January 29, 2013 by awbutler
I debuted this morning on SB Nation’s Wildcats site, AZ Desert Swarm. It’s a good, comprehensive site covering all facets of Arizona athletics. Get into it.
So what I dove into over there this morning was the Arizona freshmen bigs and this absurd but relatively muted notion that they’ve disappointed (I really should curb my message board reading). They have not been a disappointment and I spell that out with comparisons to Arizona bigs of the past – all of whom were drafted except Ivan Radenovic – and the collection of Top-50 bigs of the past three classes and their freshman year output. Kaleb, Grant, and Brandon are about par for the course.
Those kiddos will be improving and one has to appreciate the sound of that considering they stand at 17-2 with room to indeed play better.
But what about other baby bigs across the conference? Arizona didn’t have a complete monopoly on sized incomers, how are those guys fairing? We have seen a smattering of matured big men coming into their own this season (Tony Woods, Jordan Bachynski, Eric Moreland, Dwight Powell), further supports the notion that everyone grows up. A quick peak at the pups:
|Tony Parker, UCLA||2.7||1.4|
|Ben Carter, Oregon||3.1||2.8|
|Grant Verhoeven, Stanford||0.9||0.9|
|Jeremy Olsen, Utah||2.3||2.6|
|Josh Scott, Colorado||12.6||5.6|
Toldya! Freshmen bigs have a steeper learning curve (apologies if I’ve missed any others). While few of these guys came in as ballyhooed as the Zonies, they too will need time to develop. Yeah, it takes the brain a minute to fire off synapses seven feet apart and suddenly when you enter the college game you’re not playing against City High’s 6’5″ pimple faced junior who just texted his mom that he got a B+ on his chemistry exam (so getting grounded). Now these guys are banging against like-sized humans and that’s a different ball game. There is so little post development at the sub-collegiate level because there just isn’t the competition to support it. I mean, Anthony Davis developed his skills as a guard and then puberty reared it’s ugly head and said, “Young man, let’s do this.”
But let’s talk about Mr. Scott.
By many accounts, he was one of the most skilled big men in the 2012 class. Scouts raved of his scoring ability and ambidexterity. In learning about the 6’10″ Coloradoan, we find that his profile has few parallels to other bigs in his class. Their profiles read something like a model’s, talking about bodies and frames or how athletic they are. Something straight out of that scene in Moneyball where Billy Beane abruptly dismisses the celebration of “high butts…like we’re looking for Fabio.” Well no one is soon to call Mr. Scott “Fabio” but he is an example of a skilled tall person in the right system who is taking advantage of the opportunity.
He’s not about to wow you with athleticism but he will get by you with deft skill and put the ball into the basket be it by post move or free throw. He’s crafty and it’s been an impressive twenty games thus far. He’s an exception to the rule.
Conference and nation-wide, freshmen bigs will improve and that’s exciting news. It’s anecdotally supported that the older these guys get, the better they are. Tony Woods doubles his scoring output? Oregon is 18-2. Jordan Bachynski jumps from 6/4 with just one block per contest to 11/7 and 5 blocks? ASU is a bubble team. And sure there are other factors playing into Oregon and ASU’s success but these bigs have been integral to that success. Look, I know it’s not rocket science but teams are better suited with a formidable front court than back court. There’s a reason you have a 17% chance of making the league if you’re seven-feet tall.
But in the meantime, some teams will continue to endure the learning curve. A message that may resemble Sean Miller’s comments for his freshman, Aneglo Chol, last year: