The Hardwood Blues 2014-15 NCAA Preview Pt. 3: The Deep Cuts

In the first two chapters of our college basketball season preview, I touched on three underrated players at one of the NCAA’s most prominent and visible programs and a mid-major sleeper who is putting up numbers on par with the best college point guards of the last twenty years. For this the third and final installment, I will look at a few more under-the-radar players who are not quite as interesting, but are still worth looking out for this season.


Guards

Deonte Burton-SG-Marquette
Height: 6’4”
Class: Sophomore

As a freshman, Marquette’s Deonte Burton played just 12.6 minutes per game behind upperclassmen Jamil Wilson and Todd Mayo. In fact, he wasn’t even the most notable player in the nation named Deonte Burton. Of all the players on this list, Burton has the best chance to make a meteoric rise from a relative unknown to a lottery pick, thanks to playing in the Big East and having freak show athleticism.

Despite limited playing time, Burton’s Per 40 minute numbers create much optimism as to what he might be able to do this year in a more prominent role.

Player………………………. eFG% FT% 3PA/40 REB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40 PTS/40
Deonte Burton (Fr.) .489 .647 0.8 6.9 1.7 3.5 1.4 22.1
Victor Oladipo (Fr.) .571 .612 1.8 8.3 1.9 2.4 0.5 16.4
Dwyane Wade (Fr.) .507 .690 2.2 9.0 4.7 3.4 1.5 24.4

From a physical standpoint, Burton is of the same breed as Victor Oladipo and former Golden Eagle Dwyane Wade, and there are some statistical similarities as well. In particular, the fact that his steal and block rates mirror those from Wade’s freshman season is extremely encouraging. Where Burton falls behind is as a distributor and long-range shooter; two skills that are borderline essential for an NBA shooting guard. If Deonte can add those elements to his game this season, watch out.

Denzel Livington-SG-Incarnate Word
Height: 6’4”
Class: Senior

In their first season of Division I ball, the University of Incarnate Word’s non-conference schedule consisted mostly of junior colleges and pickup games at the Hill County YMCA, so take Denzel Livingston’s statistics with a large grain of salt. That said, Livingston’s numbers are simply too good across the board to be ignored entirely.

Player………………………. 2P% 3P% FT% REB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40 PTS/40
Denzel Livingston (Jr.) .566 .394 .772 7.8 4.6 3.1 1.7 24.7
George Hill (RS-Jr.) .580 .450 .812 7.3 4.6 1.9 0.4 23.3
Lester Hudson (Jr.) .544 .388 .834 8.5 4.9 3.1 0.7 27.8
Ricky Minard (Jr.) .592 .367 .837 8.0 5.2 2.8 0.8 28.7
Delonte West (Jr.) .557 .412 .892 6.4 5.6 2.1 0.2 22.5

A promising note about Livingston’s comparisons is that only Minard failed to make it to the NBA. Due to his underwhelming pedigree, I’d assign Denzel about 95% odds of being a Hudson or Minard-like journeyman going forward, with a 5% super upside as a rotational combo guard a la Hill or West.


Forwards

Justin Sears-PF-Yale
Height: 6’8”
Class: Junior

Last season I wagered on Yale playing at home versus Harvard and even caught some of the game on some one-off cable sports network. Yale was mostly outclassed and I lost the bet, but I came away thoroughly impressed with sophomore forward Justin Sears, who finished with a game-high 28 points (11-16 FG, 6-7 FT) and 13 rebounds. This prompted me to take a look at his statistical profile and, as it turns out, the dude is pretty damn good.

Player………………………. 2P% FT% REB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40 PTS/40
Justin Sears (So.) .523 .697 9.0 1.9 1.6 2.5 22.1
Andrew Nicholson (So.) .564 .760 9.4 0.7 0.3 2.4 21.7
Brandon Bass (So.) .577 .777 10.8 1.0 1.0 1.9 20.7
Patrick Patterson (So.) .605 .768 11.1 2.3 0.7 2.5 21.4

Sears’ comparisons lay out a clear road map for success; become a stretch four. Sears is an NBA athlete, as supported by his great steal and block rates, but he is too small and too poor of a rebounder to be anything but an unconventional hybrid forward at the next level. He lags a bit behind the group in FT%, but he did make 4 of 12 threes last season and his 1.9 assists per 40 minutes suggests that he has at least some degree of offensive skill and versatility.

John Brown-PF-High Point
Height: 6’8”
Class: Redshirt-Junior

Based on what I can glean from his CBB-Reference page, John Brown is a player in the same vein as Justin Sears. They are both listed at 6’8” 205 and contribute in similar ways on the basketball court. Likely due to the combination of weak competition and his relatively advanced age (he’ll be 22 at the start of his redshirt Junior year), Brown is a Denzel Livingston-like statistical outlier.

Player………………………. 2P% FT% 3PA/40 REB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40 PTS/40
John Brown (RS-So.) .552 .745 0.2 9.7 2.4 1.9 2.1 24.5
Shawn Marion (Jr.) .573 .730 2.8 11.3 1.5 3.1 2.3 22.8
Danny Granger (Jr.) .546 .760 4.1 11.2 2.6 1.7 1.8 24.4
Kyle Hines (Jr.) .560 .600 0.3 11.2 1.1 1.7 2.8 26.1
Josh Howard (Sr.) .528 .833 5.7 10.3 2.4 2.6 1.9 24.2

As you can see, Brown’s all-around dominance puts him in the company of some of the biggest freaks to come out of the NCAA in the last 15 years (freshman Kevin Durant was among his other statistical comps).

The deal breaker is his lack of 3pt range, which clearly separates the eventual NBA All-Stars from the mid-major stat-stuffers like Kyle Hines.


Centers

Keaton Jackson-C-SIU-Edwardsville
Height: 6’10”
Class: Senior

Mamadou Ndiaye-C-UC-Irvine
Height: 7’6”
Class: Sophomore

Since 1997-98, only six underclassmen have shot better than 70% and blocked over two shots per game. Two instances took place last season in the margins of college hoops:

Player………………………. 2P% FT% REB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40 PF/40 PTS/40
Keaton Jackson (Jr.) .741 .681 10.9 0.9 0.6 4.6 7.2 20.4
Mamdou Ndiaye (Fr.) .707 .426 11.8 0.4 0.3 5.9 5.4 15.2
Dallas Lauderdale (Jr.) .773 .407 8.3 0.4 1.2 3.4 3.5 10.4
Randall Hanke (Jr.) .722 .667 10.1 0.7 0.6 5.7 6.3 17.9
Kenny George (So.) .772 .235 13.3 2.0 0.0 7.8 4.0 20.9
Nate Maxey (So.) .702 .471 7.6 0.2 0.7 5.3 6.7 11.8

Jackson and Ndiaye took completely different routes to this rare stat line; Keaton is a paint-finisher par excellence with a nice shooting touch, and Ndiaye is seven foot six. Jackson’s role as an active, long-limbed finisher and shot blocker off the bench reminds me of a mid-major Brandon Wright, who is currently sporting a KJ-like .735 2P% for the Mavs.


Keaton Jackson making a weird scoop shot in a game vs. UC-Davis. Classic Keaton!

It’s fitting that Kenny George is on the short-list, since the exceedingly tall and unathletic Ndiaye is a prospect in the same vein. Nonetheless, any 7’5” player putting up 15, 10, and 6 blocks per 40 minutes on 70% shooting should be on the radar.

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