June 12, 2008

Meyer's Mailbag: Tech's next great PG?

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
June 5: Nation's best backcourt?
May 30: WVU takes another big step
May 23: Could Cards be better?
How about a breakdown on North Carolina's newest commitment, Leslie McDonald?

How does Atlanta's top point guard Mfon Udofia compare to former top Atlanta point guard Javaris Crittenton?

Texas A&M and Kansas State fans are curious about how their 2009 recruiting classes stack up.

National Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer addresses these topics and more in this week's mailbag.

Jerry's Mailbag
Tech's next great PG?

Jerry, what can you tell me about Mfon Udofia's game? In an article, he said he has been compared to Javaris Crittenton. Do you think that is correct? He also said he wants to go to a school with good academics and plays his style. With Georgia Tech's academics and the success of point guards like Crittenton, would all signs point GT's way?

-- Jerry from Philadelphia
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I believe the comparison to Crittenton has more to do with geography than their games. Both are outstanding point guards from the Atlanta area, but there are probably more differences in their games than similarities.

While playing for the Atlanta Celtics, Crittenton was more of a power point guard at 6-foot-4 whose focus was scoring the basketball. Udofia, on the other hand, is a lefty with more of a crafty approach to his game. At 6 feet 2, he is more of a set-up man than a scorer.

When Udofia does score the ball, it is typically on a 3-pointer or a quick drive to the rim. Crittenton put up a lot of points on pull-up jumpers in the midrange.

On the other side of the ball, Crittenton had the capacity to be a tough defender. However, he didn't embrace defending with the same vigor as Udofia, who prides himself in being a defensive force.

Along these same lines, no one ever criticized Crittenton's athleticism and physical ability, but he did face criticism as far as his ability to run a team and make the players around him better. Udofia's greatest strength is running a team.

Despite the differences in their game, it does appear that Georgia Tech is the school to beat in Udofia's recruitment.

Solid start

What are your thoughts on A&M's basketball recruiting so far? How good is this class of Naji Hibbert, Khris Middleton and now Kourtney Roberson?

-- Luis from El Paso
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Texas A&M is off to a solid start with its 2009 recruiting class. Recently, the Aggies have picked up commitments from three solid three-star prospects.

The attributes of this class are a good complement to the 2008 class, which consists of four-star point guard Dashan Harris and four-star scoring forward David Loubeau. Hibbert is an all-purpose wing. Middleton is a shooter with size, and Roberson is an athletic and physical big man with a developing skill game.

Some nice pieces to the puzzle are being assembled, but there isn't that star player in either class who can elevate a team to that next level of play. With strong coaching and hard-nosed play, Texas A&M can win some games with these two classes in the future. But to beat the likes of Kansas and Texas on a consistent basis, Texas A&M needs to add a little star power to these solid recruits.

McDonald an All-American?

Jerry, would you please evaluate Leslie McDonald's game? What are his strengths and weaknesses? After watching some highlights of the talented guard, he brings Chris Douglas-Roberts to mind. Is that an accurate comparison?

-- Tyler from Shelby
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Perhaps McDonald's greatest strength is also his main weakness. He is a solid player without a glaring fault, but he doesn't really excel at any area of the game.

He has a good physical build for a shooting guard and good athleticism. He rebounds and defends his position well, but he can't guard multiple positions or necessarily be a beast on the boards.

He shoots the ball best off the catch inside 17-feet. Outside 17-feet his shot can be streaky. Watching him in the state tournament, I thought he looked good shooting the ball inside 17-feet off the dribble. On the circuit this spring, he has forced the action to the rim when I've watched him. That makes me wonder how much confidence he has in his midrange game.

His ball handling is solid for his position, but I wouldn't expect him to play many minutes at the point.

Now, McDonald is a hard worker and very coachable player. He is a team-first guy who will improve throughout his career. North Carolina is getting a reliable shooting guard. Although he might not be a five-star, difference-maker type player, McDonald is a high four-star prospect who is going to help a title-contending team win games.

As for a comparison to Douglas-Roberts, I don't think McDonald has the wiggle and unorthodox nature to his game to produce buckets like Douglas-Roberts. McDonald does, however, have a more solid shooting stroke. If he can extend his range to be consistent behind the arc, he is going to be a scoring threat and all-around player at North Carolina.

K-State's head start

Where do you think K-State's '09 recruiting class will end up being ranked? Does it have a chance to be as good as the '07 class?

-- David from Wichita
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At this early stage, I like Kansas State's two-man class as the best in the Big 12 ahead of Baylor and Texas A&M. Wally Judge is a promising big man who could be a very productive player in the Big 12. Rodney McGruder is an athletic slasher who has a nose for the ball and a knack for getting the ball into the basket.

Where Kansas State's class will end up being ranked in the Big 12 is an awfully tough question at this stage in the process. You'd have to figure that Texas will make some recruiting noise after a sub-par recruiting class for 2008. Kansas is likely to make a surge here soon. Remember, the Jayhawks came on strong late in the 2008 recruiting cycle. Baylor is likely to add some pieces around five-star recruit Cory Jefferson.

Certainly Kansas State is going to add more pieces to its recruiting class. If the Wildcats can nab their top target (five-star prospect Latavious Williams), then they have the makings of a top-20 class nationally.

When analyzing the 2009 recruiting classes nationally, North Carolina definitely sits at the top with its five man class. UNC's group consists of two five-star prospects and three four-star prospects. Along with North Carolina and Baylor, eight other schools have commitments from five-star prospects: Clemson, UAB, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Kentucky, Louisville, Connecticut and Villanova.

Star potential

I can respect the fact that you have John Wall as the new No. 1 in the class of 2009. But can you explain your thinking when putting Milton Jennings and John Henson ahead of Lance Stephenson? Does potential really carry that much weight?

-- Luke from Albany
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Potential does carry a lot of weight with post players. But I'd also say that the two prospects you mention who are ahead of Stephenson in the rankings are awful good players in their own right at this very moment. Henson has freakish length and an advanced offensive game. Think of a longer Chris Bosh. Jennings is a highly skilled hybrid forward with a semblance of Kevin Durant in his game. Both players are rapidly improving at this moment.

But back to the potential issue. Big men simply develop later in their careers than guards. One of the tricks to recruiting/scouting is the ability to project the developmental curve of post players.

Another factor working against post players is that they are dependant upon guards to get touches - outside of rebounding. On the other hand, physically mature perimeter players who are good with the ball can easily dominate the action at a younger age.

The key is to remember that we are projecting how good prospects are going to be down the road. Certainly what those prospects are doing today says a lot about what they will do tomorrow, but you can't analyze post players the same as you analyze perimeter players.

Jerry Meyer is a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.



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