This year hasn’t exactly been the easiest for Cliff Alexander. A top-10 recruit with monstrous expectations, he had flashes of brilliance mixed with periods of stagnance. The NCAA investigation into his eligibility that sidelined him for KU’s final eight games didn’t help his case, either. His averages of 7 points and 5 boards a night aren’t eye-popping by any means, but it was his strong play in the month of January and the way that he got his stats that will make him a first-round pick next month. Throughout all of the turmoil, it was easy to tell that Cliff truly valued his college experience.
“I learned a lot of knowledge from Coach Self,” Alexander told us following a pre-draft training session in Chicago. “I learned the history of basketball and was just a sponge to everything that he told me.”
Standing 6-9 with a 7-4 wingspan, his combination of size and length will give him more than enough size to play both post slots at times in the league. His chiseled 239-pound frame has shoulders that are nowhere near filling out and he has simply effortless explosiveness around the rim. The physical profile is there of an elite NBA big man, now it’s just a matter of getting his skills to a similar level.
Training in Chicago with Tim Anderson (Will Bynum’s backcourt running mate in high school) and Ryan Thompson, Alexander was putting in the work to get there. Any drill that involved strength and athleticism, he thrived in. It was simply effortless for the 19-year-old to get up and slam the ball against the glass before coming back down with no steps to punch a powerful dunk. Everyone has known about his explosiveness since early in his high school career at Curie, but it is even more impressive seeing it in the flesh. Physical prowess aside, Cliff knew what he was here to work on: His ability to do things with the ball offensively.
”My skill set,” he immediately shot back when asked what he is looking to improve on in during pre-draft. “I need to get my ballhandling where it needs to be and get a more consistent jumpshot.”
You could certainly see some strides that we didn’t quite see in Lawrence throughout the drills. With trainers barking out post moves to do upon each catch, he showed fluid footwork turning towards either shoulder and the ability to convert with both hands. No one is touting Alexander as the next Hakeem Olajuwon on the blocks, but the moves that he showed definitely led one to believe that he has potential in the post with proper development.
Facing the rack, we were likewise surprised with the improvement that Alexander has made. He was automatic from 15 feet and in, both off of the dribble and coming off screens. Winding the ball up a bit behind his head, the release that he has is a bit tough to contest because of his crazy wingspan. Given the limited sample size NBA personnel have of his college game (he only took 129 shots in his Jayhawk career), scouts may have to revert back to his high school days to get a better feel of his offensive game.
One of the bigger wild cards in this year’s NBA Draft, workouts and interviews are ultimately going to prove essential for Cliff Alexander’s draft stock. He has the potential and physical ability to rise into the lottery, but there will undoubtedly be questions about a player who came off of the bench with such little college experience. Any way that you look at it, Cliff Alexander feels that he’s going to show NBA GMs a lot more than he did as a Jayhawk.
“I’m going to surprise teams with my physical ability. I didn’t really get a chance to show that at Kansas. A better Cliff Alexander, that’s all.
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