Observing Marcus Zegarowski, Sandro Mamukelashvili, and Mitchell Ballock
April 28th, 2021
By Alan Lu
Recently, I decided to take the time to watch Seton Hall’s 6-11 senior center, Sandro Mamukelashvili play in a January 27th Big East Conference basketball game against Marcus Zegarowski and Creighton, as I saw this with thanks to YouTube via The DraftMatic. I hadn’t seen Mamukelashvili play in a full basketball game this season, so it was an opportunity to further assess his skills as a basketball player.
It also was another opportunity to watch Creighton’s 6-2 junior point guard, Marcus Zegarowski play, and I came away very impressed with Marcus Zegarowski’s offensive skills, toughness, and clutch play, as he helped lead Creighton to come back down from double digits to win this game. I also came away similarly impressed with Creighton’s senior guard, Mitchell Ballock, who displayed strong shooting skills in this game. Here are my thoughts on how Zegarowski, Mamukelashvili, and Ballock fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.
Marcus Zegarowski is a smart, skilled playmaker that consistently competes relentless on both ends of the floor. He had a slow start to this game, but he played better as the game progressed, and he excelled as a shooter, facilitator, and defender to help lead his team to a comeback win over Seton Hall. Zegarowski shot the ball very well, especially from downtown. He is a very good outside shooter that particularly excelled at dribbling off of screens to score on pull-up threes. He is a deft ball handler that changes directions well, and he also made a deep, spot-up three from way out. He did have a corner three blocked once, as he seemed to show a slow release that time that allowed a defender to swat the shot that time.
Also, he showed a decent ability to score off the dribble. Not only did he show a knack for pulling up to score on long-range jumpers, but Zegarowski also used an overhead ball fake to score on a nifty floater off of an aggressive drive to the hoop. He also can draw fouls when taking the ball hard to the rim. Sometimes though, he would struggle to score against taller, longer players, which can lead to misses and to getting his shots blocked around the basket.
Plus, he also displayed satisfactory playmaking skills. He is a patient player that will probe the defenses, and he passes well off the dribble due to possessing good court vision. He also will throw timely passes to get the ball to shooters, and he also can throw crisp, accurate interior passes to find teammates on the move. On the downside, he can sometimes over-dribble into traffic, which can lead him to get balls poked away by his defenders. Other times, he may throw inaccurate passes that can go astray, as he can sometimes struggle to make plays when guarded by taller, more athletic defenders. Also, he was able to chase down balls to get several defensive boards for his team. Zegarowski also showed that he was able to get tough boards as he would dive for loose balls and get balls amidst crowds to help his team get rebounds.
He also played satisfactory defense in this game. Zegarowski would play angles when defending opposing ball handlers on drives to cut off penetration, and he generally moved his feet well, which enabled him to contest shots to force misses, as well as to prevent his opponents from being able to cleanly pass or handle the basketball. He also was able to get his hands on a pass to get a steal, and he rotated to swipe a ball away from the post to quickly get another. Plus, he also actively contested a three to get a stop late in this match.
On the downside, he struggled to fight through screens, which would lead him to trail his man and it would put his team in scramble situations. He also would sometimes struggle to stay in front of his opponents when defending them off the dribble, as he would struggle at times to cut off penetration. Other times, he would try to go for steals, which can lead him to be out of position, and there was another time where he forgot to call out a screen to help his teammate on the defensive end.
In general, Marcus Zegarowski had a solid showing to help Creighton get a tough, comeback win on the road against Seton Hall. He is a tough, gritty playmaker that tended to make sound decisions on both ends of the floor, and he continually made very good plays down the stretch. He currently projects to be a second round prospect in the 2021 draft. Zegarowski has the skills, basketball IQ, and the intangibles to be a solid role player in the NBA, and he could develop into being a reliable, steady playmaker in the NBA for a long time in the league.
