Saturday, December 1, 2012

Scouting Notes: Texas Tech vs Arizona

Arizona headed into this game undefeated and ranked 9th in the country and for most hoops fans, this was their first exposure to them all year.

Texas Tech was also undefeated, but had spend their first 4 games beating up on cupcakes en route to averaging 89 points per game. Plenty of their players enjoyed eye-dropping per40 numbers that were finally put to the test versus the Wildcats.

Arizona ended up blowing out the Red Raiders 85-57 who was led by Nick Johnson's 18 point performance. Arizona has a good pool of draft prospects, but most are viewed as a year or two away. Because of that, Arizona has a bright future that has fans focused on what they could end up doing next year.

The present is now though and with UCLA faltering, Arizona may already be the best team in the west.

Scouting Notes:

Grant Jarrett - Jarrett has plenty of talented and showed potential as a pick and pop player tonight. Defensively, he looked slow laterally - looking much like a big forward than small. Jarrett has a lot of potential moving forward and came to the right place to hone his skills.

Brandon Ashley - Ashley was impressive today, showing a lot of heart and smarts. He can operate in the post and really knows how to use his frame to carve out space down low. He moves well without the ball  and was able to finish on cuts to the rim. This should be a good game to get Ashley going as he struggled with confidence in his first couple of games. He is another guy with good potential down the road.

Kaleb Tarcewzski - Tarcewzski is playing a big role for Arizona's top ten program and as a freshman 7 footer, he surprisingly isn't getting enough attention. Perhaps its east coast bias, but either way Tarcewzski may be the best freshman center in the country so far. His game is much more polished than the likes of Noel and Adams. He knows his role and does it very well. Tarcewzski is a beast on the boards and is tough to move in the paint. He has strong hands and does a good job keeping the ball above his waist - preventing him from getting stripped. Once Tarcewzski gets his hands on a board - its his. The big man also started the break with a nice outlet pass against Texas Tech, something that could be a strength for him. Offensively, Tarcewzski finishes with authority and is very efficient. He gets his team extra possessions and holds his position down low. Arizona doesn't look for him much on offense, but most of the time he is in position for an easy bucket.

Solomon Hill - Hill is the latest player that Sean Miller has seen grow tremendously under his watch. Hill has improved each year and done just about everything scouts have asked of him. He comes into this year in excellent shape, slimmed down 25 pounds since his first time he stepped on campus as a freshman. His improved conditioning level has him looking much more like a small forward prospect, enabling him to move laterally better and show much better activity throughout an entire game.

He has quietly become a very reliable 3-pt shooter, making 48 of 119 threes taken from the beginning of last season. It is obvious Solomon Hill is a gym rat who has put countless hours of work in - perhaps partially motivated by what former teammate Derrick Williams achieved.

In terms of ball handling ability, Hill also now looks very comfortable handling the ball. He has always been a solid straight line driver thanks to a good first step and strong frame, but he now has added some change of direction ability. In the lane, Hill still has his eyes on the rim and does a nice job finishing. He doesn't show much pull-up ability or change of direction in traffic. Then again, with his superior physical tools, he doesn't have to at this level.

Hill also still can take it down in the post and finish through contact as he certainly hasn't lost any strength after slimming down. Hill has done everything in his power to help his stock, but the biggest factor now working against him is his age - he will be 22 in March.

Nick Johnson - At 6'3'' with a modest wingspan, Johnson has the body of a combo guard and the game to match it. He has tremendous athleticism that really renders his average length obsolete on defense, as he can play the passing lanes well. Out in transition is where he thrives, showing off great speed and explosiveness. Johnson understands the value of running the court and gets a lot of easy baskets by running out on offense.

With his size, he definitely needs to be able to initiate offense and play some point guard at the next level. At Findlay Prep, he created offense, but never had to be a pure PG as he played alongside guys like Kabongo and Avery Bradley. There definitely is potential for him here. He is a good decision maker and runs the pick and roll well. Right now, his 5/1 assist to turnover ratio is a great sign moving forward.

Another thing I like about Johnson is his shooting ability. He can stroke it from 3-pt range and also off the dribble inside the arc. Last year, he shot poor percentages, but he should be more comfortable his freshman year. Part of his ineffectiveness last year was due to forcing up shots and with a better supporting cast this season, that won't be a problem.

Dejan Kravic - Kravic transferred to Texas Tech from York University in Canada. In Canada, he was one of the better rebounders and shot-blockers in the country. He is a 6-11 center with a decent 240 pound frame. Kravic acts as a skilled, lefty center and does have a nice shooting touch - hitting 8-10 free throws so far this year. He doesn't use his size as well as he should, choosing to play a game closer to the high post/3-pt area. While not a serious threat from deep, Kravic does have the ability to take centers off the dribble from the perimeter with his left hand. Tonight, he made a nice move to his left and ended up finishing the play with a right handed hook.

He has some skills and plays with good effort, but his offensive game wouldn't be efficient in the NBA. Defensively his motor is good and he can help on pick and rolls, but his shot blocking prowess doesn't seem to be as intimidating in the States. He gets pushed around and needs to show more fight. He is kind of in the mold of a poor man's David Andersen - who largely was a bust in the NBA. Luckily for Kravic, he will have plenty of opportunities overseas and he holds dual citizenship in both Canada and Bosnia.

Jordan Tolbert - A double-double machine, Tolbert plays much bigger than his 6-7 listed height. If anyone learned how to be tough from Billy Gillespie, he's the guy. Unfortunately for Texas Tech, Tolbert committed a lot of dumb fouls in the game and didn't get enough minutes to make an impact. In the first two minutes of the game he scored 4 points (one on a dunk after a teammate drove the lane and drew the defenders and the other on a hook shot), but those ended up being his only buckets of the game. This wasn't a good game to get a look Tolbert, but there will be plenty of more chances to get a look at the sophomore.

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