Wednesday, June 24, 2015

With Mental Moxie, Louisville's Rozier Could Be Surprise In Tonight's Draft

Since former commissioner David Stern implemented the age rule, blockading the jump directly from high school to the NBA, the league hasn't exactly lost any youth.

A plethora of freakish freshmen have gained poise, experience, and a measure of maturity from that lone year of college, prep, or overseas pro ranks.

The 2015 NBA draft features much of the same.

 Nine of the first 15 projected picks are freshmen. Several reek of more potential and promise than polish and poise.

A number of NBA teams are forced to gamble with upside over instant impact.

As this select core of teenagers vaults into the top percentile of the nation's wealthiest people, they must grow up fast.

They must adjust to a faster, more physical game. They must get acclimatized to the wear-and-tear of an 82-game grind. They must shed all traces of tremor.

 Established veterans, you can bet your bottom buck, will be burning to expose them.

A potential sleeper in this year's draft is Louisville sophomore Terry Rozier.

A 6-foot-1, 190-pound combo guard with an aggressive approach, high-motor, unbridled defensive energy, as well as instincts and composure beyond his 21 years of age, Rozier is an intriguing prospect for a variety of reasons.

Chief among them would be Rozier's cerebral toughness, a propensity to snatch rebounds and play a bit bigger than he appears.

Rozier developed into a more prolific scorer on crafty surges to the rim.

Jumping at contact and converting turnovers into buckets in end-to-end fashion, Rozier's scoring average catapulted to 17.1 PPG, fourth highest in the ACC. Sneaking through the driving lanes and connecting on difficult, hard-to-guard and low-percentage shots certainly heightened his stock.

The supreme questions surrounding Rozier, as he dips his feet into the cold testing waters of the NBA?

1) Is he a true point guard? 2) Can he become a sturdy defensive backbone at the highest level the world has to offer?

Despite these uncertainties, Rozier's maturity and status as an elite-level athlete have never been in doubt.

"He likes to play fast, he likes to run that matchup zone, I'm looking for him to bring a lot of energy out of the gate," explained Elev8 Director of Basketball Development/NBA trainer Cody Toppert, who ran Rozier through a string of workouts in heavy draft preparation.

"He's got a 6-8 wingspan, a 38-inch vertical leap. He can contest shots without getting too close to guys. He can base you into a bad dribble jump shot. Those are his biggest attributes."

While final exams culminated in May for Rozier, he's spent the weeks leading up to tonight's draft studying, studying, and studying away.

No Adderall necessary, given Rozier's tuned up focus.

The communications courses were suddenly replaced by situational aspects of the NBA game.

Like Siddhartha, Rozier spent time alone searching for truth.

He developed an insatiable hunger for answers. He's learning. He's finding out why the Chris Paul-DeAndre Jordan tandem is so efficient in the pick-and-roll, why they average so many points per possession.

Rozier went to work at breaking down team concepts and patterns, busting out his mental notepad throughout the 2015 NBA Finals. He watched admirably as Lebron snaked through a middle pick-and-roll, unveiling an aesthetic left-handed dish.

Right there is another department in which Rozier has worked to improve: ambidextrous passing acumen.

He's an elder statesmen in this year's draft, with experience and a noted mental fortitude that trumps many of the young bucks. There are however, several ifs.

If his jumper becomes more consistent, if he can process himself into a reliable pick-and-roll option and pressure the basketball at the same rate he did at Louisville, Rozier will emerge into a steal in the late-20s selection.

Boston and Chicago have expressed interest in Rozier, though there's a chance he'll fall to Brooklyn at 29. He'd supply needed backcourt depth for the Nets, who must discover if he'll function better at the point or off the ball. 

Months of training, development, rigorous tests and tireless work have been applied in this entire process, for Rozier and the other soon-to-be millionaires.

Long disucssions with agents, trainers, and middle men have consumed monstrous percentage of cell phone energy.

Months of workouts, both private and public, have played a tremendous role in this process. Endless comparisons to current and former NBA players, some bending actuality just a bit, have smothered these prospects throughout this tiring, taxing, and eventully rewarding grind.

Whether Rozier's mental toughness and experience sets him apart in a freshmen flavored draft remains to be seen.