Assessing Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn, and Jalen Johnson

December 9th, 2020

By Alan Lu

Yesterday, I also took the time to watch Jalen Johnson and Duke square off against Illinois in an early season, non-conference college basketball game.  I wanted to see how well Johnson would bounce back from his team’s loss in the Champions Classic to Michigan State, and if Duke would play better this time around.  What happened instead was that Illinois came in strong right off the bat, as they shot the ball really well, as they excelled at making threes, scoring in the post, and they also got out in transition to score in fast breaks.  Illinois led early and they never looked back, and they never really let Duke get too close to them, and Illinois ended up winning by double-digits. 

Jalen Johnson had some good moments on both ends of the floor, and his draft stock probably will remain high even after this game had long ended.  For his team however, Duke really struggled to shoot, take care of the basketball, or defend, and for the first in a long time, they looked lost as a basketball team.  For Illinois, Ayo Dosunmu had a very good game, and led his team with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists to help his team get the victory.  Here are my thoughts on how Dosunmu, Johnson, and the others fared on this day.

Illinois’ junior guard, Ayo Dosunmu played very well, as he played a strong all-around game to lead his team to a win over Duke.
(Photo:
Duke University Athletics, via Sports Illustrated)

Illinois’ junior guard, Ayo Dosunmu had a stellar showing in this game, as he played well on both ends of the floor, and he led his team to a double-digit victory over Duke. Dosunmu did a good job of knocking down smooth, pull-up jumpers from the mid-range, and he also was a crafty scorer off the dribble.  He also showed the ability to score in transition, and he didn’t miss too often in this game.  However, he was unable to knock down three-point shots, and he struggled to make outside shots from beyond the arc.

Also, Dosunmu displayed decent playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that passes the ball well both off the dribble and in transition, and he has solid court vision that allows him to rack up assists.  He also threw an accurate lob pass to set up a score for a teammate on the break.  However, sometimes he can play too fast and wildly at times, and he ended up committing several ball handling turnovers in this game.

Plus, Dosunmu did a terrific job of rebounding the basketball.  He was outstanding at crashing the glass to get defensive boards in this game.  He would sometimes push the ball up the court, and he also boxed out an opponent to draw a foul when going for a defensive board another time.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Dosunmu is a rangy defender that can make numerous plays on the ball due to possessing very good athleticism and anticipation skills.  He was able to rotate to block a shot off of a drive, and he also jumped a pass to get as steal.  However, there was one play where he was not able to cut off penetration when defending a drive, which led him to foul his opponent instead.

Overall, Ayo Dosunmu played very well, and he excelled at making plays on both ends of the court in his team’s win over Duke.  He may be one of the more underrated prospects in this draft class, and he could be a solid value pick for an NBA team in the mid to late first round range of the 2021 draft.

Illinois’ big men, Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Kofi Cockburn both played well, as they made solid plays on both ends of the floor to help lead their team to a sizable victory over Duke.
(Photo:
Duke University Athletics, via Sports Illustrated)

Illinois’ 7-0 sophomore center, Kofi Cockburn had a solid showing in his team’s win over Duke.  He is a strong, mobile big man that excelled as an interior player for his team, and he especially played well early on in this game.

The Jamaican-born center showed a fairly good ability to score in the post.  Cockburn was able to use a nifty drop step to score on a turnaround jump hook, and he also caught a lob pass to score on an alley-oop dunk.  He did a tremendous job of drawing free throws to often get to the free throw line.  He also ran the floor to get a couple scores on the break, and he showed a knack for scoring on alley-oop dunks.  However, he had his shots blocked two often, and he also missed on dunks a couple of times.

As a playmaker, he looked to be about average at best.  On one good play, Cockburn was able to pass out of the post to find a cutter to set up a scoring chance for his teammate.  On the downside, he also committed a couple of turnovers from the post.  He lost the ball once out of bounds, and he also lowered a shoulder to commit a charging foul another time.

Also, Cockburn did a good job of rebounding the basketball, and he would leap up to get plenty of defensive boards to help his team. He played adequate defense in this game as well.  Cockburn was able to block a couple of shots off of drives to help his team protect the rim, and he was active at contesting shots on drives to the basket.  He also did a good job of successfully challenging three-points to get stops for his team.  However, he would tend to struggle to defend quicker players off the dribble, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

In summary, Kofi Cockburn played fairly well, as he did a good job of scoring and defending in the post, and he also rebounded the ball well.  He did sometimes struggle to score or defend more athletic opponents, but his size and strength allowed him to be an effective low post scorer often times in the half court.  Right now, he projects to be a second round candidate for the 2021 draft, and he could end up being a solid rotational big man in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-8 freshman forward, Jalen Johnson put forth an uneven performance in his team’s loss to Illinois.  He made some good plays at times, and he showed off versatile scoring skills, and was also able to make some impressive blocks defensively, but he didn’t shoot the ball well, nor display much of the playmaking skills that made him an intriguing prospect in the first place.

