Observing Aaron Henry, Jalen Johnson, and Matthew Hurt
December 2nd, 2020
By Alan Lu
I also took the time to watch Jalen Johnson and Duke play against Michigan State in the first game of the Champions Classic. This was the second game of the night that I had seen yesterday, as I had watched the Stanford-North Carolina game hours earlier, and had sat through some terrible officiating that occurred in that contest.
Duke’s freshman forward Jalen Johnson is a prospect that is likely to go in the lottery, and after roasting Coppin State by scoring 19 points as he went perfect from the field while also having 19 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks, he was definitely a player to watch in this match.
Ultimately though, Michigan State ended up playing better as a team, as they got very good contributions from numerous players. Junior swingman Aaron Henry’s decision to come back to college is looking like it’s paying off, as he is now the go-to guy on offense, and he showed off solid playmaking and strong defensive skills in this game. Rocket Watts, Joey Hauser, and Julius Marble excelled at shooting and scoring the basketball, and Foster Loyer also played well defensively, as Michigan State was able to get an impressive road win over Duke.
Michigan State’s junior swingman, Aaron Henry had a solid showing in his team’s win over Duke. He was outstanding defensively, and he also generally excelled as a facilitator on the offensive end. He didn’t seem to be equipped to handle the heavy volume of shots though. He wasn’t efficient as a scorer in this game, but he did show the ability to score off the dribble and in transition at times against Duke.
Henry played terrific defense in this game. He did a great job of blocking shots off of drives, and he was everywhere on the defensive end. He would really pester opponents with his ability to defend on and off the ball, as it would be hard for them to get their shots off, and Henry also would frequently took balls away from opponents to get steals. He also would jump on loose balls and jump passes to get additional steals and deflections due to possessing good anticipation skills. He did a terrific job of contesting shots, especially off of drives to force misses. Sometimes though, the other team would make a solid play every once in a while, which would lead him to commit a couple of fouls off of cuts.
He also displayed fairly good playmaking skills. Henry is a solid playmaker that plays with a point forward’s mentality, and he has solid court vision that enables him to rack up many assists. Henry showed a knack for being able to kick balls out to shooters off the dribble to set up numerous scoring chances for them, and he also can break the press, and drive up the floor to throw a solid drop off pass to set up scores for his teammates at the rim. However, sometimes he would be careless with the ball, which would lead him to commit ball-handling turnovers, and he would occasionally throw inaccurate passes that would go astray.
Henry also generally excelled as a scorer on drives in transition in this game. He is an athletic player that can score in the open court, and he has good speed and athleticism that would enable him to get plenty of scores at the rim. He has a fairly good first step off the dribble, and he also managed to score on a high-flying dunk midway through this match.
On the other hand, he struggled to consistently score off the dribble when his team was in the half court. On the plus side, Henry is a good ball handler, and he can use dribble moves to score on floaters and layups. He also isn’t afraid of contact, and he would drive the ball hard to draw some fouls on his opponents to get to the free throw line. However, Henry had trouble scoring in traffic, and he would tend to miss on floaters in this game. He did make a pull-up jumper once from mid-range, but he struggled to make pull-up jumpers in general, and Henry was not able to make a three-point shot from beyond the arc.
Overall, Aaron Henry played well in his team’s win over Duke, but it was the little things he did on and off the court that were the most impressive to me. He really excelled defensively, and he very well could be one of the best defenders in college basketball. He plays with a point forward’s mentality, and he has good court vision that allows him to find open teammates often to set up many scoring opportunities for them.
Also, he provided a vocal presence on the sidelines off the court. He would communicate to his team defensively from the sidelines, and his leadership skills in working with his head coach Tom Izzo when he was off the court is what stood out to me, as Henry’s high basketball IQ and willingness to operate in a team system could allow him to thrive both at the collegiate level and in the NBA. Henry is a solid all-around player that made smart basketball plays on and off the court, and he could be a very good value pick for an NBA team in the late first to the second round range of the 2021 draft.
Duke’s freshman forward, Jalen Johnson had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Michigan State. There was much anticipation in how he would follow up his great game against Coppin State, but it turned out to be a let-down for him, as he struggled to shoot or score efficiently, and wasn’t nearly as impactful in this contest as he was in his season debut.
