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ON THE BALL – Jemmott struggles in big games

JUSTIN MARVILLE, [email protected]

ON THE BALL – Jemmott struggles in big games

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Today, Nation basketball correspondent Justin Marville continues his rankings of the BABA’s top 30 players with numbers 10 to 6.  

No. 10 Ricardo Jemmott, power forward, Lumber Company Lakers2011 stats: 17.4 ppg, 52 fg%, 66.1 ft%, 11.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.7 bpg You’d think that a serious candidate for the regular season MVP award would be a lot higher after leading a league champion in scoring, rebounding, blocks and field goal percentage.

And those numbers aren’t anything to scoff at when you consider he was just one of two players (the other being George Haynes who only played four games) to be in the league’s top five in all those categories. But stats without context are extremely misleading because those numbers will never tell you of Jemmott’s struggles in big games – especially the post-season.

I thought his play-off debut against the Cavs two seasons ago was just a matter of the jitters, but the second tour de force this year wasn’t much better, as Jemmott’s only impact performance in Lakers’ entire seven-game postseason was the 15-point, 18-rebound closeout finals game.

Then there are his very real offensive limitations. I understand basketball has evolved from big men just standing around under the ring but it’s almost inexcusable that a six-foot-nine forward can’t catch the ball with his back to the basket, far less post up an opposing player. So you can cross hook shot, drop step and fade away off “Howard’s” list of viable scoring options when the nights come.

It’s also a testament to how good a jump shooter Lakers long-armed linchpin is to be such a prolific scorer at a high field goal percentage bearing in mind he probably takes close to 75 per cent of his shots at the free throw line. His positioning there in Lakers’ offence makes him almost “un-guardable” though, as it’s almost impossible to “double” him there and all Jemmott needs to get to the front of the ring is one bounce and two steps either side. And it’s not as if anyone is going to bother his shot either.

The fact that he loves to face up and is quite agile at that height also makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenders, who generally aren’t fleet-footed enough to stay in front of him off the drive or account for him getting out on the break in transition.

That superior athleticism and near ridiculous wingspan are also the basis of him being an elite rebounder and shot-blocker, though Jemmott is better at swatting shots coming from the weak side and not straight up mano y mano unlike the two big men ranked directly in front him.  

No. 9 Pearson Griffith, centre, British American Insurance Jackson 2011 stats: 10.6 ppg, 53.1 fg%, 39.1 ft%, 9.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 3.9 bpg If I was doing a mock draft or selecting a national team, the six-foot-ten behemoth would easily be my number one pick without so much as a hesitation.

However, that a 300-pound former Division I college centre doesn’t dominate a mediocre league to the tune of 30 points and 15 rebounds a game is almost as worrying as his 8.9 shot attempts per contest. This is not for a want of ability or skill though, as Griffith possesses more than a respectable hook shot with either hand, owns some decent moves in the post and has even showed signs of developing a more consistent jumper from 15 feet out.

It’s a lack of will and desire that dooms dear Pearson, who plays like basketball’s version of the Jolly Green Giant while he readily kicks out to the perimeter before even attempting to make a move. In all fairness, Griffith seemed to be limited by an injury early in the season as he lumbered to get up and down the floor before improving on his fitness to flash signs of the player he should be in dominant midseason games against both Warriors and Senators.

But those type of performances are too often the exception rather than the rule for a man who’d rather layup than bring down YMCA’s rings. With that said though, Jackson’s oft-criticized centre is such an elite defensive force that he affects the game at that end more than any offensive player does on the opposite end of the floor. It’s no coincidence that the once defensively inept Jackson have made their first two postseason berths upon Griffith’s arrival.

Not only does the league’s leading shot-blocker turn back a high percentage of shots at the ring but he forces players to change a lot of their shots, while his presence in the paint alone dictates opposing game plans. And he’s no slouch offensively either, as he creates a ton of space for his team-mates on the perimeter and puts defenders in quick foul trouble with his superior size (probably doesn’t even get half of the fouls committed against him). It would help, though, if Pearson wouldn’t miss what equates to six out of every ten free throws he shoots after getting fouled.  

No. 8 Charles Vanderpool, power forward, Pinelands2011 stats: 13.1 ppg, 47.5 fg%, 60 ft%, 7.2 rpg, 1.9 apg, 3 bpg I can’t hazard a guess as to why a rangy six-foot-seven forward with a pretty good offensive repertoire is only afforded 11 shots per game, but I’m almost sure someone from Pinelands will enlighten me one of these fine days.

Beyond Ramon Simmons’ lousing, the Pine’s depth and some fairly odd coaching, Vanderpool is still somewhat culpable for his lack of touches by virtue of not having the personality necessary to demand the ball on most possessions. And “Charlie” should too, considering that he owns a pretty consistent midrange jumper, his right hand jump hook is more than serviceable and he knows how to use a drop step to finish at the ring.

