Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part 7 (#31-35)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part 7 (#31-35)
Nov 14, 2011, 12:24 pm
Concluding our look at the top NBA draft prospects residing outside the six power conferences, we profile the likes of Greg Echenique, Casper Ware, Mike Muscala, Steven Idlet and Eli Holman

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 come to any long-term conclusions.

-Top 20 Prospects in the Big Ten
-Top 25 Prospects in the ACC
-Top 15 Prospects in the Big 12
-Top 15 Prospects in the Pac-12
-Top 25 Prospects in the Big East
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the SEC
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part One (#1-5)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Two (#6-10)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Three (#11-15)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Four (#16-20)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Five (#21-25)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Six (#26-30)

#31 Greg Echenique, 6'8, Junior, Power Forward/Center, Creighton

Matt Williams

Last time we checked in on Greg Echenique nearly four years ago, he and Samardo Samuels had joined forces to form one of the most dominant prep frontcourts in the country. Since then, Echenique finished his senior year ranked in the RSCI top-100, spent one and a half seasons at Rutgers, missed significant action because of surgery resulting from a detached retina, transferred out of the Big East to Creighton, and competed for the Venezuelan National Team at the FIBA Americas Championship. Starting his junior season, Echenique is one of the more imposing big men in mid-major basketball and one of the top NBA prospects in the Missouri Valley conference.

Standing 6'8 with a powerfully built frame, Echenique remains the same extremely physical interior presence we described in our last report, only now he's imposing his will on college big men. He doesn't have a big wingspan, which, at 6'8, renders him undersized from a NBA perspective, but the St. Benedict's product has re-shaped his 265-pound frame in recent years, looking significantly more trim that he did as a freshman and appearing a bit more explosive because of it.

Despite his perceived weight loss, Echenique is as strong as ever. He may not be the quickest or most explosive big man, and certainly isn't going to beat anyone up the floor in transition, but he can carve out position in the post, keep defenders on his back, and finish plays at the rim with dunks when he can gather himself.

It is Echenique's ability to create space for himself in the paint that makes him an effective player as one of his team's secondary options offensively. Able to establish deep position in the post and back his matchup down, Echenique creates and converts a fair amount of easy scoring opportunities for himself by virtue of his powerful lower body and fairly soft touch at the rim. According to Synergy Sports Technology, he connects on nearly 59% of his post-up shot attempts, which ranks among the top marks in the entire country. Though he isn't quite as effective when he is forced to operate from the mid-post and is not going to simply out-jump anyone, Echenique is a rugged back to the basket threat who typically relies on his ability to keep his man on his hip, shoot baby hooks with either hand, or utilize an occasional counter move to score.

Though Echenique's physical assertiveness is a big reason that he's effective when he can get a shot up on the block one-on-one, it also renders him fairly turnover prone. Making moves right in the teeth of the defense, Echenique gets tied up on occasion, gets stripped when he brings the ball down for even just a moment, and gets called for a charge every now and again. Moving forward, it will be important for him to do a better job dealing with double teams and be a bit more discerning when making his initial move off the catch.

Apart from his post scoring ability, virtually all of the center's other touches come in finishing situations, where Echenique appears to be at his best at this juncture. Attacking the rim immediately regardless of whether he's getting the ball while cutting to the rim or crashing the offensive glass, the junior looks to dunk the ball in traffic when he sees a crease or initiate contact as a finisher. Converting 65% of his attempts at the rim and getting to the line almost as frequently as any player in our database per-field goal attempt, Echenique's efficiency in catch-and-finish situations at the NCAA level is simply outstanding.

A terrific area rebounder and overall very active big man, Echenique is fairly limited on the offensive end away from the basket, essentially functioning as a pure center at the college level. He proves to be a half-way decent free throw shooter, converting his trips to the line at a solid 70% clip, but attempted just five total jump shots last season. His form is not terribly smooth, but appears to have some potential, and the implications of the development of his jump shot on his ability to play the power forward position long-term at the NBA level is worth keeping an eye on.

Defensively, Echenique's physical and aggressive mentality works in his favor. His lack of lateral quickness hurts him out on the perimeter and against quicker big men when they face up in the post, but he fights tirelessly for position on the block, boxes out well, and works extremely hard pursuing loose balls and contesting shots. Echenique needs to improve his fundamentals to mask his lack of speed on the perimeter, but his activity level make him a good shot blocker and overall defender in the college game despite his lack of size.

Considering that Echenique is a 6'8 center in the NCAA right now, the development of his defensive and offensive ability away from the rim will be the sticking point in what he'll bring to the table at the next level. He has the mentality scouts like to see in an undersized big man and experience playing against high-level competition on the international level. With two more full seasons of eligibility thanks to the medical redshirt he received in his final year at Rutgers, Echenique still has plenty of time to continue developing, and is a player whose prospects we'll surely visit in the future.

#32 Casper Ware, 5'10 , Guard, Senior, Long Beach State University

Kyle Nelson

As a junior, Casper Ware earned Big West Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors, was named to an Honorable Mention All-American by the Associated Press, and led Long Beach State University to a 22-win season and an NIT birth. Then, in the summer, he gained notoriety from his stellar play in Los Angeles's Drew League, particularly after playing alongside LeBron James. With a veteran roster, Ware has the chance to lead the 49ers to their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2006.

Despite his excellent collegiate resume, Ware's NBA potential is severely limited due to his lack of size. Listed at 5'10 and 170-pounds without an impressive wingspan or frame, he is extremely undersized for the point guard position. Extremely quick, he gets the ball up the court in a hurry, and is capable of elevating well around the rim to compensate for his lack of size.

Ware emerged as one of the NCAA's most dynamic scoring guards last season, averaging 17.2 points per game on 42.2% FG. On film, Ware's offensive arsenal is impressive, primarily his shooting.

Ware made 38% of his 5.8 3-point attempts per game, proving to be capable of shooting the ball from a standstill or off the dribble. He has excellent mechanics and a quick release, elevates well, and has NBA range, all of which allow him to get his shot off despite his lack of size.

His mid-range game is excellent, as well, and Ware does a good job of creating space inside of the arc due to his quickness and excellent ball handling abilities. There are few shots that Ware can't create off of the dribble, a testament to both his scoring prowess and his exceptional feel for the game.

One area where he struggles, however, is around the basket. His subpar 46% 2-point percentages exemplifies his struggles finishing inside, as he lacks the strength to finish over post players and through contact at the WCC level. His seeming discomfort driving left hinders him even further at this level, though his solid body control, advanced ball handling abilities and scoring instincts allow him to compensate somewhat. Though he struggles to finish, he gets to the line at a solid rate, where he makes 81% of his 6.5 free throws per 40 minutes pace adjusted.

By the numbers, Ware hardly looks the part of a pure point guard as he averages 4.8 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted versus 3.3 turnovers. Though his role is unlikely to change during his senior season and he is clearly a shoot-first point guard, he displays solid vision and control while doing an excellent job of operating out of the pick and roll. Whether as a facilitator or a scorer, his continued success in these sets is of particular interest when projecting his NBA potential.

Ware has gained a reputation as one of the Big West's top defensive players, though he will almost certainly struggle at the next level due to his lack of size. He has excellent lateral quickness, active hands, and plays with solid energy, but there is no way around the fact that point guards at the next level will simply overpower him, be able to see over him, or will be able to back him down in the post. Furthermore, he struggles to fight through screens, an issue that will only get worse. Whether or not he can overcome his physical limitations remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that, size aside, Ware is one of the NCAA's better perimeter defenders when he's focused.

Ultimately, Casper Ware is a 5'10 scoring point guard, but undoubtedly possesses the combination of defensive intensity and shot creating ability that is coveted at the next level. Early season contests against Pittsburgh, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina, and Xavier will offer Ware plenty of opportunities to prove himself to scouts against NBA-caliber competition. With another stellar senior season, a Portsmouth invite is sure to follow, which will provide him another ideal opportunity to show NBA scouts that he can play a role at the next level.

#33 Mike Muscala, 6-9, PF/C, Junior, Bucknell

Joseph Treutlein

Coming off a solid sophomore season where he averaged 14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, Mike Muscala has a solid foundation to build upon heading into his junior year. Possessing good height, decent athleticism, and a groundwork of skills, Muscala should start seeing more due diligence looks from talent evaluators, and still has plenty of time to continue growing as a player.

Standing 6'11 with good length but not the greatest frame, Mike Muscala is a solid athlete, excelling more with his coordination and mobility than explosiveness or power. His upper body doesn't possess the broadest of shoulders and he's lacking noticeable bulk in both the upper and lower body, and while his long term upside physically may be limited, he does appear that he could still add a good amount more strength without negative effects.

On the offensive end, Muscala shows intrigue in a variety of areas, though he does most of his damage operating with his back to the basket at this level. Facing below average competition and not much in terms of legit opposing big men on a nightly basis, he often has a size and skill advantage in the post that he has no qualms taking advantage of consistently.

