State
16.3 Points, 2.8 Rebounds, 4.4 Assists, 2.8 Turnovers, 1.8 Steals, 43.2% FG, 34.2% 3P, 79.9% FT

Matthew Williams

Flying under the radar playing for a Cleveland State program that finished near the middle of the pack in the Horizon League, Norris Cole garnered some praise this summer for his performance at the Deron Williams Skills Academy. While Cole won't blow you away when you watch him on film and hasn't been quite as productive as some of the other small conference guards we've analyzed, he is one of the most steady and consistent floor generals in the senior class and has the potential to have a great year.

A well-rounded player who has worked tirelessly off the floor to improve his perimeter scoring ability, Cole's NBA potential is limited to some degree by his lack of elite athleticism. By no means is Cole a slouch, as he possesses good size, speed, and quickness, but he doesn't have the dynamic explosiveness that allows elite guards to get to the rim at will and finish in traffic.

Though he isn't the flashiest player, Cole plays with pace, uses changes of speed well, and does a good job taking what the defense gives him. Adept at creating off the dribble, Cole has a good feel for when to attack and when to pull the ball out and reset the offense. A very solid ball-handler and capable passer, Cole doesn't force too many drives, and is extremely careful with the ball in half court situations.

Asked to function as Cleveland State's primary ball-handler and top offensive threat, the senior does a good job striking a balance between deferring and looking to score. He does his best passing on the pick and roll, where he understands angles and uses the threat of his pull-up jump shot to force defenders to respect his ability to stop and pop. Displaying very good form on his jump shot, the Dayton native is extremely consistent with his feet set, but does most of his damage from the midrange. Flashing a very good jump shot off the dribble, Cole doesn't allow defenders to shake his mechanics and relies on a quick step-back move as a go-to option late in the shot clock.

Cole prefers to get all the way to the rim when he operates in one-on-one situations. He uses his body to shield the ball effectively when he gets in the lane and can attack and finish with both, but struggles to finish in a crowd, where his lack of size and leaping ability limits him. Recognizing that he isn't going to make too many highlight reel plays around the rim, he relies heavily on his midrange game, though he also compensates by seeking out contact on the occasions that he does drive and getting to the line at a terrific rate for how infrequently he goes inside.

If Cole has one area that he could stand to improve on next season, it would be his decision-making in transition. Most of his assists come within the flow or Cleveland State's offense, and while he exploits opportunities to make smart passes in half court sets, he looks like a different player in transition. He makes some questionable decisions when attacking defenders at full speed, trying too hard to make things happen. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Cole turned the ball over on a quarter of his transition possessions last season, twice as often as he turns the ball over in half court scenarios.

Defensively, Cole shows good awareness, a fine effort level, and a knack for creating turnovers without taking risks, but struggles to get through screens in pick and roll situations and lacks the height to effectively contest spot up shooters out on the perimeter. His lateral quickness is solid, but not spectacular and it will be interesting to see how Cole responds defensively to more athletic matchups this season and throughout the draft process.

Moving into his final year of eligibility, Cole has come a long way since his high school days. His work ethic is represented in the improvement in his jump shot over time, and while he hasn't gotten a ton of exposure up to this point, he's caught the eye of scouts and is poised to carry CSU this season. A prime candidate for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Cole is an easy player to like due to his proficiency in running a team. If he shows some improvement in his playmaking ability and defense, he'll be a very interesting sleeper.

#25 Denzel Bowles, 6'10, Senior, Center, James Madison
20.8 Points, 9.2 Rebounds, 2.5 Assists, 3.4 Turnovers, 1.4 Blocks, 59.4% FG, 66.3% FT

Matthew Williams

After spending his first two seasons of eligibility at Texas A&M, Denzel Bowles made the decision to transfer to James Madison, where he made and immediate impact for the Dukes in the CAA. After attending the Amar'e Stoudemire Skills Academy this summer, Bowles is another player worth keeping an eye on, as he has NBA size, great hands, and solid footwork.

Standing 6'10 with a solid frame that has some potential and a giant wingspan, Bowles has the physical tools to play the center position at the next level. A decent athlete who could stand to get into better shape so he can run the floor a bit harder, Bowles has good mobility for the college game, but would not stand out amongst the crowd in the NBA. He shows some leaping ability at times, but isn't terribly explosive unless he has a moment to gather himself. Considering his excellent size, Bowles is a player who would benefit immensely from adding some muscle to his frame, especially in his lower body.

While he may need to make some adjustments to improve his opportunity to make an impact on the NBA level, Bowles is already a highly efficient and productive small-conference college player. Imposing his size and athleticism on smaller, slower bigs on a nightly basis, Bowles ranked amongst the top-10 players in our database in PER. Shooting nearly 60% from the field and averaging a shade below a double-double, Bowles dominated the Colonial Athletic Association in his first year with the Dukes.

Bowles's success on the offensive end is predicated on his size, willingness to take contact, and solid footwork. Capable of establishing deep position on the block, he gets nearly 50% of his touches in post-up situations according to Synergy Sports Technology. While he flashes an occasional up and under or nice step through move, the senior doesn't show force too many advanced post moves. He is most efficient when he works to the middle of the floor where he can simply elevate over defenders to score, and while he seems to lack much in the way of a turnaround jump shot, his footwork, touch, and ability to use his body make him very prolific on the block. Usually able to just turn, seal, and finish against less athletic defenders, he puts the ball on the floor almost every time he gets it with his back to the basket, making him rather turnover prone. If Bowles can develop a go-to-move this season and add some reverse pivots to his repertoire, he could post tremendous efficiency numbers.

When he isn't working in the post, Bowles ranks amongst the most efficient finishers in the NCAA. While his size certainly plays a role in that, he exploits his length very effectively, often finishing plays on the other side of the rim with reverse layups when he has space and pulling down offensive rebounds at a good rate. Capable of using his dribble to get to the rim with straight line drives against slower opponents from the midrange, Bowles flashes some perimeter shooting touch, but doesn't take very many shots away from the immediate vicinity of the rim.

Defensively, Bowles does not use his physical tools as assertively as he does on the offensive end. His length allows him to block some shots and pull down some rebounds, but he's often a step slow on his rotations and doesn't seem to play with a consistent motor. Though he fares pretty well sitting in the middle of James Madison's zone, his one-on-one ability leaves a bit to be desired. His ability to step up defensively will be a big part to how he's projected moving into next spring.

Bowles's dominance last season was impressive, but if he can improve his conditioning and play harder defensively, he could raise his stock quite a bit heading into next summer. If Bowles can make some strides in those areas and play James Madison to the top of the CAA, he could generate some nice buzz.

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