Thoughts on Ron Harper Jr., Keegan Murray, and Clifford Omoruyi
January 19th, 2022
By Alan Lu
Today, I decided to take the time to watch Keegan Murray and Iowa take on Ron Harper Jr. and Rutgers in a Big Ten conference basketball game. This game featured two talented forwards that could end up being selected in the 2022 draft. Murray is currently the nation’s leading scorer and projects to be a possible lottery pick, and Harper also had made 10 threes in a single game to lead his team to an upset win over Purdue earlier this season.
The game itself though, was pretty brutal. Neither team shot the ball very well nor cracked 50 points, and the pace of the game was extremely slow. Both teams missed a lot of shots, and they also missed their fair share of easy shots around the basket. Harper was able to take advantage of an overly aggressive Murray out on the perimeter, and he drew a key shooting foul on him down the stretch, which enabled Harper to get Rutgers the 48-46 win by making some clutch free throws. In this game, I felt Harper played the best amongst all the players that participated in this match. Here are my thoughts on how Harper, Murray, and other various players fared today.
Rutgers’ 6-6 senior forward, Ron Harper Jr. had a satisfactory showing in his team’s win over Iowa. He showed off versatile scoring skills, he set solid screens, and he also defended well when he was on the court. He thrived at scoring on hustle plays. He was at his best when he would look to score on off-ball motion plays, particularly off of cuts and in transition. He ran the floor to score on a thunderous dunk. He also drove hard to the hoop in transition, and he would’ve scored on a strong layup if the referees had opted to give him continuation. Plus, Harper also managed to score on a powerful dunk off of a nice backdoor cut that he made another time.
He didn’t take many jumpers in this game, but he did a decent job of knocking them down when he elected to hoist up outside shots. Harper was able to make a deep, spot-up three quickly off the catch. He didn’t take nearly enough threes though, and he needed ample time and space to decide to take those shots. He also didn’t hoist up a three until very late in the first half, which he ended up making. He also struggled to score off the dribble when he would drive hard to the basket. Harper was able to score on a tough, fallaway layup once, but he would tend to miss on tough, off-balanced shots due to lacking elite foot speed or quickness to consistently get to the rim off the dribble. He also missed on a fadeaway, mid-range jumper another time. Harper does have great strength and a wide frame, and it enabled him to get open to score in the post on a separate possession.
Also, Harper showed off fairly average playmaking skills. Harper is an unselfish player that will make the extra pass to find the open man. He also is a strong, physical player that would set good screens to help his teammates get open driving lanes and jump shots. On the downside, he would sometimes struggle to handle or protect the basketball when he would get pressured. He drove to his left once, but stepped out of bounds. When posting up another time, he had the ball stolen away from him, as he can struggle to make quick reads on the floor.
Plus, he did a decent job of rebounding the basketball. Also, Harper played satisfactory defense in this game. He is an aggressive, rangy defender that can make plays on the ball to get stops for his team. Harper was able to get his hands on a pass to get a steal. He also recovered to block a three-point shot to force an air-ball and a shot clock violation. He also would poke balls away when defending in the post, and he would actively contest shots in the paint to force misses. On the downside, he would sometimes tend to take bad gambles, as he would over-help in the paint and be late to rotate back, which led him to allow opponents to score on a couple of three-point shots. Other times, he would overtly try to make a big play on the ball, as he would sometimes try to go for a big steal or block but miss, which would lead him to wind up out of position.
In general, Ron Harper Jr. is a strong, mobile forward that generally made sound decisions on both ends of the floor, and his versatility could prove to be a major asset at the NBA level. His ability to shoot, score without needing a lot of plays run for him, and defend multiple positions could allow him to thrive as a role player in the association. He will need to be more aggressive in looking to take outside shots, and he may be fairly limited as a shot creator as he lacks elite quickness, but Harper’s shooting, defense, and basketball IQ could make him a good pick in the second round range of the 2022 draft. His blend of solid skills and feel for the game could enable him to thrive as a role player similar to Utah Jazz’s Eric Paschall in the NBA.
Iowa’s 6-8 sophomore forward, Keegan Murray came in with a lot of hype, but he under-delivered as he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well as hoped, and he seemed to make a slew of bad decisions on both ends of the floor in this game. He also was called for a key reach-in foul when guarding Harper out on the perimeter that led his team to give up the lead for good to lose to Rutgers. Even still, he showed his considerable potential by making athletic, highly energetic plays at times on both sides of the ball.
