Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Giant Giant Commits To UC (To Play American Basketball)

I was elated after hearing that Sudanese tall person John Riek committed to play basketball for Mick Cronin and the Cincinnati Bearcats. And then I did some reading. I found a detailed article about Riek at (an Internet website) from January, when Riek was thought to be a first round pick in the upcoming draft. Within this piece you'll find a few nice things written about Riek, but not many. He plays hard and possesses a freakish wingspan, but that's about it. Among the bad: He's not very athletic (remember, Cronin wants to run) and his offensive game is nonexistent. And he generally has no idea what he's doing out there. This dude is a project.

See for yourself:

The first thing you notice about Riek is that he runs pretty awkwardly (think Nick Fazekas or Hasheem Thabeet). His feet strangely point outwards in his normal stance and he leaves an impression of being somewhat awkward and uncoordinated, running the floor fairly well with his big, long strides, but certainly not looking very graceful in the process. Defensively, his stance seems pretty strange as well, as he seems to stand in the paint looking more the way you'd expect him to offensively, with his elbows bent and his hands ready to catch the ball, rather than with his arms fully outstretched. Nothing about his game suggests that he's received very much coaching from a young age.


Defensively, Riek didn't make as much of an impact as you may have hoped considering his physical tools. Patterson's guards (especially future Arkansas guard Courtney Fortson) regularly took the ball fearlessly right at him and scored quite a few points in the paint, with Riek showing poor timing, awareness, coordination, and reaction time, being called for goaltending violations on at least three separate occasions, and picking up two fouls in the first eight minutes. The game just seemed to be moving too fast for him for the most part, and although he's mobile, he's not an athletic big man in the traditional sense, looking fairly limited getting off his feet for example.

Fundamentally, Riek is light years away. It appears at this point that he's gotten very little actual coaching at any point in his short basketball career, and from what most NBA scouts who have followed him the closest say, he's only regressing lately at Winchendon. Beyond his almost inexplicably bad conditioning, he has very little core strength, and thus almost no balance, causing him to fall over quite easily. He bites on pump-fakes, does not know how to properly use his body, and commits foolish fouls far from the basket, being mostly relegated defensively to standing in the painted area--which is not allowed in the NBA because of the new Illegal Defense rules (3 seconds in the paint). As a rebounder, he boxes out usually, but struggles to go out his area.

This doesn't mean he stinks, but it does mean that he likely won't be a consistent contributor as a freshman. So just because Duke was after him, and just because he was at one point considered a lock for the first round of the '08 NBA draft, doesn't mean he's a savior. That said, it's a good score for Mick Cronin.

-Brad Spieser (