On the plus side, Johnson was able to knock down some jumpers to score the basketball in this game.  Johnson made an open, spot-up three off the catch, and he also was able to make a pull-up jumper from the mid-range.  However, he seemed to struggle more to make pull-up jumpers or mid-range shots consistently, though.  He did manage to score on a left-handed drive to the hoop after getting the ball poked to himself midway through.  However, he would tend to miss shots off of drives and in the post, and Johnson was not able to score much against Illinois.

He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Johnson can throw accurate passes off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  However, he only notched on assist in this game, and he also threw an inaccurate high entry pass that his teammate dropped out of bounds that resulted in a turnover.

Also, Johnson did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, and he would leap up to haul in numerous boards on both ends of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be perhaps above average.  Johnson is an athletic, rangy defender that can get plenty of steals and blocks to help his team.  He was able to make some impressive blocks to help his team protect the paint.  He made a chase down block to prevent an opponent from scoring on a dunk, and he also swatted a shot in the post out of bounds due to possessing very good recovery speed, length, and timing.  He also intercepted a pass to get a steal, and he also rotated on a drive to help force a ball-handling turnover another time.  However, he often had trouble defending in the post, as he would tend to get outmuscled and allow deep position down low, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.  Another time, he was late to rotate to a shooter, which caused him to allow his opponent to score on a three-point shot.

Overall, Jalen Johnson did not have his best game, but he showed flashes of his vast potential on both ends of the floor.  He hasn’t really put his skills all together though like he did in his season debut against Coppin State.  If he can play more like how he did then as opposed to how he has played recently against Michigan State and Illinois, Johnson could be a surefire lottery pick.  Right now, he’s still poised to at least be a mid first round pick, but questions about his shooting or scoring ability could cause him to slip in the draft, but he still may have the skills to end up being a solid role player in the NBA nonetheless.

Illinois’ 6-3 freshman guard, Adam Miller put forth a solid performance in his team’s win over Duke.  He played especially well early on, as he made three early threes in the first half.  His play cooled off in the second half, but his ability to make plays on both ends of the floor helped his team get the victory.

Miller did a great job of knocking spot-up threes off the catch, and he also can run off ball screens to make them from beyond the arc.  However, he missed when trying to score off the dribble inside the arc, however.  He did display solid playmaking skills, and he passes the ball well off the dribble and in transition due to possessing solid court vision.

Though he didn’t get many boards in this game, he was able to come away with a pair of defensive rebounds.  He also played fairly average defense in this game.  Miller was able to poke a ball away to get a steal once.  However, he struggled more to defend opponents off the dribble, and sometimes he would bite on pump fakes, which would lead him to be out of position.

Overall, Adam Miller is an athletic, skilled combo guard that can shoot and score the basketball, and he really excelled as a sharpshooter in this game.  He played well against Duke, and he could end up getting drafted in the late first to the second round range whenever he decides to declare to enter the NBA draft.

Duke’s 6-9 sophomore forward, Matthew Hurt played fairly well in his team’s loss to Illinois, as he scored 19 points in this game.  He’s been Duke’s most consistently productive player, and he did a good job of scoring and defending when he was on the floor.

Hurt did a very good job of scoring in the post.  He would tend to score on turnaround jumpers, and he also showed a knack for scoring off of cuts and rolls to the rim.  He also scored on a high-flying, two handed dunk off of a roll late in this game, and he also ran in to score on a put back after grabbing an offensive rebound.  He would tend to make strong moves when looking to score inside, and he was able to draw a handful of free throws in this game.

Plus, he also showed a solid ability to make mid-range jumpers.  On the downside, he missed all six of his three-point shots, which was uncharacteristic of him, as he normally tends to make threes from beyond the arc, but Hurt was unable to make a three-point shot in this game against Illinois.

As a playmaker, he wasn’t too noticeable on this end, as he did not get an assist or commit a turnover, but he was able to handle the ball in short areas.  There was one play where he couldn’t catch an inaccurate high pass thrown to him that led to a turnover for his teammate. 

Also, Hurt did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He was able to get multiple boards on both end of the floor.  There was one play where he was called for an over the back foul when going for an offensive board late in the first half, which led him to get into foul trouble midway through this match.

He also played fairly good defense in this game.  Hurt was able to block and alter shots in the paint due to possessing good length, mobility, and timing.  He also would deflect passes to make it difficult for his opponents to get their passes through, and he also contested a mid-range shot to force a miss.  However, he had some trouble defending opponents in one-on-one situations.  He committed a couple of fouls in the post, and he also was unable to cut off penetration when defending a drive, which led his team to allow a score inside.

