Raymond Spalding: Evaluation

He needed more time than we thought he might, but the light finally turned on for Raymond Spalding. The slender big man flashed potential early, played through some uneven patches and finally put it together as he prepares for life after high school.


Introduction


For a couple years, scouting Louisville product Raymond Spalding largely boiled down to the day. Opinions were all over the board due to his inconsistent play, because at times he could appear to be an explosive talent while at others he struggled to make an impact.

In Scout terms, Spalding’s story opened back in the 2012 summer. A skinny 6-7 forward, he impressed on the 15-under circuit with the Tennessee Travelers. As colleague Evan Daniels noted then, Spalding had grown from sub-six feet tall to 6-7 within 18 months.

That late growth spurt largely explains why he required a more gradual, two steps forward and one step back development process, but it also illustrates how far he has come in a short time.

He would continue to grow. Spalding ultimately sprouted to 6-9, and by the 2013 spring he’d heard from Boston College, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Tennessee, Western Kentucky, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Spalding proceeded through his junior season in 2013-14 continuing to gain steam, even if he had yet to truly establish himself nationally. He said in the early summer that Indiana, Xavier, Clemson and Vanderbilt stood out, but of course his recruitment was only beginning to truly flourish at that time.

He entered July needing to reestablish his production versus national opposition. Back in April, he had performed very quietly and frankly didn’t play much at the EYBL Hampton event with the Travelers, but he was outstanding in July while touring with The Ville. His play at the Adidas Invitational and the Peach State Summer Showcase served notice that he not only warranted high-majors, but that he possessed legitimate blue-chip talent.

The hometown Cardinals elevated him to top priority status and tracked him closely during the July live period, and Spalding committed to Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino by the end of the month.


Assets


The section reads far more projection than typically is the case in these evaluations. Spalding makes some big plays now but ultimately commanded a No. 41 national ranking based on his immense, immediately obvious potential.

Spalding’s potential has become increasingly difficult to overlook

He’s 6-9 and long-armed, enabling him to be a college center based on reach. That said, he possesses the developing skills of a long-term power forward. Spalding is very coordinated and has good hands, so despite his thin frame he’s able to make plays in traffic even after getting knocked off-balance.

He already boasts a tremendous use of hook shots, relying on them consistently and, given his reach, that’s a great move for his future. He can make them with either hand and, whether it’s hooks for short jumpers, uses the backboard very well. Few players — even those in the senior class carrying greater esteem — are as deft and dedicated to the glass.

Meanwhile, Spalding also blocks shot and frequently with his left hand, always a valuable style for a big guy. From an athletic perspective, he runs the floor with speed and can even push the break while handling the ball, and again he may improve further in that regard as he matures physically. He’s also a solid post passer.


Deficits


A desperate lack of strength could hold Spalding back for the next couple of years. He’s in no way ready for physical college play, and thus fans will need to be patient while he continues to grow into his body.

Along with that, the hope is that he’ll gain explosion. Spalding is fast but not an impact leaper and needs more time to elevate than one would prefer. It’s not uncommon for a late grower to gain his full complement of athleticism until relatively late, however, so don’t pigeon hole him as an average leaper.

He’s also less proven that most other top-50 prospects. As mentioned, Spalding looked very pedestrian at times on the travel circuit. He’ll have to make certain to retain his focus on getting the most out of his ability.


Outlook


Spalding’s ceiling ranks up there with top echelon of senior big men. He doesn’t possess the body or track record of the elites, but he does hold distinct size/speed/skill advantages over the great majority of his peers, even some of those at the top.

While this doesn’t pertain to his evaluation per se, he’s also going to compete for a Louisville program that won’t ask him to be a star from day one, so he should be able to develop without inordinate pressure.

The Cardinals continue to be a national force and, given time, Spalding could become a key factor in their continued success.


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