Upside... Motor... Wingspan...
These are just a few of the cliche descriptors we love to use when assessing the top NBA prospects on draft night. I'm sure many of you are like me and daydream about what it'd be like to switch jobs with an NBA scout. It's this type of irrational thinking that inspired me to create a mini-"NBA Draft IQ test", in which readers can assess how well they actually know NBA prospects. The concept is a simple matching game with the following rules: Match the player name/picture, with his correct statline, which are scrambled and generically labeled below ("Player 1", "Player 2" "Player 3", etc.). Easy enough, yea?
I have hand picked 5 of college basketball's top big man prospects, all of whom are currently projected to be selected in the 1st round of this year's draft. I've also included one more mystery player (tease alert) whose recent production is almost indistinguishable from the other 5, but whose NBA future at the moment appears to be a littleeeeee more ... "uncertain".
Specifically, The stats below capture each player's production from the month of February. I want to assess who is playing the best basketball down the stretch, as the NBA-draft evaluation process nears:
NBA Prospect IQ Test
Match each face/name with his corresponding stat box (that is, if you're worthy):
Players 1 through 5 should have been a cake walk for you college hoop diehards (Spoiler alert: answers below!):
- Player 1: Skal Labissiere, No. 14 on DraftExpress.com Big Board
- Player 2: Diamond Stone, No. 6 on DraftExpress.com Big Board
- Player 3: Damian Jones, No. 17 on DraftExpress.com Big Board
- Player 4: Jakob Poeltl, No. 6 on DraftExpress.com Big Board
- Player 5: Henry Ellenson, No. 8 on DraftExpress.com Big Board
- Player 6: Mystery Man, _____________________
Assuming DraftExpress.com has not been hacked by Chad Ford yet, it's pretty clear Players 1 through 5 will all be millionaires in less than 4 months time. However, for some reason I couldn't find Player 6's name ANYWHERE on the mock draft board. Assuming it must be some sort of mistake, I typed his name into the player search bar, and DraftExpress.com returned the following message:
So much like myself, the timeline for when player 6 will join the millionaire's club may be a tadddd bit longer than a few months away from now.
I actually spoke with the mystery "Player 6" earlier this week, and asked him about this whole NBA-draft fiasco. Surely a 6'10 250-pound, power-6 conference post player must be outraged with the zero love he's gotten from NBA scouts, especially given his recent production. Oddly enough, it seems he may be pursuing a slightlyyyyyy different career path than the other 5:
"Well, I just finished taking the GMAT, and plan on applying for grad school over the next few months to pursue my MBA. I'm also interviewing for a few internship opportunities here and there in sales & insurance to keep my options open..."
So who the hell is this guy?
Meet Ryan Rosburg:
Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson need no introduction, as they already got the pleasure of "meeting" him at the rim just over a year ago...
A senior and 3-year starter at Mizzou, Ryan has now appeared in 124 games in a Missouri uniform. Though his program picture above depicts him as the grizzled veteran he now is, a lot has changed since he first set foot on Mizzou's campus as a freshman. It's safe to say his collegiate hoop career began at a historically unique time in Missouri basketball history.
2012: "The Boss" is Born
Only months before arriving on campus in the fall of 2012, Mizzou had concluded one of the best/worst/confusing/disappointing seasons the program had ever seen. The 2011-2012 Tigers squad finished the regular season 30-4 overall and 14-4 in the Big 12, coming within a game of derailing the Kansas Jayhawks for their 7th consecutive Big 12 crown (this number stands today at 12 & counting ...). Since a large majority of you reading this are proud Missouri alumni (or self-labeled "True Sons"), I wanted to take a quick detour down memory lane and re-visit the the Kansas/Mizzou showdown at Phog Allen on February 25th 2012.
Entering the game, Mizzou was a game back of first in the Big 12 standings, and had already beaten KU at home in one of the greatest regular season college basketball games ever. The rematch in Lawrence proved to be even better than the first act.
Just to add some maddening context for all you Mizzou fans, the Tigers came out blistering hot in the first half, and had built 19-point early in the second half. Even after a disastrous final ten minutes for Mizzou saw their lead shrink all the way to 3, they needed just one stop in the final 30 seconds to escape the Phog with a win.
But then this happened...