Overall, Hurt had a solid showing, as he played well on both ends of the floor to help keep this game competitive for a while.  He has shown improved athleticism and defensive skills to add to his shooting and scoring prowess, and Hurt could end up being a late first round pick in the 2021 draft.

Duke’s freshman guard, D.J. Steward also had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Illinois.  He started off having a slow first half, and he was rather turnover prone in this game, but he consistently made shots in the second half to help keep his team in the game for a while.

Steward did a good job of knocking down spot-up threes off the catch, and he can run off the ball to get open to make them from beyond the arc.  He also was able to make a pull-up jumper from mid-range, though he struggled to make mid-range shots or shots off the dribble consistently.  He did leap up to catch a lob around the basket to score on a tip shot another time due to possessing good timing, athleticism, and instincts to do so.

On the downside, Steward was quite turnover prone in this game. He tended to commit ball-handling turnovers, as he had some trouble creating separation, so he ended up committing offensive fouls in a bid to try to get shots up off the dribble.  He also had a ball poked away that led to another turnover.  He also had a pass picked up another time by a defender.  On the plus side, he can sometimes throw good passes off the dribble to get his teammates open looks to score on offense.

Also, Steward was able to get a pair of defensive boards in this game, and he would sometimes push the ball up the floor off of them.  Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  He was able to jump on a loose ball to get a steal once.  However, he tended to bite on pump fakes, which would lead him to be significantly out of position.  He got beat off the dribble to allow a score as a result of biting on one bump fake, and he ended up fouling a three-point shooter by landing right on top of his opponent when biting on another pump fake.

Overall, D.J. Steward is an athletic, combo guard that can put up points in a hurry, but he will still need to improve in the finer points of the game.  At this stage, he may be better suited to playing off the ball than to run the point, but his ability to shoot and score could help Duke remain competitive this year.  He will need to cut down on his turnovers and be a more disciplined defender, but his athleticism and scoring potential could make him a late first to a second round prospect for the 2021 draft.

Duke’s freshman 6-1 point guard, Jeremy Roach also played well in his team’s loss to Illinois.  He is a speedy, skilled playmaker that can consistently get to the rim on offense, and he may have played his best game since his team’s loss to Michigan State.

He is a speedy player that can score on quick drives to the hoop, and he can finish plays using either hand.  He also made a pull-up jumper from the mid-range.  However, he also had a couple of his shots blocked, as he can sometimes be prone to rushing, and he also made a deep three from beyond the arc.

Roach displayed very good playmaking skills.  He threw crisp, accurate interior passes to notch a series of assists, as he can find cutters, and he also threw a nice lob pass to set up a score for a teammate in transition.  He also would consistently find the open man, and he did a very good job of getting the ball to his teammates in spots where they can immediately score the basketball.

He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball, and he was active at crashing the glass to get his team multiple boards on both ends of the floor.  Roach didn’t seem to be too noticeable defensively, but there was one play where he allowed his man to score on a corner three once.

Overall, Jeremy Roach had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Illinois.  He excelled as a scorer and distributor for his team in limited minutes, and he may need to get more extended playing time in the next batch of games.  If he keeps playing well, he could move up draft boards, and he may have the skills to be an effective role player in the NBA.

Illinois’ 6-3 senior guard, Da’Monte Williams played well in his role in his team’s win over Duke.  He excelled as a spot-up shooter, as he made two threes from beyond the arc, and he also did a very good job of scoring on fast breaks.  He also is a solid athlete that defended well, and he was able to get his hands on passes and loose balls to help his team get steals.  Overall, he is an athletic combo guard that can shoot and defend.  While he may need to show teams that he can effectively run the point at higher levels, his ability to make shots and defend could enable him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-2 senior guard, Jordan Goldwire played tough, stingy defense, as he excelled at getting steals and stops for his team.  He would jump passes and poke balls away to get steals and deflections, and he would aggressively guard his man to force misses.  Sometimes, he would be too aggressive in defending out on the perimeter, which would lead him to commit fouls at times.

Though he struggled to score in this game, Goldwire has good foot-speed and quickness that allows him to score on drives and cuts to the hoop.  He also displayed fairly good playmaking skills, and he can throw solid interior passes to notch assists in this game.

Overall, Jordan Goldwire didn’t have his best game, but he played solid defense when he was on the court, and he is also a solid athlete.  Goldwire may be one of the best defenders in college basketball, and his ability to run a team and defend could enable him to potentially make an NBA team’s roster spot in the association sometime down the road.

