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Friday, December 28, 2012

Diamond Head Classic Recap

Over the Christmas break, the college basketball schedule was carried by the 8 team field out in Hawaii. Arizona highlighted the field and ended up taking home the trophy, but not before the battled San Diego State in a heated championship match. The Miami Hurricanes also were in the field.

Jamaal Franklin - I zeroed in on Franklin on defense during the tournament and came away impressed. He brings great intensity to that end of the floor and takes on the challenge of locking down the oppositions best player. Franklin is a tough competitor with good anticipation skills. He is always thinking out there on defense and attempting to read what the offense is doing in order to get an edge. Since he was on the opposition's best player most of the time, he had to run through a lot of screens and he looked for the best routes to take around them. He can get caught up in screens as he isn't the biggest guy, but he does have good strength for his frame. He looks like a cornerback on defense the way he stays on his toes and he actually hoped to go to the University of Florida as a wide receiver. It is obvious he has a football background. One concern is he has probably already done plenty of weight training throughout his career  and still lacks a impressive frame. There may not be much room for him to grow physically.

Offensively, Franklin has an old man's game and uses ball fakes and hesitations to his advantage. He plays with the referees in mind, always trying to draw a foul. He can also take his man into the post, where he is solid as long as he remembers to keep his pivot foot in place. He's a streaky shooter with improving form, but is having a bad year from behind the arc. He forces up a lot of bad outside shots. Franklin also is able to get all the way to the rim with explosive dunks thanks to his quick first step and shiftiness. His ability to get to the basket comes at a cost though - Franklin will turn it over a lot as well. The turnovers comes from his high, long dribbles and his lack of control going to the rim. He seems to get called for at least one charge a game.

Franklin was a problem child growing up and has learned to channel that energy on the basketball court. He still shows maturity issues at times - he picked up a DUI and flipped off fans last year. After a freshman season stuck behind Kawhi Leonard, he actually considered leaving SDSU for the draft. Instead, he learned for Leonard's work ethic and has transformed himself into a tireless worker.

Solomon Hill - Hill took away MVP honors for the event, showing an impressive all around game. He really stepped up in Arizona's lone close game against San Diego State and scored 21 big points. Him and Franklin battled much of the game.

Solomon Hill's improvement has been impressive over his stay at Arizona. His ball handling is now an apparent strength and at times he looks like a point forward on the court. With Arizona's freshman bigs coming in, he's become a pure perimeter player. He can weave his way through defenders, but he is slow at changing directions and is best when he just puts his head down and gets to the rim. His versatility in the post and on the perimeter make him a matchup nightmare in college. His jumper is also solid but he doesn't rely on it.

For Arizona's freshman, none of them look ready for the NBA Draft. But I'd say they came to the right place in order to prep for it. Arizona's staff has helped guys like Hill, Derrick Williams, and Kevin Parrom make big jumps. These guys just haven't gotten better at what they do - they all added skills they didn't have before. Ashley, Jarrett, and Tarczewski all have NBA potential and should be able to maximize their draft stock as a Wildcat.

For Miami, they were disappointing simply because Reggie Johnson was unable to play and Durand Scott suffered an ankle injury early on against Arizona. It slowed him down noticeably in the final two games and caused him to shoot a poor percentage. Scott and Miami were in line for a potential statement week in Hawaii, but instead came away with more doubters and more excuses.

Legit excuses, but excuses nonetheless. Their short bench has proven to be a major factor already with their injuries. First against Florida Gulf Coast without Scott and now in Hawaii. They have looked great when everyone has been healthy, but when one guy goes down, they are prone to losing to anyone. There is no doubt in my mind this is a NCAA tournament team that could make a Sweet 16 run, but they need to get there first. The pressure is on them as ACC play starts.

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