Evaluating Jabari Smith, Adama Sanogo, and Tyler Polley

November 25th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Yesterday, I took the time to watch Auburn’s super skilled, 6-10 freshman forward, Jabari Smith play against Connecticut that took place at the Battle 4 Atlantis.  Smith put forth an impressive performance, as he had a strong all-around game, but Connecticut’s superb front-court play led by sophomore center Adama Sanogo and senior forward Tyler Polley helped lead Connecticut get a double OT win over Auburn.  Here are my thoughts on how Smith, Sanogo, and Polley fared in this contest.

Auburn’s 6-10 freshman forward, Jabari Smith scored 22 points, and he also had 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and he made 2 threes in his team’s double overtime loss to Connecticut in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
(Photo:
AU Athletics, via On3.com)

Jabari Smith had a very good showing in his team’s double overtime loss to Connecticut.  He is a tall, very athletic forward that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he is also an active energetic defender that consistently competed hard on the other end of the floor. Smith did a decent job of knocking down jumpers to showcase his shooting skills in this game.  He was able to use a pump fake to make an open three early on, and he also managed to score on an open corner three another time.  He was comfortable in spotting up to score on three-point shots, and he also used a pump fake to draw free throws on a deep three late in double overtime.  On the downside, he struggled more to score when running off screens or looking to shoot long-range jumpers off the dribble.  He also attempted to score from the mid-range, but he couldn’t quite find his rhythm from that area.

He also showed a solid ability to score off the dribble.  Smith handles the ball fairly well, and he was able to use a quick crossover to his left to score on a strong, double-pump layup in traffic.  He also has a good first step that would enable him to draw free throws on strong, left-handed drives to the hoop.  Sometimes though, he would try to rush his moves, which would sometimes result in misses. He also was active as a scorer in transition.  Smith would sprint down court to get the ball, and he was able to score assertively on a finger roll layup while getting an extra free throw.  Also, he showed off satisfactory playmaking skills in this game.  Smith is an unselfish player that will look for the open man, and he will also set screens on offense.  He was able to make a quick drive and kick pass to set up a score for his teammate on the break. 

He also can bring the ball up and handle the basketball in the open floor.  He also managed to set an on-ball screen to help his teammate score on a drive to the hoop.  Sometimes though, he would be careless with the ball, which would lead to turnovers.  He would sometimes throw weak, hasty passes, and he threw an inaccurate pass that skipped out of bounds.  He also used a crossover to try to drive to the hoop, but he had the ball stolen away from him by a roaming defender.

Also, Smith did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball.  He would sometimes leap up to get defensive boards, and he would occasionally push the ball quickly up the floor afterwards.  Sometimes though, he would misjudge the ball when hit would come off the rim, which lead him to be a bit out of position when going for rebounds.

Plus, he also played solid defense in this game.  Smith is a very active defender that moves his feet well, and he showed that he was comfortable defending out on the perimeter as well as in the paint to get stops for his team.  He was able to jump on a loose ball that an opposing ball handler lost to get a steal.  He also did a good job of holding his ground and actively contesting shots when defending in the post to force misses.  He also would hustle back to challenge shots in transition.  He showed quick feet to defend perimeter players, and he did a decent job of challenging shots out there.

In general, Jabari Smith played well in his team’s double overtime loss to Connecticut.  He is a skilled, versatile player that showed off good all-around skills in this game.  He is a very talented prospect that may have a great deal of upside, and he currently looks to be a strong bet to get picked in the top 5 of the 2022 draft.

Adama Sanogo scored 30 points to lead UConn to a double OT victory over Auburn in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
(Photo:
Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports, via NBC Sports)

Connecticut’s sophomore center, Adama Sanogo played very well in his team’s double overtime win over Auburn.  He is a strong, mobile big man that was effective as an interior player on both ends of the floor. Sanogo showed a satisfactory ability to score from the post.  He looked to score from the block quite often, and he was most effective when he would get deep position to do so.  He can use either hand to score on strong jump hooks, and he also can use ball fakes, shoulder fakes, and spin moves to get his shots off.  Sometimes though, he would set up from too far away, and other times, he wouldn’t get enough touch on his shots, which would lead to misses.

