Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Starting 5: Point guard debate
By Dave Telep
Editor's note: Every week in "Starting 5," we'll roll out five stories, themes and nuggets from the basketball recruiting world to set the table with the stories that need to be told and give you a leg up on the watercooler conversations around the office.
This week we look at three point guards using different lenses, what plans KU has for Late Night in the Phog, the recruiting revivals at UConn and Minnesota plus reduced lists from bigs Paul White and Makinde London.
1. Perplexing question regarding point guards
Over the weekend, Fran Fraschilla tweeted a question to me that I can’t shake. Fraschilla asked if given the choice do you take Tyus Jones for one to two years or four years of Tyler Ulis? That’s a toughie. My answer has nothing to do with size (Jones is bigger) nor does it have anything to do with passing ability (they both can dish it). I’d take Jones because of the last three years.
To me, he’s a proven commodity as a championship level point guard. Ulis makes teammates better; we all get that. Jones, for me, makes teammates great and good teams great ones. I watched Jones and Chris Paul on the same court nine days ago. Jones is not Chris Paul, but I think he has a similar effect in terms of being able to score but understanding his primary job and strongest asset in helping a team win. In college, after years of evaluating Jones, I’d expect him to help a team reach the Final Four and I don’t think he plays four years in college.
Ulis is a master with the ball and a tremendous assist man. He’s the best sub-6-foot Chicago point since Jerome Randle (Cal’s all-time leading scorer and former Pac-10 Player of the Year). Ulis, one could argue, had a better summer than Jones. In terms of elevating his play, there isn’t a guy rising as quickly at the position as he has. Six months from now, it’ll be time to reassess. If four years of Ulis equates to the career Randle had at Cal, that would be something.
Emmanuel Mudiay's size may better prepare him for the NBA.
The prospect with the highest NBA ceiling of the three is undoubtedly Emmanuel Mudiay. He’s bigger, more athletic and boy, does he ace the look test for the position in the NBA. Mudiay himself had a strong summer. For the NBA guys, this is the point man to watch. While Mudiay separates himself with the measurables, Jones evens the playing field collegiately with the intangibles.
If you’re an NBA GM, you’ve got to prioritize Mudiay because his size and upside are impossible to ignore. If you were a college head coach, I’d think you’d lean on Jones because of his overall impact on a team. This leads us back to the original question posed by Fraschilla: Jones for possibly two seasons or Ulis for four? Fran, maybe the question should be Mudiay for one season or Jones for two?
Once you get to the NBA, the rules change. Size matters. Bigger, faster, stronger is the norm. The NBA game is ruled by giants at every position. The average size of the players at each position is significantly larger than those on the college level; naturally because it’s a step up.
While I’m not ready to say Mudiay is a lock to be a better NBA point than Jones, he is more prepared because of the size and athleticism for that level. Trust me, NBA guys will one day covet Jones for all the reasons we love him now, but the specter of Mudiay’s overall package looms too large to ignore long-term.
To fend off Mudiay and the NBA critics, Jones will need to continue to be a winning machine who directs traffic and shows himself capable of the occasional big scoring outbursts on the college level. Ulis will need years of producing and demonstrating proficiency with his perimeter game to warrant inclusion in this conversation long-term; that’s just the way it is for a sub-6-footer. His NBA ceiling is considerably lower because of his physical size.
For those interested in continuing this dialogue, watch the Elite 24 on Saturday and you’ll see Jones and Mudiay matched up against one another.
2. Kansas loading up again for Late Night
Last year, Bill Self’s prospect party was talent-laden; it always tends to be that way. The Jayhawks hosted seniors Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid and Aaron Gordon. Junior big man Elbert Robinson was also in Lawrence for last year’s festivities. Gordon wiggled off the hook but Selden and Embiid didn’t stray. This time around, KU is hoping for similar results.
One could argue that the Jayhawks are involved with more high-level talent than any other program in the country. Even though Stanley Johnson opted to attend USA Basketball’s Fall Workout instead of Late Night, Self’s party will still be a rager. Johnson, by the way, is visiting Kansas but needs a new date. The Late Night crowd tentatively reads center Myles Turner, wing Kelly Oubre and big man Cliff Alexander. Point guard Jordan McLaughlin is also on the visit list. The Jayhawks love bringing in underclassmen for the festivities and their list will grow as we get closer to the event. Expect junior guard Charles Matthews and scorer King McClure to rep the Class of 2015.
