2021 Draft Watch: Evaluating Caleb Love

September 5th, 2020

By Alan Lu

CBC’s 6-3 North Carolina-bound guard, Caleb Love is a basketball player that grew up in the St. Louis area, so he and I are both from the same hometown.  I first wanted to watch him play against a four-star recruit that goes to Chaminade that was held on January 31st,  except that the box score suggested that Love didn’t actually play in that game.

Then, I set out to watch him play against my high school alma mater, Parkway Central High, in a basketball game that took place on March 3rd, as I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via Cadet Student Network.  CBC was the heavy favorite to win, as they have nationally ranked recruiting prospects, and they managed to get a double-digit victory over Parkway Central.  For me, this was a chance to watch Caleb Love and Larry Hughes’ prodigal basketball son, Larry Hughes Jr., as well as to watch Parkway Central play to see how they play, and where they’re at as a basketball program right now.  Here are my thoughts on how Caleb Love fared, as well as how his game may stack up in the NBA.

North Carolina’s 6-3 incoming freshman guard, Caleb Love is an athletic, skilled playmaker that can get to the hoop at will to score the basketball, and his ability to make plays could enable him to be a first round pick in 2021.
CBC High School)

Caleb Love is an athletic, skilled combo guard that possesses solid scoring and defensive skills.  He in particular excels at attacking the basket to score the basketball, and he especially is a threat to score in transition.  He will get up the court quickly, and he can score on thunderous, high-flying dunks.  On one play, he was able to drive up court, and score on a magnetic, reverse jam.  Plus, he will frequently lead the break and drive the ball to the hoop to draw free throws, as he would get to the foul line very often.

Plus, he also would usually draw fouls on half-court drives to the basket.  Sometimes though, he would rush shots when taking the ball to the rim, which would occasionally lead to misses. However, he will need to improve his ability to knock down jumpers on offense.  Love was able to use crossover moves to make a couple of pull-up threes, as he has plenty of range on his shot.  However, he tended to miss numerous threes both off the catch and dribble, and he also missed a mid-range jumper early on in this game.

Also, Love displayed solid playmaking skills.  He looked to score quite often, as he usually played off the ball rather than at the point, but he is a good facilitator that can throw solid passes off the dribble to set up scores for his teammates.  He can kick balls quickly out to shooters, and he also can drive the ball up court to find open teammates on the break.  He also didn’t turn the ball over very often on offense.  He did commit one turnover, as he tried a ball fake, but ended up getting the ball stolen away by a defender early on.

He also played very good defense.  Love was not often challenged on the defensive end in this game, and he was clearly the most athletic player on the floor along with being taller than most of the other team’s guards, which gave him a significant advantage when matched up against his opponents.   He did a terrific job of collecting steals, as he would often intercept passes, poke balls away, and jump on loose balls to do so.  Plus, Love also rotated quickly to block a three-point shot hard out of bounds.  He was very active in playing passing lanes, and he would apply heavy ball pressure to force turnovers, and he also would contest some shots to force misses.  Sometimes though, he would not hustle back on defense or rotate to try to get stops despite being in the area, which would lead his team to allow scores around the basket.  Another time, he tried to rotate to block a shot in the post, but was called for committing a foul on the swing down.

In general, Caleb Love is a talented player that can make solid plays on both ends of the floor, and he might be one of the most athletic point guards that will be in the 2021 draft.  He in particular excels at finding ways to get to the free throw line, and he will hunt for fouls in order to do so.  On the other hand, he will need to improve his jump shot, and he may need to show that he can effectively run the point full-time, as he spent most of his time playing off the ball in this match.  Right now, he is a solid draft prospect that may project to go in the mid-first round range heading into next season, and he may have the skills to be a lottery pick in 2021.

Other Notes:

CBC’s 6-4 high school sophomore guard, Larry Hughes Jr. also played in this game, but he had his ups and downs in his team’s double-digit win over Parkway Central.  On one hand, Hughes played very good defense, and his team played stout defense from the second quarter and on.  However, Hughes also really struggled to knock down shots as he had his shooting woes, and he may have a long way to go before he can be in the ballpark of being the shooter or scorer that his father was in either college or the NBA.

Hughes struggled to knock down jumpers, but he was able to use a jab step to make a three-point shot early in this game.  He also ran the floor to score on a layup on the break.  However, he really struggled to make spot-up or pull-up threes, and he had trouble making shots off the dribble.  He also tried to score in the post once, but ended up missing on a turnaround jumper.

