Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Posts Tagged ‘Earl Clark’

Big East Preview: #2 Louisville

Posted by Zach on October 30, 2008

2. Louisville Cardinals– Coach: Rick Pitino (8th season)

PG- Andre McGee (SR): Along with K.C. Rivers of Clemson, McGee is one of the more underappreciated guards in the country. Hopefully observers of what should be a hyped Louisville team will notice all that this 5’10 senior provides as point guard and floor leader. McGee is the polar opposite of Edgar Sosa- he’s not nearly as explosive offensively, bur Pitino feels much more comfortable with McGee running his offense (and that’s a huge understatement). McGee broke out during his junior season by setting career highs in assists, steals, points and minutes played. Over the final nine games for Louisville with McGee entrenched at the point guard slot, he turned the ball over just nine times. He’s smart, unselfish, rarely makes crippling mistakes, and also plays better defense than Sosa. McGee is precisely the type of intelligent point guard championship teams need, and his emergence has made the Cardinals much deeper by bringing Sosa off the pine.  

SG- Jerry Smith (JR): Smith is the perfect player for Rick Pitino: he defends exceptionally well and can knock down the three-pointer. While his shooting percentage dropped from an uncanny 48% to a stellar 38% from his freshman and sophomore seasons, Smith became more of a complete player in the process. He notched 62 steals on the year and transformed offensively from a stationary three-point popper to someone who flies around the court and can drain jumpers on the move. While Smith could be a stronger passer, Pitino knows his role and will surely find plenty of minutes for an above average defender that can hit around 40% of his threes. Not many programs can rotate four guards as multi-dimensional as McGee, Sosa, Smith and Preston Knowles.

SF- Terrence Williams (SR): The Cardinals need Terrence Williams to recover from his knee injury in time for the Big East season (which he’s expected to easily do) in order to complete their squad. Williams is a super-athletic NBA prospect that scores efficiently, dominates on the glass, and passes with the vision of a point guard. It’s not an overstatement to say Williams can go off for a double-double, or even a triple-double, on any given night. Oh, and he also happens to be Louisville’s best defensive player. He’s beginning to cover up some holes in his game as his college career progresses. For one, he took way too many outside shots early in his career for someone with a below-average jumper. In his junior season, Williams took less threes and improved his FG% to 41%. Now, he’s focused on scoring closer to the paint and working for second chance opportunities. The real question: Can he improve his dismal 57% from the charity stripe as a senior? If he does, you have one of the best players in the country.

PF- Earl Clark (JR)
: Much like Williams, Clark projects to be a lottery selection in the upcoming NBA Draft. His athletic abilities are off the charts and his wingspan is an NBA scout’s dream. After a somewhat surprising return for his junior season in Louisville, Clark is looking to become one of the most feared forwards in the nation and lead the Cardinals to new heights. Clark showed his future stardom in the NCAA Tournament when he exploded with 14.5 PPG and 8.3 RPG in Louisville’s four games. Pitino hopes Clark can maintain that scoring ferocity the entire year while continuing to rebound and block shots, two of Clark’s clear strengths. He’ll need to adapt more playing inside as a four and continue to mature as a defender. 14 PPG and 9 RPG are reasonable expectations for the talented forward.

C- Samardo Samuels (FR)
: The emergence of Samuels as a Kevin Love-type producer for Louisville is the wild card. As talented and hyped as Samuels is (and he deserves the accolades, including being named USA Today’s National High School Player of the Year), he’s still going to be expected to bang down low with the best of the Big East like Hasheem Thabeet, Luke Harangody and DeJuan Blair. Can he handle the workload and expectations? I’d say yes. Samuels is an advanced scorer and rebounder for his age who will take pressure off Clark and Williams on the glass. He’s extremely powerful in the Eddy Curry mold and may be a one-and-done for Pitino. Luckily for him, this is the year Louisville fans expect a ticket to Detroit, and Samuels should be a huge part of that run. I have Samuels finishing a close second to DeMar DeRozan in terms of Newcomer of the Year.