Johnson did a decent job of scoring off the dribble. He was able to drive the baseline to score on a crafty, reverse layup. He showed very good body control to finish around the basket to score, though he did seem to get away with having stepped out of bounds prior to doing so. He also was aggressive in taking the ball to the rack, and he showed a knack for drawing fouls upon his defenders to get to the foul line. Sometimes though, he would miss on tough layups in traffic due to trying to overtly force the issue.
He also generally excelled at scoring on hustle plays. Johnson showed a knack for scoring on the break, and he also drew free throws on a cut to the hoop. However, he missed on a turnaround jumper in the post, and he also was unable to make pull-up jumpers from the mid-range. Johnson also did not shoot the ball well from outside of the paint area, and he did not make a three-point shot in this game.
Also, Johnson displayed decent playmaking skills. He is a solid passer and ball handler that can handle the ball in the open floor, and he plays the game like a point forward. He is an unselfish player that throws solid touch passes, and he especially did a good job of throwing interior passes to find teammates on the move. He did throw one bad pass however that ended up getting intercepted. He also was able leap up to get his fair share of defensive boards, and Johnson would usually push the ball up the court to create transition scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Johnson played fairly good defense in this game. He was able to rotate to block a shot in the post to a teammate due to possessing good length, athleticism, and timing. He also was able to draw a couple of charges on drives due to good positioning. He also was able to block a three-point shot and jump on a loose ball to help his team get a steal. He would actively stay in front of opposing ball handlers, and he did a good job of contesting shots to force misses. Sometimes though, he would commit fouls on drives, one which included a blocking foul as he may not quite have been in position to draw the charge that time. There was also one play where he had his head turned away, and he didn’t rotate to help his teammate on a drive, as his team allowed a score around the basket.
Overall, Jalen Johnson did not play nearly as well against Coppin State, but he still showed some interesting skills in his team’s loss to Michigan State. He is a tall playmaking forward that can create shots for himself and others, and he also is a solid defender. He will need to improve his outside shot, but his ability to make plays on both sides of the ball combined with his athleticism and upside could enable him to be a lottery pick in the 2021 draft.
Duke’s 6-9 sophomore forward, Matthew Hurt had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Michigan State. He excelled as a scorer and rebounder when he was on the court, and he had 21 points and 13 rebounds in this game.
Hurt did a good job of scoring in the post. He was able to use a pivot move to score on a jump hook. He also got an easy catch down low to score on a dunk another time. He also excelled at drawing fouls on defenders to get to the free throw line. However, sometimes he would miss on turnaround jumpers, as he would not always have his balance on those plays. He did score on a drive, but sometimes he would miss shots in traffic.
Hurt also showed a decent ability to knock down mid-range jumpers. He showed a smooth ability to knock down mid-range jumpers, and he also used a jab step move to make a bank three off the glass. He did not make threes consistently, but he did show that he can capably knock down jumpers to space the floor for his team.
Also, he showed fairly average playmaking skills. He didn’t look to pass much, but he can pass off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates. He did commit one turnover, as he had a ball taken away from him out of the post on another possession.
In addition, Hurt did a very good job of rebounding the basketball in this game. However, on one play, he got boxed out, and he ended up committing an over the back foul when going for an offensive rebound once.
He will need to improve his defense, though. On one good play, he was able to contest a long two to force a miss. However, he would sometimes give up too much space to shooters and he would also be late on his rotations. He also struggled to defend quicker opponents off the dribble, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.
Overall, Matthew Hurt excelled as a scorer and rebounder, but he did not defend very well when he was on the court. Still, his ability to shoot and score could enable him to be a solid role player in the NBA, and he could end up being a likely second round pick in the 2021 draft.
Michigan State’s 6-2 sophomore guard, Rocket Watts also played well, and he is a speedy combo guard that excelled as a shooter and scorer in his team’s win over Duke.
Watts did a good job of scoring on speedy drives to the hoop, as he has a very good first step that allows him to consistently get to the rim, and he would frequently score on floaters and layups. He also was able to draw plenty of free throws to get to the foul line.
