Conference play is underway, with a higher level of competition allowing prospects to really make an impression on scouts. Some freshmen hit the wall, while some players begin to hit their stride. Here are a few who have excelled and others who are showing some wrinkles over the past week or so.
Justin Anderson 6-6 225 SF Virginia Jr.
Highlighted in Stock Watch a month ago, Anderson has kept shooting the ball at a scintillating rate from long range. He is now 39-70 (55.7%) from three point range on the season and has become a very dangerous spot-up shooter in catch-and-shoot situations. Defense is Virginia’s specialty with Anderson leading the charge with his strong upper body and long arms. His improvement on the offensive end is truly promising, as he has upped his FG% to 53.3% from the 40.7% he shot as a sophomore. He still does not get much offense off of the bounce, which may relegate him to the SF spot. His defensive versatility and vastly improved shooting stroke have boosted his value immensely, as he has moved into this year’s lottery.
Troy Williams 6-7 215 SF Indiana So.
After a very forgettable game against Michigan St., Williams had back-to-back 15-point games in wins over Ohio State and Penn State. A great athlete who gets a lot of opportunities in transition, he has been really dangerous off of the cut and has shown more game off of the dribble as well. He is shooting 56.9% FG, which is impressive even if he is forced to play more PF. Williams definitely projects as a SF and has shown a lot of potential on defense. The major problem with NBA translation at this point is the fact that he has not exhibited much ability to stretch the floor. However the intrigue in his athleticim and potential has him on the bubble for this year’s first round.
Kevon Looney 6-9 220 PF UCLA Fr.
Looney went through a of rough stretch and was held under double digit scoring in the last four games of UCLA’s five game losing streak. He has managed to turn the corner during their current three game winning streak, averaging 18 ppg with 12 rpg on 57.1% FG. Known for his offensive rebounding prowess, Looney has shown a great deal more versatility during this time as well. During his monster 27 point and 19 rebound performance in a comeback overtime win over Stanford, Looney showed his ability in the pick-and-pop, isolation and even off of the cut. If he can build confidence off of this current streak, he has a chance to rise back into the top half of the lottery.
Bobby Portis 6-10 240 PF Arkansas So.
He is off to a very strong start to SEC play, with a particularly impressive showing against fellow sophomore Damian Jones, with 32 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Vanderbilt. Armed with a soft stroke from the outside, he has only improved his accuracy as a sophomore and has gained strength to help his post game as well. He is not a big shot blocker, though his improvement on the defensive end is also very promising. If Portis can get to the line more and utilize his size advantage a tad more, it will add another facet to his game to complement his face-up ability.
Tim Quarterman 6-6 185 SG LSU So.
LSU has two well-known sophomore prospects in Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, however it’s important that we take notice of the positive qualities Quarterman brings to the table. He was the hero during LSU’s double overtime win over Georgia. Quarterman brought the Tigers back in the first OT with a couple NBA range three pointers and an impressive old-fashioned three-point play to continue onto a second extra session. He is still a streaky shooter, but he is a good passer who has great size as a possible SG down the line. Averaging nearly 10 ppg more as a sophomore compared to his freshman year, he will fit nicely with LSU’s big time additions coming in for 2015-16.
Michael Gbinije 6-7 200 SG/SF Syracuse Jr.
The Orange have yet to face an overly powerful foe in ACC play, yet still have to be ecstatic about their 4-0 start with the injuries and adversity they have gone through. Gbinije has been a vital part as a point forward, averaging 13 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 4 apg in this early conference start. He has done well running the pick-and-roll in this stretch, also shooting really well from distance to keep the defense honest. He has enough size and a strong enough handle where one could see him at either spot on the wing. Staying for his senior year, Gbinije might join the ranks of big time final years players that have come out of Syracuse.
Demetrius Jackson 6-1 200 PG Notre Dame So.
After playing behind upperclassmen his first season, Jackson has lived up to his McDonald’s All-American billing as a fantastic complement to senior guard, Jerian Grant. He was already an outside shooting threat and has upped his volume along with his percentage to 43.9% 3PT. While Grant is still the primary ball handler, Jackson is averaging around a 2.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He has numerous ways of creating offense for himself as well as others. His lack of size makes it a tough road ahead, though he has had a tremendous start to his sophomore season, looks to be a bright future ahead if he keeps working.
Justise Winslow 6-6 225 SF Duke Fr.
After many were starting to group Duke in with Kentucky atop the NCAA basketball stratosphere, the Blue Devils lost back-to-back contests. Jahlil Okafor was pretty much his usual stellar self, with Tyus Jones and Winslow both struggling quite a bit. While more of this could probably be placed on the struggles of Jones against some stronger, more experienced guards, Winslow was a relative non-factor when it came to creating offense. Winslow is great at getting hustle baskets, though he needs some more consistency in getting his offense in other ways. He has shown next to no intermediate game and when the long range is not working, we see he can really struggle to get it going. His effort level and athleticism make him a likely lottery prospect, though will he be a person you can rely on offensively, especially if he is expected to play SF? Something to think about as the season progresses, with plenty of time to prove he can be a factor and get past this small road block.
Isaiah Taylor 6-2 170 PG Texas So.
When it comes to injuries, it can take a while for players to get back to full strength. This is probably the case with Taylor, who missed ten games with a broken wrist. In the three games since his return, he has shot 9-35 (25.7%) from the field, with Texas losing to Oklahoma badly at home and falling to Oklahoma State. This was a team that many felt could be the favorite in the Big 12 with Taylor at the helm and while this is obviously early, he will still need to step up. The major aspect will be proving his ability to run the show as he did last season. He has speed to be a major threat attacking the hoop, however he will need his production to get back to expectations in order to maintain his standing on our 2015 Mock Draft.
Andrew Harrison 6-6 210 PG/SG Kentucky So.
Kentucky had a couple of close calls of late, until an absolute drubbing of Missouri, which had many questioning who should be running the show in Lexington. The “PG Harrison” has been better (than before) at running the show this year, with a 2.1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and an increase in overall assists in considerably fewer minutes. Still, his decision-making can be questionable, as is his shot selection. At 33.7% FG, his shot has not been falling consistently and can be flat out careless close to the hoop. Tyler Ulis clearly brings more calm and poise to the situation, though he has been targeted at times in the half court due to his lack of height. Harrison still has value to UK, it just seems NBA folks are not seeing the production or efficiency they want to see from a next level PG.