Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part One (#1-5)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part One (#1-5)
Nov 01, 2011, 01:23 pm
Beginning our coverage of the top returning NBA prospects residing outside the six power conferences, we profile the likes of Tony Mitchell, Andrew Nicholson, Tarik Black, Tu Holloway and Ray McCallum.

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

#1 Tony Mitchell, 6-9, Sophomore, Power Forward, North Texas

Having profiled Tony Mitchell just two months ago following his performance at the U-19 World Championships, we will see how he uses that experience back at North Texas with a fresh perspective at some point this season.

#2 Andrew Nicholson, 6-9, Senior, PF/C St. Bonaventure

Kyle Nelson

Andrew Nicholson has toiled in obscurity throughout his entire career at St. Bonaventure, and his junior year was no exception. Nicholson is one of the top-scoring returning prospects in our database, averaging 24.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per-40 pace adjusted on 57.1% shooting, while leading the Bonnies to their first winning season since 2002.

Nicholson has solid size and excellent length for the power forward position at 6'9 with a reported 7'4 wingspan. He must continue to add strength to his lower body and fill out his wiry 220-pound frame. He is just an average athlete by NBA standards, running the floor noticeably awkwardly, but with a more intense and dedicated training regimen he should be able to better maximize his physical tools. Right now he's mostly getting by on instincts at the college level.

Nicholson is a skilled and versatile offensive player who has steadily improved throughout his time in college. He has developed a formidable post game, ranking top-10 amongst college players in back to the basket situations according to Synergy Sports Technology, where he converts on 57% of his field goal attempts. He shows a host of drop-steps and spin moves and the ability to knock down turnaround baseline jump shots. He shows excellent touch around the basket, where he is a very good finisher thanks to his high skill-level and the extension he gets around the rim. He'll need to get tougher and develop his lower body strength to be able to fight for position against higher level big men in the NBA, but he has a nice framework of skills to build off of.

Nicholson can stand to improve his decision making out of double teams. Bad decisions make up the bulk of the 3.6 turnovers he commits per 40 minutes pace adjusted and he should look to pass more decisively out of the post—even if his targets leave a lot to be desired. Furthermore, he is right-hand dominant and must look to tighten up his ball-handling skills, particularly going left. His ability to create offense for himself is intriguing, though, and is something that surely can be developed even further with better spacing and more talented teammates around him.

Nicholson has evolved into a capable spot-up shooter, making an impressive 43 of his 90 (48%) catch and shoot jumpers this season. His mechanics are somewhat unorthodox, but he has quickened his release since his sophomore year, which along with his elevated release point, makes his shot difficult to block. Though his consistency wanes from deeper ranges, he does have three-point range at this level and shoots 27% on just under an attempt per game. Again, this is another part of his game that can be developed even further in time.

Defensively is where NBA teams might struggle to project Nicholson, as he's somewhat stiff and rigid with his lateral movement, and doesn't show great toughness or fundamentals to compensate. Nicholson does very little work early in possessions to deny his man position, and shows average awareness and intensity once he does get the ball. His length is a major benefit on this end of the floor and will usually allow him to make his presence felt at this level, mostly in the form of contesting shots on the perimeter or around the basket, but he has a long ways to go before he'd be able to hold his own on the defensive end against NBA-caliber big men—some of which will come with added strength.

Nicholson remains a mediocre rebounder as well for many of the same reasons—showing average toughness, fundamentals, awareness and aggressiveness pursuing loose balls. His 8.6 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted ranks near the bottom amongst power forwards in our top-100 rankings. Nicholson must work on boxing out consistently and simply exerting more effort, because a player with his size and length should be far more productive against big men in the Atlantic 10 conference.

Nicholson is an unconventional prospect, but he needs more time to develop a complete game. His skill-level as an inside-outside scorer is intriguing, as is his late-blooming status and outstanding off-court intangibles. Nicholson, a physics major, didn't start playing basketball until his junior year of high school, and as the story goes, elected to attend St. Bonaventure largely due to their ]impressive new science building.

With that said, there are a few holes that limit his potential at the next level. Working on becoming a better rebounder and defender is essential, but so too is playing with consistent energy, focus, and aggressiveness. The situation he's in right now is far from ideal, though, playing well off the NBA radar on a bad team that clearly does not compliment his strengths and weaknesses. It will be interesting to see what type of progress he's made this summer and how he fares in the handful of matchups he has scheduled against NBA caliber competition.

#3 Tarik Black, 6-8, Sophomore, PF/C, Memphis

Jonathan Givony

Flying under the radar somewhat despite a productive freshman season exhibiting intriguing flashes of talent, Tarik Black will look to establish himself on the national radar as a sophomore and build his credentials as a NBA draft prospect.

A bit undersized at 6-8, Black sports a NBA ready frame as a 19 year old to go along with very good mobility. He runs the floor well, plays above the rim regularly and is a fluid and agile big man, giving him plenty of room to grow into as a prospect.

Black has the bulk to establish deep post position and did so a pretty regular basis last season, despite not having the personnel needed to get him the ball in a position to score on a consistent basis. He does not possess a wide array of post moves at this stage, but isn't afraid to battle inside the paint and works extremely hard to carve out superior position, where his big, strong hands, improving footwork and propensity for finishing above the rim through contact can often do the rest.

He got to the free throw line at a pretty solid rate last year, even if he only converted 59% of his attempts once there.

In addition to his post presence, Black also crashes the offensive glass pretty well, pulling in a solid 4.6 offensive rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted. His agility, combined with his thick frame and quick bounce serves him well in this area, as he's explosive enough to follow teammates' misses with a put-back dunk without having to gather himself.

On the negative side, Black didn't show any type of face-up game as a freshman, being more of an undersized center than a true power forward as his height would indicate. He doesn't show anything in the way of ball-handling skills or a jump-shot, things he'll need to develop down the road if he's to become a more versatile offensive threat.

Defensively, Black shows good tools, but has plenty of room for improvement. On one hand he shows the combination of length, strength and mobility NBA teams covet at the power forward position, as he's agile enough to bend his knees and step out onto the perimeter, doing a pretty nice job hedging screens and staying with smaller players already as a freshman. Combine that with his thick frame and excellent motor and you've got the makings of a solid defender at the power forward position. Additionally he displays good timing as a weak-side shotblocker, posting a solid 2.7 blocks per-40 minutes last year.

On the other hand, Black clearly lacks experience and doesn't show the best awareness, often getting caught out of position and biting on pump fakes. He needs to do a better job using his body and being more physical and aggressive inside the paint, as he frequently gave up deep position inside to opposing post players last season, giving up high percentage looks and getting himself in foul trouble in turn.

Additionally, Black is a surprisingly mediocre defensive rebounder, grabbing more offensive rebounds than defensive, something that is pretty rare. His awareness for boxing out and pursuing loose balls doesn't appear to be the greatest, something he'll definitely need to improve on.

Like many freshmen, Black was very inconsistent from game to game last season, especially in Memphis' biggest games, where he typically struggled. It will be interesting to see how he progresses in that area this year.

All in all, Black is a player scouts will likely be keeping close tabs on this season. Players with his physical tools and intensity level are valued commodities in NBA frontcourts, particularly if he can continue to improve his skill-level and prowess on the defensive glass.

#4 Tu Holloway, 5-11, Senior, Point Guard, Xavier

Having profiled Tu Holloway in detail after last season's Atlantic-10 Tournament, we will wait to see how he steps up as a senior before adding to his comprehensive scouting report.

#5 Ray McCallum, 6'0, Sophomore, Point Guard, Detroit

Matt Williams

After surprising the recruiting world with his decision to stay home and play for his father at Detroit in lieu of offers from elite programs, Ray McCallum Jr. went on to have a very solid freshman campaign for the Titans. The former McDonald's All-American was one of the top guards in the Horizon League from the day he stepped on campus, and with Shelvin Mack and Norris Cole out of the picture, was named the conference's preseason Player of the Year for this season. After spending his summer as a spot-player for Team USA at the World University Games, McCallum returns to school looking to earn the highly regarded Titans a berth in the NCAA tournament and raise his profile as a prospect to a national level like Cole and Mack.

McCallum may not have elite size for his position by NBA standards, and needs to continue improving his frame, but has the other traits scouts look for in a point guard prospect physically. He has very good quickness which allows him to turn the corner in one-on-one situations, make an impact as a scorer in transition, and apply pressure defensively. As we noted in our last report, the Detroit Country Day product also proves to be surprisingly explosive when given space around the rim.

As a freshman, it was McCallum's athleticism that accounted for the majority of his production on the offensive end –nearly 40% of the young guard's points came in transition according to Synergy Sports Technology. Showing terrific explosiveness pushing the ball up the floor and doing a nice job filling lanes when he wasn't the primary ball-handler, McCallum proved to be shifty in the open floor and showed good body control on his was to shooting 58% in fast break situations.

In half court situations, McCallum was not as effective, shooting just 38% from the field when not on the fast break, and still has room for improvement in a number of areas. Though his quick first step and advanced ball-handling ability allow him to break down defenders one-on-one and get into the paint at a high rate, he is still learning to exploit his quickness in pick and roll situations and needs to continue developing his perimeter jump shot. He does a very job drawing contact when he gets in the lane, but heavily prefers driving to his left, is a bit erratic at times, and would benefit from being a bit more patient and improving his ability to play at different speeds –things that will only come with experience.

Though McCallum could stand to improve upon his 43% shooting in the lane, he already showed some progress as a jump shooter as a freshman. He still has a ways to go to become a major spot-up threat, but the Beverley Hills, MI native made progress from what we saw from him at the McDonald's All-American game. He still sports the same sling-shot-like release, but has smoothed it out to some extent and shot a passable 32% from the perimeter as a freshman. He still has plenty of room to improve in terms of his consistency both with his feet set and off the dribble, but also has plenty of time do so.

As a passer, McCallum's effectiveness mirrors his efficiency as a scorer. According to Synergy Sports Technology, McCallum turn the ball over on only 8.6% of his transition possessions, a stark contrast to that 20.1% mark he posts in half-court sets. Showing good vision and a willingness to give the ball up when one of his teammates has a better shot, McCallum is at his best as a passer when he is distorting the defense with his speed.

To continue balancing his scoring and distributing responsibilities, McCallum needs to become more adept at setting himself up to find his teammates. While he does a nice job driving and dishing, many of his turnovers came on entry passes from poor angles, overly aggressive bullet passes through traffic, and occasions where the young guard lost his balance as a result of good defensive pressure. Despite his shortcomings last season, if McCallum improves on his ability to create angles operating on the pick-and-roll and becomes a tad more discerning early in the shot-clock, his pass first nature and high basketball IQ could make him a consummate floor general.

Defensively, McCallum shows a competitive streak that is quite unusual for a freshman point guard. He gets in a good stance, moves his feet well, and doesn't give up on plays when he's beat. Though his lack of size and strength limit him when contesting shots and defending stronger guards, his lateral quickness makes him a good on-ball defender and a nuisance in passing lanes. McCallum could stand to be a bit more aggressive in the way he fights through screens, but doesn't take too many risks and is a solid defender overall.

Heading in his sophomore seasons, the expectations for the Detroit Titans are among the highest for any mid-major program in the country. The program has an impressive talent-level, and whether Eli Holman's situation is resolved or results in any missed action, McCallum figures heavily in the success of his team's season. Considering his solid motor, physical tools, and natural talent at the point guard position, if he shows development in a few key areas, he could improve his standing on draft boards considerably by season's end.

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