I love DraftExpress.com. They do great work and I encourage you to visit them often for terrific scouting reports and interviews with players. But sometimes, it’s nice to have opinions from others who have up close and personal experience with the guys in the draft. I was fortunate enough recently to have an opportunity to chat with UWM Head Coach, Rob Jeter. Coach Jeter has a unique perspective on a few of the guys the Bucks are considering with their three choices in the draft, as he was an assistant on the 2009 USA Basketball Men’s World University Games team. The team trained in Colorado with the U-19 team, which included Gordon Hayward who Coach Jeter has even more experience with from his time at Butler.
(My questions are in bold and Coach Jeter’s responses follow each.)
After working out with the U-19 team last summer in Colorado in preparation for the World’s Championships team you were an assistant on you said Gordon Hayward would end up a lottery pick. That’s a prediction many were still unsure of by the time the Final Four rolled around. What did you see in him last summer that had you feeling so confident in his skills?
I was really impressed with Hayward. He’s got a terrific skill set for his size. He’s 6’7″, 6’8″, whatever he is and he’s a basketball player. He can pass, he can shoot, he can defend, he has a great feel for the game of basketball. He’s got a great basketball IQ. He’s really the whole package. The main thing he has to do, is get a little stronger. Coming into high school he was 6’1-6’3. And he’s grown to his 6’8 now.
People have questions about his athleticism and have compared him to NCAA star and NBA flop Adam Morrison. Where do you see a difference?
I think they’re different. The difference between the two is that Gordon Hayward can affect a basketball game without scoring. Morrison was a scorer, he put the ball in the basket. I think Gordon Hayward can play just as well without the ball as he can with it in his hands. In our league he was guarding players from the two to the five. I think he’ll be able to contribute at the next level.
Athleticism is harped on time and again this time of year and testing numbers gain extra scrutiny. Where does being a basketball player become more important than being an athlete?
We think we can teach an athlete to make basketball decisions. We make that mistake at every level and sometimes it’s very difficult. Ultimately, athleticism doesn’t win games for you, what wins games for you more often than not is basketball decisions.
Another player you had on that World’s Championships team was Craig Brackins. The Bucks have brought him in for a workout and are said to be interested in him if he falls to round two. How do you feel about his game and where do you see him settling in on the court as a pro?
Craig Brackins is very talented, very talented. He’s a four man, he can shoot it, more of a finesse big than a power player. Right now he’s definitely a four. Sometimes guys can develop the ball handling skills necessary to slide down to the three, but at this point in time, he’s definitely a four.
James Anderson was on your roster too and he’s a player who was a terrific scorer in college. Is that a more difficult skill to translate over to the pros?
Well, I think it still comes down to playing defense. James Anderson is one heck of an offensive player, but you have to remember at the guard position you’ll have to guard another terrific offensive player. So it comes down to, you have to defend your position too.
Like you were saying about teaching athletes to become basketball players before, how difficult is it to get players who exert so much energy on offense to become terrific defensive players?
Well, everyone wants to play, but you can’t shoot the ball if you can’t get on the court. Playing defense will get you on the court. You got specialty guys in the league that are out there because they can play defense. Take a guy like Ron Artest, he’s a specialty guy, he’s out there because he’s playing defense. Tony Allen is another guy. But you can teach offensive players to play defense, you can’t teach a guy who is unathletic to be athletic.
Speaking of “specialty guys”, another player the Bucks brought in this week was Jarvis Varnado, and you’ve spent time with him as well. He’s a terrific shot-blocker, is that something that will get him time on the next level? Does he have enough offensively to stick around?
Well he’s a terrific shot-blocker and that’s why we’re talking about him, that’s what’s gotten him where he is. So right away, he’s got a skill that gets him noticed. There is a place for a player like that in the league. But he’s going to have to develop some more strength, he’s going to have to be playing bigs like Dwight Howard and taking a pounding every night and that’s going to take a year or two. He’s not the five man you want to run your offense through, but he can finish around the rim and hit a little jump hook here and there. You often see teams who have their five man that can score some points and has that good offensive game and then they have another who can defend and block shots. He can be that second guy.
A local player that played on the US team was Lazar Hayward who’s said he’ll workout for the Bucks before the draft. You’ve seen him a lot over the past four years, what do you think about him? Would he be well served to go the Wes Matthews route and go undrafted so he has the ability to pick and choose what situation is right for him?
If you ask me what I think about Lazar Hayward, I love the kid. He definitely has the toughness, the athleticism, he’s just one of those guys who’s always been, for whatever reason, underestimated. But, you can win games with Lazar Hayward. When you talk about the Wes Matthews route that’s not a bad idea. The thing about Lazar is, evaluators have never really gotten the chance to see him playing where he’ll be playing on the next level. He was always at the four and the five when he’s more of a three in the league. And that gave him some added toughness. But you can put him in that corner and he can make shots and then defend on the other end.
Another guy you’ve had experience with is Alando Tucker. He hasn’t found a consistent spot in the league yet, but he’s on the Bucks summer roster. What do you think he needs to work on to stick around in the league and land some consistent minutes?
Well he’s been in the league what? Three, four years? (Three.) A lot of guys would love to have a career like that already. He’s so athletic and he’s so tough that he’s already made it this far. But we’ll see what happens for Alando. If he could just be a little more refined from the perimeter offensively, then he’ll have a much longer career in the NBA. But if that doesn’t work out, he’ll still end up playing somewhere and be very successful.
I’d like to thank Coach Jeter again for taking the time to discuss these players with me.