He also showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays.  Sanogo was able to get the ball on a roll, and he used a pivot move to score on a strong, step-through move in traffic.  He also managed to score on a tip-in, as well as on a backdoor cut while getting an extra free throw another time.  He also ran the floor, and he used an overhead ball fake to score on a left-handed layup.  On the downside, Sanogo struggled more to score off the dribble, especially in traffic.  He also missed on a pull-up, mid-range jumper, as well as on a three-pointer other times, as he had trouble trying to make shots from further away from the paint.

He also was quite turnover prone on offense.  For the positives, Sanogo would set good on-ball screens to set up scores for shooters.  He also would sometimes look to find the open man on offense, as he was able to pass the ball in transition, as well as from the ground another time.  However, he’s not a very good ball handler, and he would struggle to handle pressure if forced to handle the ball for extended stretches.  On one post play, he picked up his dribble, and he ended up shuffling his feet to commit a traveling violation.  On two clumsy left-handed drives to the hoop, he had a ball poked away, and he also was called for traveling another time.

Also, Sanogo did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He would leap up to get his fair share of boards on both ends of the floor.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Sanogo did a good job of blocking shots off of drives, as he would tend to swat them out of bounds.  He also showed a knack for contesting shots out on the perimeter as well as in the paint to force misses.  On the downside, sometimes he would get beat off the dribble and on misdirection plays, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  Another time, he was called for committing an aggressive foul from behind on a mid-range shot, as he was called for fouling on the swing down.

In summary, Adama Sanogo had a good showing in this game, and he especially thrived as an interior player to help his team get a tough win over Auburn.  He is a very strong, physical big man that did a good job of scoring, setting screens, and defending to help his team.  He’ll need to extend his range and improve his outside shot, but he could be an intriguing pick for an NBA team in the second round whenever he decides to enter the draft.

UConn’s 6-9 forward, Tyler Polley made 6 threes and scored 24 points in his team’s double OT win over Auburn yesterday.
(Photo:
Tim Aylen/Bahamas Visual Services via AP, via Delaware State News)

Connecticut’s fifth-year senior forward, Tyler Polley had a terrific showing in his team’s double overtime win over Auburn.  He did a great job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and he also defended well to help his team get the victory. Polley shot the ball really well, especially from downtown.  He did a terrific job of knocking down threes, especially late in the second overtime.  He showed a knack for running quickly off screens to make quick, spot-up threes, and he also can make quick spot-up threes from way out.  He also was able to score on pull-up threes, and he also calmly scored on a three off the dribble after using a pump fake once.  Plus, he also is a savvy player that can draw fouls upon his defenders, and he will lean in and contort his body to do so in order to get to the free throw line.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills in this game.  Polley will make the extra pass to get the ball to open shooters.  On the other hand, there was one play where he threw an inaccurate pass that led to a team turnover early on. He also did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball.  Polley was especially active at crashing the glass to help his team get offensive boards.  He also played good defense in this game.  He defended well out on the perimeter, and he stayed with his man to block a shot off of a drive.  He also would get his hands on passes to get steals and deflections.  He also showed a knack for contesting shots both out on the perimeter as well as in the paint to force misses.  On the downside, sometimes he would be too aggressive in trying to make plays at times, which would lead him to commit touch fouls.

Overall, Tyler Polley put forth a strong performance in his team’s win over Auburn.  He did a great job of knocking down threes, and he also showed a great ability to run off ball screens to quickly score on three-pointers.  He’ll need to prove that he can be an elite shooter on a consistent basis, as he can sometimes tend to be too streaky with his jump shot at times.  Still, his size, shooting skills, and ability to move off the ball on offense could make him an intriguing prospect for the NBA, as he could project into a 3 and D type of role at that level.

Auburn’s sophomore center, Walker Kessler had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to North Carolina.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, generally passed the ball well, and had a big block in the second half, but he struggled to guard Sanogo in the post for most of this game, as he ended up fouling out late in this match. Kessler showed a satisfactory ability to score in the post.  He was able to throw down a dunk after being left open around the basket.  He also managed to catch a high entry pass to score another time.  On the other hand, there was one play where he missed on a turnaround, baseline jumper.  He also showed a penchant for scoring on hustle plays.  Kessler managed to score on a put back and a tip-in off of offensive rebounds.  He also scored on a roll while getting an extra free throw afterwards.  On the downside, he also had a couple of shots blocked hard on left-handed drives to the hoop.

