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Desmond Holloway Born to Score

Coastal Carolina lost two of their top three leading scorers from a season ago on a team that finished with a 28-7 record. South Carolina transfer Mike Holmes (who would later be suspended from the team indefinitely) was expected to join the 2009-10 leading scorer Chad Gray (a former South Carolina transfer himself) in the scoring ranks for the Chanticleers as he was tabbed by many sources as preseason newcomer of the year.  However, 6’4” junior college guard Desmond Holloway had other thoughts.

Holloway, an Indianapolis, IN native who spent his first two collegiate seasons playing at Wabash Valley College for Hall of Fame coach Dan Sparks, was a First Team All-Region 24 selection last season playing in a conference with better than 20 Division-I players including three players who are currently playing in the Pac Ten Conference.  He averaged 18.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.8 steals while shooting 50% from the field, 36% from three, and 83% from the charity stripe.

Though he was recruited by the likes of schools such as Oklahoma State and Oregon State along with some very successful mid major programs like Wichita State and Murray State he winded up choosing Coastal Carolina, a program that has been successful in recent years but one that is not really known outside of the Big South Conference.

In a lot of college programs junior college players have trouble adjusting to the more structured offenses at the Division-I level.  However, with well-respected coach Cliff Ellis’ free flowing offense Holloway has been able to adjust rather easily as evident by his 24 point, 9 rebound Division-I debut against College of Charleston.

Since his start Desmond has averaged 18.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, and nearly 2 assists per game while leading the Chanticleers in 16 of their 27 contests (has only played in 26 games).  He’s also scored double figures in all but one game (9 points in a win at Winthrop).  He was instrumental in CCU’s 78-69 win over LSU (18 points, 7 rebounds) and was their biggest offensive threat in their 22 game win streak, recently ended at the hands of Gardner Webb.  A shoe-in for Big South Conference Newcomer of the Year, there’s a good likeliness that Holloway could earn the Player of the Year title in his league.

So what makes Desmond so good?

At 6’4” 170 lbs Desmond is a lengthy, sleek scoring guard that has the height and versatility to play both wing slots in the Big South.  He understands how to score and does it well from just about everywhere on the floor.  An adequate ball handler, it is hard to take the ball from Holloway off the bounce due to his length.  He’s good at stepping one way and using a quick crossover to beat opponents for the midrange pull up.  He’s also an above-average three point shooter.  His best scoring asset, however, may be his ability to attack the rim and draw contact from defenders.  He’s attempted 173 free throws, by far and wide the most on his team (next highest is 97 FTA) and has made 132 for a shooting clip of 73%.

One major difference between Desmond and other scorers at the college level is his relentless to score the basketball.  Each possession he takes it as a personal challenge to be able to get a good shot on his defender.  In addition, he has great confidence in his ability to put the ball in the basket so even when he’s on a scoring drought he’s still a threat to go on a scoring streak at any given time.  He never hangs his head.  Though continuing to improve his shot selection Holloway has done a very good job at being an efficient scorer as he shoots over 50% from the field and over 35% from three.

Desmond is affective on the glass as well, both offensively and defensively.  He’s bigger than most low or mid major guards and uses his length to his advantage.  It also helps him when it comes to defending the perimeter as he is able to pickpocket bigger guards and stay in front of smaller, quicker guards by giving them room and still being able to close out and challenge their shots.

Is Holloway perfect? No there’s still work that needs to be done.  His ball handling and passing could use improvement, he has more turnovers than assists on the season, and at 6’4” he’s awfully frail at 170 lbs.  However, fact is that he has an offensive game that the Big South Conference hasn’t seen since the graduation of Reggie Williams, another 6’4” prolific scoring guard that went undrafted out of VMI in 2008 but is currently playing big minutes with the Golden State Warriors.

With three games left in the season Desmond is looking to lead the Chanticleers to the Big South Conference Tournament with three more wins tacked on to their 24-3 record.  If they do not win the conference tournament there’s still a slim opportunity for them to earn an at large bid with their nearly flawless resume but surely they do not want to leave it up to chance.

Look to continue to hear about Holloway and CCU’s successes throughout the post season and next season.

Remember the name: Orlando Johnson

Not many people know the name Orlando Johnson but the UC Santa Barbara junior is a big time player who will soon be reckoned with.  A transfer from Loyola Marymount, the 6’5” wing has already had an accomplished collegiate career.

Johnson set the school record for freshmen at Loyola Marymount with 383 points giving him an average of 12.4 points per game.  He also led the team in rebounding and shot 32% from three but didn’t feel he could get the best of his ability while playing for the Lions which led him to UCSB.

After sitting out his mandatory transfer year he came on strong for the Gauchos averaging better than 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in route to being named Big West Player of the Year.  He did so while shooting just under 40% from three and nearly 50% from the field.  Consistent, he scored in double figures in each of his 30 games played last season.

