Draft Watch: Austin Daye and Curtis Jerrells Climbing Up the Board

Sean StancillSenior Writer IJanuary 22, 2009

In the last week, the wide world of College Basketball has seen previously undefeated powers Wake Forest, Clemson, and Pitt stagger against their respective opponents and seen players like Jodie Meeks and Danny Green feverishly rise amidst the hundreds of prospects on the draft board.

Here is the latest weekly recap on which players helped their stock and which players damaged their stock based on their recent performances.

St. Mary's vs. Gonzaga

Diamon Simpson

He's improved his rebounding in all four seasons (from 6.9 as a freshman to 11.6 as a senior) and ranks second in the WCC and seventh in the nation. Simpson has gone 17-of-25 from the field over his last three games and has attempted 21 free throws in his last two.


Patrick Mills

A underrated foul shooter, the Australian-born first-round talent has only missed multiple free throws in a single game three times in his first 50 games at St. Mary's and has shot over 80 percent from the charity stripe in 10 of the Gaels' wins this season.

He's broken out of his annual January slump as well. Last season he totaled a measly 94 points and made only three free throws in the month of January. Since 2009 and its aftermath, Mills has scored 125 points through his first five games and has converted 22 out of 27 free throw attempts.

Prior to Wednesday, he had scored more points than Player of the Year candidates Tyler Hansbrough (114) and James Harden (112), and his average of 25 points per game is on par with Stephen Curry's 27.8 in the month of January.

Mills blends strength and overall exceptional body control, complemented by his quick-strike ball handling and ability to change speeds, into one intriguing package. As a freshman he set a St. Mary's record for most points scored by a first-year player with 37 in an upset win over Oregon at home.

The sophomore is, however, out of control at times; he's had a turnover in 56 of his first 60 games at the collegiate level and seems to be more comfortable scoring the ball, as he has thrown four assists or fewer in 33 games in his career and in 12 out of his last 15.

Furthermore, Mills must be a distributor before he can become a shooter as he has done in his last two games, combining for 17 assists, seven TO, and five steals while shooting 9-of-14 from inside the arc and 4-of-6 from outside the arc.

When he hands out at least eight assists the Gaels have an average win margin of 32.5 and have outscored their opponents 379-219 since 2007-08.

Key Fact: The Gaels are 15-0 in the last two seasons when Mills dishes out five assists or more.


Austin Daye

He has four 20+ point games—doubling his old mark—on the season, including two straight, while the Zags have an average win margin of +33 points in their last two contests.

Gonzaga has beat Tennessee twice already this season thanks in large part to Daye. His length helped limit one of the country's most versatile specimens in Tyler Smith to under 20 points in both games on 13-of-31 shooting, and also was a handful thanks to his length on the opposite end, causing Smith to commit a total of eight fouls in both games.

He also bothered Arizona's Jordan Hill earlier in the season. After blocking Hill's shot early in the second half, Daye drew contact on Hill, forcing him to pick up his fourth foul. After the foul Hill proceeded to go 1-of-3 for the remainder of the game, while Daye swished both of his three-pointers and swatted away a shot.

He had 23 offensive rebounds all of last season and has collected 14 of them with 15 games under his belt this year.

Daye is very similar to former LSU F Anthony Randolph; both point forwards with spectacular ball handling and amazing length, allowing them to be inserted at the 3 and 4 or at center (in certain small-ball lineups) if need be. He needs to improve his shooting mechanics.


Jeremy Pargo

Brother of former NBA point guard Jannero Pargo, Jeremy Pargo is a talented floor leader with a great motor and questionable playmaking decisions.

He's nearing his turnover mark he set as a freshman with 54 miscues made in 33 games in 2005-06; he has 44 in 16 games this season. He has fidgeted the ball away in several crucial situations, and his indecisiveness at the end of games has caused unsolicited losses.

He once was an early first-round pick, but now he's likely to dip into the second round.

No. 9 Clemson at Georgia Tech

Trevor Booker

At 6'7" and weighing 240 lbs., Booker is severely undersized at center and diminutive by all means at power forward. He was bullied inside by Wake Forest's longer and lankier bigs Chas McFarland and James Johnson and missed six of his nine shots from the field for one of his worst offensive games to date this season.

However, he was a force on defense, compiling five blocks, including two in the opening minutes, sending away lay-ups by McFarland and freshman phenom Al-Farouq Aminu. In total, Booker blocked both McFarland and Aminu twice and savvy point guard Jeff Teague to round out his sum.

His toughest task to date was guarding Tyler Hansbrough, as well as the rest of the assortment of UNC bigs. The trio of Hansbrough, Thompson, and Davis proved to be crafty on offense and too skilled on defense for Booker, as he failed to register a block and scored a season-low seven points and grabbed only four rebounds, while Hansbrough scored 20 points and snatched 10 rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting from the field.

Booker is a player effective at the college level, but he will be too undermanned talent-wise to compete with the taller and quicker players in the NBA.

Gani Lawal

He's had 10 double-doubles on the year. He uses his broad shoulders as a shield to prevent opponents from grabbing rebounds and is an ace at boxing out. He's the best player on the Yellow Jackets, which is a severe compliment considering they also house Alade Aminu (Al-Farouq Aminu's older brother) and freshman wizard Iman Shumpert.

Like the Aminu Bros., Lawal has an immaculate wingspan measured at around seven feet, which helps him snag rebounds and block shots as he provides superb weakside help. He also is a good transition player and is equally effective with his back to the basket by backing down opponents or spinning around them to get to the hoop.

His jumpshot is a work in progress and needs work to balance out his offensive collage. If Lawal is able to continue his strong play on defense and fine tune his shooting mechanics, he will rise even further, and he's already a lottery pick.

No. 2 Duke at No. 1 Wake Forest
Nolan Smith

The question seems to be, is he a point guard or isn't he? It's safe to say he hasn't exactly lived up to expectations he generated playing with Michael Beasley at Oak Hill Academy. Smith was a 2007 McDonald's All-American and a highly touted prospect coming out of high school.

He's in his second season at Duke and still has yet to dish out more than five assists in a single game. In fact, Smith has only generated two assists in the last four weeks with two straight shutouts against Georgetown and NC State despite averaging 28.5 minutes per contest, and a total of five assists against Duke's five ACC opponents. To make matters worse, over his last three games he's shooting 38 percent on 8-of-21 shooting.

However, there have been a few bright spots in Smith's sophomore year. He's surpassed his steal total (18) for last season this season with 21 steals and has grabbed a career-high 13 offensive rebounds in 18 games this season, and he's an eyelash under 91 percent from the free-throw line.

While he won't be a star like his high school counterpart, he seems to be most effective as a game manager like an Anthony Carter.

Put mildly, another year of experience and exposure to top-notch competition is highly recommended.

Key Fact: Smith hasn't thrown an assist in 33 of out his 52 games while with the Blue Devils.

Kyle Singler
He had 15 points and 16 boards against Greg Monroe and the Hoyas, and that was followed by a 19-point, 14-rebound effort against Gani Lawal and the Yellow Jackets. He's had to defend centers and power forwards while crashing the boards and setting picks for teammates.
When Singler isn't playing the role of a big man in the paint, he's out on the wing burying jumpers and using his quickness and basketball I.Q. on opponents. He's attempted 10 shots or more 14 times this season and understands he's most effective when he's on the floor.
Singler has played 27 straight games without fouling out, and the Blue Devils are 23-4 in those games.
Going against the likes of James Johnson, Chas McFarland, and Al-Farouq Aminu around the rim will be a tough task, but if he can continue to produce big games, he has a chance of securing a slot in the first round.

Jeff Teague

Though Teague scored above his average with 23 points, he made costly gambles against Virginia Tech, leading to costly buckets that contributed to Wake's demise. In the final 5:32 of the game, Teague missed two lay-ups while picking up two fouls and played lackluster defense on Malcolm Delaney, who in turn attempted eight free throws and scored five of the Hokies' final 11 points.

Teague also only dished out two assists while turning the ball over five times and was visibly frustrated after each basket scored by Virginia Tech and failed to maintain his composure. He made a valiant effort on offense, managing to nail two late threes to get the Demon Deacons within scoring range.
Teague has been the most effective point guard in the country lately, scoring 140 points over his last five games, topping Curry's mark of 110. He's athletic, a great scorer, and has the explosiveness to make a major impact in the pros.
Teague should be a Top 10 pick if he can continue his dazzling play throughout the course of the season.


