Shooting guard/Small forward
Jacksonville (Fla.) Providence
Just a week ago, Stacey Poole became the first member of John Calipari's 2010 recruiting class at Kentucky. Well known for his ability to put points on the board, Poole also boasts tremendous bloodlines as his father starred at rival Florida during the late 80's.
The first chance I had to view Poole was at the end of his sophomore year in high school at the 2008 Nike Memorial Day Classic. At the time, Poole was playing with Nike Team Florida and I rated him a high major prospect while writing about him that he was, "A well-proportioned athlete with relatively broad shoulders and long arms, he can absorb contact and finish athletic drives and slashes in transition. His jumper looks pretty good from a structural standpoint, and he gets it off pretty quickly, so now he just has to improve his shot selection and overall decision making. It should be noted that his father was a McDonald's All-American and four year starter at Florida who scored just under 1,700 points for the Gators during a career that wrapped up during the early '90s."
Just as it was a few years ago, Poole's athleticism and lean strength remain the backbone of his game. A scorer who excels in attacking off the dribble, Poole uses his powerful shoulders, quick first step and desire to get where he wants to go with the ball. More often than not, his final destination is somewhere around the rim where he's quite capable of finishing over, around or through bigger defenders.
While he can get to the rim and finish with slams, Poole has also developed his mid range game. In fact, he's quite creative in his shot taking/making and is quite adept at finding ways to score between 12 and 17 feet.
A natural scorer, he is also a surprisingly good rebounder. Poole does a fine job of creating extra scoring opportunities by lurking around the offensive glass where he uses his quickness to beat opponents to the ball and put it back through the hoop before they can react. His jumper, while streaky, remains a weapon that he can utilize all the way out to the three point line.
Even though his greatest strength is his knack for creating and capitalizing on scoring opportunities, Poole is also his own worst enemy at times. Because he's so confident in his ability to get to the basket, he often ends up charging hard into the lane with his head down, launching himself into the air and just trying to make something up on the fly.
Many times, the result is a made bucket with a high degree of difficulty. But, that's against high school defenders who won't have near the athletic ability or defensive discipline to stop him on a regular basis. In college, that won't be the case so it will be important for him to focus on dribbling with his head up and playing under a bit more control.
Although it would be unfair to classify him as a poor defender, Poole could certainly stand to improve on that end of the floor. Given his strength, quickness and long reach, he's got the tools to develop into a good, if not well better than average, defender on the college level should he put his mind to it.
Just exactly where Poole fits best on the college level remains to be seen. At it's core, his game is that of a more traditional small forward while he will likely step onto campus with size that is a little more that of a shooting guard. Playing at Kentucky, that shouldn't be a concern as it's much more important that he be able to attack and make plays off the dribble than necessarily fit the description of a traditional point guard, shooting guard or small forward. Look for him to be a utility athlete early in his career who specializes and develops into a potentially explosive scorer down the road.
Speaking frankly, Poole has long been a guy who is a bit of a lightning rod for discussion amongst scouts. Some laud him for his explosive scoring ability while others worry some about the volume of shots he takes and that he's bounced around a few high schools.
At the end of the day, though, it's all about fit on the next level and there's no denying that his game fits in well with what John Calipari wants to do. Given his natural athletic gifts, nose for scoring and innate toughness, Poole should be able to make the transition from role player to a legitimate high level scorer before he completes his career at Kentucky.