He also showed off a solid mid-range jump shot, and he was able to use a nifty step back move to score on pull-up jumpers from that range. Though he was more streaky with his mid-range shot than when taking the ball all the way to the rim to score off the dribble, Watts had some really nice scores from the mid-range. Also, Watts was able to make a step back three off the dribble, but he struggled to make spot-up threes off the catch.
As a playmaker, Watts looked to be about average at best. He is a very good ball handler, and he get any shot he wants. He also was able to throw a long outlet pass to set up a score for his teammate in transition. However, he tended to be inaccurate with his passes, and he had one pass intercepted. He also committed a charging foul on a drive in transition, and sometimes he can struggle to make plays on offense when other defenders would rotate from the blind side to help on the defensive end.
Watts also did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball, and he was able to leap up to get several boards in this game. Defensively, he looked to be perhaps above average. He was able to stay in front of his man, and he was able to force his opponent to go to his off-hand once to force a miss. However, he would sometimes commit reach-in fouls when defending opponents off the dribble due to over-aggressiveness.
In summary, Rocket Watts had a fairly solid game, as he led all scorers on his team with 20 points, and he provided the instant offense that his team was looking for. He will need to continue to improve as an overall player, but Watts could be due for a breakout season this year, and he could be a potential second round pick in 2021.
Duke’s 6-8 freshman forward, Jaemyn Brakefield played well in his team’s loss to Michigan State. He showed off versatile scoring skills in this game, as he primarily excelled as a scorer off the dribble, and he even scored on a crafty up and under move. He also managed to draw free throws off of a cut, and he also made a deep three from way out. He did miss on two other three-point attempts, but he did show that he can knock down outside shots from beyond the arc.
Brakefield did a good job of rebounding and handling the basketball, and he also played decent defense. He was able to get to a deflected pass to help his team get a steal, and he also contested a corner three to force a miss. However, he did foul an opposing ball handler due to over-aggressiveness.
Overall, Brakefield had a solid showing, and he primarily excelled at attacking the basket to score the basketball. He is an intriguing prospect that could warrant more playing time in the future, and he is an athletic combo forward that could swiftly move up draft boards if that happens, as he is a very skilled player that excelled in limited minutes in this game against Michigan State.
Michigan State’s 6-9 junior forward, Joey Hauser played very well in his team’s win over Duke. He excelled as a shooter and scorer when he was on the floor, and he also made some solid defensive plays to help his team get the victory.
Hauser shot the ball well, and he was able to make a pair of open corner threes off the catch. He also excelled at scoring on turnaround, fadeaway jumpers from the post. He also was able to draw free throws off of a spin move off of a drive another time, and Hauser did not miss often in this game.
On the downside, he was a bit turnover prone. Hauser was able to break a press when handling the ball up court. However, he tended to be inaccurate with his passes, as a couple of them ended up getting deflected, and he also committed a charging foul off of a drive another time.
Also, Hauser did a great job of rebounding the basketball, and he was very active at crashing the glass to get his team many rebounds throughout this contest. Defensively, he looked to be about average. He was able to stay in front of a drive to force a traveling turnover, as he was able to angle his opponent towards the sideline to do so. He also contested a shot off of a drive to force a miss another time. However, he also tended to be foul prone due to over-aggressiveness. Another time, he sagged too far off of a shooter, which led his man to score on a three-point shot.
Overall, Joey Hauser played very well, and he scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds in his team’s win over Duke. He is a sharpshooter that can capably defend opponents when he is on the floor, and though he may only be at best an above average athlete, he is a smart, skilled player that tends to make sound basketball plays. He could project to be a solid role player in the NBA, and he could end up being a good value pick for a team in the second round range of the 2021 draft.
Michigan State’s 6-8 sophomore big man, Julius Marble had a terrific game off the bench, as he was perfect from the field, and he scored 12 points to help his team get the win. He excelled as a scorer in the post and in transition. He scored on a couple of jump hooks, but he also scored on a tip-in as well. He also ran the floor to score on a magnetically powerful dunk on the break. Plus, he also was able to make a mid-range jump shot. Marble is an athletic, strong forward that excelled primarily as a scorer in the paint, and he is a high-motor player that could be a player to keep tabs on in the future.
Duke’s 6-2 senior point guard, Jordan Goldwire played very well in his team’s loss to Michigan State, and he should have played far more minutes in this game. He played good defense in this game, and he showed a penchant for quickly jumping on passes to get steals. He also excelled at making deep threes from way beyond the arc, and he also is an agile player that can score on quick drives to the basket.
However, he had more trouble scoring in traffic, especially when extra defenders would arrive to help contest his shots. He committed more turnovers than collected assists though, and on one play, he committed a charging foul on a drive on the break due to over-aggressiveness.
Overall, Goldwire is an agile playmaker that can shoot, score and defend when he is on the floor, and he played well off the bench in this game. If he can continue to play well this season, he could end up being a potential second round pick in 2021.
Duke’s freshman point guard, Jeremy Roach had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Michigan State. Though he didn’t look to take many shots, he was efficient as a scorer on the floor, but he was plagued with turnovers and foul trouble. Roach has solid speed and quickness that allows him to get some scores off the dribble, but sometimes he would miss wildly when he plays out of control. Roach also was able to make a deep three from beyond the arc, and he will need to shoot far more outside shots, as he is a good shooter, and he needs to trust his shot more.
He committed lots of turnovers, as he tended to be inaccurate with his passes, and he also tended to commit careless ball-handling turnovers. He also struggled to defend opponents off of drives, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores. Sometimes, he would be late to close out on shooters in addition. While he didn’t grab many rebounds, he was able to get a pair of boards in this game.
Overall, Roach is a promising prospect that can shoot and score the basketball, but he will need to be more assertive on offense, and he will need to make better decisions on both ends of the floor. He will need to continue to improve as an overall player, but with continued development, he could end up being a prospect worth keeping tabs on, as he could end up moving up draft boards sometime down the road.
Michigan State’s 6-0 junior guard, Foster Loyer played well in his team’s win over Duke. He excelled as a spot-up shooter, and he also defended well. He did an excellent job of drawing charges on drives to get stops for his team, and he was a pest defensively that would consistently be in the right spots on the floor. He also managed to hold his own off the ball when defending a bigger player in the post. Loyer is a solid role player at the collegiate level, and he could be a player to watch next season.
Duke’s freshman guard, D.J. Steward did not play well in this game. He shot the ball poorly, as he missed all of his threes, and he tended to miss on drives in traffic. He did excel at drawing free throws, as he can do so when he looks to aggressively score off the dribble, and he also did so another time off of a cut.
He also displayed adequate playmaking skills. Steward is an unselfish player that passed the ball well, and he was able to pass to a teammate on a give and go on the break to set up a score. However, he also committed a charging foul on a drive due to recklessness.
He also played decent defense. Steward is an active defender that can poke balls away to make it tough for his opponents to handle the basketball, and he also contested a drive to force a miss. However, there was another time where he gave up too much space to his man, as he allowed his man to score on a three-point shot.
Overall, Steward did not play well, and he did not make a single field goal in this game. He will need to shoot the ball much better, and he will need to improve his ability to score the basketball. However, he showed flashes of his potential, and if he makes it to the NBA, he could be an athletic combo guard that could develop into being a defensive specialist at that level.
For Duke’s sophomore guard Wendell Moore Jr., he ultimately had a disappointing showing overall even though he made some very good basketball plays at times on both ends of the floor. While he showed that he can take the ball to the rack to score and defend, Moore shot the ball poorly, and he also showed some real questionable shot selection and decision-making in his team’s loss to Michigan State.
I feel conflicted in watching Moore shoot six three-point shots in this game. On one hand, a good shooter helps a team open up the floor, which can provide more open space for his teammates to score off of drives and in the post, and three-point shooting has been more prevalent than ever at the NBA level, as more players are shooting threes in this era than they had decades ago. Normally, I would encourage players to shoot threes, and a scorer with a versatile skill set generally would be a tough player to guard.