3. UConn, Minnesota popping up more
On Monday, I did what recruiting guys do this time of the year. I opened up a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and began the tedious process of data entry. The goal was to create a list of the elite players and schools that are serious contenders. The exercise was visible confirmation that Kansas, which might sign three more from the 2014 class, is well positioned. Ditto for Kentucky and a host of others. However, while gathering the data, two names kept popping up: Connecticut and Minnesota.
Meanwhile, I counted Minnesota on the list of nine prospects of significance. Granted, three of those players are in-staters, including Reid Travis, who lives two blocks from campus. Regardless, just being listed with national level players of this caliber is a tip of the cap to Pitino and his staff. Getting them? Uphill battle outside of Travis and Rashad Vaughn, but the Gophers are fighting. Isaiah Whitehead, Goodluck Okonoboh, Josh Perkins, Quentin Snider, Paul White and Alex Robinson keep the Gophers on their lists. Tyus Jones looks more and more like a dream, but the Gophers could wind up with Vaughn. You never know.
4. White rehabbing, sets five visits
I was in Las Vegas when the news broke that Paul White (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) had broken his arm. Just one day earlier, I’d seen White turn in his best game in a long time. He’d taken the Peach Jam and turned it into a revival for his game. It was Zen-like how he found the perfect balance between post and perimeter. Then, a bad broken arm ended the run. “It’s out of the cast,” White said in a text message Monday. “I’m getting better. I’m in the rehabbing stages now.”
While busy rehabbing, White’s kept his recruitment in check. The Chicago standout trimmed his list to five and set the official visits with each. Arizona (Sept. 6), Georgetown (Sept. 12), Connecticut (Sept. 27), Minnesota (Oct. 4) and DePaul (Oct. 25) comprise his final grouping.
On Sept. 11, UConn will conduct an in-home visit, followed by Arizona on the 18th. During his four-game Peach Jam run, White averaged 13.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, made both his 3s and shot 56 percent from the field. We missed him during the second half of the month, but let us not forget how he was the last time he took the floor.
5. London bridges gap to signing
Makinde London has a top five of VCU, Xavier, Miami, Florida and Mississippi State.
There was a time in July when just about everyone with a scholarship earmarked for a big man made a trip to see D13Elite’s Makinde London. The 6-foot-9 big man is a straight-A student, works a job with his father’s cleaning service and sports size 18 shoes. Did I mention he grew 8 inches in two years following his first season of high school basketball?
“In his head, he’s always been a point guard,” said Dominique Redding, D13’s coach. “Now he’s 6-10 and he keeps growing but he has that guard frame of mind and everything was pass. He didn’t know he needed to protect the basket. Then we started working, hitting the weights and doing push-ups. I told him to take his focus off making passes and told him to protect the rim, run the court and get easy baskets.”
Redding, a former Tennessee Vols women’s player, knew she had to mold Makinde. It wasn’t until May 2012 when London finally began buying in. “Last year, especially in May, I was really close to kicking him off the team. He has the talent but he didn’t believe in himself. A coach can only coach so much. He had to believe in himself. He broke through last year at adidas 64. He goes through the whole year and he made great strides.”
Now London’s at Montverde Academy, where everyday he’ll face the best competition he’s ever faced. “At Montverde, he’s got to work for everything,” Redding said. “Those practices will be great for him because he’s never been pushed like that. He’s going to get a lot from Montverde.” Most high school coaches would be pleased to have a single Division I player on the roster. Montverde coach Kevin Boyle could have as many as 10 at his disposal.
Boyle loves it when his players decide in advance of the season so the Eagles are solely locked in on winning and preparation. London, the owner of a reduced list, is a perfect candidate to decide in the fall. London has narrowed his list to VCU, Xavier, Miami, Florida, Tennessee, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech and Mississippi State.
“I think he’s going to end up taking four visits. I know he wants to visit VCU last. It’s hard getting the dates. The first school that will come on Sept. 9 will be VCU at Montverde.”