Thoughts on Elijah Hughes, John Mooney, and T.J. Gibbs
March 30th, 2020
by Alan Lu
I took the time to watch Syracuse’s 6-6 junior swingman, Elijah Hughes play in a Big East conference basketball game against Notre Dame that took place on January 4th, as I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via ACC Digital Network. Hughes had a solid junior season, as he put up fairly strong numbers for his team, and he’s been rated as a second round prospect for this year’s draft. This was an opportunity to see him play, as well as to watch Notre Dame’s 6-9 senior big man, John Mooney play in this match. In the process of watching this game, T.J. Gibbs also shot the ball very well, as his sharpshooting skills were impressive to me. Here are my thoughts on how Hughes, Mooney, and Gibbs fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.
Elijah Hughes is an athletic swingman that did a good job of scoring on strong drives to the basket. He can finish plays using either hand, and Hughes can glide in to score on acrobatic, switch of hands layups at the rim. He did miss on a wild off-balanced leaner late in the game though, as he went a little too fast and out of control that time.
He also can make long-range jumpers to provide floor spacing for his team on offense. Hughes can calmly make pull-up threes from beyond the arc, and he also made a quick spot-up three midway through this contest. Hughes also showed a good ability to make pull-up jumpers from mid-range, as he was able to pull up to make one from the right elbow early on. However, Hughes can also tend to be too streaky with his jump shot, and he had trouble consistently making spot-up threes off the catch. Also, he had trouble scoring out of the post, and he missed a few times when attempting to score after posting up.
Hughes also displayed fairly good playmaking skills in this game. He is an unselfish player that would tend to throw timely passes to notch assists. He can find teammates on the move, as he can find cutters and roll men to set up scores for them, and he also does a good job of passing out of the post and off the dribble to find open teammate on the floor. Sometimes though, he can play a little too recklessly on offense, as he was called for a charging foul and a clear-out foul when looking to make plays off the dribble a few times, which also led him to commit turnovers. He also can sometimes be inaccurate on his passes, and in this game, he threw one ball inaccurately that led an opponent to throw a sloppy pass back that led to an over and back violation.
Also, Hughes was able to get his fair share of boards to help his team get rebounds in this game. He would chase down balls to get some defensive rebounds, and he also leapt up to get a tough offensive rebound in traffic late in this game.
On defense though, Hughes will need to improve on this side of the ball. For the positives, he is an active, rangy defender that can play solid help defense, as he can get his team steals and blocks on the court. Hughes was able to run back on defense, as he then leapt up to make an impressive chase down block on a drive in transition off the glass, and he also will jump passing lanes and chase down errantly thrown passes to get steals for his team. On the downside, Hughes doesn’t seem to possess a whole lot of experience of playing man-to-man defense nor seemed to show the instincts to defend his man on the ball, and it really showed in this game against Notre Dame. Hughes would often guard an area rather than a man, and he would often be caught in no man’s land, where his team would frequently give up scores to open shooters out on the perimeter, as well as players that would be stationed around the basket. He also would tend to be caught ball watching, as he would sag too far off his man, which would lead him to allow scores to shooters.
In general, Elijah Hughes is an athletic, versatile player that can score the basketball in a variety of ways, and he also is an unselfish player that can make timely passes to his teammates to get assists in games. He will need to make outside shots more consistently though, and he will need to show NBA teams that he can effectively guard opponents in a man-to-man defensive scheme. Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft, but if he can significantly improve upon his weaknesses, he could reach the NBA sooner than later and also improve his odds to succeed in the association.
Notre Dame’s 6-9 senior big man, John Mooney had a solid showing in his team’s surprising road win over Syracuse. He is a high-motor player that moves fairly well off the ball on offense, and he is a very good rebounder that can grab a lot of rebounds.
Mooney did a fairly good job of scoring in the post. He would often exploit the soft spots of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense by slipping into open areas, as he would score on two-handed dunks around the basket, make open mid-range jumpers, and he also would find open shooters to notch assists. Mooney also would go up strong to get scores around the basket, and he also would score on put backs after getting offensive rebounds. Sometimes though, he would occasionally miss on mid-range jumpers, and he also did not always get much lift on his shot, which would lead him to occasionally miss shots in traffic. Other time, he may struggle to protect the basketball, as he can sometimes get it poked away from him when looking to make a move to the hoop.
He rebounded the ball very well in this game, and there was one play where he boxed out his man with one arm, while spiking the ball hard downwards with the other to get the defensive board. Mooney tended to be in the right spots to get rebounds in this game. There was one play though where he was called for committing an over the back foul on an offensive rebound attempt. Late in this game, he rotated too far to help guard an opposing ball handler, but allowed his own man to score on a tip slam.
Defensively, he looked to be about average. He was able to rotate to alter a shot off of a roll to force a miss, and he also contested a three-point shot in transition to get another stop for his team. Sometimes though, he can be late on his rotations or to get back on defense, which can lead him to commit fouls and allow scores to his opponents.
In summary, John Mooney is a strong, bruising big man that can really rebound the basketball, and he also can find ways to get scores inside the arc. He doesn’t possess elite physical tools nor blocks many shots, but his ability to score and rebound at the collegiate level could enable him to make an NBA team’s summer league roster, and his motor may allow him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA, as he could end up being a similar player to former Cleveland Cavaliers’ big man, Kevin Jones in the association.
