Thursday, May 5, 2016

UA Next Combine Series - Fires Crucial Shot in Sneaker War (Part IV: Big Forwards) - EAST

John Vrdoljak (6’11/PF-C/Canada) has length and athletic ability that is off the charts and he excels and plays above the rim in transition but what will surprise people is his skill level and athletic ability. John displayed that consistent ability to knock down mid-range shots and trailer three’s off the catch or dribble. In the post he can score on jump hooks with either. He crashes the offensive boards and eats defensive rebounds always using both paws at hoop level already. He can actually lead a fast break and he is a willing passer at all times. Vrdoljak was very unselfish and gave up the ball several times to teammates when he could have scored or attempted to get a bucket. He simply dominated the game without scoring and is one of the most skilled players at his size in the class; he has potential to be a stretch or even possibly a big wing in the future if he improves his ball handling. He will need to add strength to be an immediate impact at the highest level but as far as talent and skill go he is ready to play right now.

Jeffery Woodward (6’9/PF-C/PA)  is a strong and physical wide body who is surprisingly explosive around the rim. He went over or around defenders when he received drop off passes created by guard penetration. He has good hands and runs the floor very well for a player his size. He beat most of the bigs and some of the forwards down the floor for early post up opportunities When he anchors down in the low post he is a huge target that likes to shoot the right handed jump hook over his left shoulder. Woodward has a soft touch and elevates over the defense with ease. He has a nice stroke at the free throw line where he executes a high release and good follow through. A powerful rebounder on both ends as he snatches the ball with two hands and rim level or above on defense he is also a high level shot blocker finishing 2nd in the combine overall in total blocks and blocks per game. With continued additions to his post move package and work to lean up and strength his 235lbs frame he will continue his dominate ways when he gets on the high school level and beyond. It is fun to watch him attack the game with an attitude.

Justin Lewis (6’8/PF/MD) has continued to improve and was extremely productive on both ends of the floor during the UA Next Combine Series.  Lewis is long enough to scratch his knees without bending over and watching him he simply floats down the court in transition and he is finishing easily at the rim and putting people on the basketball – he will be producing posters real soon. Lewis exceptionally skilled and very athletic we witnessed his quick spin moves in the low post and ability to elevates over defenders. He can step out on the perimeter and knock down the mid-range jumper off the catch  and with time and space even hit the three ball going 2 for 2 and shooting 1.000% on the weekend to lead the combine in percentage. On defense Lewis changes shots he doesn’t block, at his 1.3 bpg was good enough to be top 4 in the combine. He can start the fast break with his excellent timing on or away from the ball. Also Lewis showed he could be a multiple position defender because of his length and great lateral foot speed. Lewis has great core strength and super strong base making him one of the most athletic, complete, and skilled bigs in the 2020 class. 

Elijah Taylor (6’9/PF/PA) is a high energy, finisher, rebounder and shot blocker. His defense and rebounding separate him and he is so strong in these areas that he single handedly can impact games with these high level skills. Well trained he extends his elbow on every rebound, throws excellent outlet passes, requires no play be ran for him and relentlessly attacks the offensive board for put back and second chances for his team.  He has a motor and skill set that translate at every single level and with a few more inches and continued work on his status-quo skills he is a high major recruit period.  He will need to continue to work to add some offense to his game but he competes at a high level and can dominate the game defensively. He is a sure shot high major power forward with off the charts upside – if the offense catches up with the other aspects of his game “oh boy”! 

Cameron Byers (6’6/PF/MD) is an absolute horse inside the paint. He's incredibly strong with a tremendous work-ethic, and unmatched toughness and aggressiveness. He's rebounded well during the combine and this is an area where he can continue make a name for himself. The vast majority of his point production (3rd in combine/ 11.7ppg) comes by the rim albeit in a number of different ways: he runs diligently in transition; knows how to seal and score on the block; goes by or overpowers defenders on his way to the bucket; and finishes everything through contact. We see developing perimeter skills and while his shooting range now extends to about 18 feet and his handle is solid, pulling him away from the basket takes away from what he does best. Despite being somewhat undersized, he'll have no problems playing the 4 at the next level thanks to his athleticism, and physical prowess, getting used to spacing against length takes his game to the next level but there were lots of indicators that Byer is ready, willing, and able to make said transition. Defensively, he's a good on-the-ball post defender thanks to his low center of gravity and also effective from the weak-side because he's so active and quick to rotate.  Shot-blocking is an area we think Byers can also impact but as a 2020 top player it likely not an if simply a when as it pertains to his mastery of this aspect of his game. 

Jahkiesh Demby (6’6/PF/DE)  has a very diverse, mature offensive skill-set, which makes him tough for opposing big guys to guard, especially when they will not leave the paint to guard him. He has the ability to connect on jumpers with range that extends out to the 3-point line. We saw Dembry give defenders a head fake, take one or two dribbles, then pull up for short mid-range jump shot. He could make a living as a pick-and-pop big man or as a trailer on the break for jumpers or with some serious work possibly get some quality minutes at the three spot with hard work and dedication. 

Andrew King (6’8/PF/PA)  had a great weekend and dominated in multiple statistical catagories and looked excellent each time he stepped on the floor – the upside is clear and apparent with King.  Andrew  has a skill set which allows him to operate effectively from almost anywhere on the floor. He has the ability to connect on jumpers with range that extends out to the 3-point line. King can also dominate and score the ball from the paint, he is already at this level able to establish and hold position on the low block versus anyone. He has good footwork on the low block when he gets the ball and looks comfortable executing those moves and counters. When he gets the ball on the low block, he has a propensity to fade on jumpers, even when he has a considerable height advantage over his defender. Increasing his base strength will help to resolve this issue. However, when he gets a chance to show it, his turnaround jumper is lethal. A very team oriented player if may do King some good to be a little more selfish due to his immense efficiency (14-24/.583 FG%) and become more aggressive in his approach on the court, especially given his plethora of offensive tools. 

Abilash Surendran (6’7/PF/Canada) may have been the breakout surprise of the combine (11ppg/15-18/83FG%) has very good skills at this point, but he also has a ton of untapped potential. Although he does not have a muscular, chiseled frame, he has rather wide shoulders and developed legs, which signals that he has the potential to develop into a monster. At this point, Surendran relies on finesse and skill for effectiveness. He has very solid footwork and post moves, which makes him a good back-to-the-basket post player, though he prefers to play in the mid-post or away from the basket on the perimeter, where he can get off his jumper that he shoots out to 3-point territory. On the block, Surendran has a deadly turn-around jumper. A right-hand dominant player, he has the ability to use counter moves in the post and finish with his left hand around the rim. He runs the floor very well and can also pass out of double-teams when he encounters them in the post. With added strength, Abilash will have the tools needed to hold his position in the post, which will make him a better rebounder, post defender and even better scorer in the paint than we saw and at the rate he is producing doing so would move him into rare air in the 2020 class.

Kekoa McArdle (6’9/PF/MA) has a nice looking frame with long arms and broad shoulders. The game seems to come very easily to him and he has a variety of skills. He has a soft shooting touch out to 17feet, is an excellent passer, and he can finish with either hand in transition. Loved his ability to find opening and to take advantage of gaps and angles very smart at making reads and is a player that when strength and athleticism become more prominent the fact that he has the other intangible and tools you can see him really advancing far in the game.    

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