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    September 25

  • 09:43 PM

ON THE BALL - Making their mark

JUSTIN MARVILLE, justinmarville@nationnews.com

Added 02 November 2011

ontheballbloc

Today, Nation basketball correspondent Justin Marville continues his rankings of the BABA’s top 30 players with numbers 25 to 21.  

No. 25 Ian Alexander, small forward, Lumber Company Lakers - 2011 stats: 11.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.3 spg I can just hear the groans and grumbles over this pick, but this is one that is more than easily justified following a season which should garner the Lakers forward no worse than runner-up for the league’s Most Improved Player award.

Quite contrary to popular belief, Alexander has developed into one of the game’s more reliable jump shooters – to the point where it might be the only way he can score now. And it’s not that he’s just knocking down open shots either. Time after time the oft-overlooked Laker hit big, contested fourth quarter shots, especially during the team’s championship-winning run in the play-offs – where he was probably Lakers’ third most valuable player.

So much so that coach Francis Williams trusted his young ward to close out each post-season game as a virtual sixth starter, having averaged 12.4 points in the seven-game play-off stretch – a mark that included 15 points per game in the first-round series against Jackson. With that said though, Alexander’s skills are extremely limited as he can’t create his shot, or a driving lane, off the dribble. So as much as he is vastly improved, his points are going to come one of two ways; jump shooting or in transition.

Then there’s the other side of the ball, where Alexander insists on playing on-the-ball defence with his hands at the side as if he was hearing the anthem. His maddening tendency of picking up the most needless of technicals also shows there’s a lot of maturing to do.  

No. 24 Adrian Allman, shooting guard, Lumber Company Lakers - 2011 stats: 12.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.8 spg I’ve long marvelled at how a player his size (I reckon about 5’9” and 160 lbs) is able to be a more than valuable contributor on a championship-winning squad, but then there’s the old adage about the size of a man’s heart. Whether as a consistently reliable jump shooter, a tireless on-the-ball defender and an even more willing help-defender, Allman is as tenacious as a player there is in a league that is wanting for them.

He’s extremely dangerous on the weak side of Lakers’ offence when the ball swings quickly around the perimeter - although he has an annoying propensity to overuse his up-fake and jab-fake on defenders who are long beaten – and even more treacherous in the open floor. But his height challenge does present some limitations on his game as defenders rarely worry about him driving all the way to the front of the cup, while he isn’t as effective marking “big” guards (think Jeremy Gill in Game 2) despite his great footwork on the perimeter.

One of my contributors (an opposing player) to this top 30 list even went as far as to suggest the Allman’s production is a result of Lakers’ effective system, and that the diminutive guard would struggle to put up the same numbers for a less talented club.  

No. 23 Rahiim Gibbons, point guard, Act II Popcorn Clapham Bulls 2011 - stats: 10.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.5 spg By sometime next season I expect the young Clapham guard to outplay this ranking, granted that he gets over his Game 4 stinker against Lakers where he went zero for 13 in the finals’ close-out game.

During the latter half of the year Gibbons showed flashes of becoming a top-tier starting point guard in this league after flaunting an improved pull-up jumper off the dribble and a more consistent ability to create his own offence. He’d probably be more dangerous too were he not playing in Barry Rock’s unimaginative half-court sets, where the deceptively quick guard is reduced to dribbling in one spot while waiting for Jeremy Gill or another Clapham guard to cut along the baseline.

And it’s far from the only way his father has managed to curtail Gibbons’ development, after the head coach continually juggles him in and out of the starting rotation. Then Rock seems to have issues identifying whether Rahiim should play on or off the ball when he’s sharing the backcourt with Gill.

However, Gibbons must get stronger if he is to join Gill, Lockhart and Peter Alleyne in the league’s elite guards, as the aforementioned three can all force their way into the lane and finish at the ring among defenders and get to the charity stripe. At least he’s already proven to be an elite defender as a stifling ball hawk. Just ask Lockhart, who had fits just bringing up the ball against his less seasoned counterpart in the finals before being forced to put the smaller Gibbons in the post.  

No. 22 Stefan Clarke, shooting guard/small forward, Roll-A-Way St John’s Sonics - 2011 stats: 12.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.5 spg Maybe I’m disillusioned and this is the best Clarke can maximize of his talents, but I have a hard time believing that Sonics’ starting swingman doesn’t sell himself short every time he takes the floor.

I remember writing in St John’s pre-season prediction that in the absence of Jeff Trotman, Clarke needed to be more of a complete scorer instead of moonlighting as a three-point chucker – so naturally he goes out and shoots even more threes but doesn’t even average two made triples a game.

There’s no doubt that the talent is there; he owns one of the league’s better euro-steps, has the rare ability to make tough lay-ups among multiple defenders, hits a good percentage of his midrange jumpers and is a capable playmaker if need be. But treys are like Stefan’s cocaine (just can’t shoot up enough) and it probably didn’t help any that Clarke had his career-best night of 40 points against Senators after hitting seven or eight of them.

It would also serve his team’s purposes better if he’d average more than that paltry 3.5 rebounds a game, although to his credit he is a very underrated defender as a solid on-the-ball marker.  

No. 21 Halley Franklyn, small forward/power forward, Act II Popcorn Clapham Bulls - 2011 stats: 11.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.8 spg As we’re on the topic of people who don’t maximize their gifts, no one player fits the bill of falling short of their gifts more than Clapham’s poster child of underachievement. Don’t get me wrong, Franklyn is absolutely vital to everything Bulls do on both sides of the floor and is almost irreplaceable in Barry Rock’s “small ball” line-ups. 

Used mostly as an undersized “4”, Franklyn is the rare player that will start the break by rebounding the ball and pushing it himself in transition. By extension of playing out of position, Halley has developed the ability to mark bigger and taller players, and is generally a great defensive cog no matter where he is put on the floor.

It’s just that Clapham could do with so much more than 11.7 points he provides and the ill-advised long jumpers he settles for. To be fair, Franklyn is a very good shooter from deep along the baseline, (an added plus in any Barry Rock-led offence) but his ability to dribble and finish with either hand should relegate three-point shooting to a last option. Remember Game 2 of Clapham’s first-round series against Warriors?

Well the dreadlocked one wish he didn’t after single-handedly throwing away the game by squandering four late possessions taking long jumpers. You’d swear that Franklyn was an unathletic stiff and not an extremely, physically talented, multi-faceted forward that could finish at the ring at will and should be in the league’s top 15 based on talent alone.

I don’t know how much playing alongside the ball-dominant Gill in an unimaginative system has to do with Franklyn’s lack of scoring, but it’s not as if Rock doesn’t give him the green light.  

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