Seton Hall’s 6-11 senior center, Sandro Mamukelashvili had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Creighton. He is a mobile, skilled big man that has a fairly solid, face-up game, and he can make shots both from out on the perimeter as well as in the paint. On the other hand, he struggled to rebound the basketball, and he was fairly mistake prone on the defensive end in this contest.
Mamukelashvili showed a solid ability to score off the dribble. He can finish plays using either hand, and he has adequate foot speed and good acceleration, which allows him to take slower-footed opponents off the dribble to score at the rim. He also drew free throws on an aggressive layup another time. However, on another drive to his left, he was able to get a step on his opponent, but he ended up missing on a double-pump layup around the basket. He also showed an adequate ability to knock down jumpers in this game. Mamukelashvili was able to make a wide-open, spot-up three off the catch. However, he missed on two other occasions, and he struggled to make spot-up jumpers after using ball fakes or after running off the ball to prior to getting the basketball.
He also flashed the ability to score in the post. Mamukelashvili was able to make a touch catch by quickly receiving a bounce pass to avoid a swipe, and he used an aggressive drop step move to score around the basket. On the other hand, after using a spin move to his left, he missed after using a strong drop step move another time. He also used a series of ball fakes, but ended up missing on a contested leaner in traffic on a separate possession.
Also, Mamukelashvili showcased adequate playmaking skills. He is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can throw passes out of the post as well as off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates. He also will set screens to help get his teammates open jump shots, though it appeared as if he got away with setting moving screens on a couple of occasions. On the downside, he struggle to handle the ball when heavily pressured, and he would tend to try to overtly force the issue that would lead him to commit ball-handling turnovers. He also was able to leap up to get his fair share of rebounds in this game. He was able to leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he would sometimes bring the ball up afterwards. On the other hand, there was one play where he committed an aggressive, over the back foul when going for an offensive rebound once.
Defensively, he looked to be about average at best. For the positives, he would use his length, footwork, and timing to close out on shooters to force misses. He also would fight through screens to stay with opposing ball handlers, and he would look to hustle back on defense to try to prevent opponents from scoring on fast breaks. On the downside, he tended to sag too far off of shooters and over-help in the paint, which would lead him to give up too much space to allow them to score on three-point shots. Other times, he would tend to get beat off the dribble or on cuts, and he had a tendency to be too unfocused, which would cause him to struggle to defend in one-on-one situations.
Overall, Sandro Mamukelashvili is an offensively skilled, big man that is comfortable at facing up to score, pass, and handle the basketball to help his team in games. He will need to improve his interior play, especially on the boards and on the defensive end. He doesn’t possess ideal physical tools or shot blocking skills, so he may not likely be much of a shot blocker or an interior defender in the NBA.
Still, his ability to face-up to score or distribute the basketball could make him an intriguing second round option for NBA teams to consider in the 2021 draft. Mamukelashvili’s offensive skills could enable him to make an NBA team’s roster, but he will need to improve his rebounding and defense to increase his odds to stick and make it for the long haul. In a favorable scenario, if things break his way, Sandro Mamukelashvili could project to be versatile, skilled stretch big that could shoot and defend off the bench to carve out a lengthy career as a rotational big man in the NBA.
Creighton’s senior guard, Mitchell Ballock played really well, and he had a tremendous showing as he scored 29 points, made 7 threes, and dished out 4 assists to help lead his team to a comeback win over Seton Hall. He is a very good shooter that has uncanny range, and his ability to make very deep threes made it difficult for his defenders to defend him, especially because he could drop a surprise three on them and make it from well beyond NBA range.
Ballock did a tremendous job of shooting the basketball. He excelled at running off ball screens to make quick, spot-up threes. He also can use pump fakes and then dribble in to pull up to make threes off the dribble. He also was able to make a very deep three that appeared to be about 35 feet out, and Ballock would often take advantage of defenders that would give him the space to shoot to frequently knock down outside shots. Also, he did a good job of scoring on quick, backdoor cuts. He also managed to use a misdirection play to score on a cut once in this game. Plus, Ballock showed a solid ability to score on left-handed drives to the hoop, and he would leverage the threat of his outside shot to get all the way to the rim.
