Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Draft Notes 6-16

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Dominic James was once a highly-touted guard at the top of the NCAA heap. His name was littered in columns canvassing who's who in the Big East. The 5-foot-10 waterbug guard was ingrained as a Player to Watch.

James' mug grazed the cover of various college hoops magazines. He evolved into the face of Marquette.

He was naturally included in the same conversation as ready-made players. As a sizzling sophomore, James' stock was already being weighed on the NBA scale.

But James' game has tailed off, significantly, since creating a mountain of hype and hyperbole his first two years at Marquette.

It seems like he was at Marquette forever, a catalyst of a formidable foursome which combined to score over 4,000 points.

James, however, hasn't carried the tag of buzz saw the past two years.

Though the cheetah-quick, half-pint point guard was the facilitator, his scoring averaged dipped along with his rankings in other areas. His number of jaw-dropping moves and clutch shots declined.

A solid first-step, a solid physical makeup, and the ability to knife through defenders allow draft experts to liken his game to that of Will Bynum.

But there are some major holes in James games, all of which drowned his NBA stock the past two seasons.

These cheese-size holes are surefire shots to gut his chances of getting drafted.

James' play became the watermark of inconsistency his senior year. His shooting woes stretch from beyond the arc to the free throw line.

At the free throw line, James shot a dreadful 46.1 percent. Consider that he's a point guard, and few NBA teams will be willing to take such a risk.

A lukewarm 28.1 percent from three-point range also won't help lure teams in.

Surely, a rec league coach would turn his nose at these numbers.

A successful tryout is an aspect so paramount to a last chance at success for the 22-year-old James.

The gurus at draftexpress.com compare James to Sebastian Telfair, who never answered to the hefty New York City hype his first few years in the league.

Telfair has altered his self-perception following his last two seasons with the Minnesota T-Wolves. The electrifying guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., he of the wowing, streetball-like flair, has averaged 9.5 points and 5.2 dimes the past two seasons.

Can James take the same pothole-filled road to success?

Can he erase his seesaw senior year and play meaningful minutes for some downtrodden franchise in need of another guard?

Following a a four-year seesaw stay at Marquette, where he helped sell incoming freshman Jeronne Maymon on the Golden Eagles this fall, James may be an afterthought in this year's draft.

We shall see.

There's still a glimmer of hope shining somwhere in the Indiana woodworks.

AND WHILE DOMINIC JAMES may have tarnished his once-golden image as an NBA-bound superstar, one Big East player with a similar name may be flying on the radar this season.

Meet Dominique Jones. He was the most underrated, underappreciated guard in the Big East last season, hooping for the South Florida Bulls.

A standout sophomore on the downtrodden, cellar-dwelling Big East team, Dominique Jones isn't worried about skyrocketing to stardom.

It never seizes to amaze or bother Jones that he's not mentioned along the same lines as top-flight Big East guards. He's a cool customer, never taxed or bothered by the lack of individual shine, headlines, or the fact that he hasn't cracked All-Conference.

Jones doesn't pay attention to stat sheets. He doesn't keep tabs on his numbers or hit up the internet to compare himself to other playmaking guards. He didn't self-boast about establishing a new high-water mark with a 36-point eruption against Iona.

Through his body language and play, it's visible that personal accolades are meaningless to the chiseled 6-foot-4 guard.

Surprising people as a team, progressing on a day-to-day basis, and maintaining his role as USF's do-it-all guard are first and foremost.

Jones scored 14 points on the full nine yards of fast break dunks, mid-range jumpers, and takes to the tin.

He dished out five assists, committed two thefts, and also had two blocks in all 40 minutes of the Bulls' 64-50 loss to UConn at the XL Center back in February.

"We see that we're a better team than people think... We're a better team than we show some nights," said Jones.

As a player, Jones doesn't want to carry the tag of go-to-guy.

He wants to have a hand in everything. He wants his teammates to be beneficiaries of his presence.

Resonating an ideology of the legendary Oscar Robertson, Jones feels a team's best player takes the worst player and makes him good.

"I want to do a little bit of everything. I don't want to be a scorer, I don't want to be a point guard, I don't want to be a shooting guard. I want to be a player. I want to do it all," explained Jones.

"I'm kinda underrated, people say that, but that's not my main focus. My main focus is just getting the job done for my team, just going out there and playing."

Jones was a veritable superman for the Bulls this season, leading the team in essential categories such as points (18.1), assists (3.9), and rebounds (5.6).

He shredded Bobby Huggins' complex West Virginia defense to the tune of 35 points .

He scorched the nets for 29 points and snared eight boards against Providence.

A cyborg in Nikes, Jones seldomly played under 32 minutes in a game this season.

"Our team is progressing," opined Jones.

"I feel like we take steps back sometimes, but we have to keep pushing forward and get the best out of this season. Our goal is to just be prepared for the Big East tournament, get as many wins as we can. We need to keep getting better, set history, and just keep flowing."

The Bulls shot an abysmal 9-for-31 in a first half.

They shot a woeful 21-for-65 (32.2 percent) on the game.

UConn, sleepwalking up until the final 6 minutes, 15 seconds, also came to the rifle range with nothing more than a supersoaker. The Huskies went 14-for-37 in the first half, allowing the Bulls to keep within striking distance.

Whenever a crucial bucket was needed, Jones rose to the occasion.

He threw down a nasty sledgehammer and swatted UConn's 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet in the opening minutes, registering his presence before the partisan crowd of just under 16,000.

He got free for a backdoor cut which he converted into an easy lay-in, slicing UConn's lead to 19-14 with 4:46 remaining. Jones' corner 3-pointer sliced UConn's lead to 39-29 in the second half.

Jones would later score on back-to-back fast breaks that kept SFU within six.

This mini-run occurred when UConn forward Stanley "Sticks" Robinson tried to stretch an alley-oop into a highlight reel jam.

The IMUS-ugly gaffe resulted in Jones' authoritative, two-handed banger at the other end.

"We were rolling at that point," said Jones.

"The main thing with us is just trying to keep it going, keep it going. We try not to let them get out to a little run like we did."

If the Bulls--who stamped a shocking, 57-56 upset win over Marquette back on Feb. 6--continue to improve, Jones will make a little run to the Big East first team.

Jones starred at Lake Wales High, becoming a first team 4A all-state selection after averaging 21 points, 10 boards, and seven assists his senior year.

The kid is Lake Wales through and through. He represents the program hard, everywhere he goes.

When accidently asked if he played at a neighboring, rival high school, Jones gave a terse response.

"Hell no!" He snapped. "Lake Wales, Lake Wales."