However, Vanderpool’s lefty hook could still use a lot of work and he has a maddening tendency of going to the middle on almost all of his post moves instead of utilizing a countermove drop step towards the baseline. He also tries to get his shoulders square to the basket too often, thus putting him in a position to force contested shots over equally tall defenders when a simple hook would serve his interests better.

But it’s at the other end that Vanderpool truly makes his mark as an elite player and not just as one of the league’s best shot-blockers. He’s currently the best there is at getting into the right position before the catch, and unlike Jemmott, he can block opposing “bigs” while marking them straight up.

It’s almost as if he takes great pride and joy playing defence, but he gets a huge knock in my books for not being the stabilizing force on an extremely dysfunctional team that he hasn’t led to the play-offs for the last two years.  

No.7 Adrian Stewart, small forward, Nicholls Baking Company Cougars2011 stats: 21.2 ppg, 46.9 fg%, 30.6 3pt%, 54.5 ft%, 6.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.8 spg There might not be a purer scorer in all of Barbados currently, and I’m not sure if that stands as a great compliment for a near 40-year-old veteran or an indictment on the declining standards of top flight basketball.

That said, Stewart’s strength, size, tremendous body control and experience make him almost impossible to guard, especially now that he’s developed a more consistent three-point stroke. You’re still probably better off giving up a contested long jumper even though the seasoned swingman isn’t lightning fast, as Stewart rarely allows beaten defenders to recover on his drives.

And he scores in so many ways – off the pull-up jumper, driving in traffic, shooting over defenders and in the post. He’s even perfected this Dirk Nowitzki-like fade-away off one foot in the mid-post that is basically unstoppable. What’s more, for a high-volume shooter that takes 18 shots a contest, Stewart hits a very respectable 47 per cent from the floor, gets to the free throw line at a little more than five times per game and still manages to average almost three and a half assists. So why isn’t he ranked number one?

Because as valuable as Stewart is offensively he’s just as detrimental at the other end, and I did say that this list rates two-way players far higher than volume shooters. Stewart has almost become a liability defensively, especially in transition, where he doesn’t even bother to cross the half once the ball is turned over. But he will let out a cat-like shriek to let his team-mates know he’s free down the other end after the ball inevitably scores on the ensuing two-on-ones and three-on-twos he didn’t get back to guard.

There’s always been the talk that Stewart isn’t a huge fan of contact either, and I wouldn’t be, either if I was barely converting half of my free throw attempts. At least he’s a good rebounder for his position, and he tends to bring his best for the important demotion games, averaging an other worldly 28 points against Patriots.  

No. 6 Alwyn Lovell, small forward, Colombian Emeralds International Senators 2011 stats: 20.4 ppg, 44.2 fg%, 17.8 3pt%, 65.6 ft%, 9.6 rpg, 2.7 apg, 3.5 spg I can hear it all now: “how can you possibly rank Alwyn ahead of Stewart?” and the thing is unlike some other positions, this isn’t one I had to debate or lose sleep over.

The question should be, how do you not, bearing in mind Lovell’s Senators have finished higher than Stewart’s teams over the last two seasons, and he’s bettered Stewart in both head-to-head matchups while leading his team to victory. Then there’s that issue about defence. Lovell’s actually one of the most underrated players at that end, to the point that he would be viewed in elite category if Senators played more man defence.

He does get overzealous while overplaying for strips and has a maddening tendency to pick up numerous silly fouls and even more needless technicals for stupidly berating referees. That said, it is extremely tough for a team’s number one option to have to play over 30 minutes of defence, especially when that option has to take 17 shots a game just to give his side a chance to win games.

He wouldn’t get nearly as many touches on a good team considering he’s a tremendously poor jump shooter, yet he still shoots a decent 44 per cent from the field for a volume shooter that doesn’t have a three-point stroke. But he more than makes up for that deficiency by getting to the line at a league-leading rate of 7.8 attempts per game. It’s a testament to his game that Lovell even gets to the charity stripe when teams already know that he can’t shoot.

However, he has the rare ability to finish in traffic and at the ring among multiple defenders despite a lack of superior athleticism. He also finds a way to pull down a high rate of offensive rebounds for a player under six-foot-four. Very quietly too, Lovell put up one of the better seasons for a swingman after averaging 20 points and almost 10 rebounds as a perimeter player – the last of which to do such was Corey McDonald in an MVP season.

Lovell had one of the best stat lines in recent history, against Stewart to boot, scoring 41 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and five steals in a game that ensured Senators would stay up next season. But for a ball-dominant wing player without much range, Alwyn’s assist numbers (2.7) are way too low and he generally doesn’t make players around him better. Plus, it’s difficult to rank a player in the top five when he’s never led any of his teams to the play-offs.