By Joe Henricksen

There are times to just forget the 'eye-test'

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By Joe Henricksen

It's not very often when a man can just ignore the eye-test -- in any part of his life -- but ...

True story. A college assistant coach calls the Hoops Report. The program where he coaches is in need of a shooter, a player that can consistently knock down shots from the perimeter and with some range. The following takes place:

Coach: "Joe, we need a shooter. We need one bad."
Joe: "Have you done anything with the Jordan Nelson kid down in Lincoln? He's one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the state."
Coach: "He's not a true point guard."
Joe: "I thought you needed a shooter?"
Coach: "My boss won't take a 5-10 white kid."
Joe: "He's 5-11, close to 6-feet."
Coach: "My boss won't take a 5-11 white kid."

Every year, the Hoops Report gets on a soapbox. Well, maybe it's more like jumping on the bandwagon of certain players that are overlooked by Division I schools. Today, at this point in the season, it's Lincoln guard Jordan Nelson.

Last year the dismay was over Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill, who the Hoops Report believed was the ideal low-Division I point guard. The Hoops Report heard it all regarding McGonagill and why he couldn't play at the Division I level. "He's not quick enough." ... "He's not athletic enough."... "He's a very good shooter but he needs to be a great shooter to play at our level." ... "Who is he going to guard?"

I'm hear to ask: "Have you seen how many inferior players are playing low-Division I basketball right now?" And McGonagill, who is a strong, heady point guard who will run a team like a coach, is as tough as they come and can knock down shots, wasn't good enough to play anywhere at the Division I level other than Brown and North Dakota? Puh-leaze!

Basically, the recruitment came down to Brown out of the Ivy League and North Dakota. They both loved him, wanted him badly. But the problem was, no one else really did. And the Hoops Report, which did see the flaws in McGonagill but also appreciated his strengths, couldn't figure out why.

McGonagill chose a great education in the Ivy League and an opportunity to play right away. And he hasn't disappointed. The 6-1 McGonagill is playing 33 minutes a game for Brown and is averaging 12 points, 5 assists and 4.2 rebounds a game as a freshman, including a season-high 39 points in a win over Columbia.

Now, more than a year later, the same questions surround Nelson, the record-breaking three-point shooter from Lincoln, a central Illinois town just down the road from Bloomington-Normal.

Numbers don't mean a whole lot when it comes to recruiting. But we're talking about Lincoln, a basketball school with players and tradition, and Nelson has put up some staggering numbers during his four-year varsity career.

Nelson is averaging 22 points a game and has knocked down 107 three-pointers already this season while shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc. He's made a whopping 342 three-pointers in his career -- 342! -- and is a career 40 percent three-point shooter. He dishes out 3 assists a game. He shoots over 82 percent from the line. He broke the Lincoln single-game scoring record with 48 against Springfield Lanphier.

But put the numbers to the side for a moment. The reason Nelson is a Division I player is that he offers up a bonafide Division I ability: shooting the basketball. His shot is pure, and it's a jump shot from 15 feet, 20 feet and 25 feet, with the mechanics and textbook release that is the calling card for every great shooter. For that reason alone, in a day where suddenly poor shooting has become an epidemic in college basketball, Nelson can play somewhere at the Division I level.

Plenty of Division I schools have poked around and kept tabs on Nelson, including Evansville, Creighton, Southern Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Navy, Southeast Missouri State, IUPUI, Colgate and La Salle. But so far, aside from a host of Division II offers, only Southern Illinois-Edwardsville has made an offer -- and that is a conditional offer, where he will walk-on for a year and be given a scholarship in 2012.

There is no question the process has had an impact on Nelson as he plays out his senior year.

"It's absolutely frustrating," says Nelson, who also has a grade-point average over 3.0. "The waiting around for schools to offer, playing all those games and playing your butt off and no one seems to take notice."

So what is the problem?

The naysayers will point to Nelson's slight frame at 160 to 165 pounds. Will he get beat up a little at the college level? Sure. But for every five physically imposing players with great bodies and athleticism who can't shoot or play a lick at the low-Division I level, there is one Jordan Nelson, who will put the ball in the hole, extend an opposing team's defense and actually make an opposing team's advanced scouting report.