Bench: Edgar Sosa and Preston Knowles will serve as depth in the backcourt for Louisville. Sosa expected to be the next great Louisville guard after dropping 31 on Texas A&M in the second round his freshman year. Instead, the guard who Pitino calls “immature mentally” will have to battle for playing time over those who are more mature mentally, namely McGee and Knowles. Sosa is a hard-nosed player who penetrates and defends well, providing explosiveness for Pitino off the bench. He could see more time at the 2-guard this season. Knowles is more of a complimentary piece who does the little things efficiently and will find minutes even with the talent on the roster. Freshman Terrence Jennings from Notre Dame Prep should help defensively right away with his shot-blocking and rebounding skills. He’ll need to develop offensively, but the Cardinals don’t really need more scoring in the frontcourt with Williams, Clark and Samuels. Mississippi State transfer Reginald Delk should also see minutes.

Backcourt: A-
Frontcourt: A+
Bench: B+
Coaching: A

Bottom Line:
There’s not much to dislike about this Louisville team. They’re perennially one of the top defensive teams in the nation and nobody expects that to change this season. They have the shooter in Jerry Smith, they have the intelligent point guard in McGee, the athletes and rebounders with Clark and Williams, the phenom in Samuels, and a bench that surely will provide enough insurance in case of injury. The only real question is if a team leader will emerge following the graduation of David Padgett. If Louisville stays mentally focused and scores enough points, which I expect will happen, they’ll be a Final Four team. I have them pegged for Detroit along with North Carolina, Connecticut and Michigan State.

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/18 vs. Ole Miss, 12/20 @ Minnesota, 12/27 vs. UAB, 12/31 vs. UNLV
Key Conference Games: 1/17 vs. Pittsburgh, 2/2 vs. Connecticut, 2/12 @ Notre Dame, 2/23 @ Georgetown
Most Valuable Player: Terrence Williams
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (Final 4)

Posted in Big East Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

NCAA Position Rankings: Top 10 SF

Posted by Tommy on July 24, 2008

Small Forwards, also referred to as “wings,” are often the most versatile players on the floor. They possess the perimeter abilities of a guard, but have more size and usually more ability to create offense on their own. Their combination of length and athleticism usually makes them tough defenders as well. So to be a great small forward, you need to be able to do a little bit of everything on the court. Oh, and being an athletic freak might help a little bit too. This year’s class of small forwards was tough to rank, partially because all of these players have different playing styles, but mostly because there isn’t a Michael Beasley or a Kevin Durant to be a clear-cut number one.

1. Robert Vaden: In one of the most stunning single half performances of the year (second only to Tyrese Rice’s 34 point half vs. UNC), Vaden put up 28 points in the second half for the Blazers in their non-conference victory against Kentucky. Vaden took the C-USA by storm last year by increasing his PPG to 21.1, up almost 8 points from his 13.5 PPG the year before. One thing that really stands out about Vaden is that he isn’t afraid to shoot the ball. He had 10 or more field goal attempts in every game he played in except for one last season, in which he shot eight. He shoots 40 percent from beyond the arc, which is good, but what I’d like to see him improve on his his overall field goal percentage. He shot 40.8% from the field last year, meaning he wasn’t much more effective inside the arc than he was from outside. If he improves his slashing ability, he could very likely be C-USA’s leading scorer next season, as well as a nationally known star.

2. Sam Young: Last year, Young took on a much bigger roll for Jamie Dixon and the Panthers and performed very well throughout the season. He won Big East’s Most Improved Player, and returns to lead Pitt in what looks to be a very promising season. Young averaged 18.1 PPG last season, 11 more PPG than the previous season, and his only single digit scoring game came against Georgetown when he scored nine points. Young is a very smart, hard working player that has great fundamentals. Also, he can post up or drive and shoot, making him very tough to guard. Since he doesn’t possess blazing speed, he uses his high basketball IQ, strength, and his plethora of tools to beat his opponents.