He also was able to make an open three off of a pick-and-pop play to showcase his shooting skills.  Kessler missed on two other threes, but he was able to make a spot-up three off the catch to show his range in this game.  Also, Kessler passed the ball fairly well in this game.  He showed that he can pass out of the post, and also throw crisp, accurate interior passes to set up scores for his teammates.  He also was able to find a cutter to notch an assist early on.  On the downside, he rushed an outlet pass, which led him to throw an inaccurate pass that sailed out of bounds.

Also, Kessler did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He did a great job of hauling in boards on both ends of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  For the positives, he was able to rotate to block a shot hard off the glass once.  He also would sometimes hold his ground when defending in the post to force some misses, and he would look to challenge shots to get stops for his team.  Most times though, he had trouble defending in the post.  He would tend to give up deep position or too much space to his man, which would often lead him to allow scores down low.  Other times he would be too aggressive in trying to reach in or to rotate, which would lead him to be out of position.  He also struggled to defend screens as he would sometimes not effectively communicate them to his teammates, and his team had trouble defending threes as a result.

Overall, Walker Kessler showed that he can shoot and score the basketball, and he also rebounded the ball well.  On the downside, he didn’t defend well in this game, as he especially struggled to guard Sanogo in the post for most of this match, and he ended up fouling out.  Kessler will need to improve his defense and be a more reliable outside shooter in games, but currently Kessler is a second round prospect for the 2022 draft.

Auburn’s 6-0 sophomore guard, K.D. Johnson is an athletic combo guard that played very well in his team’s double overtime loss to Connecticut.  He showed a solid ability to score off the dribble, and he would tend to score on speedy left-handed drives to the hoop.  He also was able to make a bank, mid-range shot off the dribble, and he also made an open corner three to show his range.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, but sometimes he would miss shots in traffic, as he would sometimes try to do too much on offense. He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Johnson can pass out of the post as well as off the dribble, and he was able to find a cutter from the post to notch an assist.  Sometimes though, he would throw sharp passes that would get dropped by his teammates that would end up out of bounds.

In this game, he did not grab a single rebound against Connecticut.  Johnson also played solid defense in this game.  He would often poke balls away and jump passes to get a plethora of steals for his team.  He also was able to contest a three to force a miss.  Sometimes he would be too aggressive in trying to make plays, as he would commit touch fouls, and he also bit on a pump fake that led his team to allow a three-point basket another time.

Overall, K.D. Johnson had a strong showing in this game, and he has been playing very well this season.  He’ll need to show NBA teams that he can reliably run the point, but his scoring skills and athleticism could make him a prospect to watch sometime in the future.

Connecticut’s 6-5 freshman guard, Jordan Hawkins played well in his team’s win over Auburn.  He did a great job of shooting and scoring the basketball.  He did a great job of making smooth, pull-up threes, and he can quickly get his shots up to do so.  He also was able to get the ball on a backdoor cut, and he used a head fake to patiently score at the rim.  He also did a decent job of scoring on aggressive drives in transition.  On the downside, he would sometimes struggle to handle the ball when pressured, which would lead him to commit ball-handling turnovers.  Overall, he is an athletic freshman guard that can put up points in a hurry, and he could be a prospect to watch in the future.

Connecticut’s senior point guard, R.J. Cole played fairly well in his team’s double overtime win over Auburn.  He showed a knack for shooting and scoring the basketball, and he did a good job of providing offense to help his team in this game. Cole did a good job of knocking down threes to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He can make them off the catch and dribble, and he is a crafty player that can find multiple ways to get open to score on three-pointers.  When handling the ball, he made effective use of a screen to score on a pull-up three.  He also used a pump fake to score on an open three another time.  Cole also was able to use a jump stop to score on a quick, crafty floater, and he showed a penchant for getting fouled when handling the ball to get to the free throw line.  On the downside, he had trouble scoring on pull-up, mid-range jumpers.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills in this game.  Cole is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can find teammates on the move to set up scores for them.  On the downside, he also would struggle to handle heavy ball pressure, which would lead him to commit ball-handling turnovers.  He would sometimes get balls poked away from him, and he also would lose the ball when handling it under pressure other times.  He also collided into an opponent off the ball, which led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover.