The critics will argue he's 5-11 and isn't a true point guard. The Hoops Report contends he's a solid enough ballhandler to run the point for his high school team. And he's so valuable off the ball, coming off screens and spotting up on the perimeter, that he can flourish in the right system.

Skeptic coaches point to his lack of athleticism. But he is shifty, quicker than you think and a better defender than he's given credit for.

Nelson can imagine what goes through a college coach's head.

"The coaches probably don't think I'm big enough to pass the so-called 'eye-test,'" says Nelson.

That "eye-test" has certainly cost deserving players Division I scholarships in the past. And it will continue to in the future. While Nelson may not be a difference-maker at the Division I level, the "eye-test" should not cost a player and shooter the caliber of Nelson a Division I scholarship.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 16th year of publication, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

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19 Comments

Joe, you have it all in a nutshell. First the young man is white, then he's too small, then he can't handle the ball, then he doesn't have a college ready body. Coaches are skittish going after exactly what they want because they are afraid of making a mistake and then being second guessed. It's easier to get a 6'5" kid and if he doesn't work out, it looks better I guess. At least he looked like a basketball player the coach would fall back on! This kid can shoot the ball. And there are alot of less worthy low level D1 players on the court as we speak. Hey, whatever happened to seeing the talent and developing a kid on his weaknesses, unless his weakness is so bad it can't be fixed. I could name several in the suburbs that are running into the exact same wall even when the talent level is amazing with them. Part of being a good recruit is seeing the talent and then developing it. It's a shame. And on the college ready body thing? These are kids. If they have a college ready body either they are a bit unusual for their age or take a not-so-good body enhancing drug. Bottom Line: Come on college scouts. Don't look for perfection, it isn't there! Get the best of the bunch. Look at talent and potential. Forget the he's white, he's too light, he doesn't look like a ball player or he can't play point guard when you are looking at a shooter. Take the talent and be glad someone else missed him! As Brown found out, they picked a gem, and looked like the coaching staff can spot talent. The guys who missed him should be embarrassed!

Joe, you have it all in a nutshell. First the young man is white, then he's too small, then he can't handle the ball, then he doesn't have a college ready body. Coaches are skittish going after exactly what they want because they are afraid of making a mistake and then being second guessed. It's easier to get a 6'5" kid and if he doesn't work out, it looks better I guess. At least he looked like a basketball player the coach would fall back on! This kid can shoot the ball. And there are alot of less worthy low level D1 players on the court as we speak. Hey, whatever happened to seeing the talent and developing a kid on his weaknesses, unless his weakness is so bad it can't be fixed. I could name several in the suburbs that are running into the exact same wall even when the talent level is amazing with them. Part of being a good recruit is seeing the talent and then developing it. It's a shame. And on the college ready body thing? These are kids. If they have a college ready body either they are a bit unusual for their age or take a not-so-good body enhancing drug. Bottom Line: Come on college scouts. Don't look for perfection, it isn't there! Get the best of the bunch. Look at talent and potential. Forget the he's white, he's too light, he doesn't look like a ball player or he can't play point guard when you are looking at a shooter. Take the talent and be glad someone else missed him! As Brown found out, they picked a gem, and looked like the coaching staff can spot talent. The guys who missed him should be embarrassed!

Yes, being white sure does make it tough getting a basketball scholarship no matter how good you are. I'm not making a racist comment. This is the reality of what many scouts say. I wish they would just look at the results and the talent. It's kinda like going to Indiana and looking at some of those guys thinking they look weak like the kid from Morton. If you do that, you're likely to get embarrassed by those weak looking kids. They have major game most times. Bottom line, look at the talent, not an appearance. And if you want a shooting guard, then get a shooting guard. Don't complain he doesn't have point guard skills. It's very exceptional that you can get it all unless you're a scout for a high major program.

Hi Joe can we get a story like this on Dre Henley he's a high major player who's not getting the attention he deserves. All of our Illinois kids need all the help they can get !!