Michael Dixon gifts Thomas Robinson an And-1 opportunity, giving the Beakers a chance to tie the game with 16 tics remaining...
Here's a closer look at the Dixon foul, in case the first one didn't already make you throw your computer/tablet/phone across the room:
Naturally, Robinson would drain the game-tying free-throw...
Even after that sequence, Mizzou STILL had the ball with 10 seconds left and the game tied. Immediately off the in-bound, point guard Flip Pressey, preseason All-American and Bob Cousy award finalist, would find himself a clear path to the rim, with only Thomas Robinson standing between him and Missouri's first Big 12 title in 20 years ...
That "clean" block secured the Jayhawks 5 more minutes of life in OT, where they inevitably finished the improbable come from behind win...
Only a few months before, Missouri had announced they would be bolting for the football powerhouse SEC conference, officially putting the Border War Rivalry on hold. Now 5 years later, Tiger nation is still patiently waiting on hold for their shot at revenge ...
Despite their failed attempt at the Big 12 crown, Mizzou's stellar year put them in a great position to make a deep tourney run, as they drew the 2 seed in the West region. They were slotted to play the mighty 15-seed Norfolk State Spartans, champions of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Surely the nation's 181st best offense and 283rd best 3-point shooting team would be no match against the number 1 offense in the country, and one of the all-time most efficient offenses in the Kenpom.com era (dating back until 2002).
Unfortunately, the Tigers weren't aware they were going up against the deadly combination of Hakeem Olajuwon inside (alias: Kyle O'Quinn, who went for 26 points and 14 boards) and the Golden State Warriors' guards on the perimeter (alias: Norfolk's starting backcourt, who rained in 10 of their 16 3-point attempts). The juggernaut 15-seed would inevitably bounce the Tigers in the first round, ending the season and careers of 8 Missouri seniors. One of these seniors was Andrew Rosburg, Ryan's older brother...
Andy and Ryan are considered by many to be basketball royalty in my old stomping grounds of Chesterfield, MO. Andy and myself both attended Marquette High School from 2004 to 2008, while Ryan lagged us by 4 years, graduating in the spring of 2012. The school itself first opened its doors in 1994, making it one of the newer high-schools in the St. Louis area today. While longer-tenured local schools claim fame to alumni legends such as Bradley Beal and David Lee, the Rosburg bros are closest thing to post high school greatness us Marquette alumni can crow about. To this day, Andy and Ryan are two of only three Marquette players to ever play D1 basketball, and the ONLY two to do so at Mizzou.
So just how polarizing is the University of Missouri at Marquette High School, located in St. Louis, Missouri's West County? The year Ryan graduated in 2012, Marquette supplied more incoming freshman to Mizzou than any other high school in the country, including two 5A schools in located Columbia, MO (Rock Bridge & Frederick Douglas), both which are only minutes away from Missouri's campus.
I've always wondered if Ryan thought about this dynamic when making his college decision, and if he felt the pressure playing at a school just over an hour away from home ...
"It did add a little pressure with so many kids from home going [to Mizzou], knowing who I was, and me having to live up to their expectations."
These expectations were officially amplified during Marquette's magical postseason run in his senior year. In the state quarterfinals, Ryan's double-double (16 & 13) led the Mustangs to a 66-53 rout of CBC (a team that featured two division 1 players of their own), solidifying their first ever final four appearance. It's safe to say a few kids were excited...
It was only fitting that the final four would take place at Ryan's future hoop home of Mizzou Arena. A couple of students even made the 90-minute drive to support the Mustangs in their semi-final matchup against Ozark-based powerhouse, Nixa High School.
2016: "The Boss" Emerges
Fast forward 4-years to now, where tonight at Mizzou Arena, it will feel in many ways like deja vu for Ryan. Of all the ~60 home games Ryan has played in throughout his career, none will feel more like that final four appearance 4-years ago then tonight. In a few hours, the Tigers will host Florida on Senior Night, which this year should really just be called "Ryan Rosburg Night".
Through all the countless transfers, suspensions and dismissals over the past 3+ years, Ryan now finds himself as Mizzou's lone senior. Thanks to actions of his prior coach, Frank Haith, the Tigers are ineligible for the SEC tournament, making tonight's game the last of his collegiate career.