He also displayed decent playmaking skills in this game. Ballock is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can throw crisp, accurate interior passes to set up scores for his teammates on the move. However, sometimes he would throw rushed passes, and he threw one that ended up getting deflected and intercepted. Though he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, Ballock was able to leap up to get a pair of defensive boards, and he even pushed the ball quickly up the floor very early in this contest.
On the downside, he struggled defensively. For the positives, he jumped on a loose ball that a teammate deflected to help his team get a steal. He also helped a teammate hound an opposing ball handler to force a timeout due to bringing good ball pressure. Ballock was active defensively, and he was able to make a couple of solid, opportunistic defensive plays at times. However, he tended to sag too far off of shooters, and he wouldn’t always stay attached to shooters, and he would allow them to score on three-point shots. Other times, he would get beat on moves to the hoop, as he would struggle to defend quicker opponents off the dribble, or stronger opponents in the post at times.
Overall, Mitchell Ballock is a skilled swingman that shoots the ball very well, and he also will run off of ball screens and use off-ball movement to get open looks, which can enable him to easily score on quick three-pointers from beyond the arc. While he doesn’t possess ideal size or physical tools to play out on the wing, he is a very skilled shooter that has functional athleticism, and he could project to be a shooting specialist in the NBA.
Creighton’s 6-5 senior guard, Denzel Mahoney also played fairly well in his team’s win over Seton Hall. He showed off versatile scoring skills, and he excelled as a help defender to help his team get the win. Mahoney excelled at scoring on hustle plays. He was able to score on a backdoor cut once, and he also would draw free throws after grabbing defensive rebounds late in this game.
He also showed a satisfactory ability to score off the dribble as well as in the post. When posting up, he backed his man down, and he used a strong spin move to score on a turnaround jumper off the glass. Mahoney also excelled at drawing fouls when handling the basketball. Sometimes though, he would force up tough shots when driving to the hoop that would lead to misses.
He also showed an adequate ability to knock down jumpers. Mahoney was able to make a couple of spot-up threes, and he also ran off of a ball screen to make a quick, bank three late in this match. He also made a pull-up, mid-range jumper from around the right elbow. On the downside, he also missed his fair share of threes, as he can tend to be streaky with his outside shot.
Also, Mahoney displayed average at best playmaking skills. Though he plays with a heavy-score first mindset, he will look to find the open man, and on one play off of a baseline drive, he threw a swift, no-look pass to find a cutter. On the downside, he would sometimes struggle to handle the basketball, especially when pressured. He also would sometimes throw inaccurate passes that would end up sailing out of bounds. Plus, Mahoney did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He was quite active at crashing the glass, and he would often chase down balls to help his team get defensive rebounds.
Adding to that, he also played satisfactory defense in this game. Mahoney would often poke balls away from opposing ball handlers to get steals. He also used his length to actively contest a mid-range jumper to force a miss. Sometimes though, he would struggle to handle physical opponents, and he also would tend to commit touch fouls due to over-aggressiveness.
Overall, Denzel Mahoney is an athletic, energetic swingman that could potentially project into a 3 and D role in the NBA someday. Currently, he may be an unlikely bet to be drafted this year. He will need to be a more consistent outside shooter and he will need to improve his playmaking skills. Most likely, he will need to spend at least a season either in the G-League or overseas. If he can continue to hone his game and progress as an overall player, he could end up being an effective backup swingman in the NBA in the future.
Creighton’s 6-5 senior swingman, Damien Jefferson had his ups and downs in his team’s win over Seton Hall. He was able to make some solid plays on both ends of the floor, but he also had his fair share of defensive miscues in this game. Jefferson excelled at scoring on hustle plays. He showed a knack for scoring on quick, backdoor cuts, and he also ran the floor and caught a long outlet pass to score on the break. He also managed to draw free throws on a put back. He also excelled as a shooter in this game. Jefferson was able to make an open corner three. He also ran off the ball to make an open, spot-up three off of a quick, dribble handoff play.