As a post player, Muscala has a solid finesse game that utilizes his budding ambidexterity, as he actually favors a left-handed hook shot as his go-to move despite being right-handed. He flashes hook shots with both hands, turnaround jumpers, and up-and-under moves in his repertoire, while showing solid touch and instincts overall as well.

While Muscala fares well in this area of his game in his conference, it's tough to see it projecting very well to higher levels in its current stage, as he shows significant problems when dealing with bigger, stronger, and more athletic opponents, not possessing the strength to finish with power and showing real issues when getting bodied up by legitimate competition. Nevertheless, he's still young and filling out his frame, so he could improve with his power game over time, while his finesse game is still relatively unpolished as well, so it's not something to write off completely.

Muscala also does a good deal of damage operating off the ball, both with cuts to the basket and spot-up jump shots, and these are areas where he shows more potential with in the long term.

His jump shooting numbers are not especially strong, as he scored just 0.84 points per shot overall last season according to Synergy Sports Technology, but there's good reason for optimism due to multiple factors. For one, Muscala shot an excellent 81.6% from the free-throw line for a big man as a sophomore, and did it on a solid sample size of 4.6 attempts per game (while also shooting 80.6% as a freshman, more reason to believe it's not a fluke). If Muscala can translate this to live action, he could be a very potent weapon from mid-range, while he also shows flashes of three-point range, hitting 4-for-11 long balls overall as a sophomore.

Muscala utilized his jump shooting both in spot-up situations and operating on pick-and-pops, something he looked comfortable with and would likely be his best chance to develop a niche at the next level, so it's definitely something he should continue focusing on. Muscala also did some decent damage in pick-and-rolls, exhibiting nice coordination and mobility on his forays to the basket, where he finishes well against the level of competition he faces. He shows good touch, instincts, and shot selection finishing on cuts, but it's tough to see it translating to higher levels of competition without noticeable improvements in his strength.

On the defensive end, Muscala's average frame poses similar issues to his success, as despite showing solid enough levels of fundamentals and effort, his lack of strength really hinders his abilities even against the relatively weak level of competition he faces. In the post, he usually does a good job staying in front of his man and getting his hands up to contest shots, but his opponent too often will back him down and go through him, something he isn't able to stop in most instances. He actually does look adequate on the rare instances he's pulled out to the perimeter, however, having decent enough lateral quickness and fundamentals to not be a liability there.

Looking forward, Muscala is still raw in terms of his physical abilities and could use some more polish with his skills as well, but his flashes of developing tools in a variety of areas combined with his size and decent athleticism make him someone to keep an eye on. The things he's asked to do at this level are likely very different than the things he'd be asked to do if he ever did make it to the NBA, but he still could make notable strides as a prospect by developing his body, defense, and perimeter shooting abilities, while another strong season for his team and an NCAA Tournament berth obviously wouldn't hurt either.

#34, Steven Idlet, 6-11, Center/Power Forward, Senior, Tulsa

Walker Beeken

After showing gradual improvement over the course of his career at Tulsa, fifth-year senior Steven Idlet will need to need to make another jump this season in order to establish himself as a legitimate NBA prospect. Idlet played only 26 minutes per game as a junior, but is Tulsa's leading returning scorer and rebounder, and should have a chance to see an increased role as a senior, with the departure of 20 point per game scorer Justin Hurtt.

Idlet's intrigue starts with his size at 6'11” with what appears to be solid length, and a lean frame that he has worked hard to build up since arriving at Tulsa. With that said, he could still stand to add quite a bit more strength to be able to compete with NBA caliber big men on a nightly basis. In terms of his athleticism, Idlet is limited with his explosiveness, but he does have decent mobility and runs the floor fairly well for a player his size.

Offensively, Idlet functions in Coach Doug Wojcik's offense as a true back-to-the-basket big man, who knows his role and has put in the work to improve his skill set. As a junior, 64% of Idlet's used possessions came on post up opportunities, which was more than any other player in the country. He displayed solid footwork and a variety of moves in the post, with the ability to turn to either shoulder and finish with both hands with a soft touch.

Many of the problems he faces in the post revolve around his lack of bulk and strength, as he has trouble establishing good position at times, and can be muscled around on the block and when he attempts to finish at the rim. It will be interesting to see how handles the extra attention he may receive this season, with more of the offense likely to be run through him in the post.

While he attempted less than one jumper per game last season, Idlet looks to have the potential to be serviceable as a mid-range catch-and-shoot option, and somebody who can be used in pick-and-pops. He connected on a solid 45% of his jump shots as a junior, albeit in a very small sample size, showing a fairly smooth stroke and high release point. He also made over 70% of his free throws in each of his past two seasons, further backing up his potential as a floor spacer in the mid-range.

On the defensive end, Idlet will face some big question marks, as he lacks the physical tools to be able to defend most NBA level big men. He competes hard and seems to be very coachable, but he doesn't have the bulk or strength to defend one-on-one in the post, and he isn't much of a threat as a shot blocker or rim-protector. As a rebounder, Idlet's production is below average for what NBA scouts would like to see from a player at his position, pulling down just 9.5 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted last season.

Going into his final college season, it will be interesting to see if Idlet makes another jump in his production, just as he has in his first few seasons. He is still an under the radar prospect at this point, and getting drafted is likely a stretch. However, skilled 6'11” post players don't grow on trees, so he should at least get a chance to prove himself in the pre-draft process at Portsmouth, in NBA workouts and in summer league, where he could potentially open up more eyes.

#35 Eli Holman, 6'9", PF/C, Senior, Detroit

Joey Whelan

Eli Holman's collegiate career - though blessed with quality play each of the last two seasons - has been a rollercoaster of off the court troubles. Following his freshman season at Indiana, the former top-100 high school recruit decided to transfer to Detroit under the suspect circumstances, allegedly being involved in a tantrum with Hoosiers coach Tom Crean. Then, this past off-season, Holman was involved in an undisclosed incident at a Detroit fraternity house that currently has him suspended indefinitely from the Titans roster. In spite of all that, his size, production and potential are enough that pro teams will at least have him on their radar should he return to the court this season.

Standing 6-9, with a chiseled frame and an excellent wingspan, the senior has the necessary build to handle the physicality of being a frontcourt player in the NBA. He's also an above average athlete, running the court well and elevating quickly off the floor for strong finishes at the rim.

Holman spends the majority of his time around the basket, with 91.1% of his shots coming around the rim or from posting up according to Synergy Sports. His efficiency numbers on the block are excellent (.966 points per possession, 57% shooting), but he is certainly able to get away with more at this level than he would against NBA level defenders. He seals exceptionally well thanks to his large frame and strength, establishing position inside is no problem for him. Holman's back-to-the-basket game isn't all that refined however. He is much more comfortable going to dominant his left hand inside and regularly goes to a jump hook which has nice touch when he isn't rushed, but he tends to force the issue sometimes.

There are two main areas where he gets himself into trouble presently when posting up - first is awareness. There are times where Holman receives the ball and immediately begins attempting to execute a move without establishing his place on the court. This often yields poor angels on shots or turnovers along the baseline when he realizes he's trapped himself. He also needs to significantly improve how he handles double teams - plain and simple, he can't. When defenses came with a hard double team Holman tends to either shuffle his feet in panic or force errant passes.

He's a tireless offensive rebounder – ranking as one of the top returning players in our database in this respect. His high intensity level, combined with his excellent length and strength allow him to excel on the glass. In order to have any chance at the NBA he will have to continue to attack rebounding with this same fervor.

When stepping away from the basket there is a definite drop off in productivity. Holman's shooting numbers aren't great, just 30% shooting on jumpers on 69% shooting from the free throw line. Still these marks are improvements from the previous season, at least showing some degree of progression. The thing is, Holman's shooting form isn't all that bad when he's comfortable and can catch the ball in one fluid move. His motion is a bit long, but he hurts himself with an inconsistent release point. Becoming a little more regular in this regard would surely help his numbers. He also isn't much of a threat to attack off the dribble from the mid-range, looking out of place and uncomfortable here.

Thanks to his physical tools, Holman has excellent potential on the defensive end. It hasn't all come together for him at this stage, though. In the post he has the bulk to hold his own and has no problem bodying up opposing players and changing shots with his smothering length, but his poor fundamentals often work against him. His awareness is average and he doesn't always put the work in early enough to prevent opponents from getting off good looks against him. When stepping further away from the basket though he is very much out of his element, often getting burned by his indecision on when to close on shooters versus playing the dribble drive. He isn't quick or smart enough to consistently guard face-up power forwards away from the paint, but shows enough prowess to handle playing fifteen feet and in.

Holman currently faces an uphill battle to the NBA. His physical profile are very good for a power forward, but his average skill-level and advanced age don't work in his favor. There's also the big question of his off the court issues that have been somewhat of a trend in his career. Pro teams may take a chance of a physical specimen with massive upside or a supremely skilled player with these kinds of issues, but for a borderline at best player like Holman, they could prove his downfall if he doesn't get his career together.

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