College Player Notes
Players who impressed on ‘Day One.’
Durrell Summers, Junior, Michigan State University: Playing against an athletic South Carolina team, Summers had his way last night and showed why he has been considered a potential top-notch prospect since his freshman season. Summers slashed to the rim regularly, shot mature one-or-two dribble pull-ups (without any hesitation), made the correct pass, and rebounded very well. The most impressive play that the shooting guard made last night was an offensive rebound that he skied for (over a teammate and defender), came down, and sprung right back up for a lefty lay-in. The key for Summers this year will be to stay consistent the entire year. At times this talented swingman might get bored with the comp, but if staying on task will be key.
David Lighty, Junior, Ohio State University: If Lighty can play in the same manner as he did against Florida last night the Ohio State team becomes even more dangerous than I already believed them to be. After seeing a spike in playing time last year, I noticed a player that made winning plays when the team needed them to be made. To be short, he stepped up in times of need a timely pass, driving bucket, or a three. His percentages might not have been great, but I believe he turns it up a notch this year and helps the Buckeyes in a big-time fashion.
Kawhi Leonard, Sophomore, San Diego State University: Leonard is one of the most unique players on this list, and for many reasons—he is a 6-7 player capable of bringing the ball up the floor to initiate the offense, he locks down on defense, crashes the boards ferociously on both ends, creates plays out of the pick-and-roll with ease, and he has a size 4XL hand, apparently. Leonard helped to lead his highly regarded San Diego State team to a victory on the road against Gonzaga, something that has only been done four times before. Leonard didn’t shoot it particularly well from the field (7-20 for 18 points), but he came up with 6 offensive boards and 12 total, to go along with 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and 0 turnovers. For a 6-7 player to handle the ball as much as Leonard did last night—against a solid Zags defense—and have 0 turnovers is somewhat of an eye-opener, even with all of the talk of Leonard this preseason. Leonard is another player that should be very fun to track this season.
Stephen Gray, Junior, Gonzaga: Gray has come back from the summer as the leader of this Gonzaga team, even though some though Elias Harris would be their star. Gray provided a dose of steady maturity with the basketball in his hands, where he created plays for others or himself off the dribble in a relentless manner (5 assists but also 6 turnovers), knocks down mid-range jumpers, and is able and confident to hit the open three-pointer (although he was 2-10 last night. The main area, offensively, that will be key to Gray’s draft stock is his ability to create, which has clearly improved during this offseason. Defensively, I look forward to watching whether Gray can handle opposing scorers throughout the whole season.
Vernon Macklin, Junior, University of Florida: Apparently Vernon Macklin has been training his hook shot with a medicine ball. Whatever he’s doing, it’s helping that shot a ton. Going beyond the shot simply going in, that hook shot (over either shoulder) is something that most NBAers struggle for years to develop. He got great rotation on the ball last night, he took his time in the post, he has great strength to allow him to get the shot off, and his footwork is improving rapidly. As Jimmy Dykes put it during the broadcast last night, the first time he rushed a shot in the first half was with one minute to play after rushing a lefty hook shot. Defensively he had a full load with Sullinger to start the season, but there is no excuse. He has to be more aggressive as a shot blocker, but you don’t just let a freshman do the things that Sullinger did last night. Nonetheless it was a solid performance by the senior big man on the offensive end and something to build on going forward for Florida. (Note: isn’t it a good sign for college basketball that this was the second best big man on the floor during this contest?)
Quincy Acy, Senior, Baylor University: Power, a spin move, more power, a pump fake, and more power on his way to furious dunk after furious dunk yesterday against LaSalle. Acy’s game is strong in so many ways and it makes you wonder what the rest of this season could be like, with him and super freshman Perry Jones up front combined with Lacedarius Dunn bombing from deep. After this 25 point, 11 board 2 block performance, I am certainly excited to find out what the future looks like.
Aaric Murray, Sophomore, LaSalle University: He certainly didn’t have the best shooting day, but Murray was playing against a brutally long frontline very early in the season. Defensively Murray did what he could to compete with the three talented bodies that he was contesting on the interior and also displayed his quick, active hands to the tune of five steals. Offensively, Murray was inconsistent but made a few very impressive plays. He has bunny-hops—very quick leaping ability—off the floor on both ends, which he used to corral nine rebounds. He ran the floor hard the whole game, beating the defense down the floor multiple times for open scores in the lane. The springy, 6-10 forward’s most impressive play was when he skied over Perry Jones in the short corner for an offensive rebound, came down, and immediately converted a short corner jumper.
Durand Scott, Sophomore, University of Miami: The good news is that Scott was 5-11 from the field and 9-11 from the line for 20 points on the evening. The bad news is that he had five turnovers and just one assist while running the point guard for most of the evening. The 6-4 sophomore from NYC has awesome size and quickness, which certainly enhances his prospects for being a combo guard. His floater, mid-range, and three-point game have all clearly made strides in the offseason as well; he pulled up off the dribble with confidence often. The most important aspects for Scott to figure out how to dictate the tempo at all times (he was too out of control too often last night) and make the correct play with the ball more often. It is important to note that Miami is a young team that needs Scott’s scoring, so it should be interesting to see how he balances his duo-role going forward.
Reggie Johnson, Sophomore, University of Miami: Johnson, a 6-10 power forward, played the part of the “Beast on the interior” for the Hurricanes against Memphis. Johnson grabbed six rebounds on both offense and defense, and the commanding manner in which he did so was the impressive aspect. On the defensive end he pushed the smaller and weaker Memphis players out of the lane consistently and also took three charges, proving that he is more than willing to step in and take a hit (who’s going to hurt him, seriously?). Offensively, although his body control is somewhat of an issue (because he is so massive and barrels defenders over so easily) he showed a keen awareness of this most of the time and played accordingly. He showed a few impressive drop-step moves and finishes along with a smooth stroke at the line for a player his size. The best, though, is surely ahead for Johnson.
Joe Jackson, Freshman, University of Memphis: This undersized guard has been noted to make up for his height with his explosiveness and creative playmaking ability, and it seems to be a pinpoint diagnosis. Jackson is extremely poised with the ball for a freshman point guard, using his explosive first step to create for himself or his teammates consistently. Against Miami late on Monday night (or early on Tuesday morning) Jackson was excellent within the fast paced play of the game, turning the ball over just twice in 25 minutes of action, assisting on 4 scores, and dropping a team high 17 points. I have a feeling that as he goes, Memphis will go this year but it will certainly be fun to watch his development in his first college season.