He also managed to use a pump fake to score on aggressive drive to the hoop. On the downside, Jefferson struggled more to score off the dribble. He struggled to score in traffic, especially when he wouldn’t get foul calls, and he also missed on a pull-up jumper another time. He also struggled to score in the post, and he even had his shot blocked once.
Also, he exhibited decent playmaking skills in this game. Jefferson is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man. On the other hand, he sometimes truggled to handle the ball when doing so for extended periods of time, and he also threw a pass that got deflected that nearly led to a turnover once. Plus, he also did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball. Jefferson was able to get multiple boards on both sides of the ball, and sometimes he would bring the ball up the floor after getting defensive boards for his team.
Defensively, he looked to be about average at best. For the positives, Jefferson would close out on three-point shooters to force misses. He also pounced on a loose ball that a teammate poked away to help his team get a steal. On the downside, he would sometimes be late to get out on shooters, as he would give them too much space to shoot the basketball. He also would tend to get beat off the dribble, and other times he would be unfocused on the defensive end.
Overall, Damien Jefferson had some good moments at times in his team’s win over Seton Hall. He is an athletic swingman that can score the basketball in a variety of ways. He will need to be a more consistent shooter and defender in games, and he may need to spend at least a season in the G-League or overseas. If he can continue to hone his game and progress as an overall player, he could end up making his way to the NBA sometime down the road.
Seton Hall’s 6-6 senior swingman, Myles Cale excelled as a shooter and scorer in his team’s loss to Creighton. He especially played well early in the first half, and he scored 20 points, had 9 rebounds, and made 4 threes in this game. Cale did a very good job of knocking down jumpers to provide floor spacing for his team. He showed a knack for making threes and mid-range jumpers. He excelled at making pull-up jumpers, especially from the mid-range, and he also showed that he can make threes both off the catch and dribble. He also managed to score on a strong put back due to possessing a solid motor, and he also was able to use the threat of his outside shot to score on a strong drive to the hoop once. He also tried to post up, but he ended missing after using a drop step move that time.
As a playmaker, he appeared to be fairly average. He can throw accurate interior passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates. On the downside, sometimes he can throw hasty, inaccurate passes that can end up going out of bounds or getting intercepted by his defenders. Also, Cale did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, and sometimes he would bring the ball up after getting defensive boards for his team.
Defensively, he looked to be about average. Cale would jump on loose balls and deflect passes to help his team get steals and deflections. He also would contest shots off the dribble to force misses. On the downside, he can be late to pick up a man on defense, which would lead him to commit reach-in fouls and to allow scores. He also would sometimes take bad angles when defending screens, and he would sometimes give up too much space to shooters, which would allow them to score on three-point shots. Overall, Myles Cale is a tough, high-motor swingman that can shoot and score the basketball. He will need to improve his on-ball defense, but his ability to knock down shots could allow him to end up being a shooting specialist in the NBA someday.
Seton Hall’s 6-6 junior swingman, Jared Rhoden had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Creighton. He made a variety of shots, but he didn’t particularly shoot the ball well. He drew and made plenty of his free throws and he was also active defensively, but he also made his fair share of defensive mistakes in this game. Rhoden showed that he was able to knock down pull-up jumpers from both the mid-range and from beyond the arc, and he also made a baseline, mid-range jumper off the catch. He showed a knack for drawing free throws on mid-range jumpers, but it did seem like he tended to take pull-up, mid-range jumpers too often, which would hurt his shooting percentages. He also managed to draw free throws on an aggressive, left-handed drive to the hoop once.
On the downside, he was quite turnover prone on offense. Rhoden was able to drive in and throw a drop-off pass to set up a score for a teammate on the break. However, he tended to throw inaccurate passes that would wind up going out of bounds. He also had a ball poked off of him when handling it to commit another turnover. Also, Rhoden showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball. He was active at crashing the glass, and he was able to leap up to get a handful of defensive boards. However, there was one play where he committed a foul on an opponent’s put back attempt another time.
