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Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Austin, And A Quick Look At How The Top 80 Recruits Have Fared

The game of the weekend featured Baylor ending Kentucky’s 55-game home winning streak. I’ve often described Scott Drew as an excellent recruiter, but without the in-season coaching ability of John Calipari. But for at least one afternoon, Scott Drew’s club ended up on top.

A couple of things fascinated me about the game.

First, John Calipari had Kyle Wiltjer on the bench for a long stretch in the second half. And he really had no choice. Wiltjer finished the day 1-for-11 from the floor, and he doesn’t have the defensive ability to stay in the game if his shot isn’t falling. Wiltjer has to find ways to provide value to his team other than just knocking down threes if he is going to be a true leader this season.

Second, I continued to be impressed with the all-around game of Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. I wish he would settle for a few less outside shots, but what I love about Austin is how he always looks extremely focused when on the floor. Even if he commits a turnover or takes a dumb shot, Austin doesn’t ever appear to get rattled.

Of course it is easy to describe an intangible like “quiet confidence” when a player is winning. And with Kentucky losing, it is easy to attack Nerlens Noel’s complete lack of an offensive game. But had Kentucky rallied to win, we’d instead be talking about all the little things Noel did to help his team win on Saturday. Noel had 16 rebounds and 6 steals in Kentucky’s loss, and Kentucky needed those defensive stops in a game where they shot so poorly. Watching so many freshmen play prominent roles made me want to do a quick update of how all the top recruits have fared this season. Here is a summary of the RSCI Top 80.  * = injured or ineligible for part of the season

 

Player

Team

PPG

Pct Min

Pct Poss

ORtg

DR%

Ast%

1

Shabazz Muhammad

UCLA

16.0

42.4*

28.0

105.2

11.1

5.9

2

Nerlens Noel

Kentucky

11.4

78.5

21.1

110.2

21.1

14.8

3

Kyle Anderson

UCLA

6.6

69.5

20.4

87.9

19.4

20.6

4

Isaiah Austin

Baylor

13.7

64.2

22.1

107.9

18.2

6.4

5

Steven Adams

Pittsburgh

6.0

48.0

17.7

110.6

14.8

3.4

6

Anthony Bennett

UNLV

18.8

66.6

25.5

130.9

13.6

9.6

7

Kaleb Tarczewski

Arizona

6.2

51.5

17.6

109.0

25.8

6.6

8

Alex Poythress

Kentucky

15.4

73.9

22.7

114.9

13.7

3.9

9

Marcus Smart

Okl. State

14.5

85.7

28.0

103.4

16.4

35.3

10

Archie Goodwin

Kentucky

16.4

85.7

27.3

105.0

14.0

24.2

Kentucky has had a problem with rebounding this year, but don’t blame Nerlens Noel. He needs some help from Willie-Cauley Stein and Kyle Wiltjer who are very poor defensive rebounders for their size.

If Kaleb Tarczewski and Steven Adams aren’t earning major minutes at this point in the season, it is hard to envisioning them becoming full scale stars later. When conference play rolls around, coaches tend to be less patient with their freshmen. Thus in many ways, percentage of minutes can be the most important stat this time of year.

Efficiency is also important, and Kyle Anderson’s 87.9 ORtg is terrible for an elite recruit. Point guards can struggle more than other players to adapt to the college game and Anderson was considered to have point guard skills out of high school. So perhaps Anderson’s struggles aren’t a complete surprise. On the other hand, Archie Goodwin and Marcus Smart weren’t really point guards in high school and they have adapted to the position. Goodwin’s turnover numbers are far too high, but he’s set up his teammates passably while setting up his own shot a lot. And Marcus Smart has made a tremendous transition to playing the point-guard position at the college level. Smart’s assist rate is much better than many players regarded as better passers out of high school.

I really think the problem with Anderson is that Ben Howland hasn’t figured out how to use him. Lots of coaches from Rick Pitino to John Thompson III have been able to feature great lanky passers, by positioning them at the high post and letting them see the whole floor. Anderson still has the potential to be that type of player, even if he has struggled early.

 

Player

Team

PPG

Pct Min

Pct Poss

ORtg

DR%

Ast%

11

Grant Jerrett

Arizona

6.6

47.0

16.2

126.9

17.2

9.2

12

Rasheed Sulaimon

Duke

12.9

80.0

20.1

108.2

10.5

13.4

13

Ricardo Ledo

Providence

 

*

       

14

Cameron Ridley

Texas

5.1

44.2

22.3

72.9

17.1

0

15

Brandon Ashley

Arizona

11.0

56.5

22.8

122.5

25.5

6.3

16

Gary Harris

Mich. St.

11.8

44.6*

21.7

116.1

7.0

3.1

17

Rodney Purvis

NC State

10.0

73.3

17.3

106.8

5.8

9.1

18

DaJuan Coleman

Syracuse

5.8

37.0

24.1

85.4

25.4

2.3

19

Sam Dekker

Wisconsin

10.5

51.2

23.1

125.6

5.9

16.4

20

Kris Dunn

Providence

 

*

        

Grant Jerrett and Sam Dekker are the only players in the Top 20 who are not starting. Ricardo Ledo is ineligible. And Kris Dunn and Gary Harris are injured.

