Observing Austin Wiley and Mustapha Heron

April 29, 2018

by Alan Lu

Auburn’s 6-11 center Austin Wiley is a prospect that received some early draft buzz to start the season, but his draft stock took a hit when he was unable to play this season as a result of the NCAA not having cleared him to participate in college basketball games.  Regardless, he decided to put his name in the 2018 NBA Draft, where he could be a potential second round pick this year.  It was pretty tough to find a full game that he played in online, but I was able to scout both him and 6-5 guard, Mustapha Heron in a match that was played on December 21st, 2016 against Oklahoma, with thanks to YouTube via Crowne Agency.   Here are my thoughts on how both Wiley and Heron played, and how their games may translate to the next level.  For those that want the link to the box score of this game, click here.

Austin Wiley is a fairly mobile big man that can score on hustle plays.  He managed to score on a tip in off of an offensive board, and he also drew free throws after dribbling in to try to score on a put back another time.  Wiley also almost scored on another tip in late in the game, but he ended up being called for basket interference.  He also will run the floor, but he would seldom get the ball on offense in this game.

He also showed off decent low post scoring skills.  Wiley was able to throw down a powerful dunk after being left open underneath the basket, as his defender had left him to help out on a drive.  Wiley excelled at drawing free throws in the post, and he has a drop step move that he can use to get to the hoop, as he would’ve thrown down an emphatic jam had the whistle not blown.  He doesn’t seem to have an advanced repertoire, but his approach was reasonably effective in this contest. 

He also posted up after running the floor to get down court, but he missed on a drop step in traffic, as he didn’t get much lift on his shot.  Also, sometimes he would be unable to seal his man or catch off-target passes that ended up being out of reach, so it was sometimes difficult for his teammates to throw the ball into him.

However, Wiley will need to improve his playmaking skills.  He did make one good pass to a teammate in this game.  After bobbling the initial pass when trying to catch it in the post, he dribbled it out to the high post area, and he threw a sharp pass to find Heron on a backdoor cut to set up a score for him.  He also will set screens and roll off of them, and he managed to get a teammate open to set up a jump shot once.  On the other hand, sometimes he may not roll very quickly to the rim, as he may not always be open when diving to the basket.

Also, he tended to be quite turnover prone on offense.  On one play, Wiley ran the floor to get the ball in the post, but he had it ripped away from him, as he didn’t protect the basketball, as he lost it to his opponent.  He also tried to set a pick too quickly, which led him to be called for setting a moving screen another time.  He also almost scored on a tip-in late in the game, but he was called for basketball interference. 

He would look to crash the glass to haul in some rebounds, but Wiley may still need to improve his ability to get boards on a consistent basis.  Though he will leap up to crash the glass to get some rebounds on both ends of the floor, he didn’t seem to possess great leaping or timing to get balls, as he would sometimes not react in time, which would allow opponents to out-jump him to get rebounds.  Other times, he would not jump up to go for rebounding opportunities, as he would be out-hustled for boards on occasion.

Wiley also showed off decent defensive skills.  He generally did a good job of defending in the post, and he managed to block a couple of shots to protect the paint, and he generally defended well, although some of this was because Oklahoma tried to force feed Khadeem Lattin post touches, and low post scoring isn’t one of Lattin’s strong suits.

When defending on the block early on, Wiley did not bite on a pump fake when defending his man, and he managed to emphatically block a shot to a teammate.  Later on in this contest, he also swatted a shot out of bounds.  Plus, he generally would hold his ground, and actively contest shots in the post to force misses.  Wiley also managed to find a loose ball that a teammate poked away to get a steal.  He also would contest mid-range shots to force some misses, and he also would rotate on drives to make it difficult for his opponents to make clean passes.

On the other hand, sometimes he would step out to defend opponents on drives or screens, as this would lead his team to allow scores.  He also bit on a pump fake after rotating to defend in the post, which caused him to commit a foul.  He also tried to rotate on a drive but he ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow the basket.