Joe

Nice artice. Wanted your thoughts on two kids, as I live in Mundelein and don't hear much about the young kids in the North suburban conference:

1) Robert Knar of Mundelein - Sophomore sharpshooter - is small and fits into the category of the kids in your article above, but he is like a Ben Brust (Wisconsin) clone, maybe a quicker release and can hit from anywhere in bunches.

2) Malik Yarbrough of Zion Benton - Freshman guard/forward - I saw this kid play against Mundelein twice and I can not imagine a better freshman in the state. At 6-4/6-5, he can shoot, handle the ball and drive to the hole at will, is fast, plays defense, passes well, and must be averaging over 20pts a game on a 21-win Zion team of which he is the engine to.

Thanks - keep up the great work.

Ed.

I've seen Knar and Yarbrough play at the Jacobs Tourney. I like Knars game a lot and I think Yarbrough will be an all stater by the time he is a senior. Two other kids I saw at that tourney that I think could be special athletes as seniors but don't have the "pedigree" of the 6-5 D1 athlete body are Matt Neukrich from Jacobs and Matt Chaltin from Bartlett. I really liked how neither forced their game, were the subject of constant face guards and full denials by other teams yet played within the system. If either grows to 6-5 or strenghthens their body they could be nice small D1 school players.

To Mundy fan:

I saw Yarbrough play a couple of times this season, and he is silky smooth out there. He is only a freshman, but when he becomes more of a floor leader and a vocal presence, I think he will elevate his teammates games more as well. Like other kids his age, he needs to play hard every play and leave everything on the court - and when he does and leads with that example - ZB will be a force. The ceiling is extremely high for Milik Yarbrough. I saw a ton of Brandon Paul his senior year, and its scary to say, but I think the way Milik is playing right now, he compares favorable to Brandon Paul as a senior.

Joe the "Eye Test" is and will get a lot more college coaches fired. I coached Ryan Jackson from Riverside Brookfield this summer, and he destroyed a lot of the top guards these Division I coaches are in love with. He now has his team ranked in the top 25, without a lot of help. Coaches told me he doesn't have a college body. Well Lewis loves him, and when they play some of these Division 1 schools in the area, he will prove to them the folly of the "Eye Test".

Great stuff here as always and a well deserved look at probably a player who should be getting more looks than he is receiving. Thanks for bringing this topic to the attention of those that read your blog religiously including college coaches.

Awesome article!

Ryan Jackson is a fine player but to say he doesn't have "alot of help" is just plain wrong! We have a great center and some great shooters on the team he can kick it out to! He is NOT our whole team! Be serious!

Mr. Joe, what will it take for Kory Brown(2012)to get a little recognition. He led Elgin to a victory over Grays Lake Central on 2/23/11. At 6'4", Kory is the real deal. He scored a career high 30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 block shots and 4 steals while vomitting and sick to his stomach. Please don't overlook Kory Brown...he's one of the hardest working all-around players in high school basketball.

Joe, what do you consider a good 3 point shooter? They shoot in the what percentage range? Or a great 3 point shooter? 40% doesn't seem astounding to me. It's good, but not off the charts, or is it?

I'm still learning from you, but I'm trying to achieve my goals. I definitely love reading all that is posted on your blog.Keep the stories coming. I loved it

And there are alot of less worthy low level D1 players on the court as we speak. Hey, whatever happened to seeing the talent and developing a kid on his weaknesses, unless his weakness is so bad it can't be fixed. I could name several in the suburbs that are running into the exact same wall even when the talent level is amazing with them.
http://cheapeyeexamshq.com/

And there are alot of less worthy low level D1 players on the court as we speak. Hey, whatever happened to seeing the talent and developing a kid on his weaknesses, unless his weakness is so bad it can't be fixed. I could name several in the suburbs that are running into the exact same wall even when the talent level is amazing with them.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on February 23, 2011 11:22 AM.

What we learned from 'Showdown' event was the previous entry in this blog.

The Hoops Report Mailbag: Part II is the next entry in this blog.

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