Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick
Class of 2009
Dexter Strickland was recently named to the McDonald's All-American team. Seemingly destined to one day make the team since bursting onto the scene early in his high school career, much has been expected of Strickland since an early age. By the time I was able to watch Strickland play for the first time at the Nike All-America camp in July of 2006, the then rising sophomore was already more than holding his own against much more seasoned, stronger and older players. His talent was easily identifiable and at the time I rated him an elite high major prospect and wrote this about his performance, "He scores with ease on pull-up jumpers, drives to the hole off the bounce and gets transition finishes. He's on the skinny side, but he's got three years of high school to add weight. Has a pretty good feel, nice handle and loads of confidence."
A long and lean athlete, Strickland has always benefitted from a quick first step and the ability to get to the rim with just a couple of decisive dribbles. In particular, he's always been dangerous attacking along the baseline and using his superior leaping ability and in-air body control to shake off bounces or adjust for finishes around the rim.
A fine ball handler who can bring the ball up the court, Strickland isn't one to "dance" with the ball on the perimeter. When he puts the ball on the floor, he generally does so with purpose looking to either get to the rim or put himself in a better position to make a pass. Calm in nature, he rarely rushes things and as a result doesn't make very man silly mistakes.
Capable of knocking down spot up jumpers, Strickland has extended his range to the three point line and has good mechanics on his shot. While he's capable of making shots, he's always been at his best using his impressive straight line speed to sprint the floor in transition for crowd pleasing slams or finishes at the goal. Defensively, he's got good feet and hips and more than enough lateral quickness and length to develop into a good college defender.
In a way that is very similar to fellow Tar Heel recruit Leslie McDonald, Strickland is sometimes a little too passive on the floor. Playing for a loaded program like St. Patrick, he's always been surrounded by other stars and will sometimes go through stretches where he defers to his teammates. This isn't to say that being unselfish is a true weakness, it's to say that there are times where Strickland could afford to be a little more aggressive and really put his stamp on the game.
It also seems at times that unless it's a dunk or a three, Strickland isn't going to shoot the ball. He doesn't completely ignore the mid range game, but it's an area where he could expand his game. His quick first step, ability to explode into a shot and ability to create space with just one or two hard dribbles should allow him to develop into a dangerous mid-range scorer. Theoretically, it would also open more for him because defenders would never be able to relax.
Most importantly, Strickland needs to add strength to his still slender frame. When he gets to college, opposing coaches are going to take a look at him and make sure that he's getting lots of bumps and contact when working to free himself away from the ball. The sooner he can add bulk and muscle, the quicker he'll be able to adjust to the much more physical play he's going to endure in college.
At this point in time, it would appear that Strickland is best suited to play shooting guard on the college level. His ball handling and passing allow him to initiate an offense from time to time and his ability to take care of the ball is a plus if he needs to slide over to the point for a few minutes here and there. However, he's proven to be most effective as a scorer and attacker who works from between the extended elbow and the baseline, so he seems a natural fit as a college two guard.
Scout.com ranks Strickland as the No. 4 shooting guard and No. 18 player overall in the class of 2009. In this slot, it's conceivable that he could go up or down a few spots depending on how Scout.com decides to weigh his potential and what he's capable of doing against production that doesn't always equal his talent level. I currently have Strickland at No. 12 in the country in my personal rankings. Most likely, he'll finish somewhere in the 20 range when I redo things in the spring.
There's no question that he has all of the skills, tools and athleticism to become an impact player early in his career. He's going to play in a system that sets up well for his particular set of skills and there should be plenty of opportunity to earn playing time. He has managed to develop into the potentially elite prospect that everybody predicted he could be and there's a lot to be said for that considering how much scrutiny there is for today's high school players. Additionally, Strickland appears to be a pretty easy going young man who should be well liked by his teammates, coaches and fans both on and off the court. Ultimately, how much of an impact he makes during his college career is largely going to be decided by how badly Strickland wants to be great and how much extra work he's willing to put in.