Observations on Lonnie Walker, Joel Berry II, and Theo Pinson

February 28, 2018

By Alan Lu

I took the time to see an ACC basketball game that was played yesterday between Miami and North Carolina.  It was a highly competitive match even without Bruce Brown participating in this contest, as Brown was out due to a foot injury.  Miami led for most of the way, and for a while, it seemed as if they would run away with the game.  North Carolina stayed in it however, as Joel Berry hit the game-tying three-point shot.  But Ja’Quan Newton managed to make a game-winning three at the buzzer, which gave the Hurricanes a much needed win over their conference rival.   Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared on this day.

Miami’s 6-4 freshman combo guard, Lonnie Walker IV had a good showing, as he helped lead his team to an upset win over North Carolina.  He played a good all-around game, and he was able to make shots and get stops to help his team when he was on the court.  Walker did a good job of knocking down threes to space the floor for his team.  He showed a knack for making spot-up three-point shots off the catch, and he has a fairly quick release that enables him to get his shot off.  He did miss more on pull-up jumpers from beyond the arc, but Walker excelled at making long-range jumpers in this game.

He also managed to swiftly score on a nifty cut to the hoop, as he also drew an extra free throw afterwards.  Walker struggled more to score on drives to the hoop, but he was able to score on a quick drive off of a screen once.  Plus, he also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Walker can make an assortment of passes, and he can throw accurate passes off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his team.  He is also an agile player that handled the ball well, and he did not turn the ball over once on offense.  However, Walker did not grab a rebound in this game.  

Walker showed off adequate defensive skills.  He would often get his hands on passes to come away with steals and deflections, and he also poked a ball away off of a drive to almost force another turnover.  In addition, he also managed to successfully challenge a mid-range shot on one possession, but he struggled to guard shooters on occasion.  Sometimes, he would give his man too much space to get their shot off.  Another time, he fouled an opponent on a three-point shot, as he initially trailed his man, and was over-aggressive on the close out.  He also was not always disciplined when defending drives, as he got beat off the dribble once, and on a separate play, he bit on a pump fake, which led his teammate to foul an opponent on a drive to the basket.

In summary, Lonnie Walker played quite well in many different facets of the game, as he was able to make some impactful plays on both ends of the court to help get his team a narrow win over North Carolina.  He did not take over the game, but he made positive contributions to help his team, and is an athletic, skilled combo guard that could end up being a good value pick for an NBA team in the late first round range of the upcoming draft.

North Carolina’s senior point guard, Joel Berry II played well in his team’s loss to Miami.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer when he was on the floor, especially in the 2nd half, and he also played good defense in this game.  Berry did a very good job of knocking down jumpers from all over the court to space the floor for his team.  He showed a knack for knocking down quick spot-up threes off the catch, as well as off the dribble.  Plus, he also managed to draw free throws after running off of a screen prior to hoisting up an outside shot.

He also showed a knack for scoring on strong drives to the basket.  He can score on a switch of hands layup, and he also managed to score on a tough fadeaway in traffic.  Berry can outmuscle his opponents to get plenty of scores and free throws off the dribble.  But sometimes, he would miss shots in traffic, as he can struggle to finish plays against taller defenders on occasion.

On the other hand, he showed off just average at best playmaking skills.  Berry can make passes off the dribble, and sometimes he would look to find the open man.  However, he did not seem to look to pass enough, and he also was a bit turnover prone on offense.  He committed a couple of turnovers on his passes.  On one play, he threw an inaccurate pass to a roll man that was intercepted.  On another, he threw a ball to an area even though no teammate seemed to be there, and he threw a pre-programmed pass that ended up getting picked off, as it led to fast break points for his opponent.  Berry also committed a turnover once by dropping a pass that landed right into the hands of his opposition.

Though Berry did not grab many rebounds against Miami, he was able to grab a board on each end of the floor.  He also displayed decent defensive skills when he was on the court.  Berry excelled at intercepting passes to get steals, and he also rotated to block a shot off of a drive.  He did a good job of playing passing lanes to get his hands on balls in this game.  However, he had trouble guarding shooters, as he would tend to be late to contest three-point shots.  Another time, he was late to rotate to a cutter, which led his team to allow a score.  On a separate play, he got beat off the dribble, which prompted a teammate to commit a foul as a result.

In general, Joel Berry II did a good job of shooting and scoring the basketball, as he all scorers with 31 points in his team’s loss to Miami, and he also made five threes from beyond the arc.  While he struggled as a playmaker and with his position defense at times, Berry did a great job of making shots on offense.  He played very well in the second half to almost lead his team to a win, and he continually was able to make shots down the stretch.  With his skill set, he could end up being a potential second round pick in the upcoming draft.

North Carolina’s 6-6 senior swingman, Theo Pinson had a good showing in his team’s loss to Miami.  He initially struggled with his jump shot in the first half, but he showed off solid facilitation and defensive skills when he was on the court, and he was able to make enough shots to notch a double-double in this game.

Pinson did a good job of knocking down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  He was able to make a couple of spot-up threes off the catch, and he also made a long two-point shot.  He also showed off some low post scoring skills, as he managed to back down his man, and he used a drop step move to draw free throws on a leaner, but he struggled to score consistently off the dribble.  He was able to draw fouls upon his opponents, and he was able to use a behind-the-back dribble move on a patient baseline drive to get to the foul line once.  However, Pinson tended to miss on awkward shots in traffic, as he may not always play under control on offense.

He also showed off solid playmaking skills.  Pinson is an unselfish player that sees the floor well as he plays like a tall point forward, and he can throw accurate interior passes to set up numerous scores for his teammates.  He can weave passes to his teammates in traffic, and he also can find them on the move, but sometimes, he may try to be too fancy with his passes, and he also may look to fit passes into tight windows too much at times.  Another time, he once got a ball poked away when posting up that led him to commit a turnover.  While he did not grab many rebounds when he was on the court, Pinson did manage to collect a couple of defensive boards against Miami.

Plus, Pinson played good defense in this game.  He showed a knack for jumping passes to get steals, and he also managed to swat a three-point shot out of bounds.  In addition, he also did a good job of contesting jumpers to force misses, and he also stepped up to draw a charge when defending a drive.  But sometimes, he would give his man too much space when defending drives, which would cause his team to allow scores.

In general, Theo Pinson played very well, as he showed off a good all-around game in his team’s loss to Miami.  He’s a tall point forward that is a very good facilitator for his team, and he also can play lockdown defense when he is on the floor.   While shooting or scoring the basketball has never really been his forte, he showed an improved ability to make shots in this game.  With his skill set, he could end up being a second round pick in the upcoming draft, especially if he can prove to teams that he can knock down jump shots on a consistent basis.

Miami’s 6-2 senior guard, Ja’Quan Newton came up big for his team, as he made four crucial free throws down the stretch, and he also made the game-winning three-point shot to help his team defeat North Carolina on this day.  He did a good job of knocking down pull-up jumpers to help his team on offense, and he also showed a decent ability to score on quick drives to the basket.

Plus, Newton can make passes off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  However, he struggled with his position defense in this game, as he would occasionally be foul prone, and he also would not always make sound rotations defensively.  In general, Ja’Quan Newton played well on offense, as he excelled as a shooter and passer when he was on the floor.  He has put up fairly pedestrian numbers this season, but he had a solid game in his team’s win over North Carolina, and he could end up making an NBA summer league roster either this year or sometime down the road.

North Carolina’s 6-8 forward, Cameron Johnson did a good job of shooting and scoring the basketball to help his team on offense.  He showed a knack for making spot-up jumpers from all over the floor, and he also ran off of a screen to draw free throws after taking a jump shot.  Plus, he also can score on crafty drives to the hoop, and he also backed his man down to score on a strong reverse layup from the post.  Also, Johnson managed to score on a backdoor cut to the hoop another time.

He also showed off decent playmaking skills, as he will look to find the open man to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  Johnson also showed off adequate rebounding and defensive skills, as he will get his hands on balls to help his team in games.  But every once in a while, he can have lapses defensively, as he was caught ball watching, which caused him to get beat off the dribble and also to commit a foul on that play.  In general, Cameron Johnson played quite well in his team’s loss to Miami.  He did a good job of making shots on offense, and he could end up being a potential second round pick whenever he decides to enter the NBA draft.

Miami’s sophomore big man, Dewan Huell played fairly well to help lead his team to a win over North Carolina.  He excelled as an inside scorer and rebounder when he was on the floor, and he also showed off some defensive skills.  Huell showed a fairly good ability to score in the post, as he can score on jump hooks after backing down his man to establish deep position on the block.  In addition, he also did a good job of scoring on hustle plays to score around the basket.  He also can get scores off the dribble, and his best score was when he jumped a pass to get a steal, and he quickly drove down the court to score on a powerful slam on the break.   But sometimes, he can miss shots in traffic, and he generally tended to miss on floaters.

Also, he generally rebounded the ball very well, as he was quite active at crashing the glass on both ends of the floor.  He also displayed above average defensive skills.  Huell managed to jump a pass to get a steal, and he also rotated quickly to block a shot in the post.  But sometimes, he may not always make timely rotations, which can lead him to commit fouls and allow scores as a result.  In general, Dewan Huell had a solid showing, as he excelled as an inside scorer and rebounder, and he also played good help defense to help lead his team to a win.  He has not drawn as much draft buzz as his other teammates, Lonnie Walker or Bruce Brown, but Huell is a talented, athletic big man that could end up being a find for an NBA team sometime in the future.

North Carolina’s 6-8 junior forward, Luke Maye had a fairly good game in his team’s loss to Miami.  He excelled at scoring on hustle plays, he showed a good ability to get patient scores off the dribble, he showed an adequate ability to knock down jumpers, and he also showed off some post-up skills.  He was turnover prone however, as he was inaccurate on some of his passes.  He also struggled with his position defense, as he generally struggled to guard quicker players, as he would commit fouls and allow scores as a result.

In summary, Luke Maye made a variety of shots, and he also grabbed numerous rebounds, as he was able to get a double-double in his team’s loss in this game.  He scored 14 points and hauled in 10 rebounds against Miami.  While his lack of ideal athletic gifts may put a ceiling on how well he can develop at the next level, Maye may potentially have the skill set to end up being an energetic role player in the NBA.

Miami’s 6-10 junior center, Ebuka Izundu played very well in the first half, as he really excelled at scoring on hustle plays, and he even ran the floor to score on a thunderous dunk off of a roll to the rim.  He also showed off adequate low post scoring skills.  He also managed to set a screen that enabled a teammate to score on a drive, he was fairly active on the glass, and he also managed to get a steal off of a pass from a low post player.  But Izundu also struggled with his position defense at itmes, as he would allow deep position when defending down low, which would cause him to commit fouls in the post.

In summary, Ebuka Izundu had a decent showing, as he played very well in the first half, but he did not nearly have the same impact on the game in the second half.  He is an athletic, energetic big man that can make high motor plays, and he could end up being a potential second round pick whenever he enters the NBA draft.

Miami’s 6-3 sophomore guard, Dejan Vasiljevic played very well, as he did a great job of knocking down jumpers, especially on threes off the catch, and he also managed to score on a quick, crafty drive to the hoop.  He scored 10 points as he made all of his shots in this game to help get his team the win over North Carolina, and he is a floor spacing prospect that could be a player to keep an eye on in the future.