Summer Pick-Up Report

Mondays and Wednesdays all this month, a collection of Bay Area basketball players have convened upon West Valley College in Saratoga for evening open gym pick-up action. This week was the last, so we made it a point to take in and report on the 10 Stanford men in attendance (including four of the incoming freshmen) mostly squaring off against junior college players.

Da'Veed Dildy.  Dildy handled the ball frequently, but was often forced to give up the ball early by a trapping defense that led to a sometimes helter skelter style of play.  He didn't get many clean looks, but from what I saw of his shot, it appears to be a little low-arching but serviceable.  His handle looks reasonably good, although he suffers a bit from the typical freshman point guard phenomenon of picking up his dribble a little on the early side.  I'd have to watch more of Dildy and probably in a different environment to have anything meaningful to say about his abilities as a point guard in a half court offense.  Physically, I would describe Dildy as having a good frame for a frosh, with decent athleticism; he's slightly shorter than Fields, but looks a little thicker.

Landry Fields.  Everybody want to know about his size, so let's get that out of the way up front.  He looked to me to be 6-5 and, maybe, some change.  I was pleasantly surprised by his frame and he looks a little thicker through the chest and arms than I expected based on descriptions by the scouting services.  By way of comparison, Fields definitely has more muscle than Josh Childress did his freshman year.  Fields appeared to have pretty good athleticism, although he looks like he needs to catch up to his body, so to speak.  In terms of movement, he jumps well and seems to be a "glider" as opposed to being explosive and having a really quick first step.  His jumper is smooth, with a high (not too high) release and nice rotation, and he seems adept at finding open spots on the perimeter.  It's way too early to draw conclusions, but Wednesday night he certainly looked the part of a traditional Stanford wing who will eventually shoot around 40% from three (although we've been short on those recently).  Fields seemed comfortable taking the ball inside, although he doesn't quite have the strength yet to be as effective driving as he is operating on the perimeter.  I would speculate that he will earn meaningful minutes this season on the strength of his shooting.  How copious those minutes turn out to be will likely depend on his ability to defend.  While Fields has encouraging physical tools, he's dealing with the adjustment to the speed of college level basketball that almost all freshmen -- particularly at this extremely early stage -- find daunting.

Taj Finger.  Finger was impressive Wednesday night on the defensive end, where he was extremely active and picked up a number of loose balls.  He looks to have added some weight/strength this off-season, and appears a bit quicker, as well.  There will be times when he faces a size deficit against power forwards that will be difficult to overcome, but I suspect those match-ups will be fewer and farther between going forward.  Finger had a couple of nice tip-ins and hit the offensive boards well, but his offense remains relatively limited outside of those aspects.

Anthony Goods.  Goods shot the ball extremely well Wednesday night, at one point burying three or four straight threes on consecutive trips down the court against Josh Childress' team in the final pickup game.  Several of his threes looked to be from well behind the arc and were effortless.  Goods looks like he gained a little muscle the past several months, which may contribute to what was already good range.  In short, Goods looked very much like a guy who is going to shoot a ton of threes this season, and make a good percentage.  Somebody check the record book for how many threes Casey Jacobsen and Todd Lichti took and made their sophomore seasons.  Goods made smart, safe decisions with the ball and handled defensive pressure well.

Lawrence Hill.  Hill is already acting like a future if not present team leader.  At various times he appeared to direct the freshmen, including the twins, on what to do.  Hill was aggressive in looking for scoring opportunities from outside, inside and in transition.  I have no idea whether the staff has told him that they're counting on him to be a scorer for this team, but he's certainly playing like it.  As for position, early signs point to him looking the part of a 'three' (small forward) instead of a 'four' (power forward).  His weight appears to be up a bit, and he seemed to have a more solid "base" and balance as a result.

Mitch Johnson.  Johnson played with confidence Wednesday night, leading vocally at times and looking for his shot.  He got off to a quick start, and at one point buried three or four threes in a row.  In case you're wondering, he hasn't tweaked his mechanics much, best as I could tell, except that he may be coming a little closer to squaring up.  On the defensive end, he wasn't tested much, as his counterpart didn't have the quickness or skill of Pac-10 caliber lead guards.  Overall, I would describe Johnson's play as slightly improved and more aggressive than he demonstrated last season, but with the caveat that the level of competition makes it tough to draw significant conclusions.

Brook Lopez.  Brook was fairly quiet Wednesday night, and didn't get a lot of touches or take many shots.  He played strictly at the 'five' (center) and didn't play alongside brother Robin.  Having seen Brook play the 'four' part of the time with Robin at the five in practices leading up the McDonald's game, I like Brook better when he has more freedom to roam away from the basket.  On the defensive end, Brook was solid, blocking some shots and rebounding well.  Brook sported a beard last night, enhancing the contrast in appearance between him and his brother.

Robin Lopez.  Robin played exceptional defense Wednesday night.  He owned the paint, swatting numerous shots, altering others and ultimately forcing most opposing players to stop even trying to shoot against him.  To some degree, such a result might not be that surprising, as Robin had a significant height advantage.  On the other hand, the degree of dominance was particularly impressive when you consider that Robin frequently guarded smaller players outside the paint and, with good technique (he gets down nice and low in his defensive stance when needed against smaller, quicker players) and lateral quickness, was able to shut them down as well.  On those occasions when his man got a shoulder by him, he did a fine job of riding the offensive player along the baseline or under the basket, putting himself in a position to then block a difficult lay-up attempt.  The irony is that while you undoubtedly want Robin's defensive presence inside where he can prevent penetration and block shots, he's probably more ready than Brook to defend opposing forwards.

On the offensive end, Robin had several thunderous dunks that showed his that aggressiveness is not limited to the defensive end.  More importantly, he looked comfortable shooting mid-range jumpers.  I noted a pretty one off the glass from about 14 feet and a slightly longer jumper from the baseline that rimmed out but looked textbook.  Comparing Robin's game last night to when I observed him over the McDonald's week in San Diego, he looked more confident and smoother shooting the ball.  He seemed hesitant, as if he were thinking too much back in May.  How much of that progress is due to Robin's hard work over that span and how much is due to the significantly less imposing defense he faced last night is difficult to say, but I suspect it's a product of both.

Drew Shiller.  Shiller's rep is as a shooter, but he didn't take many shots Wednesday night.  Instead, the most impressive aspect of his game was his passing.  He saw the court well and zipped at least three noteworthy left-handed passes that caught my attention.  His quickness seemed a little better than I remembered from watching him play for USF.  He appears to be around 5-11 to 6-0.  If Shiller were eligible to play this season, Johnson would still have an advantage in the competition for the starting spot based on his experience in the Stanford system and last year's trial by fire, but in my opinion the competition might be pretty close.

Fred Washington.  Washington looked healthy, and although he may not have played as many minutes as some others, if you didn't know of his injuries you probably wouldn't have guessed that he had been under the knife.  He appears to have added some more muscle this off-season and looks ready to get after it.  As you'd expect, Washington was at his best in transition last night, had some nice finishes and didn't do as much in the half court offense.


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