We start to see the typical drop-off when we get to recruits in the 11-20 range. DaJuan Coleman still has the profile of a player who will be a star in a future season, but right now he is having trouble earning playing time behind other quality big men on Syracuse’s roster. Meanwhile Cameron Ridley has been extremely disappointing for Texas. Certainly it hurts not to have Myck Kabongo eligible, but Kabongo’s absence doesn’t explain why a player like Ridley can be so passive against a team like Chaminade as he was in the Maui Invitational loss. The only good thing I can say about Ridley is that he has 19 blocks already, which is more than any other player in the Top 50 except Nerlens Noel.

Only Rasheed Sulaimon has become an undisputed crunch time star for his team. And Sulaimon’s efficiency is even more impressive when you look at Duke’s strength of schedule so far. Rodney Purvis has also played major minutes, but he is deferring a lot to his teammates at this point.

 

Player

Team

PPG

Pct Min

Pct Poss

ORtg

DR%

Ast%

21

Amile Jefferson

Duke

2.9

21.8

18.0

109.7

8.5

5.3

22

Devonte Pollard

Alabama

5.0

56.7

17.2

86.0

10.3

7.9

23

Glenn Robinson III

Michigan

12.3

79.2

18.6

131.3

14.8

7.5

24

Tony Parker

UCLA

3.3

13.2

18.5

117.1

13.7

4.6

25

Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell

Indiana

5.6

60.6

18.1

106.9

9.8

28.6

26

Mitch McGary

Michigan

5.0

35.7

20.3

117.4

26.4

3.4

27

T.J. Warren

NC State

15.3

69.5

19.6

132.4

8.5

3.5

28

Marcus Paige

North Carolina

7.9

61.7

20.2

87.7

7.8

19.6

29

Danuel House

Houston

11.3

54.6

26.4

100.8

12.6

8.1

30

Robert Carter

Georgia Tech

7.8

60.8

21.2

95.2

19.2

7.3

Glenn Robinson has been shockingly efficient at this point in the season, well above many of his peers on this list. But none of the players listed here are going to quite be in the national player of the year discussion because they are starting to become more passive offensive players. (I.e. the percentage of possessions used is now often below 20%) Only Danuel House is using a large number of possessions at this point in the rankings, and House plays for a Houston team that is in the process of upgrading its talent level in anticipation of joining the Big East.

This preseason I wrote how Marcus Paige would have some growing pains and be inconsistent this year, and the response I got was that Roy Williams had a ton of confidence in Paige and that I was being un-necessarily pessimistic. So far, with an 87.7 ORtg, neither Paige nor the Tar Heels are off to a great start. Paige has better days ahead, but North Carolina is also going to have a few more baffling losses before the season is over.

I was worried that Yogi Ferrell could have a similar negative impact on the Hoosiers because freshmen are often inconsistent. But Ferrell has thrived because he has worked within the offense. Instead of hogging the ball and needing to create shots, Ferrell has let his teammates work their isolation stuff, and provided key drives and dishes when needed. Ferrell has been happy to fill a role on the Hoosiers, and he has been everything Indiana needed.

Finally, Tony Parker’s minutes this year have been a joke, but with Josh Smith transferring, Parker at least has a chance of cracking the UCLA rotation now.

 

Player

Team

PPG

Pct Min

Pct Poss

ORtg

DR%

Ast%

31

Perry Ellis

Kansas

6.4

40.0

20.8

115.6

14.6

8.8

32

Ricardo Gathers

Baylor

5.6

41.0

20.0

101.5

15.5

1.5

33

Winston Shepard

San Diego State

3.7

24.1

24.2

49.2

10.1

6.3

34

Shaquille Cleare

Maryland

5.3

31.7

16.6

129.0

6.3

0

35

Shaq Goodwin

Memphis

7.5

50.0

21.7

109.4

16.5

9

36

Katin Reinhardt

UNLV

11.3

73.3

16.7

116.5

5.1

20

37

D. Smith-Rivera

Georgetown

5.8

44.0

15.6

108.8

4.2

5.5

38

Willie Cauley

Kentucky

7.4

48.2

20.2

103.5

14.8

7

39

Omar Calhoun

Connecticut

10.9

75.8

19.8

103.9

8.8

8.4

40

Brice Johnson

North Carolina

9.1

35.0

22.1

119.9

24.3

3.4

41

Jerami Grant

Syracuse

2.0

22.0

9.8

119.2

11.2

7.1

42

Adam Woodbury

Iowa

6.6

42.8

18.1

118.5

17.6

6.5

43

Tyler Lewis

NC State

2.7

36.2

16.9

83.6

10.6

20

44

Jeremy Hollowell

Indiana

6.4

35.3

26.1

92.7

12.4

1.5

45

Daniel Ochefu

Villanova

3.1

35.1

14.0

83.3

21.9

2.2

46

Cam Biedscheid

Notre Dame

8.0

42.4

21.9

113.7

9.1

16.1

47

Gabe York

Arizona

3.0

18.0

16.2

147.3

6.4

26.2

48

Justin Anderson

Virginia

6.1

52.8

21.8

100.8

9.8

23.2

49

Semaj Christon

Xavier

16.0

73.2

29.6

111.7

9.3

37.8

50

Hanner Perea

Indiana

 