Duke’s 6-8 freshman forward, Jaemyn Brakefield played fairly well in limited minutes off the bench in his team’s loss to Illinois.  He was able to make open, spot-up jumpers off the catch, and he also rebounded the ball well in this game.  He also played fairly good defense, as he rotated to block a shot off of a drive, contested a dunk attempt to force a miss, and also successfully drew a charge in the post.  He struggled more to defend quicker opponents off the dribble, as he would sometimes allow scores around the basket. 

Overall, Brakefield is a tall, athletic combo forward that could project to be a 3 and D type of role player in the NBA, and he could be an intriguing option for teams to consider in the mid to late second round range of the 2021 draft.

Illinois’ 6-1 freshman guard, Andre Curbelo had a decent showing in his team’s win over Duke.  He is an agile guard that can score the basketball, and he would tend to score on speedy, crafty drives to the hoop.  He also was able to split a double team to find an open teammate down low to notch an assist, and Curbelo can throw good passes both off the dribble and in transition.  However, he also was quite turnover prone, and he would tend to commit some ball-handling turnovers due to playing too fast and out of control at times.

He also was able to get a rebound on each side of the ball in this game.  Curbelo played fairly good defense, and he was able to block a shot out of bounds, but he also was called for a blocking foul another time.  Overall, Andre Curbelo is a quick, agile guard that can score and defend in games.  He will need to play more under control, and he will need to improve his outside shot, but he is an athletic scoring combo guard that could be an intriguing prospect to watch, as he may have the skills to make it as a microwave type of scorer off the bench in the NBA.

Illinois’ 6-9 junior big man, Giorgi Bezhanishvili played well off the bench to help his team get the win over Duke.  He generally excelled as a scorer in the post, and he was able to throw down some powerful dunks, as well as score on a jump hook in this game.  He also threw a nice lob pass to set up a score for a teammate in transition.  Plus, he was also active at crashing the glass to get boards on both ends of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be about average.  Bezhanishvili was able to rotate to block a shot off of a put back, but sometimes he would over-hedge when guarding pick and rolls, which would sometimes lead his team to allow dunks at the rim.

Overall, Bezhanishvili is a mobile, energetic big man that excelled as an interior player and passer for his team off the bench in this game.  He may need to extend his shooting range and improve his ability to defend out in space, but he could be a prospect to watch sometime down the road, as he could project to be an effective rotational big man in the NBA.

Illinois’ 6-2 senior guard, Trent Frazier shot the ball well, as he excelled as a spot-up shooter from beyond the arc, and he also used a pump fake to score on a drive to the hoop.  He generally passed the ball well, and he was able to make some solid defensive plays at times, but he also was quite turnover prone, as he had a tendency to take his eye off the ball to lose it out of bounds, and he also struggled to guard quicker players defensively.  Overall, Frazier played well in his role for Illinois, and his ability to shoot could help him compete for a roster spot in the NBA someday.

The shocking thing was that Duke’s 6-6 sophomore guard, Wendell Moore did not play very much in his team’s loss to Illinois.  Moore has been on a major shooting slump ever since his woeful performance against Michigan State in the Champions Classic, and now that word has gotten out that he has trouble scoring from basically any shot outside of the paint area, he has really struggled to score recently.  In fact, including this game against Illinois, Moore is now has made just 1 of his last 19 field goals, as he scored just 6 points in 3 games against Michigan State, Bellarmine, and Illinois combined.  It doesn’t help that he is a career 18% three-point shooter to date.

In this game, Moore missed badly on both of his mid-range jump shots, and he also missed on a left-handed drive to the hoop.  He did draw a non-shooting foul on a strong, right-handed drive to the rim, but Moore didn’t look to go all the way to score nearly enough.  He also had a ball poked away on a drive to the hoop that led him to commit a turnover.

Also, Moore only grabbed one rebound in this game, and he also struggled to guard shooters, as he did not seem to defend that well either against Illinois.  Overall, Moore did not play well in his team’s loss to Illinois, and it’s beginning to look as if his decision to not declare to enter the 2020 NBA Draft may actually have been a bad thing. 

It’s clear that he did not work to improve the one major weakness of his game, which is his lack of a jump shot.  Not that his opponents have had a full year’s worth of game tape and that they have seemed to have caught on to his strong tendencies to try to score in the paint, Moore’s inability to make jumpers outside of the paint area is now exposed, which can explain his poor scoring output recently. It doesn’t help that he is on a very competitive team where he is starting to lose playing time in addition to not being able to shoot or score recently.  Moore is starting to regress badly as a prospect, and he may have to consider transferring elsewhere to a school that will give him the shots and minutes he may need to get his game back offensively, or Moore will just have to improve his jump shot.  Either way, Moore has not played very well for Duke right now, and he has not looked at all like the potential first round pick he was projected to be this season.

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