Al-Farouq Aminu

Hailing from Norcross, Ga. (the same town that produced Gani Lawal), Al-Farouq Aminu has been stellar in his first season at Wake Forest.

The Norcross paladin has gorgeous ball-handling for a player his size and refers to the post as his weapon of choice. Instinctively exerting power and delivering packages of malcontent into defenders' sternums, Aminu uses the distance to convert around the rim.

A fixture in the paint, Aminu is a brute on the boards, utilizing his outstanding upper body strength to snatch rebounds off the glass. He also excels on defense thanks to his extensive frame (7'4" wingspan), which he uses to disorient and effectively cloak the opposition.

Aminu was versatile, piling up 10 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in their loss against Virginia Tech. He was a factor on the offensive glass, converting on put-backs and on follow-ups. Should his toughness be questioned, he scored the majority of his points after he returned from the locker room after being bandaged up from a cut he suffered.

However, he seemed zealous and too aggressive in the deciding minutes of Wake Forest's loss, racking up offensive fouls, but those are simple freshman mistakes that will be corrected with experience and age.

Because of his outstanding length, savagery on the boards, and unmatched hustle, he will be a Top 10 pick in June.

California at No. 11 UCLA
Jerome Randle

Randle is a hasty guard with deceptive ball-handling and striking similarities to former Golden Bear Ayinde Ubaka. The 5'10" point guard has been the Pac-10's poster child of just how important it is to return to school when your game is still undeveloped.

Randle's field goal percentage, as well as his three-point percentage, has escalated more than eight percent—11.8 points, 42.8% FG, 39.7% 3PT to 18.7 points, 51.5%, 47.6% as a junior. He was also instrumental in the Bears' impressive upset win over the James Harden-led ASU Sun Devils, tallying 26 points and 10 assists while shooting 80 percent from the field, 100 percent from the free-throw line, and over 55 percent from behind the arc.

The junior was also the ringleader in a blowout win over UNLV, registering 18 points, eight assists, six rebounds, and a steal. Even those are his arguably best performances of the year, only rivaled by his feat against FSU.

Randle scored 26 points on only four shots while going 16-of-18 from the free-throw line in 35 minutes of play.

However, after the strong start to the season his numbers have began to slide, shooting 2-of-16 from long range with 14 turnovers in his last three games, with six of them coming in a gut-wrenching loss to crosstown rival Stanford.

He's due for a big game, statistically speaking that is. In weeks when he's scored fewer than 15 points the previous game, Randle has responded with a barrage of 20-point performances, five of them to be exact.

The most recent case: Randle scored eight points against WSU on Jan. 8 and then 23 against Washington in Cal's next game.

A big performance against exceptional defender Darren Collison would ensure his status as a premier talent.

But all numbers aside, the fleet-footed playmaker is the Golden Bears' best player and leader, and if he can keep up his sensational play, he will most likely be their only representative selected in the first round come June.

Key Fact: The Bears are 12-0 this season when Randle scores 16 or more points.


Darren Collison

His torrid shooting has cooled off after making a staggering 70 percent of three-pointers attempted in the opening weeks of the season, but his leadership and uncanny court vision has stayed at a constant temperature. However, Collison is shooting a remarkable 95 percent from the line, ranking second in the nation and by far the highest mark in the Pac-10.

He is also boasting the highest assist-to-turnover ratio to date as a Bruin at 2.39 and is also making over 54 percent of his shots from downtown. He's averaging 16.4 points and has gotten to the line 30 times against Pac-10 opponents.

While his decision to return to school has damaged his chances of being drafted in the Top 10, his presence has helped fortify the Bruins and eventual successors Jrue Holiday and Malcolm Lee, which could ultimately strengthen his chances on draft day.

As of now he's a mid-first round talent and could land as high as No. 15 and fall as low as the second round.

No. 23 Baylor vs. No. 5 Oklahoma

Curtis Jerrells

Jerrells is a scrappy guard who tends to be overly aggressive when gets into the paint, causing an immediate result—either a blocked shot, a turnover, or a trip to the foul line. A conductive scorer, Jerrells is averaging 19.5 points and eight assists over his last four games, along with 29 free throw attempts.