*

        

Notice how often a lack of playing time plagues players at this point in the rankings. I expected and still expect big things out of Kansas’ Perry Ellis and Iowa’s Adam Woodbury, but their coaches have only given them a taste of playing time at this point. The result is that some guys at this point in the rankings become unmitigated gunners. Hey Indiana’s Jeremy Hollowell, no matter how good you think you are, when the game with North Carolina was close late in the first half, Indiana didn’t want you bombing threes. They wanted Jordan Hulls bombing threes.

Xavier has played much better than many of us anticipated this season, and freshman Semaj Christon deserves a lot of that credit. Christon has out-played point-guards like Marcus Paige and realistically he’s been much more important than even Yogi Ferrell given his role in the offense. Christon is using nearly 30% of his team’s possessions, scoring at a prolific clip, and setting up his teammates without a rash of turnovers.

 

Player

Team

PPG

Pct Min

Pct Poss

ORtg

DR%

Ast%

51

Josh Scott

Colorado

13.1

68.6

22.8

118.3

11.4

3.3

52

Andrew White

Kansas

2.6

11.0

22.6

101.3

26.4

5.8

53

Robert Upshaw

Fresno State

4.7

17.5

24.8

80.4

20.1

7.5

54

Braxton Ogbueze

Florida

1.7

20.0

17.2

70.7

18.6

3.8

55

Ryan Arcidiacono

Villanova

12.9

84.8

23.1

95.8

10.5

28.2

56

Dominic Artis

Oregon

10.2

64.6

21.8

100.9

9.1

23.4

57

J.P. Tokoto

North Carolina

3.4

24.3

20.9

89.6

12.4

9.5

58

Joel James

North Carolina

4.0

40.3

12.6

111.1

18.0

4.2

59

Jordan Adams

UCLA

17.8

62.4

26.1

123.0

12.0

8.3

60

Montay Brandon

Florida State

6.0

58.2

17.1

93.5

9.2

15.5

61

Elijah Macon

   

*

       

62

Prince Ibeh

Texas

1.6

30.8

12.0

63.9

14.9

2.3

63

James Robinson

Pittsburgh

7.2

74.4

14.4

120.6

9.0

21

64

Danrad Knowles

   

*

       

65

J-Mychal Reese

Texas A&M

6.6

74.6

17.7

89.1

9.5

18.5

66

L.J. Rose

Baylor

1.0

18.2

19.2

54.5

7.8

14.9

67

Xavier Johnson

Colorado

6.9

48.2

20.2

94.4

14.0

4.5

68

Jake Layman

Maryland

2.0

33.9

13.7

72.8

10.9

10.2

69

Christopher Obekpa

St. John's

4.6

59.3

13.7

96.9

11.1

9.3

70

Jordan Price

Auburn

5.3

38.9

21.9

84.6

5.4

14.2

71

Georges Niang

Iowa State

10.1

52.1

19.9

126.4

15.8

15.4

72

Torian Graham

   

*

       

73

Rosco Allen

Stanford

3.1

21.6

23.7

79.5

18.7

7.9

74

Evan Nolte

Virginia

6.4

48.1

15.3

115.6

8.4

16.2

75

A.J. Hammons

Purdue

8.6

47.7

23.8

102.2

19.4

8.2

76

Codi Miller-McIntyre

Wake Forest

9.0

75.0

16.5

103.9

7.5

17.3

77

Terry Rozier

   

*

       

78

Nik Stauskas

Michigan

14.3

69.2

15.9

158.3

11.9

3.5

79

Jakarr Sampson

St. John's

12.5

75.3

22.2

105.4

16.7

8.5

80

Javan Felix

Texas

7.1

84.9

20.6

82.7

10.0

39.6

Most of Christopher Opekpa’s stats are pretty pedestrian, but not his block rate. Opekpa has 35 blocks at this point in the season, easily out-distancing any of the other freshmen in today’s column.

Nik Stauskas has been unbelievably efficient at this point and he is playing major minutes to boot. Some people expected Michigan to be a Top 10 team, but did they really expect Stauskas to outperform his peer level players by this much? His efficiency is due in large part to his teammates, and his shot-selection. But his performance is still notable. Stauskas has the most threes of anyone mentioned in this column (18 made) beating even UCLA’s super-aggressive shooter Jordan Adams.

Also give Adams credit. He’s shooting 26% of the time while maintaining a solid ORtg. Kyle Anderson may have been the third rated recruit for UCLA, but Adams has actually played like one.

 

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