Murray didn’t shoot the ball very well in this game overall, and he rushed plenty of shots in traffic that hurt his shooting percentages. That said, he looked to be at his best when he would look to score on hustle plays, particularly when he would get opportunities to score on left-handed drives in transition. Murray has a good first step to the hoop on fast breaks, and he would drive to the hoop to score on breakaways. On the downside, he struggled to score more in one-on-one situations, as he had a couple of shots blocked regardless if he’d try to score in the post or off the dribble.
He also did an adequate job of shooting threes in this game. Murray was able to make a couple of spot-up threes off the catch. However, he really struggled to score on pull-up jumpers, and he threw up a couple of air-balls when he would look to shoot long range shots off the dribble. Overall, it was baffling that he was this bad as a scorer in the half court, and he didn’t look to try to move off the ball to score on cuts or rolls to the rim.
As a playmaker, Keegan Murray looked to be fairly average. For the positives, he would often push the ball up the court off of defensive rebounds, and he can throw aggressive drive and kick passes to find open shooters. He also threw a sharp, timely interior pass to find a roll man late in this game. Plus, he would set good screens to help his teammates get open jump shots and driving lanes. However, he showed a loose handle, as he would tend to get the ball poked away from him, and there was another time where he appeared to get away with a walk prior to scoring on a fast break drive. He also seemed to struggle to make quick decisions. On one play when posting up, he had the ball stolen away from him to lose it to an opponent. Another time, he heard an opponent’s foot steps just when he was about to take a three, but he had already leapt up off the ground. Still, that was enough to scare him, as he came down with the basketball without shooting or passing it, which led him to be called for an up and down violation. On the bright side, he did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. There were a lot of misses in this game, and Murray was able to haul in numerous boards, especially on the defensive side of the ball. However, sometimes he would be called for loose ball fouls when going for rebounds.
Defensively, he looked to be about average. For the positives, Murray did a good job of denying his man, Harper the basketball for a good portion of this game, especially in the first half. He generally helped to limit his touches on offense. He also was active in defending and contesting shots in the paint to get stops for his team. Murray blocked a shot in the post, and he has solid feet to be able to defend both out on the perimeter and in the post. However, he also would be too aggressive and take bad gambles, which would lead him to commit reach-in fouls, and he was over active with his hands, as he would be called for reaching in or grabbing his opponents when defending them. Other times, he would take bad angles when defending in the post, and he also would sometimes get beat off the dribble by opponents who shouldn’t be able to get by him.
Overall, Keegan Murray came in with a lot of hype. Too much hype, actually. He came in as the nation’s leading scorer and he’s billed as a possible lottery pick, but he just didn’t play nearly as well as hoped in a game that where there were far too many misses. Murray will need to be a more consistent outside shooter, and he will need to show that he can be an effective scorer without needing every play run for him. He still may end up being a lottery pick, as he could project to be a complementary scoring forward in an NBA team’s rotation, similar to Washington Wizards’ forward, Rui Hachimura in the association.
Clifford Omoruyi had his ups and downs in his team’s win over Iowa. The sophomore big man showed off very good athletic gifts early, as he threw down some ferocious dunks, and he also excelled as a rebounder, shot blocker, and interior defender in this game. On the downside, he also missed too many shots around the basket on offense. Omoruyi did an adequate job of scoring in the post. He was able to score on a right handed, fadeaway jump hook on the baseline. He also managed to score on a thunderous dunk another time. Sometimes though, he would take tough, off-balanced shots that would lead to misses.
He also was active as a scorer on hustle plays. Omoruyi managed to catch a lob pass off of a roll to score on an impressive, high-flying alley-oop dunk. He also would draw free throws when he would look to score off of rolls and put backs. On the downside, he also missed his fair share of put backs, as he didn’t show enough touch or play under control enough in this game. He also was fairly turnover prone. He was called for a charging foul in the post as he had lowered his shoulder onto a defender, which was a shame because he would’ve otherwise scored if that call had not been made. He also telegraphed an entry pass that ended up getting picked off.