He's an excellent passer and capable of mixing both intentions of scoring the ball and finding teammates as a playmaker. In each game he has dished out 8+ assists this season, he has also scored at least 17 points, highlighted by a 31-10 effort in his recent appearance against Texas A&M and a masterful performance against Hartford, notching a triple-double with 17-10-11.

But because of his blazing speed and his headiness as a playmaker, he has turned the ball over 53 times but has delivered 99 assists, second in the Big 12 and third in assists per game.

The nifty guard is averaging career highs in points, assists, and assist-to-turnover ratio, and his rebounding has been at its highest level in two years.

In the closing seconds of Saturday's game against Oklahoma St., Jerrells executed a breathtaking crossover and got to the free throw line. He made one of two to knot the game at 82 as the game went overtime.

In the extra period, on two straight possessions he found a streaking Tweety Carter on the left side of the court for two three-pointers, which helped Baylor pull away, and sunk one of his own on the Bears' next possession, which helped cement Baylor's win over the Cowboys.

He followed that up with another solid performance against Kansas State, finishing with 18 points and five assists as the Bears' defeated the Wildcats.

On a side note, the trio of Jerrells, LaceDarius Dunn, and Henry Dugat combined to score 56 points while shooting 17-of-30 from the field and 12-of-19 from downtown. It was their second straight week tallying a combined total of 56 points between the three facilitators.


Willie Warren

Warren has only scored 15 points and attempted only two free throws in his last two games and didn't set up any of his teammates against Nebraska. Though his talent is undeniable and he's arguably the most established freshman in this class, he's beginning to get overshadowed by senior guard Austin Johnson, who has 34 points and 12 assists in his last two games.
Making only five shots in his last 67 minutes of play simply won't get it done; more is expected of a player with the blazing speed and blinding quickness that Warren is equipped with.

He was a first-round talent, but with his recent streak of disappointing performances, he may be dipping into the second round.

No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 19 Notre Dame

Hasheem Thabeet

Thabeet is a superb defender, using his long limbs to send away and alter shots. He also has remarkable reflexes and doesn't bite on pump-fakes utilized against him in hopes of getting off a quality shot. Instead, Thabeet simply waits as if having an internal clock and springs into action when the ball is released.

He's finally understanding just because he's the tallest player on the court at any given time doesn't mean he's entitled to rebounds or to double-doubles; he's actually earning them by means of running the floor, setting pick-and-rolls, and leaping for assisted lobs, and by being positioned in the paint rather than on the perimeter, where his length is a blatant advantage. 

That said, he's a proficient shot blocker and an advanced rebounder but still a novice when it comes to creating his own shot.
He sent back two critical shots against Villanova in the final 90 seconds to preserve the Huskies' win. After he slid across the baseline and sent away Corey Fisher's layup, he altered Scottie Reynolds' layup and then logjammed Antoine Pena's dunk on the Wildcats' final possession.

He will be tested by Luke Harangody. He's fared excellent against smaller and more agile centers considering he hasn't faced a player taller than him in his three seasons at UConn.
Thabeet is a Top Five pick because of his defensive qualities alone and his improving offensive game.

Key Fact: Thabeet has had a blocked shot in 32 straight games dating back to last season, the longest streak in the Big East, and the Huskies have gone 28-4 in those games.


Luke Harangody

As a star player at Notre Dame, Luke's faced his share of defensive schemes and sets. While he's normally immune to them, Harangody seemed bothered by the smaller and quick guards of Syracuse that were defending him on the perimeter and intimidated by seven-footer Arinze Onuaku in the paint. Still he managed to drop 25 points and 16 rebounds on the Orange in a losing effort.

He has the most 20-10 games in the Big East and is an unselfish player that looks to get his teammates involved as the game progresses.

At 6'9" he's a hard-nosed rebounder with agile feet and is most effective when he can initiate a face-up game then work on developing consistency down low in the post.

But that will be no easy task for the Irish's featured player when he's being guarded by perhaps the most effective shot-blocker since Dikembe Mutombo's days at Georgetown, i.e. Hasheem Thabeet.

In their head-to-head matchup, Harangody will obviously have the edge in the mobility department against the 7'3" Thabeet. However, he shouldn't underestimate nor lounge when he has an open lane to the rim, because what Thabeet lacks in foot speed he equates with tremendous length.


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