Notre Dame’s 6-3 senior guard, T.J. Gibbs is an athletic, skilled playmaker that did a very good job of shooting and scoring the basketball. He made three quick spot-up threes early on, and Gibbs possesses a knack for making long-range jumpers off the catch. He can make a barrage of shots, and he is a microwave type of scorer that can heat up in a hurry. On the downside, he struggled more to score off the dribble, and he didn’t seem to make any noteworthy passes. Defensively, he had a tendency to sag too far off of his man, and sometimes he wouldn’t even contest shots, which would lead his team to allow opponents to score on three-points.
Overall, Gibbs is an agile, fleet-footed combo guard that can provide instant offense for hi team, and he is a very good shooter that can especially score on threes from beyond the arc. He will need to be a more focused defender in games, and show that he be an effective shot creator for himself and his teammates at higher levels. Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate, but if he makes his way to the NBA, in a favorable scenario, he could perhaps develop into a shooting specialist similar to Dallas Mavericks’ guard, Seth Curry in the association.
There were other players that caught my eye in this game, as both teams shot the ball very well in this match.
Syracuse’s 6-6 sophomore swingman, Buddy Boeheim did a very good job of making three-point shots to provide his team with ample floor spacing in this game, and he moves well off the ball on offense, which allows him to get open shots from beyond the arc. He also was able to make a pull-up jumper from just inside the arc another time. He also is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can throw crisp, accurate passes to notch some assists. Sometimes though, he can be a bit careless on offense, which can lead him to commit turnovers.
Boeheim also is an active defender. He will play passing lanes, and he did a good job of getting his hands on balls to get steals and deflections for his team. He also would contest three-point shots to force misses. Sometimes though, he can be out of position when defending out on the perimeter, which can lead him to commit fouls and allow scores to his opponents.
Overall, Boeheim is a skilled player that shoots the ball well, and he is a solid marksman that can make plenty of threes from downtown. He will need to show that he can effectively guard opponents in a man-to-man defensive scheme, but Boeheim is an intriguing prospect that could be a player to watch for the 2021 draft.
Syracuse’s 6-10 junior forward from Slovakia, Marek Dolezaj also played fairly well in his team’s loss to Notre Dame. He is a point forward that passes and handles the ball well, as he can pass out of the post or off the dribble, and he can lead the break to notch assists in transition.
He is an agile player that can score out of the high post, and he also can knock down mid-range jumpers. Dolezaj also managed to go coast to coast off of a defensive board to score off of a drive in transition. Sometimes though, he can struggle to score in traffic, and he also had his shots blocked several times in this game. In addition, he did not take a single three-point shot in this contest against Notre Dame.
Dolezaj did a good job of collecting rebounds, and he was active at crashing the glass to get boards on both ends of the floor. He isn’t afraid to get after it on the glass, and he even threw some elbows on his first offensive board early on before passing it out to a teammate. He also can push the ball up the floor off of defensive rebounds, and his ball handling skills can be an asset, especially if he’s tasked to play center on the court. He also played adequate defense. Dolezaj was able to block a shot inside midway through this game, and he also contested a three to force a miss.
Overall, Dolezaj had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Notre Dame. He is a solid playmaker that can get the ball to his teammates to garner scores. He also can get scores off the dribble as well as make mid-range shots, and he also is an effective rebounder on the floor. He’ll need to take more outside shots and show that he can effectively play in a man-to-man defensive scheme, but Dolezaj could be primed to have a strong senior season for Syracuse next year.
Notre Dame’s 6-7 freshman forward, Quincy Guerier is an athletic, high-motor player that excelled at blocking shots to help his team get stops defensively, as he is a solid athlete that possesses explosive leaping ability. He also made a deep three that banked in, and he also managed to score on a couple of thunderous dunks off of hustle plays. Guerier did a good job of rebounding the basketball in this game. Right now, he will likely need to stay in school for another season or two, but he is an intriguing prospect, as his game may be a lot like former Syracuse player and current Toronto Raptors forward, Oshae Brissett, and Guerier could perhaps one day end up making it to the NBA on a two-way contract sometime down the road.
Notre Dame’s 6-11 center, Juwan Durham is an athletic shot blocker that did a very good job of swatting and challenging shots at the rim to force a wealth of misses, and he would make it difficult for his opponents to get easy shots in the paint. He also rebounded the ball well. He doesn’t look to score the basketball that often and wasn’t too noticeable on offense, though. He will need to improve his skill set offensively, but his interior defense combined with his length and athleticism could allow him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA.
Notre Dame’s 6-3 sophomore point guard, Prentiss Hubb also played fairly well in his team’s stunning road win over Syracuse. He did a good job of making open, spot-up threes off the catch, and he also managed to score on a left-handed drive on the break another time. He is also an unselfish player that would find soft spots in Syracuse’s zone defense, as he would find open teammates to notch assists. Sometimes though, he would be too streaky with his jump shot on occasion, and he also would occasionally throw inaccurate passes that would go astray. Overall, Hubb had a solid showing in his team’s victory on this day, and he is a player that could end up having a good junior season for Notre Dame in 2021.
Syracuse’s 6-1 freshman guard, Joseph Girard III did a good job of making threes and pull-up, mid-range jumpers, and he is a good shooter that can knock down a flurry of jumpers to help his team space the floor. Though he may only be an average athlete, he is a solid marksman, and he is an active defender that will compete on that side of the ball. He’ll need to improve his playmaking skills and show that he can effectively guard opponents in a man-to-man defensive scheme, but he could be a player to watch down the road.