Orlando has good size for a perimeter player, especially at the mid major level.  He’s got both good strength and length as well which helps him to score at the basket.  He’s also a solid athlete which helps him on the glass and when slashing.  Johnson has a well developed mid range game and is also a threat beyond the arch.  The versatile scorer has mastered the ability to get good shots without using many dribbles.  He’s got a high IQ and is a very underrated passer.  Patient, Orlando plays at his own pace, rarely takes bad shots, and can really change a game when he gets hot.

OJ’s game is reminiscent to that of former Western Kentucky star and current NBA guard Courtney Lee.  Around the same size (Johnson is has more length), he has shown the ability to take over the game when the ball’s in his hands as Lee did while playing in the Sun Belt Conference.  The Big West’s premier player, Orlando has learned to continue to dominate the game even with defense’s that are focused solely on limiting his production.  He’s got a chance to be a great pro.

Already this season Orlando has averages of 26.3 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 52% from three and 53% from the field.  This includes a 35 point game against Fresno State in which he posted 23 first half points.  All this and he’s only a junior! In 2012 make sure you remember OJ!

Evaluating Juan Anderson, a Budding Star

Juan Anderson, picture courtesy of Rivals.com

For those who don’t know:
This past month Castro Valley (CA) and Oakland Rebels’ class of 2011 wing Juan Anderson made a verbal commitment to the Marquette Golden Eagles, choosing them over finalists Arizona State, California, and Oregon. Though these four high major programs all offered him scholarships Anderson has not been in the spotlight very long.

Throughout his high school career Juan has been considered, by many, a solid mid major prospect. Heavily considering Creighton, Murray State, San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, and Western Kentucky among many other successful mid level programs. It was until a growth spurt and some exposure on the travel circuit this past year that high majors began taking note of this underrated Bay area prodigy, who currently ranks as the nation’s #69 prospect by Rivals.com.

Breaking down the player:
Offensively, Anderson carries a very well-rounded skillset. At a lengthy 6-foot-6 he has a solid handle. He’s very favorable to the in and out crossover but also possesses a few other counter moves. His ability to distribute the ball off the dribble and from the post is much underrated. He sees the floor well and looks to get his teammates involved. Scoring wise Juan is very versatile as well. He has a nice touch from the midrange area and is a capable threat from three when shooting with confidence. Hopefully he will continue to look to develop consistency in this area. Off the dribble he’s good at attacking the rim and using crafty finishes though he also has the ability to finish above the rim. His post game is solid and he can finish at the basket or knock down short, turn around, fade away jumpers.

Anderson isn’t as far along on the defensive end as he is offensively but he possesses one trait that will carry him a long way: he’s a workhorse! He has good length which helps him on the boards and, along with his athleticism, aids him while defending the bigger post players. However, when defending the perimeter he has a tough time with smaller, quicker guards though his length does cover up for some mistakes. This is a concern and, though it’s tough to make your feet quicker, Juan has the mindset and the work ethic needed to develop in this area. Strength wise he will need to improve but that will come with time in the weight room when he hits the Midwest next summer.

Future assessment:
Juan could be a great point-forward for Buzz Williams. He plays much in the fashion of former Ohio State star Evan Turner at the same stage in his career. The Golden Eagles won’t be hurting for help that Ohio State was when Turner budded into the star he became but, with the right opportunity, Anderson could potentially develop into the same type of player over time. His IQ hasn’t been challenged enough to compare it to Evan’s but he is a hard working, coachable kid who has improved as much as anyone in his class over the past year. If he keeps down the same path and continues with the attitude he currently possesses look for him to bud into a star player in the Big East Conference.

Top 15 Teams for 2010-11

  1. Michigan State – Returners are good as are newcomers.  Lucas has been Izzo’s best leader since Mateen Cleaves.
  2. Duke – Smith and Singler return with a cast of role players and Curry and Irving have arrived.
  3. Kansas State – Not very deep but talented and experienced. Frank Martin’s teams will ALWAYS play hard.
  4. Pittsburgh – Gibbs and Wanamaker combine to make one of the most talented backcourts in the NCAA.
  5. Kansas – New star faces will emerge this season with the loss of Collins and Aldrich but the talent is there.
  6. Missouri – The sleeper team of the year. The Tigers are athletic with great depth.  There may not be a star but this is a team that will win.
  7. Villanova – Reynolds is gone but Fisher will look to lead this experienced team.
  8. Illinois – Snubbed from NCAA’s last season, Weber’s club should have a chip on their shoulder.
  9. Syracuse – If a scorer steps up on the perimeter then this team could be dangerous.
  10. Purdue – Hummel’s gone but Johnson and Moore will lead a team full of Midwest area talent.
  11. Marquette – Perimeter oriented team that always brings toughness.  Jimmy Butler is key.
  12. North Carolina – Barnes and Bullock are good and Zeller is back from injury.  Everyone else returns with experience after a bad year last season.
  13. Ohio State – Still missing a true point guard but have both good experience and talented newcomers.
  14. Kentucky – Newcomers are good but not as talented as Calapari’s first class.
  15. Florida – Return a core of talented perimeters and athletic posts.