In general, Austin Wiley is a fairly mobile big man that could have benefitted significantly if the NCAA had cleared him to play this season, as he could have ended up being one of the focal points of his team’s offense.  Instead, he ended up sitting out the entire year as a result of the NCAA not having given him the clearance to play college basketball.

Right now, he may project to be a potential second round pick in the upcoming draft if he decides to stay in.  Wiley is an above average athlete that has great strength, he will make some hustle plays on both ends of the floor, and he shows the potential to excel as a low post player on both ends of the floor.  Right now, he may project to be a similar player to that of Oklahoma City Thunder’s center, Dakari Johnson.  Wiley will still need to polish up his skills, but it’s possible with his skill set and upside that an NBA team might take him in the mid to late second round range if he decides to stay in the 2018 draft.

This also presented an opportunity to see how Auburn’s 6-5 sophomore guard, Mustapha Heron played a year ago.  He had both good and bad moments in his team’s win over Oklahoma.  He did play well in most facets of this game, but he also had a lot of trouble with turnovers on this day.  Heron did a good job of knocking down jumpers to effectively space the floor for his team.  He excelled at making open spot-up threes off the catch as he would do so with ease, and he has a quick release that enables him to easily get his shot off.  He also was able to make a pull-up, long two off the dribble.

He also showed a decent ability to score on drives to the hoop.  Heron managed to score on a quick drive in transition, and he also excelled at drawing free throws on aggressive drives on the break.  However, he struggled more to score when taking it all the way to the hoop on half-court drives.  Though he has a good first step off the dribble, he struggled to score in traffic on those types of plays, and he would end up missing due to rushing his shots.

Also, he managed to score on a quick cut to the basket, as he managed to score on a left-handed layup off the glass.  He almost scored on a tip dunk, but it was waved off as his teammate drew a foul earlier on a drive in transition.  However, Heron missed once on a put back, as he was unable to finish around the basket in traffic early on.

On the other hand, he had a lot of trouble with turnovers.  On the bright side, Heron played unselfishly, as he would look to get the ball to the open man, and he can find shooters to set up scoring chances for them.  He also will bring the ball up as he can handle the basketball, and he also can throw outlet passes.  But Heron would sometimes get the ball knocked away from when trying to pass or make a move to the basket, and he tended to be called for traveling on drives to the hoop.  He also was called for a carrying violation and a double dribble on two separate occasions.

Heron also rebounded the ball really well, and he would tend to leap up to get defensive boards to help his team.  Sometimes he would push the ball up the floor off of them, other times, he would take a few dribbles and throw outlet passes.  He also can fly in to get tough boards in traffic.  But there was one occasion where he was called for committing a foul due to hooking an opponent’s arm when jostling for a rebound.  He also got back on defense another time, but he backpedaled too far, and his team ended up allowing a put back dunk on the break.

He also showed off adequate defensive skills.  Heron showed a knack for collecting steals, as he would quickly jump passes to do so, and he also would heap on loose balls to get them for his team.  He also would stay with his man on drives to force misses, and he also can successfully contest jumpers as well as shots in the post.  On the other hand, he had some trouble defending opponents on drives.  Sometimes, he would get beat on moves, and he also bit on a pump fake, which led him to foul an opponent another time.  Heron would not always make the right rotations, and he also once got beat on a backdoor cut to allow a score.

In summary, Mustapha Heron is an athletic swingman that can make shots in a variety of ways, and he also rebounds the ball well for a player his size.   He did not shoot the ball quite as well the following year as a sophomore though, as his three-point shot dropped considerably.  Also, he will need to improve his playmaking skills and position defense.  As he had decided to hire an agent, he will be unable to go back to play college basketball.  Right now, it’s uncertain if he will be selected by an NBA team, but Heron could be a potential second round pick, and in a favorable scenario, he could thrive as an energetic role player off the bench that could help get buckets for teams on offense.

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