[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Over the past few weeks I’ve been breaking down future/potential Kentucky player stats, telling you what they do well, what they don’t do well, and how they could potentially fit into our current offensive and defensive schemes. My original plan for this article was to the exact same thing for Torian Graham, the 6’4”, four-star guard from Durham, North Carolina. One would think that reliable stats for one of the nation’s elite high school prospects would be readily available for the public to dissect, but you would be wrong. Evidently there are only meaningful stats available for a select handful of players throughout the entire country (oddly enough I did happen to find tons of stats available for the Graham High School Lady Basketball Team, the 2011 Lady’s Basketball Eastern Regional Runner-up. Congrats girls you’ve earned it!!!). Even when using the magic of Google you’d be lucky to find a little piece of information like the quote below for most players.
As a Junior, Graham averaged 19 points per game last season at Word of God. He began his high school career at Durham Hillside. This season Graham is playing for Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Florida. (Nate Taylor, The News Observer.)
While stuff like that is acceptable for the casual fan looking to hear a short blurb on a potential recruit, that’s not exactly enough for a guy like me. To put it simply, I need to know everything about a recruit; points, rebounds, steals, shots taken, mothers maiden name, blocked shots, you get the picture. Since these types of stats only exist for a handful of recruits around the nation (and the Graham High School Lady basketball team) it made me think of how difficult it must be to evaluate high school players, in particular the ones who will end up at the UT-Chattanooga’s of the world.
Player evaluation is an inexact “science.” Some services that I read evaluate players based upon pro potential, some use raw athleticism, and some use the skill set that a player currently has, but there really is no way to fairly evaluate players. Who’s to say that the #4 rated recruit is better than the #7 recruit? It’s difficult to even evaluate by points, rebounds, etc., because the level of competition fluctuates so greatly from state to state (yes, when players like Anthony Davis are putting up 35, 20, and 10 in high school it’s pretty easy to evaluate a guy). This brings me to the underlying theme of the article; the appreciation and amazement of the assistant coaches at the lower levels of college basketball who have to evaluate players.
It’s well documented that schools like Butler, VCU, and George Mason don’t have the multi-million dollar budgets to recruit like the Kentucky’s and Duke’s of the world, yet they still make the Final Four. But this shouldn’t be the case because small schools have usually have to resort to leftover guys in the tri-state area who were overlooked by the big schools to fill in the empty spots on their roster. While the big name schools are enamored with the raw athleticism and talent that the John Wall’s of the world bring to the table, the little schools in podunk towns all across the nation have to scout so carefully to find players who fit their systems. If there are barely any meaningful numbers on a player the caliber of Torian Graham, then how do the guys who scout for the low level teams find the time and information to make informed decisions on who to offer scholarships in addition to coaching practices and games? I find the work that these coaches do incredible.
However through the magic of the internet and advanced statistics there is hope coming to the world college basketball scouting. Drew Cannon of BasketballProspectus.com has recently scouted the 2011 Nike Elite Youth Basketball League and calculated the Offensive Ratings of dozens of highly rated basketball players. Granted he only used a limited number of games played to evaluate the players so it wouldn’t be as reliable as an entire season’s worth of data, but this is exactly what the world of collegiate basketball scouting needed. I think that Cannon’s data is a starting point of something huge, but it’s going to take a huge amount of time and manpower to create these meaningful stats for all players. This is something potentially game changing. Just think if the coaches at the lower teir schools got a hold of meaningful data like this; we could be seeing the “Moneyball” revolution in College Basketball.
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