Thoughts on Ja Morant, Mfiondu Kabengele, and Terance Mann

March 23, 2019

by Alan Lu

I took the time to see Ja Morant and Murray State play in a second round tournament game against Florida State in a highly anticipated matchup.  The Racers were coming strong off of a very good win over Marquette, but Florida State proved to be too much for them to handle.  While Morant was able to score and get his points, his teammates had trouble scoring on offense, and the Seminoles played well in all facets of the game to win by double digits.  Here are my thoughts on how Morant, and other various prospects fared in this game, and where they may rate as prospects for the NBA.

Murray State’s sophomore point guard, Ja Morant had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Florida State.  While the Seminoles seemed to have studied and game-planned for him meticulously, Morant was still able to score the basketball with relative ease, as he excelled at making three-pointers, and he also showed off good playmaking and defensive skills.

Morant did a great job of knocking down pull-up threes to space the floor for his team on offense.  He can make shots from way beyond the arc, and he can also use step back moves to create separation between himself and his defender.  He also showed a knack for drawing fouls on speedy drives in transition, as he really excels at going to his left to do so.  However, he had more trouble trying to score on half-court drives, as his opponents would crowd the rim to prevent him from getting all the way to the hoop, and he also tended to struggle using his right hand.  He did make one nifty shot using his right hand after getting the ball on a curl cut prior to driving in from the high post, as he was able to score on acrobatically off the glass that time. 

He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  He can push the pace to get teammates the basketball, and he does a good job of passing off of the dribble to set up scores for his teammates.   Morant can make drop off passes, he can kick balls out to shooters, and he also threw a lob pass to set up a dunk once.  He also has great speed and scoring ability, as that allows him to draw in multiple defenders before finding open teammates to get them open looks.  On the downside though, he also was inaccurate on some of his passes, which would lead to turnovers.

Also, he did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball.  Morant was able to haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he would leap up to get some of them to help his team on the glass.  He also played good defense.  Morant is a very athletic player that can make plays on and off the ball.  He managed to leap up to block a shot off of a cut due to possessing good leaping, timing, and instincts, and he also poked a ball away to get a steal.  He will also contest jump shots to force misses.  But there was one play where he over-ran past his opponent, which led to a scramble situation in which his team allowed a dunk around the basket.

Overall, Ja Morant played well as he excelled as a shooter, facilitator, and defender in his team’s loss to Florida State.  What was impressive was that he showed range and the ability to continually make tough three-point shots to combat for Florida State’s strategy for packing in the paint.  Morant is a tremendously skilled playmaker that could be a superstar in the NBA, and he will probably end up being a top 3 pick in the 2019 draft.

Florida State’s 6-10 sophomore center, Mfiondu Kabengele had a terrific performance in his team’s win over Murray State, and he could perhaps be the best prospect that no one has talked about.  He is an athletic big man that can shoot and block shots, and he has an interesting skill set that could allow him to thrive in the modern NBA.  Kabengele did a good job of knocking down jumpers in this game.  He was able to make a couple of mid-range shots, and he also made a deep three from well beyond the arc.  He also is a good scorer in the post, as he was able to score on a turnaround jumper, and he possesses solid shooting touch, strength, and footwork down low.  He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays, and he was able to score on a couple of thunderous dunks.

He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball, and he would tend to leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor.  Kabengele also played very good defense.  He did a terrific job of blocking shots to protect the paint for his team, and he excelled at defending in the post to do so.  He also was able to contest a mid-range shot to force a miss, but sometimes he can too aggressive on this side of the ball, as he also was called for committing fouls while trying to contest shots around the basket.  In general, Mfiondu Kabengele played very well, as he showed off versatile scoring skills, and he also did a very good job of rebounding and defending to help his team get a double-digit victory.  He is a talented big man that can be an asset to teams at the next level, and he could end up being a good value pick in the late first to the second round range of the upcoming draft.

Florida State’s senior guard, Terance Mann had a strong showing in his team’s second round win against Murray State.  He is an athletic playmaker that did a very good job of attacking the basket to garner scores, and he also played a solid all-around game on this day.  Mann did a very good job of scoring on quick, strong drives to the hoop.  He is an agile player that has a solid first step to the basket, and he showed a knack for getting scores off the dribble.  He can use a wide array of ball handling moves to get past his man, and he also managed to throw down an emphatic jam after being left open once.  He also excelled as a scorer in transition, and on one play, he ran the floor to catch a lob pass in order to score on an alley-oop dunk.  Plus, he also managed to draw free throws on a turnaround jumper in the post, and he also was able to score on a quick put back after getting an offensive rebound.

He struggled to knock down jumpers when he would hoist up shots outside of the paint area.  Mann missed a fadeaway mid-range shot early on, and he also missed an open three from beyond the arc.  Aside from that though, he did a very good job of putting up points to help his team surge on offense.  He also displayed good playmaking skills.  Mann is an unselfish player that can throw long, accurate passes to his teammates to set up a wealth of scores for them, and he also has solid court vision.  He also can throw lobs to notch assists.  He did throw a couple of inaccurate passes that led him to commit turnovers, but generally Mann did a good job of passing and handling the ball in this game.

Mann also rebounded the ball well, and he would frequently come away with boards to help his team on the glass.  He also played good defense.  He would stay with opposing ball handlers to force them to miss shots, and he would crowd ball handlers to force them to throw difficult passes.  He did commit a foul on a pull-up, mid-range jumper, but generally Mann excelled at applying ball pressure, crowding opponents, challenging shots to help his team on the defensive end.  In summary, Terance Mann played very well as he contributed in a wide array of ways to help his team get the win.  He is a versatile player that can play a multitude of positions, and he also has a high basketball IQ.  Right now, he may likely be a second round prospect for the upcoming draft.  He will need to improve his jump shot, but his ability to score, facilitate the basketball, and defend could allow him to thrive as a role player in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Florida State’s 7-4 senior center, Christ Koumadje had an adequate performance in his team’s win over Murray State.  He excelled at scoring on hustle plays, as he has very good hands to catch lobs to score on alley-oop dunks, and he also can excel as a roll man as well as score on put backs.  However, he may not always play under control, as he also ended up missing two put backs in this game.

He also is a good shot blocker that can swat shots off of drives to force misses.  However, he also tended to commit fouls when defending drives or in the post, and sometimes he would give up too much space to his opponents, which would allow them to garner scores.  Overall, Koumadje is an intriguing prospect, as he is a mobile 7-4 center that plays hard and could project to be a rim protector at the next level.  He will still need to refine his offensive skills and be more disciplined defensively to avoid foul trouble, but his skills for a player his size and combined with his upside could allow him to end up making an NBA team’s summer league roster.

When Florida State’s senior guard, P.J. Savoy came off the bench, he immediately made back to back threes, and then he ran quickly off the ball to make another three-point shot to help his team space the floor.  However, he cooled off later on, as he was unable to sustain the level of success he had early in the game, and he had trouble knocking down jumpers.  Right now, Savoy is more of a limited use shooter in games, but if he can be an elite shooter that he appeared to be when he was a sophomore, Savoy could perhaps end up making an NBA team’s summer league roster.