Based on Ryan's recent performance, I figured there was an "ah-ha" moment, where the thought of never playing college basketball again truly sunk in. According to him, this epiphany came on February 6th in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
"It was during the Alabama game. We were losing in the second half, and I remember thinking that I'm just going to start being more aggressive. I always knew my percentages were pretty good, so I figured why not shoot more?"
Rosburg flipped the switch to attack-mode in the second half, finishing with 17 points & 7 rebounds for the game. His quick-decisions in the post were glaringly noticeable, as he repeatedly went right at the Bama bigs.
After watching both Ryan and Andy play hoops for over a decade growing up, there's nothing more patented than the Rosburg up-and-under from the right block. You would think after coaching against Shaq for years in the NBA, Alabama head coach Avery Johnson could figure out how to defend this move:
The homer whistle prevents the obvious And-1 opportunity on an eerily similar move in the second half:
The Alabama game officially kick-started Ryan's tear through SEC play in February. The very next game, Mizzou would travel to Nashville to take on Vandy. In a game that featured 2-future pros in Damian Jones & Luke Cornet, Ryan proved to be the most dominant big on the floor, racking up 24 points and 11 boards in 29 minutes of action.
Here he torments the other Vandy bigs on the glass, while Damian Jones sits in foul trouble:
Despite back-to-back games of interior dominance, the Tigers came away losers in both. But the emerging confidence of big 44, coupled with the home comfort of Mizzou Arena, proved to be all the difference in their next two dates with Tennessee, and nationally ranked South Carolina.
Against Tennessee, Ryan exploited the undersized Volunteer frontline, posting his most efficient game ever in a Mizzou uniform (8/9 from the floor, 5/7 from the line), finishing with 21 points and 6 boards.
I absolutely adore his patience on this possession, waiting for the ball-side perimeter help de to clear out, before making a quick move to the middle:
Big Ross's efficiency helped seal the Tigers 2nd conference win of the year and in the waning seconds of the game, Ryan puts the exclamation mark on their double-digit win with this smooooooth flush:
However, all attention quickly shifted to their upcoming showdown with South Carolina, who would be the first ranked team to play at Mizzou Arena this year.
"Coming off the Tennessee win, everyone was more focused than usual. We knew we had played them well already at their place, so there was a ton of confidence entering that game".
Against the Gamecocks, Ryan led Mizzou with 18 points and attempted a season-high 17 free-throws. He was simply relentless attacking the rim.
There was no better example than on this back-side post seal and turnaround bucket, which gave Mizzou a ten-point margin late in the 2nd half:
I asked Ryan what has helped him sustain this high-level of production over the past 7+ games:
"[Kim Anderson] and the rest of the coaching staff have run a lot more sets to get me low-post touches. But more than anything, it's just my teammates now having more confidence in me, and looking to get me the ball more inside."
Entering tonight, Ryan is leading the conference in FG%, shooting 68% in SEC play. If he maintains this clip tonight, he will have led the league 2 of the last 3 years, after shooting 68% in 2014 throughout league play.
While the last chapter of Ryan's career will conclude tonight, the future of the Missouri basketball is far from written. While many are skeptical about what direction the program is headed, Ryan feels the groundwork for success is already starting to be laid:
"The freshman class right now are the right kind of guys to build this program on. They are the "come in early, stay late" type of guys, and have fully bought into what we are trying to do here".
I sure hope for all the Mizzou faithful out there, Ryan is right...
But for me personally, as an IU alum and lifelong Duke fan, I couldn't care less about the future of the Missouri program. In fact, tonight will be the most I ever care about Mizzou basketball. That's because tonight isn't about the future, or about program sanctions, or about a 3-14 SEC team trying to finish the year on a strong note. It's about honoring the only constant in the Missouri basketball program over the past 4-years.
But more than anything, tonight is about watching a kid play college basketball for the very last time. The same kid that grew up only one street over from me after moving to Chesterfield when I was in grade school. The same kid I played wiffle ball with everyday when I was in middle school. The same kid I "coached" in meaningless summer league games when I was in high-school. The same kid I drove 6 hours to watch play for a state title when I was in college. And it's the same kid that I'm writing about right now, hours before he plays his last game in a Mizzou uniform.
So good Luck tonight 44. Thanks for the memories.