Thoughts on Kerwin Roach, Coby White, and Nassir Little

November 23, 2018

by Alan Lu

I decided to take the opportunity to watch Texas play against North Carolina in the Las Vegas Invitational.  This game featured numerous prospects, such as Nassir Little, Coby White, Kerwin Roach, and others, and Coby White and Kerwin Roach both had tremendous showings in this contest.  Both teams traded leads, but Texas was able to hang out to get a narrow, three-point win.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared on this day, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Texas’ 6-4 senior combo guard, Kerwin Roach put on a magnificent performance, as he really excelled at making shots in all sorts of ways, and he had a tremendous all-around game to help lead his team to a victory over North Carolina.  Roach did a great job of scoring on drives to the basket.  He has a very good first step off the dribble, and he also possesses solid acceleration, leaping ability, and body control to finish many plays around the basket.  Roach had a knack for scoring on aggressive right-handed drives to the hoop, and he was able to throw down numerous impressive dunks, including one where he scored over Cameron Johnson to throw down the jam.  He also can use pump fakes and hesitation moves to create separation, and he did a good job of scoring and drawing free throws off of tear drops and floaters.  He did have one miss on a fadeaway jumper in traffic as he seemed to force the issue a bit too much that time, but generally Roach really excelled at taking the ball to the rim in this game.

He also showed a good ability to knock down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  Roach had a penchant for scoring on spot-up threes when he would look to take them from beyond the arc against North Carolina.  He also used a crossover to make a pull-up mid-range jumper, but missed on two other attempts from that range.  Also, Roach displayed solid playmaking skills.  He did a great job of throwing sharp, interior passes to set up scores for his teammates, as he throws very good lobs, and he will also routinely hit the cutter.  He also showed a good ability to kick the ball out to shooters off the dribble, and he tended to find the open man to set up scores for his teammates.  He did commit a couple of turnovers though, as he was called for a carrying and ended up catching a ball out of bounds another time.

Plus, Roach did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would crash the glass to get defensive boards, and he was able to help collect rebounds on that end of the floor.  He also played fairly good defense.  Roach showed a knack for jumping passes to get steals, as he is a quick, agile player that can pounce upon balls thrown his way.  Also, he was able to contest a three to force a miss.  However, he can tend to gamble too much defensively.  Sometimes he will wildly go for steals and miss, which can put him out of position, causing him to be out of position and allow scores.  Other times, he may be too aggressive when trying to make plays on this end, which can lead him to commit touch fouls.

In general, Kerwin Roach played very well as he had a terrific all-around game, and he is a tremendously athletic combo guard that can make a variety of plays on both ends of the floor.  Strangely, he had been struggling to make shots consistently prior to this game, but Roach put on an exceptional performance to lead his team to a win over North Carolina.  If he can play like this or at least at close to this level on a more consistent basis, Roach could secure a spot to be drafted in 2019, as he could project into being a good role player in the NBA.

North Carolina’s 6-5 freshman guard, Coby White also played really well, as he put on a fantastic performance to keep his team in the game against Texas all the way until the end.  He shot the ball really well, especially from beyond the arc, and he also showed very good speed and athleticism, versatile scoring skills, and some playmaking and defensive skills when he was on the court.

White did a terrific job of knocking down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  He really excelled at knocking down threes, as he can use crossovers and step back moves to knock down pull-up threes, and he also showed an affinity for making pull-up jumpers inside the arc as well.  He also showed a good ability to make spot-up threes, as he was very effective at doing so regardless if he was open or guarded by an opponent.  He also excelled at scoring on drives to the basket.  White can finish plays using either hand, and he has a quick first step that enables him to get scores and free throws.  On one play, he used an over head ball fake and jump stop to get a score around the basket.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Though White looked to score quite often, he can throw accurate interior passes, and he was able to hit the cutter to set up a score once.  He also can kick the ball to open shooters off the dribble due to possessing adequate court vision, but sometimes, he can tend to throw hasty passes as he may try to force them into traffic, as he had a couple of them intercepted by defenders.

Although White did not grab many rebounds, he was able to leap up to get a couple of defensive boards in this contest.  However, he may need to improve his defense.  For the positives, White possesses good lateral mobility, and he was able to stay in front of his man to contest mid-range shots to force some misses.  On the downside, he can be a bit unfocused defensively at times.  White would sometimes over-help in the paint, and give up too much space, which would allow his opponents to score on jumpers.  Other times, he would get beat on drives to the hoop, prompting a teammate to rotate to commit a foul.  White also ended up committing a couple of reach-in fouls on opposing ball handlers on a couple of other occasions.

In summary, Coby White played very well as he really excelled as a shooter, scorer, and ball handler in this game, and he is a speedy combo guard that can comfortably run the point.  Based on his performance on this day, it is quite possible that White may actually be the best prospect that played in this contest.  He may possess a lot of upside as a prospect for the next level, and he could be a very good value pick in the mid first round, as he may have the ability to end up being a solid starter in the association.

North Carolina’s 6-6 freshman swingman, Nassir Little had an up and down performance in his team’s loss to Texas.  He had a slow start to the first half as he seldom received touches on offense or playing time in the early going, and he was held scoreless in that time span.  Little did play better as the game wore on, but he might be more of a project player than anticipated based on the times I’ve seen him play this year.