Also, Omoruyi did a very good job of rebounding and blocking shots, and he generally defended well in this game. Omoruyi was able to block a three-point shot to a teammate, and it helped ignite a fast break. He also would intercept passes and poke balls away to get steals, and he also dove on the ground and tied up an opponent to nearly get another. He was both active in contesting shots out on the perimeter and in the paint to force a slew of misses. On one play though, he over-hedged onto an opposing ball handler, and he was late to get back to a roll man, which led his teammate to rotate to commit the foul.
Overall, Clifford Omoruyi didn’t have a perfect game, but he showed some good athletic gifts and the potential to be a rim protector in the NBA. He will need to continue to improve on offense, as he will need to work on his jump shot and ability to finish in traffic, but he could be a prospect to watch in the future.
Rutgers’ 6-7 senior point forward, Caleb McConnell quietly played well in his team’s win over Iowa. He may not have played well from an offensive standpoint, but he was a defensive standout, as he played lock down defense to help his team get the victory. On offense, he didn’t take many shots, but he was most comfortable at shooting and scoring on mid-range jumpers. He knocked down an open mid-range jumper from the baseline, and he also managed to score on a fadeaway, mid-range shot another time. However, he also missed on both of his threes, as he struggled to knock down long-range jumpers from beyond the arc.
He also was a bit turnover prone on offense. For the positives, McConnell is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he also is an agile, athletic player that can handle the basketball. However, when posting up once, he was called for a double dribble that led to a turnover. Another time, he threw a hasty pass that got intercepted by a defender.
Also, McConnell did a good job of rebounding the basketball. He also played very good defense in this game. He would aggressively defend and stay in front of opposing ball handlers, as he would speed them up and get them to miss badly and commit turnovers. He also was aggressive and disciplined in closing out on three-point shooters, as he would cut down on the air space to prevent them from getting good looks, and he also forced Keegan Murray to commit an up and down violation. He also rotated to poke a ball away in the post to get a steal another time.
Overall, Caleb McConnell is an athletic perimeter player that played very good defense in his team’s win over Iowa. He’ll need to improve his three-point shot and be more assertive on offense, but his defense, athleticism, and versatility could enable him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA someday. If he makes his way into the NBA one day, he could end up being a similar player to Boston Celtics’ newly acquired swingman, P.J. Dozier in the association.
Rutgers’ fifth-year senior, Geo Baker had some good moments in his team’s win over Iowa. He didn’t shoot the ball very well though, as he especially struggled to knock down jumpers, but he thrived at taking it to the rim to score on aggressive drives to the hoop, and he also defended well in this game. He also showed some playmaking skills at times as the team’s lead guard on offense.
Baker did a good job of scoring on quick, aggressive drives in both the half court and in transition. He struggled to knock down outside shots though, and he also missed all of his threes from beyond the arc. Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills. He was able to make swift, drive and kick passes to find open shooters, and he also threw a lob to find a cutter another time. Sometimes though, he would be careless with the ball, especially when he would be under pressure. He had the ball ripped away from him when handling it to lose it to an opponent. He also threw an inaccurate lob pass that ended up going out of bounds.
Also, he did a decent job of rebounding the basketball. He also played good defense in this game. Baker did a very good job of blocking jump shots to his teammates due to possessing a solid blend of athleticism, timing, and instincts. He also would run in to get his hands on passes to get steals and deflections. In summation, he did a good job of defending outside shots and playing passing lanes in this game.
Overall, Baker didn’t have his best offensive night, but he defended well, and he made it tough for his opponents to get their shots or passes through. He is an athletic, energetic combo guard, and he could end up competing for a roster spot in the NBA someday.
Iowa’s 6-0 junior point guard, Joe Toussaint had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Rutgers. Though he didn’t take many shots in this game, he showed off versatile scoring skills. He was able to make an open corner three, and he showed a knack for scoring on speedy drives in transition due to possessing good speed, body control, and finishing ability. He had his shot blocked on a half-court drive once, but he showed that he can draw fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line. He also passed and handled the ball well. He would throw accurate interior passes to find his teammates on the move. Toussaint also rebounded the ball well. Plus, he would swipe balls away from opposing ball handlers to help his team get a plethora of steals. Overall, Toussaint played well in this game. He will need to be more assertive in looking for his own shot on offense, but regardless, he was very efficient in making plays all across the board. He may arguably be the fastest player on his team. Though he is undersized for his position, Toussaint’s foot speed, combined with his playmaking and defensive potential could make him a player to watch in college basketball next season.