3. Chase Budinger: Budinger has tested the NBA waters after each season of his college basketball career, but has decided to come back to Arizona each time. To me, this is the right decision because Budinger has some things to work on in his offensive game. His combination of height and athleticism makes him a dangerous wing player, but he’s a streaky shooter and needs to work on his dribble penetration ability. He’ll get plenty of chances to showcase his ability next season as the Wildcats’ main offensive threat. If he becomes a more consistent shooter and a better penetrator, Budinger can be a late lottery to early second round pick next year.

4. Tyler Smith: After garnering First Team All-SEC and Honorable Mention All American, Smith returns to the Vols as a leader for the 08-09 season. Last season, Smith led the Vols in rebounding (6.7 RPG), assists (3.4 APG) and in field goal percentage (53.6% from the field) and was third on the team in scoring with 13.6 ppg. He will see a much bigger offensive role for Bruce Pearl with the departure of leading scorer Chris Lofton. Look for Smith to continue filling up the stat sheet, to keep his high field goal percentage and to keep up his great defense next season.

5. Al-Farouq Aminu: Dino Gaudio landed one of the most versatile freshman of the 2008 class in Aminu. At 6’8″, he has great size for a small forward and he possesses the ability to effectively face up on the perimeter. He has a good shot, can penetrate pretty well, and could potentially post up his smaller opposition at the small forward. If he develops his inside and mid-range games, he will be able to score in a number of ways for the Demon Deacons.

6. Nick Calathes: Calathes was forced into a leadership role for Billy Donovan’s baby Gators last season because there was next to no experience around him. He can do everything on the floor: he averaged 15.3 ppg, 6.1 assists/game and 5.2 rebounds/game last year as a freshman but he’s a bit inconsistent. He’ll have to improve on his scoring ability as well as his consistency if he and the Gators are to be successful. I think Calathes will step up to the challenge as the leader of the Gators.

7. Devin Ebanks: Ebanks joins a free-flowing Mountaineer offense in which he should flourish. He has a great ability to create offense on his own, meaning he has a pretty good perimeter shot, has good penetration skills and can score around the rim. His size at 6’8″ will help see the rim over his opponents and his length makes him deceptive when he drives the basketball. Huggins brought in a freshman with plenty of raw talent and scoring ability, and I think Ebanks will turn into a great scorer in the Big East.

8. K.C. Rivers: Rivers does a lot of different things for Oliver Purnell. He plays the wing, as well as some guard, and can score, rebound and is one of the best defenders in the ACC. He averaged 14.7 ppg last year, 6.8 rebounds/game, which is very impressive for a 6’6″ wing, and 1.9 steals/game. Rivers is a good 3-point shooter at 40.2% from the beyond the arc, and plays bigger than his size might indicate. Rivers will be the leader for the Tigers next season and will be the source of a lot of their offense, whether it be from beyond the arc or in the paint.

9. Austin Daye: As a huge recruit, everybody expected Daye to come into Spokane and perform right away for the Zags. The 6’10” freshman only averaged 18.5 minutes/game last year, in which he scored 10.5 PPG and grabbed 4.7 rebounds/game. This year, Daye may see almost double the minutes he did last season, meaning theoretically, he should double his statistics. He was a raw talent as a freshman, but after an off-season with Mark Few and company, I think Daye will vastly improve his game and see more time on the court during the season.

10. Earl Clark: Clark is a very athletic forward for Rick Pitino and has a very strong game in the paint. He averaged 11.1 PPG and 8.1 rebounds/game in 28.5 minutes/game. He is a great player off the dribble and uses his strength to finish round the rim. If Clark can add a mid-range and perimeter game, he is a lock for an NBA lottery pick because of his athleticism. He can defend well and can block shots (1.7 blk/game), but turns the ball over too much. Clark will see more time next season as an upperclassman and I think will attract a lot of NBA scouts with his scoring ability.

Also Considered: Wes Matthews, Josh Shipp, Terrence Williams, Danny Green, Delvon Roe, Robbie Hummel.

Posted in Player Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »