Braxton Blackwell: Junior Primer

When the Atlanta Celtics took the floor last summer, it was point guard Kobi Simmons who drew the most eyeballs. But the more one watched the Celtics compete, the more Braxton Blackwell’s understated contributions began to shine.

How he got here

As early as the fall of his sophomore season, Braxton Blackwell had begun to attract attention. From day one his ability stood out, notably his feel for the game and good size to skill ratio.

He hit the road in the 2013 spring with the Nashville Celtics. He played in the 17-under division despite being a rising sophomore, and he didn’t appear daunted or overwhelmed at any time.

Blackwell always has known how to play. He doesn’t have the big highlight explosions or always issue forth immense scoring nights, but he steadily contributes in ways that enable his team to win.

Blackwell thrives as a slasher attacking in either direction

High-majors caught wind of him immediately, and the intensity of the breeze has picked up over time. By the fall of his sophomore season he’d already taken unofficial visits to Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Memphis and Louisville. The Nashville (Tenn.) Christ Presbyterian product naturally took his first trips to local and regional programs, but no one doubted that his recruitment could expand well beyond those borders.

Blackwell’s next step, last year, was to compete on the 17-under Adidas Gauntlet circuit with the Atlanta Celtics. Playing for a balanced team that also featured a star player in Simmons, Blackwell averaged 10 points and five rebounds per game while shooting 53 percent from the field.

His efficiency is uncommon among top-50, 6-6 forwards, who frequently force the action due to their typical talent advantage, and that aspect of his game always has drawn plaudits from the men watching along the baseline.

He entered his junior season holding multitudes of major conference offers and ultimately will have his choice of collegiate destinations. Because Blackwell can fit in so seamlessly to a variety of roles, he’s compatible with most college programs irrespective of system.

To 2015. …

The first question we hope to (at least attempt to) answer in the next six months is what position he will play long-term.

Blackwell is a substantially built 6-6 and might be closer to 6-7 at this juncture. He’s also just okay in terms of lateral quickness, which would indicate perhaps he’d be more of a face-up fourman. But he’s so sure-handed as a dribbler, a talented passer and all-around intelligent perimeter performer that he looks entirely comfortable on the wing.

That said, he’ll definitely need to improve his jump shot. Blackwell converted just 29 percent on threes with the Celtics last year, and he suffered to a 58 percent mark from the free throw line.

He’s a good leaper with a running start but has an average first step. In terms of college playing style, whether he’s the second-biggest guy in a smaller lineup or a wing in a bigger lineup, I foresee him becoming a catch-and-score specialist off curl screens.

He’s very effective on the move and especially if he’s already in motion on the catch. His dribbling skill and ability to go right or left causes issues for big guys trying to help on defense, and he’s strong enough that he can overpower the average 6-5 wing.

By no means is Blackwell a refined player, but his heady playing style along with ball skills, height and strength make him highly intriguing as we head toward the spring.

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