On the bright side, he displayed adequate playmaking skills in this game.  Hughes is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can throw crisp, long passes to set up numerous scoring chances for his teammates on the break.  He also can kick balls out to shooters off the dribble, as he can aptly find teammates on the move.  He did commit one turnover, as he was called for a charging foul when driving left towards the hoop, but he would have scored on a floater if the referee had decided to not make that call. Also, Hughes did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would chase down balls to get plenty of boards on both sides of the ball, and he would usually bring the ball up the court afterwards.

Hughes also played solid defense.  Right now, his defense appears to be ahead of his offense, at least in terms of observing this specific game.  Hughes is a very active help defender that excelled at collecting steals.  He would jump on loose balls, as he can collect steals after his opponents would mishandle basketballs, and he also can catch errant passes and poke balls away to force additional turnovers.  Plus, Hughes would contest and alter shots in the paint to force misses due to good length and positioning.  In addition, he also was able to contest a three to force a miss.  Sometimes though, he would be too aggressive when applying the press in the opponent’s backcourt, as he would sometimes get beat off the dribble that would lead his team to allow scores on the break.  Other times, he wouldn’t be able to rotate in time on the defensive end.

Overall, Larry Hughes Jr. is an athletic, defensive-minded guard that showed off solid defensive skills when he was on the court, but he will need to improve his jump shot and ability to score off the dribble.  It will be interesting to see how he develops his game as he gets older, and if he grows a couple of more inches, he could perhaps develop into a versatile, defensive wing player.  Right now, he projects to be a mid-tier prospect that will need to improve offensively, but he could be a player worth keeping tabs on down the road.

Parkway Central’s 6-7 high school senior and Lindenwood-bound forward, Devion Harris was definitively his team’s best player in this game.   He is a strong, mobile combo forward that can score the basketball in a variety of ways, and he is a terrific rebounder that would haul in many boards to help his team on the glass.

Harris showed a good ability to score on hustle plays.  He would frequently crash the boards to get offensive rebounds, and he would tend to score on put backs.  He also managed to make a smart backdoor cut to the hoop to get another score.  Plus, he also ran the floor to score on a powerful dunk on the break.

Plus, he also is a good shooter off the catch.  Harris was able to make a couple of spot-up threes, and he was able to run off of a ball screen early on to knock one down.  In addition, he also made a baseline, mid-range jumper later on in this contest.

He struggled more to score in the post.  On one good play, he was able to catch a tough pass in the post, as he turned and went up strong to score around the basket.  However, he had trouble making jump shots when contested further away from the hoop, as he missed on a turnaround jumper and on a jump hook other times.  He would sometimes try to force up tough shots, but he would sometimes be unable to score in traffic.

On the downside, Harris was quite turnover prone in this game.  Harris was asked to soak up volume as he was the focal point of his team’s offense, and so defenders could key in on him to force him to commit turnovers.  For the positives, Harris can throw solid, long outlet passes, as he can get the ball to his teammates on the break to set up scoring chances for them.  He also can handle the ball up the court when he’s facing minimal ball pressure, and he can find teammates in stride to set up scoring chances for them in transition.  Plus, he is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man.   However, opponents would hound him in the post or when he would handle it up the court, and he would sometimes get the ball stolen away from him.  Other times, he would throw catchable passes that would be dropped by his teammates.  He also threw a telegraphed entry pass that ended up getting picked off early on by a defender.

Harris did a tremendous job of rebounding the basketball.  He did a great job of hauling in rebounds on both ends of the floor, and he was basically like a chairman of the boards in this game.  He would chase down balls to get numerous boards on both sides of the ball, and he especially excelled at collecting defensive rebounds.

He also played decent defense.  Harris is an active help defender that will hustle to make plays on this side of the ball.  He ran back hard on defense to take a ball away from an opposing ball handler on the break to get a steal, and he also rotated to block a shot in the post to a teammate due to possessing good timing, instincts, and fairly solid athletic gifts.  He also would actively contest jump shots to force misses, as he can do so both out on the perimeter as well as in the paint.  Sometimes though, he would be too aggressive, which would lead him to commit touch fouls.  Other times, he would be late on his rotations on the defensive end.

In summary, Devion Harris is a tough, physical combo forward that may be one of the most underrated prospects in his recruiting class.  He was by far his team’s best player on the court, and he nearly single-handedly kept his team in the game for stretches.  He is a versatile scorer that can make threes and score around the basket, and he is also a solid rebounder and defender.  He will need to tighten up his handle and may need to show that he can effectively guard players out on the perimeter, but Harris’ solid scoring and rebounding skills could enable him to be an impact right away for Lindenwood next year.

When I saw him play, he reminded me of former Washington State standout and former Charlotte Hornets’ forward, Robert Franks with his size, skill set, and style of play.  Harris is talented enough to play on a Division I college basketball team, and Lindenwood was able to get a very good recruit in signing him.  Harris will be enrolled at a Division II school next season, and he may face an uphill battle to get to the NBA in the future, as it is rare for D2 players to get to that level, but if Harris works hard, he could end up being an effective 3 and D type of role player in the NBA if he continues to work hard and hone his overall game.

CBC’s 6-4 high school sophomore guard, Mikhail Abdul-Hamid is a very good spot-up shooter that particularly excelled at making spot-up threes off the catch to space the floor for his team, and he is a sharpshooter that is a very good marksman from beyond the arc.

He also possesses decent playmaking skills, and he can kick balls out to shooters off the dribble to set up scoring opportunities for them.  He also looked to score on a drive to the hoop, but he struggled to get by his man, and he ended up missing in traffic that time.

Abdul-Hamid also has some rebounding and defensive skills.  He can get boards on both sides of the ball, and he was able to leap up to get an impressive one-handed offensive board late in this contest.  He also managed to rotate to poke a ball away in the post to get a steal.  However, he over-pursued an opposing ball handler prior to getting beat off the dribble once, which led him to commit a foul when defending a drive that time.

Overall, Mikhail Abdul-Hamid is a fairly athletic, energetic combo guard that particularly excels at making three-point shots, and he could be a candidate to reach Division 1 college basketball in the NCAA.  He may need to improve his ability to create his own shot and show that he can ably guard more athletic players out on the perimeter, but his strong ability to knock down jumpers could enable him to make it to that level, and in a favorable scenario, he could project to be a shooting specialist in the NBA.

Thoughts on watching Parkway Central’s basketball team in 2020:

The 2019-20 Parkway Central basketball team seem to be well schooled defensively.  Though they are very undersized, they are active, have quick feet, and generally tend to be in the right spots on that end of the floor.  They are a gritty and feisty defensive unit, and they will draw charges and get steals.  On defense, they are a scrappy group, and their tenacity is their defining trait, as they are a team that is committed to playing defense throughout the game.

It was their defense that helped them in the first quarter, and they even led in the first quarter, as they managed to make to grind down the tempo to make the game a slugfest early on.  Defensively, they gave a valiant effort, as they defended hard throughout the match, but once CBC was able to get into a groove, CBC’s length, athleticism, and ability to get to the free throw line helped them overpower Parkway Central later on.

Offensively though, Parkway Central really struggled to get things going consistently.  They tended to want to walk the ball up, as it seemed like they would try to do so whenever possible, and they would let the ball handler dribble around for long periods of time.  CBC picked up on that, and immediately applied the press on Parkway Central in the backcourt to speed them up, and they were able to get PCH to commit lots of turnovers.   Parkway Central had trouble passing or handling the ball under duress.  Sometimes, they would bring the ball up quickly and even score on drives in transition, but too often, they would force up a bad pass or mishandle the ball when facing significant ball pressure.

Parkway Central’s guards would sometimes bring the ball up quickly, but only as a last resort and to counter CBC after they were pressed and trapped by multiple defenders in the backcourt.  Most times, they seemed to look to either let the ball handler score, or they would try to force feed the big man.  Sometimes there would be considerable off-ball movement, but defenders didn’t really have to focus on that very much as the player with the ball would tend to hold it for himself, and the play would tend to dissolve into isolation and post-up plays.  There would be some off-ball movement, but it wasn’t actionable off-ball motion most times, and all too often, the play would result in one player looking to score the basketball.

On one offensive possession, Parkway Central had a player run of a ball screen to get the ball at the top of the key, and they were able to score on a three-point shot off of a crafty pin-down play.  However, they did not really look to run that play after that.

Parkway Central generally had a tough time scoring or taking care of the basketball, but despite that, they were surprisingly athletic.  Their players had good foot-speed, and their big man, Devion Harris looked to be the strongest player on the court, and Harris’ solid play on both ends helped his team stay in the game for a good portion of the way.

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