Defensively, he struggled in this game. For the positives, Rhoden would get his hands on passes to help get steals and deflections. He also would contest threes to force misses. On the downside, he would give up too much space to shooters, which would allow them to score on three-point shots. Other times, he would get faked out on fake dribble handoff, misdirection plays, as he would then allow opponents to score on backdoor cuts. There was another time where he didn’t communicate the initial screen and ended up doubling an opposing ball handler, which led to a scramble situation that led his team to allow a score to a roll man.
Overall, Jared Rhoden is a capable shooter that showed some ability to run off ball screens, but he seemed to struggle to consistently create his own shot, and he also struggled to handle the basketball at times. He will need to improve his outside shot and defense. He will need to stay in school to hone his game, but if he can churn out a solid senior season, he could improve his odds to carve out a lengthy career in professional basketball someday.
Also, Seton Hall’s 6-0 redshirt senior point guard, Bryce Aiken played fairly well in this game, as he excelled as a shooter and scorer in his team’s loss to Creighton. He showed a knack for making pull-up jumpers both from the mid-range and from beyond the arc, and he did a good job of scoring on aggressive, right-handed drives to the hoop.
Aiken also rebounded the ball well, and he also was able to set a hard, off-ball screen to help his teammate score on a drive to the basket. On the downside, he didn’t get many assists in this game. He also did not defend very well in this game, as he would struggle to defend in one-on-one situations, and he would sag too far off of shooters, as he would allow them to score on three-point shots.
Overall, Bryce Aiken is a skilled, agile shooter that can space the floor for his team, but he will need to improve his playmaking and defensive skills. While he can ably knock down shots, and he sometimes tend to over-dribble, and he can sometimes struggle to make plays when going up against taller, longer defenders. Though Aiken had a decorated career at Harvard, he really struggled in a bench role at Seton Hall this past season. He made just 32% of his field goals and just 27% of his threes, and Aiken did not shoot the ball nearly as well in the regular season as he did in this particular game against Creighton. On the other hand, as Aiken had averaged 22 points per game and made 40% of his three-pointers as a junior at Harvard a couple of seasons ago, few could have guessed that Aiken would only average just a paltry 14 minutes per game at Seton Hall this season.
Although, if a head coach in college basketball wanted him to be more of a table-setting point guard, the fact that Aiken has never averaged 3 or more assists per game, or a 2 to 1 Assist to Turnover ratio in any given college basketball season could point to one reason as to why Aiken might not have played as many minutes as expected at Seton Hall.
If he decides to enter the 2021 draft, he will probably and surely go undrafted. Aiken will need to stay in school to play another year in college basketball, but he should also seriously consider transferring to a team that will both give him ample playing time, and also allow him to play meaningful minutes in high stakes basketball games. If he spends another season at Seton Hall and produces similarly lackluster results as he had this past season, it would not likely serve him well, especially if he is trying to reach pro ball in the future. Ultimately, Aiken will need to make his own call to decide what would be in his best interests for both next season and in the future. In my opinion, it would probably be in Aiken’s best interests to transfer out of Seton Hall and enter the transfer portal, preferably soon, and to another power conference school.
In looking at his fifth-year senior season stats at Seton Hall, he both seemed to be uncomfortable in a bench role for them, and he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well as expected. He will need to learn how to play more off the ball, as he will need to run off screens and work on cutting to the basket to consistently be a viable shooting threat, but he will also need to play for a team that will allow him to regularly get at least 20-25 minutes per game to allow himself to showcase his skills for professional basketball. It may be doubtful that Aiken will suddenly develop into being an assist-collecting machine next year, if he can get his game on track and shoot like he did at Harvard, he could put himself back on the map as a draft prospect, and he could then end up competing for a roster spot in the NBA sometime down the road.