Analyzing Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Justin Robinson, and Javon Bess

March 22, 2019

by Alan Lu

Recently, I took the time to see a basketball game between Virginia Tech, and my alma mater, Saint Louis in a first round match of the NCAA Tournament.  The Billikens fell behind early, as they struggled on all facets of the game early on, and the Hokies were clicking on all cylinders in the first half.  Saint Louis made it competitive in the next twenty minutes, but it was not enough as Virginia Tech ended up winning by double digits due to receiving strong performances from many players on their team.  Here are my thoughts on how various players fared on this day, as well as how they may rate as prospects for the NBA.

Virginia Tech’s sophomore guard, Nickeil Alexander-Walker played well in his team’s double-digit victory over Saint Louis.  His performance was much better this year against them compared to last season.  Alexander-Walker showed a knack for scoring on drives and cuts to the basket, and he also leapt up to score on a tip-in after getting an offensive rebound.  Plus, he also was able to make a three to space the floor for his team on offense.

He showed off decent playmaking skills.  Alexander-Walker made some good passes as he can kick balls out to shooters, but he also threw a couple of ill-advised passes that led to turnovers.  Also, he rebounded and defended well.  He did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, as he would actively crash the glass to help his team get boards.  He also played good defense.  He would intercept passes to get steals, and he did a good job of defending drives, but he may need to add strength, as he had some trouble defending opponents down low in the post.  In general, Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a smart, skilled swingman that can score the basketball in a variety of ways, and he has the agility and ball handling skills to create shots for others.  He had a solid all-around performance in his team’s win, and he could potentially end up being a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Virginia Tech’s 6-2 senior point guard, Justin Robinson came back to play in the NCAA Tournament, and his strong performance in this game was vital in leading the charge to help lift his team to a sizeable win over Saint Louis.  His play was better than the box score indicated.  He showed a good ability to get scores on quick drives to the hoop, and he can often draw fouls upon his defenders.  He also threw good interior passes to set up scores for his teammates, and he has fairly good court vision.  However, Robinson had trouble consistently knocking down jumpers, and he also struggled to score in traffic at times.  He also would commit a handful of turnovers, as he can play too fast on occasion.  Robinson played terrific defense.  He is a pesky defender that can really apply heavy ball pressure, as he was able to play passing lanes to get steals and deflections.  He also did a good job of drawing charges when defending opponents off the dribble to get them to commit fouls, and he also would contest shots to force misses.

Overall, Justin Robinson had a solid game, and his presence helped provide a boost to Virginia Tech in their win in this game.  Robinson is a smart playmaker that can effectively manage the game, and he also is a very good defender on the court.  While he may not possess ideal physical tools or size for the point guard position, his court vision, defense, and ability to space the floor could allow him to find a way to make an NBA team’s roster as a backup point guard at the next level.

Saint Louis’ 6-6 senior swingman, Javon Bess struggled early in the first half, and in this game, he generally struggled to make jumpers and had trouble with turnovers.  He did show an adequate ability to score off the dribble and in the post when looking to take the ball to the rim.  Bess also did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  He also showed off above average defensive skills.  He can jump passes and poke balls away to get steals and deflections, and he also blocked a shot, but he also was beat on a couple of plays that led his team to commit fouls and allow scores.  Right now, Bess will need to improve his jump shot significantly, and he may need to hone his game in the G-League or overseas after his collegiate career ends, but if he works hard, he could end up resurfacing as a 3 and D type of player in the NBA in a few years in the mold of an Ime Udoka type in the association.

Virginia Tech’s 6-5 redshirt senior, Ahmed Hill did a very good job of scoring in transition, and he also made a deep three early in this game.  Hill ran the floor to score on a reverse dunk on the break, and he also can draw fouls upon defenders when taking the ball to the rim.  He impressed with his play in the first half, and he could end up making an NBA team’s summer league roster.

Other Notes:

Virginia Tech’s 6-10 junior center, Kerry Blackshear Jr. did a good job of scoring in the post, and he would find cutters from the high post to set up scores for his teammates.   He would often draw fouls upon his opponents, and he did a great job of making free throws once there.  Blackshear is a very good scorer and interior presence for his team, and he could end up being a second round pick in 2020, as he could be a similar player to Washington Wizards’ center, Thomas Bryant in the NBA.

Saint Louis’ 6-8 senior forward, D.J. Foreman played very well in his team’s loss to Virginia Tech, and he was the Billikens’ most consistently productive player in this game.  He’s an athletic, physical big man that excelled at scoring on drives and cuts to the basket.  He did have some trouble with his position defense, and he ended up fouling out though.  Still, Foreman showed solid inside scoring skills and athleticism in this game.  While he may be undersized to play inside and put forth pedestrian numbers on the season, he certainly played well on the big stage, and he could end up having a lengthy career in professional basketball, even if he does not end up making his way to the NBA.

Saint Louis’ 6-1 senior guard, Tramaine Isabell Jr. did not play well overall, but he had some good moments in the second half.  He really struggled to make shots early on, and he also threw a slew of inaccurate passes that would lead to turnovers in the first half.  But he played fairly well in the second half, as Isabell would make deep threes, and he also scored on a layup off of a drive in transition.  His best pass was when he dribbled around patiently to probe the defense before finding a teammate on a roll to set up a score for him. 

Overall though, Isabell did not have a great game, as his adequate performance in the second half was not enough to compensate for his poor play in the first twenty minutes of this contest.  Most likely, he will need to spend some time in the G-League or overseas to hone his game after his collegiate career ends before attempting to make an NBA team’s roster.  If he could be a more consistent shooter and playmaker, he could resurface in a few years as a John Lucas III type of player in the league.

Virginia Tech’s 6-6 senior swingman, Ty Outlaw didn’t stand out in this game, but he quietly had a decent game when he would be involved on offense.  He was able to make a corner three, and score on a drive to the basket.  He also was active at crashing the glass to help his team get rebounds.  Outlaw has excelled in his role for his team this year, and he could end up making an NBA team’s summer league roster.