If there were a general consensus among NBA scouts of having a “type,” those once-in-a-lifetime prospects that they’ve got to have, then the 6-10, 300-pound big man with a silky jumper and crafty footwork would be it.
You know, guys like the the Sacramento rookie DeMarcus Cousins, who can shoot from 20-feet out before overwhelming opponents in the paint, scoring with their feathery hook shots with ease. Those are the type that can win you a ring. Only if they came without the baggage. By my count, college basketball has two of those guys: Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney and UCLA’s Joshua Smith. Both are giants with soft touch and quick feet. They’re also knuckleheads who are perceived negatively because they can’t keep off the extra weight.
But don’t look now, Sidney, a 6-10, 270-pound sophomore, and Smith, a 6-10, 305-pound freshman, are beginning to get it.
Sidney’s season totals of 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds are on the rise. He scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in arguably the best game of his career on Saturday, reaching his fourth double-digit rebound game in the past five contests. Finally settling in after his freshman year of suspension and sophomore year of off the court issues, the Bulldog’s prized coup might creep into the minds of NBA scouts once again.
It wasn’t so long ago that he was one of the best high school players in the nation at Los Angeles’ Fairfax High School. The concern then, as it is now, was whether he’d develop a maturity and work ethic to go with that talent.
“We’ve got to trust his effort,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury told The Clarion-Ledger Monday. “Like I said, I think he’s come a long way with his teammates. Has it gotten better? It has gotten better. But, again, remember, this is the first time in his life he’s had any of this in his process with his coaches or teammates. I’ve said this many times: the easiest thing to do is get rid of him. That’s easy. The hard thing to do is make it work.”
Despite heat from the media about how he’s protected Sidney through his troubles, Stansbury might be making it work. Apparently, Sidney is growing up so quickly that his coach might even prepare the center to speak to the media, a step in the right direction if Sidney hopes to see daylight in the NBA.
On the West Coast, Smith, still 18 years old, is averaging 10.5 points and 6.4 boards per outing and has snuck into the first round of DraftExpress.com’s mock 2012 NBA Draft.
The Bruin is a smooth operator when he’s not fatigued and showed the most promise earlier this year by scoring 17 and pulling down 13 rebounds against Kansas, a squad with some not-too-shabby interior size.
But as with Sidney, UCLA’s behemoth has struggled with a similar, though less severe, maturity issue. It was last month when Smith’s coach, Ben Howland, came away unimpressed with some of the center’s postgame comments that shot some unwarranted criticisms at a referee crew.
It was a familiar case of what will soon become a nightmare-inducing decision for NBA scouts. My guess is Sidney will test the NBA waters this year and Smith the next. With the potential of both, scouts will question whether to deal or not to deal with the second and third coming of Cousins; the guy who can mockingly choke at the free throw line then dazzle — defense aside, of course — during the Rookie Challenge at the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
So, NBA scouts, do you take the big man with the grace of a guard, the potential of a star and suspect attitude? That’s your type, after all.
What do you think?
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