Little showed an adequate ability to get scores off the dribble.  He has a fairly good first step off the dribble, and he gets good elevation when he shoots the basketball.  He was able to drive aggressively to his left to score on a pull-up mid-range jumper while getting an extra free throw once.  He also used a spin move to score on a floater in transition.  However, there was one play where after using a pivot move, he had his shot blocked by a taller opponent in the lane.  He also can score on hustle plays.  Little was able to draw free throws after getting an offensive board, where he was then able to make one of two at the foul line late in this contest.  However, he did have his shot blocked on a put back another time.

He did struggle to knock down threes, but he was able to get one to go down late in this match.  Little had trouble making spot-up threes despite being open on a good number of them, but later on, he was able to make a quick three from the left wing, but when he made that shot, he seemed to show rather odd shooting mechanics, as he kicked his legs forward and leaned backwards to knock it down.  His playmaking skills looked to be about average at best.  Little did not look to pass very often, but he did throw an outlet pass to a shooter in transition to help set up a scoring chance on offense.  But he did commit one turnover, as he was called for committing a charging foul on a drive in transition.

Also, Little did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He did a great job of hauling in boards on both ends of the floor, and he also was able to get one defensive rebound in traffic.  However, he may need to improve his defense.  On the plus side, Little was able to alter a shot on a drive in transition, as he can force misses when he is dialed in on this end of the floor.  However, he can tend to have lapses defensively.  On one play, he over-helped in the paint, and gave up too much space to allow his man to score on a three-point shot.  Another time, he ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow a pass that led to an inside score.

In summary, Nassir Little is an athletic swingman that possesses great physical tools, but he will still need to improve in the finer points of the game.  He will have to improve his jump shot and position defense.  But right now, his athletic gifts and upside could allow him to still end up being drafted in the mid first round range, as he could perhaps be a similar type of player to Washington Wizards’ Kelly Oubre in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Texas’ 6-9 senior forward, Dylan Osetkowski played very well as he excelled at knocking down shots in a variety of ways, and he also played good defense in his team’s win over North Carolina.  Osetkowski showed a good ability to knock down threes in this game.  He can make them off the catch or dribble, and on one occasion, he was able to use a pump fake to knock down a pull-up three.  He also was able to score off of a cut to the hoop.  In addition, he has a nifty pump fake that allowed him to score on a jump hook after driving the ball to the basket.  Plus, he also would draw free throws after getting offensive rebounds.

He also defended well.  Osetkowski excelled as a help defender on this end of the floor.  He was able to swat a shot off of a put back, and he also tied up an opponent on a defensive rebound to get a steal as well.  In summary, Dylan Osetkowski played very well to help get his team the victory, and he is a skilled big man that can score the basketball in a variety of ways.  He will need to continue to improve his jump shot, as he has struggled to be more consistent from beyond the arc in other games.  But if he can improve upon his weaknesses, he could perhaps end up making an NBA team’s roster, as he could be like a poor man’s version of Anthony Tolliver in the league.

Cameron Johnson had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Texas.  He showed an adequate ability to attack the basket to garner scores, as he was able to drive to the hoop to score on a dunk in transition, and he had a knack for scoring off of cuts as well as drawing fouls on half-court drives.  However, he struggled to consistently knock down jumpers, as he tended to miss on spot-up threes.  He also played adequate defense.  He did a very good job of playing passing lanes to get steals and deflections for his team.  However, sometimes he would struggle to guard quicker players out on the perimeter, as he would get beat off the dribble to allow scores, and he also gave up too much space another time to allow an opponent to score on a corner three.

In summary, Cameron Johnson is an athletic basketball player that can play multiple positions, and he has been having a very good senior season.  He can contribute in a variety of ways, and he may be a second round prospect due to his ability to make a multitude of shots and defend on the basketball court.

Texas’ 6-11 freshman center, Jaxson Hayes played very well in his team’s win over North Carolina.  He was an excellent finisher around the basket, as he managed to score on a couple of emphatic dunks, and he also scored on a reverse layup.  He has very good hands to catch passes, and he also drew numerous free throws by looking to score on hustle plays.  He also played fairly good defense, and he even ran back on defense to make a nice chase down block in transition.  On the downside, he did commit a couple of fouls when defending in the post.  Overall, Hayes is an athletic big man that could project into being a rim protector in the NBA, and he could be a second round prospect either in 2019 or for a future draft.

Luke Maye did not play very well in his team’s loss to Texas, as he struggled to knock down jumpers or score in the post consistently, and he had trouble guarding shooters on the defensive end.  For the positives, Maye rebounded the ball well, and was able to go coast to coast to score on a left handed drive in transition.  However, he did not defend very well, as he tended to bite on pump fakes, and he would give up too much space to allow opponents to score on a plethora of three-point shots.

Right now, Maye be an unlikely candidate to be drafted, despite having versatile offensive skills.  His lack of ideal athleticism or size to play inside may make it difficult for him to defend or get his shots off as well at the next level, so he will have to focus on being a better shooter and position defender in games.  Still, he will probably be a likely candidate to end up on an NBA team’s summer league roster.

Texas’ sophomore center, Jericho Sims did not have much of an impact in this game, but he was able to score on an alley-oop dunk after catching a lob pass off of a cut.  Though he started the game, Sims was basically a non-factor against North Carolina, and he ended up picking up quick fouls in the second half.