Cole also was able to haul in boards on each end of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  He would get his hands on passes to get steals, and he also rotated to poke a ball away from an opponent to get a steal another time.  On the downside, he would struggle to defend quicker opponents off the dribble or on screens, which would lead him to allow scores.  Sometimes, he would commit blocking fouls, as he would be deemed by officials as not quite in position to draw the charge on those possessions.

Overall, R.J. Cole had a decent showing in his team’s win over Auburn.  He shot the ball well in this game, and he showed that he can be lead the guard of a team’s offense.  He’ll need to take better care of the basketball, and he will need to defend better in games.  Currently, he is a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft.

Auburn’s sophomore point guard, Wendell Green Jr. had a solid showing in his team’s double overtime loss to Connecticut.  Green did a good job of knocking down threes to provide floor spacing for his team.  He showed a knack for making threes off the catch and dribble, as he would make deep threes from way out, and he also showed good footwork to seamlessly make step-back threes.  He also would drive to his left to score high off the glass, and he also did a good job of taking it hard to the hoop to get fouled to draw free throws.

He also displayed adequate playmaking skills in this game.  Green is an unselfish player that can make solid passes off the dribble, and he also can find teammates on the move to set up scores for them.  Sometimes though, he would play too fast and out of control, which would lead him to commit ball-handling turnovers.  Other times, he would rush his passes, and he would end up throwing inaccurate passes that would go astray.

He also was able to chase down a couple of balls to help his team get a pair of defensive boards in this game.  He also looked to be fairly average defensively.  Green would poke balls away to get steals and deflections, and he also jumped on a loose ball that was deflected to him to help his team get another steal.  On the other hand, his lack of size made it difficult for him to contest shots, which would lead him to allow opponents to score on threes as well as in the post.  Other times, he would be too aggressive in trying to make plays, which would lead him to be out of position.

Overall, Wendell Green Jr. played well off the bench in this game.  He did a good job of making shots, and he also played unselfishly to get assists on offense.  On the other hand, sometimes he would be too turnover prone at times, and he will need to defend better in games.  He’ll need to stay in school to hone his game, but he could project into a backup point guard role in the NBA someday if things pan out for him.

Connecticut’s senior swingman, Tyrese Martin had a decent showing in his team’s win over Auburn.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, but he also fouled out in this game.  Martin did a good job of scoring in the post, he also managed to make a three off the dribble, and he also ran the floor to score on a thunderous dunk.  He didn’t pass or defend well though, and he ended up fouling out in regulation.  He’s an athletic swingman that excelled at attacking the hoop to score on offense, and he could be a prospect to watch in the future.

Connecticut’s fifth-year senior big man, Isaiah Whaley had his ups and downs in his team’s double overtime win over Auburn.  He only scored two points, both of them off of free throws, and he didn’t make a single field goal, as he missed on a long two from the corner in this game.  Still, he passed the ball and defended well, as he made team plays to help Connecticut get the victory.

He is an unselfish player that would look to find the open man to get assists, and he also threw a very long outlet pass to set up a score for a teammate on the break.  On the downside, he also threw an inaccurate inbounds pass that sailed out of bounds late in this match. He also did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He would chase down balls to help his team get boards on both ends of the floor, and he was especially active at crashing the glass to help his team get offensive rebounds.

Whaley also played satisfactory defense in this game.  He did a great job of blocking shots to help his team protect the paint, as he can defend out on the perimeter as well as in the paint to stay with opposing ball handlers in order to do so.  He also would contest outside shots as well as shots in the paint to force plenty of misses.  Also, he was able to jump on a loose ball that was deflected to him to help his team get a steal.  On the downside, he would tend to get beat off the dribble at times, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  He also would sometimes be too aggressive in contesting shots, which would lead him to commit touch fouls.  Another time, he dropped back too far and gave up too much space to a shooter, which led him to allow a three-point basket to his opponent.

Overall, Isaiah Whaley is an athletic, high-motor big man that can block shots and defend in games, but he will need to improve considerably on offense.  It’s uncertain if he has what it takes to make it to the NBA, but his athleticism, shot-blocking prowess, and defensive skills could enable him to carve out a playing career in the G-League or overseas in professional basketball.

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