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Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Add This One To The Pile. . . . .
of write-ups that are sure to surface this year (if they haven't already) comparing Duke's Shelden Williams to former UConn big man Emeka Okafor. Yes, both are high percentage shooters who block a lot of shots for major college programs. But the similarities run even deeper. . .

Comparison of Junior Seasons
Player Height Weight O Rtg %Poss TS% TO% FT/FG oReb% dReb% Reb% Blk/40
Okafor, 03-04 6'10" 250 115 24.6 59.7 17.1 0.500 13.1 22.1 17.9 5.0
Williams, 04-05 6'9" 250 117 22.4 61.8 19.9 0.604 13.1 22.1 17.9 4.4

O Rtg measures a player's points produced per 100 possessions.
TS% measures scoring efficiency based on points, FGA and FTA.
TO% = turnovers per possession.
Reb% = ratio of rebounds grabbed to rebounds available.
[Need more? Check the always handy Stats Primer.]

Williams's stat line is basically a carbon copy of Okafor's junior year. Williams turns it over a little more, but he gets to the free throw line often enough to arrive at about the same offensive rating. However, as Ken noted, Okafor drew far more attention in his junior season. He left after that year to be the #2 pick in the 2004 draft, while I don't think Williams would've been taken as seriously if he had come out this year. One mock draft site lists Williams as only a fringe lottery pick for next year.

I became interested in these two players because I was testing a little hypothesis. It seems that teams with a center who can block a lot of shots and grab defensive rebounds tend to have very solid defenses. This might sound like common sense to you, the reader, but I'm never satisfied without at least a few numbers for validity. A look at Ken Pomeroy's defensive leaders from 2005 gives the theory some support - most of the teams near the top meet the criteria of having a player who can block and rebound. Big guys like Williams, Jason Fraser (Villanova), Jared Homan (Iowa State), Josh Boone (UConn), and Jeff Hagen (Minnesota) made life difficult for opposing teams in the paint, and the resulting defensive efficiency numbers look very nice.

Both Williams and Okafor follow the trend - their blocking and rebounding skills are at the core of top-notch team defenses. The 2004 Huskies were the country's third-best defense, while Williams anchored last year's second-best. Okafor already led his team to a national championship. Can Williams maintain the pattern?
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
More Collins
Luke Winn at CNNSI wrote a good article today detailing the recruitment of high school point guard stud Sherron Collins. He writes that it's basically down to Illinois and Kansas -
Iowa was one of Collins' earliest suitors, but the real clash for the Crane
jewel is likely to pit Illinois against Kansas, with the stakes infinitely
higher in the Illini's camp.
Sadly, that's the reality. It seemed way back that the articles gave Iowa a decent shot with Collins (back when they might actually bring in some other recruits next year), especially since they were one of the earliest teams to start courting him. But now, what can Iowa really use as a seling point? Let's see, Collins can......

a) Go play for Kansas, one of the country's most historic programs with a rabid fan base and four top 25 recruits entering this fall

b) Stay in his home state and play for Illinois, with a coach who just made a national championship and launched NBA careers for two guards

c) Play at Iowa in an empty arena, likely with no other talented players for most of his career

I can find one option on the list that's pretty easy to cross off.

By the way, with coaches now able to directly contact recruits, Bill Self made the first move by visiting Collins at his home yesterday.

Barring the tiny chance that Iowa manages to land Collins, I'm actually pulling for him to end up with the Illini. There are some top level players set to join the Big Ten next year, and adding another stellar point guard to the mix should only further the conference's return to national prominence.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Recruiting - Sherron Collins Update
Steve Alford is still working hard to land a big name player for next year's recruiting class, and this effort led him to Illinois to watch the first half of a football game that Sherron Collins played in. Illinois's Bruce Weber and Kansas's Bill Self were also at the game. Collins has narrowed his college choices to these three schools.

Collins is the most talented among several recruits pursued by Alford for next year's class. Scout.com ranks him as the second best point guard and ninth best prospect overall, while Rivals.com puts him at fourth and 31st. Landing Collins is important for Alford and next year's team after his other top three guard recruits chose other schools.

Collins plans to attend Midnight Madness at Kansas on October 14.

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