 

*Pac Ten team not considered

Team Previews: Indiana University

Verdell Jones III, picture courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

Intro: Tom Crean and the Hoosiers have seen rough times in their first two seasons winning only 16 of their 62 games but they’re improving.  With their core back from last season (all but Devan Dumes) and their leading scorer back and healthy they’ve added nothing but experience.  It more than likely won’t be enough to get them to the upper echelon of the Big Ten but their slowly but surely improving as a team.

Returning: The backcourt of Maurice Creek, Verdell Jones III, and Jeremiah Rivers should return healthy this season.  However, it seems as if you may see Jones handling the ball more and Rivers on the wing due to his ability to rebound the ball from the perimeter and Jones’ playmaking skills.  When Creek went out last season Verdell stepped his game up tremendously, ending the year as the team’s leading scorer (outside of Creek) at just under 15 points per game.  He’s slim but he’s long, has a nice midrange game, and a high IQ.  In addition to being a good rebounder, Rivers, too, is a playmaker.  He’s strong, physical and locks down on the defensive end as well.  The return of Creek may be the most important addition to the Hoosiers’ squad this season.  Before a knee injury in December Maurice was averaging 16.4 points and 3.8 rebounds.  He’s an athletic wing that can score in a variety of ways.  Also returning from injury is Matt Roth, a long range bomber who logged many minutes as a freshman.  After redshirting last season Roth is back at full health and Coach Crean will be looking for him to provide an offensive spark off the bench with his deep three point range.  Bloomington, Indiana native Jordan Hulls, a 6-foot sophomore, made his way into the starting lineup when Creek went down and was solid.  He can handle and shoot the ball and will provide as a steady backup in the backcourt.  Christian Watford showed great potential as a freshman.  At 6-foot-9 he moves swiftly for his size and has good skills.  He’s athletic, can finish, and can also knock down open shots.  He averaged a team high 6 rebounds and also poured in 12 points per game.  He could develop into a star in the Big Ten.  Tom Pritchard and Derek Elson both had solid season.  Pritchard was a starter with a year of experience under his belt last season but Elson showed a toughness about himself that was hard to ignore.  He is one of the team’s best finishers and rebounders but needs to gain consistency and not fade into the game as much.  Bobby Capobianco is a reserve but is skilled.  He needs to get tougher if he wants to see minutes but he’s shown the ability to score both inside and out.

Newcomers: Crean had a history of working with and developing big, athletic projects in the post at Marquette and now, at IU, Guy-Marc Michel is his next target.  However, there’s only two years to work with the 7-foot-1 junior college transfer who will back up the 5 slot.  He’s got the size and shot blocking ability but will need to develop some go to moves in the post so he is not an offensively liability.  6’5” freshman wings Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo are both very good long range shooters and could see minutes at the 2 and 3 slots, respectively.  Olapido’s athletic ability could inject him in the rotation quicker than Sheehey but both should fit the Hoosiers’ system well.

Outlook: There’s no way this team can’t improve from last season as they return the same talent, more experience, and are healthier.  There’s a lot of work that needs to be done including taking care of the ball, rebounding, and getting more stops but they should already have good chemistry which will make these things easier to accomplish.  While they may not be in the conference’s top half this year, they should not be the bottom dweller.

Depth Chart:
PG – Jones*, Hulls*
SG – Creek*, Roth*, Sheehey
SF – Rivers*, Oladipo
PF – Watford*, Capobianco
C – Pritchard*, Elson*, Michel

Players marked with asterisks are expected to see the majority of the minutes played

5 Underappreciated for 2010-11

Each team has its star player (usually the leading scorer) who receives a ton of recognition and glamour for his team’s success.  However there are players on those same teams whose abilities and contributions are vastly overlooked.  The following list is of five players who don’t always receive the accolades but are heavily depended on by their coach and team.  Pac Ten players are not considered.

David Lighty 6’5” SG SR Ohio State – Lighty is the most experience member of the Buckeyes’ club as he’s been there since the Greg Oden/Mike Conely years when, even then, he was a part-time starter.  He’s a hard worker and a leader that does the small things that don’t always necessarily get him the hype of some of his other teammates.  At 6’5” David is well-built, powerful, and athletic.  His versatility will be very beneficial for tOSU as Coach Matta could potentially play him at an array of positions ranging from the point guard to the 4-spot.

Sean Mosley 6’4” SG JR Maryland – Mosley is the perfect example of a tweener.  He’s a small forward in a guard’s body but it has not impaired his production on the floor.  The 210 lbs junior is a tough, hardnosed player that does all the little things on the floor which is why he played nearly 28 minutes per game for Coach Williams.  As a sophomore Sean posted a very solid statline of 10.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.6 apg while shooting 51% from the field, 39% from 3, and 91% from the charity stripe.  He’s very consistent on both ends of the floor.

Ronald Nored 6’0” G JR Butler – On a team made up of offensively talented Cinderellas, Nored was much overlooked during Butler’s run to the NCAA championship game.  Though he faced shooting woes (62% from FT, 20% from 3) he led the Bulldogs in assists and was the team’s defensive stopper.  He also pulled down 3 rebounds per game (good enough for fifth on the team), despite having a 6-foot, 174 lbs frame.

Justin Safford 6’9” PF SR Missouri – Safford first emerged in Missouri’s 2009 NCAA deep tournament run during their final game against UConn when he scored 9 very meaningful points in 15 minutes of play.  Justin continued his play last year where he was very solid before an ACL tear ended his season.  In the 28 games he played he started in 23 while averaging 8.6 points (9.9 in conference) and 4.1 rebounds and shooting 43.3% from three and 75.8% from the free throw line.  Safford’s ability to consistently put the 3 ball and stretch the defense along with his ability to be a threat at the rim and charity stripe will help open things up for the Tigers’ guards.  He’s got experience in Coach Anderson’s system and will also provide leadership for the younger guys.  Skill wise he’s one of the best power forwards in the Big XII.

Michael Thompson 5’10” PG SR Northwestern – Juice has been very underappreciated on the national scale throughout his years in Evanston.  He’s averaged better than 35 minutes per game since his freshman year and has been the undoubted on-the-floor leader for the Wildcats throughout his tenure.  Thompson has started in all 95 games he’s played under Coach Carmody and has shot nearly 42% from three and averaged 12 points in addition to recording 381 assists in that time.  He’s been the most constant factor in Northwestern’s surge of success since he arrived.

July Evaluation Period Should Remain

There have been rumblings of the NCAA doing away with the July evaluation period for collegiate basketball coaches (similar to what they did with the April evaluation period in 2007).  I’m here to give my opinion on the situation and shed some light to why I feel this way.

Speaking on a personal level AAU and the travel circuit helped to establish my reputation with college coaches and scouts.  The majority of my scholarship offers came to me after recruiters and evaluators watched me on the travel circuit during the months April and July before my senior year.

I had a great relationship with my high school coach Jeff Wulbrun, who previously served as an assistant coach at University of California and Illinois State University.  He was a great teacher and ran his program like a college program in regards to practices and substituting.  We were one of the state’s top high school teams both my junior and senior year (combined for a record of 50-9 in both seasons) and had a ton of collegiate prospects.  Even with the talent and reputation we had there were few collegiate coaches who came to evaluate us during our high school games.  Personally, I remember three Division-I programs attending our games: Evansville, Indiana State, and Wichita State; that’s it! This was part of the reason Coach Wulbrun was an advocate of AAU basketball, because of its exposure.

My AAU experience was different than most.  My father was my coach.  We weren’t sponsored by any big shoe company and we weren’t able to recruit around the state.  However we had a talented team made up of local kids which made us more like a family.  My father didn’t tamper with recruiting.  He worked with each player only when asked or he stayed out of it.  On the court there were no politics.  Being one of the most talented players on the team and the son of the coach I can vouch, whoever played well got the minutes.  There were times where big time coaches were in the gym and my father sat me for because others played better than me.  Regardless we were all recognized and exposed to college coaches which earned a lot of us scholarship offers.  Of the 13 players on our team in my final year, ten earned Division-I scholarships.  Before that summer only four of us were being recruited at the Division-I level.  Without AAU basketball it is likely the other six players wouldn’t have earned D1 scholarships and would have been forced to settle for smaller programs.

Now I know a lot of the experiences of AAU are not like mine.  Do I think there is a lot of wrongdoing being done on the travel circuit? Yes. Do I think there needs to be something done to clean it up? Yes.  However I do not feel getting rid of the July evaluation period will help.

Without college coaches being able to come out and evaluate prospects during the summer evaluation period they will be forced to take the word of many AAU coaches, who some refer to as handlers.  This gives much more power to these handlers and the game of politics will be essential with them.

Elimination of this period would also heavily disrupt small college programs’ ability to recruit at the national level due to the fact that they carry smaller budgets.  More schools would be forced to recruit locally and would not be able to pull in national or, to an extent, regional talent.

Do I have a suggestion on how to clean up college basketball recruiting? At this point, no I do not.  However, I do know that eliminating the July evaluation period is not the direction to go.  It would be a detriment to both college coaches and the kids looking to earn exposure.

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