However, Moore is just not a good outside shooter. The sophomore has only made 5 threes in his entire collegiate career to date, and he made just 4 of them last season as a freshman. Watching him miss one open three-point shot after another was tragically cringe-worthy, or comically funny depending on your take or point of view, but it seemed that he just wouldn’t give up on the idea of making a three-point shot, even when he would miss shots badly even when no one was anywhere near him. That Moore went 0 for 6 on threes in this game against Michigan State makes him 5 for 27 on threes for his career, which makes him a 19% career three-point shooter, which is an abysmal mark from beyond the arc.
Certainly, the fact that Moore took so many threes and missed them all had to have left Duke fans dumbfounded and bewildered with their sophomore’s guard shot selection, especially as he showed the penchant for hoisting up so many shots that he is so bad at making. Moore’s shot selection was puzzling, and baffling at best, and it seemed as if he didn’t really know or understand his own strengths and weaknesses as a player when he played so terribly in the second half.
On the plus side, he did show a decent ability to get to the hoop when looking to score off the dribble. Moore was able to draw plenty of free throws on strong drives in transition, and he is a quick, physical player that can quickly get into the lane to draw fouls upon his defenders. However, he didn’t really do that enough, and he also was prone to missing shots wildly around the basket when he wouldn’t get foul calls.
As a playmaker, he looked to be about average. Moore played well when he operated under control, and he can throw some good passes off the dribble to set up scores for his teammates. He also managed to find a cutter off the dribble to set up a scoring chance another time. However, he would tend to play too recklessly on offense, which led him to be turnover-prone. He dribbled the ball off of his own foot twice that led to turnovers, and he also fell down on a drive that led to a traveling violation.
Moore was able to chip in to get his fair share of boards, and he was able to get boards on both ends of the floor. He also played solid defense in this game. Moore was able to quickly get his hands on a pass to get a steal, and he is an active defender that excelled at contesting shots both out on the perimeter and in the post to force misses. Plus, he also successfully drew a charge due to good positioning. However, sometimes he would sag too far off of his man and give up too much space to shooters, which would allow scores to them.
Overall, Moore showed some promise as a scorer in this game, and he actually seemed to defend rather well in this game. However, shot selection isn’t a one size fits all sort of thing, as good shot selection can be different for various players, and Moore serves as a fine example for that. A good shot for Joey Hauser could be a terrible one for Moore, and it was baffling that Moore would constantly take and miss threes throughout this game.
He may have come into the game as a borderline first round prospect, but his draft stock may have taken a significant hit with his poor performance in this game against Michigan State. Moore may be one of the worst outside shooters in college basketball, at least right now, and for the time being, that could be problematic, especially since he is a perimeter player that will be matched up against quicker guards on a consistent basis against top-level competition. Moore could still project into a defensive specialist role in the NBA, but his inability to knock down outside shots combined with his questionable shot selection could make him a very risky candidate to be selected if he were to declare to enter the 2021 draft.
I didn’t really notice Michigan State’s redshirt senior guard, Josh Langford that much in this game, as it seemed as if barely played in his team’s win over Duke, even though he did actually play a shade under 30 minutes in this match on this day. He did make an open corner three off the catch. However, he did not pass the ball well, and he wasn’t very noticeable on the defensive end, either.
In this game, he threw a couple of bad passes that got intercepted. He also committed a foul as he pushed an opponent in the back when defending a put back. Overall, Langford didn’t really do much of anything, except make a three and grab several rebounds. He might not be anywhere near the prospect he once was before injuries, but every once in a while, he makes a shot that suggests that he can contribute as a role player at the collegiate level.
Michigan State’s sophomore forward, Malik Hall also played well in this game. He is an athletic, high-motor forward that excelled at scoring on hustle plays, and he was able to run the floor to score on a high-flying dunk on the break, and he also drew an extra free throw. He also used a spin move to score on a pull-up mid-range jumper, and he also can capably score in the post.
He also rebounded the ball very well, and he did a great job of helping his team get boards on both ends of the floor. Overall, Hall quietly played well, as he notched a double-double off the bench, and as he played well in his team’s win against Duke, he could be a prospect to watch sometime in the future.