OrangeNation Spotlight: Johnny Flynn

After missing last year's Primetime Shootout due to inclimate weather, the Niagara Falls Wolverines made it back to New Jersey for the first time since a thrilling 1 point loss to Vashon (MO) High School in 2005. This year's opponent, the Linden Tigers (NJ), beat the Wolverines 67-57 despite 33 electrifying points from 2007 McDonald's All-American Johnny Flynn.

Niagara Falls controlled most of the first half of the game, posting a 29-23 lead going in to the break. Johnny Flynn led the way with 13 points and tried to get his teammates involved as much as possible, but they were often gun-shy and would not shoot the open perimeter shots that he repeatedly set them up for. Teammate Rashon Tabb, a 6-3 JR, turned in a good first half with his strong hustle and defense. He also added a handful of scoring drives, hit an 18 foot jumper, and showed the ability to handle the ball in the open court.

Fraternizing with the enemy.

The second half was an entirely different story, as a deluge of Niagara Falls turnovers allowed the Linden Tigers an opportunity to get back in the game. Behind the play of guard Desmond Wade (20 pts), Linden outscored Niagara Falls 15-6 in the third quarter to fully erase what was once a 10 point deficit. Flynn scored all 6 Wolverine points in the quarter, but his team had fallen behind by a score of 38-35.

Johnny shows off his excellent leaping ability in transition.

Once the Tigers pulled ahead, it was difficult for Niagara Falls to get back in the game, as Flynn did not receive much help from his teammates. Wade did a good job of calming down the Linden offense and kept his team up by 6 to 10 points for the remainder of the game. Flynn scored 14 fourth quarter points on a variety of drives and long range shots, but it was not enough as Linden put on a free throw shooting clinic down the stretch to complete the 10 point victory. Flynn finished with 33 points on 10-20 shooting from the floor (2-5 3pt) and 11-13 from the line. He added 2 steals, 1 block, 1 assist, and 1 rebound.

Flynn's 13 first half points came mostly on forays into the paint or on transition drives. He did have one shocking play where he made an inbounds pass off an unsuspecting opponent's back, then corralled the loose ball and went up strong for a lay-up. The last time I saw that move effectively used in a live game was in 1985 when Len Bias pulled it against North Carolina (however, unlike Bias, Flynn didn't finish with a reverse dunk). In the second half Flynn expanded his game to showcase his jumpshot, burying a barage of 12- to 20-footers. Many of the shots came off the dribble, where he showed very good balance and the ability to square up and elevate with ease.

The pull-up jumper is an important part of Flynn's arsenal.

Evaluation

Strengths: Flynn has great lateral quickness and can change directions with the dribble exceptionally fast. His handle is fairly strong, but he often gets into trouble when he overdribbles or tries to get too fancy with the ball. He is at his best when he lulls the defender into thinking he's going one way, then makes a cat-quick cut-back move to explode to the basket. He uses his impressive leaping ability to negate his lack of height, and he has a well-developed mid-range game, which allows him to be effective without having to go all the way to the rim every time he puts the ball on the floor.

Blow-by speed (takes 1, 2, and 3).

Flynn's open court speed is comparable to current SU point guard Josh Wright. Similar to Wright, he did not show much interest in giving up the ball in transition on this afternoon. Virtually every time he got out in the open court, he went to the basket with a single purpose - to put points on the board. He was very effective at drawing contact and nailed 11 of 13 free throw attempts with a fluid and easy shot.

Showing off the release and rotation.

His elbow and hand placement are already better than Josh Wright's and he has the strength to shoot a true jumper instead of the low-release set shot that Wright displays. Flynn hit two long three pointers in the 4th quarter that were most impressive - both came with Desmond Wade in his face, but he was able to quickly elevate and shoot over Wade. However, he did rush one ridiculously long three pointer that he missed badly. I wouldn't say that he is already a consistent shooter from deep, but he definitely has the potential to be one in the future.

Attacking the rim in transition.

In this game, Flynn did not show the smooth passing and excellent court vision that I had seen from him before. This may be partly because the opposing team was much better overall and more well-balanced, so he took it upon himself to focus on scoring. Flynn did not look to pass to cutters off the dribble, and he was also not very giving in transition. However, he did an excellent job of repeatedly finding teammates on kick-out passes after drawing the defense. Rashon Tabb hit an early jumper that he assisted on, but after that his teammates either missed or did not bother shooting. During the entire game I had visions of Flynn playing with Demetris Nichols... it is truly too bad that the two will never suit up together in Orange, because this could be a deadly combo.

Weaknesses: The first thing that popped out to me was the very poor defensive effort from Flynn. He showed little intensity or interest at the top of Niagara Falls' 3-2 zone. Surprisingly, he played at the top left wing of the zone, which is inverted in comparison to SU's 2-3 zone. It seemed like he would be better suited to play the top middle of the zone and act as the defensive quarterback, but that was not the case. Flynn made little effort to drop down and cover the baseline or contest entry passes from his side of the zone. He had one steal, but most of the time he did not keep his hands up and active.

At SU, Flynn will have to do more of this...

Another thing that was difficult to watch was his effort after turnovers. He finished the game with 4 ball-handling miscues, and on three of these, he failed to make an effort to get back on defense. He also mirrored this bad habit on times when he went to the basket and failed to finish. Each time he penetrated and came up empty, he showed little interest in trying to get back and contest Linden's transition offense.

Development Potential: Not many high school guards have Flynn's combination of lateral quickness, jumping ability, court vision, and handle. All of these skills will serve him well at the collegiate level, but the first thing that he will need to improve upon is his strength. Flynn has huge calves and quads; his lower body strength is well advanced for a player his size, but he needs to further develop his upper body strength to compete in the Big East.

Flynn will also have to improve upon his handle and dribbling - it is quite well-developed for the high school level but will need fine-tuning at college. His lower body strength will help him maintain his dribble after getting bumped, but added toughness is essential in the Big East.

Flynn goes up for the one-handed slammer.

It will also be important to keep an eye on his development in terms of playmaking ability. In the past when I have seen him play with his AAU team the GC Ballers, he has really relished the role of the play-making point guard, but in this game he was primarily a shoot-first guard. Flynn will have a better supporting cast next year at SU that should help him rekindle that lead guard mentality.

What is most exciting about Flynn is that he shows a varied and diverse offensive game. He can score in transition, on drives to the hoop, on long-range shots, and on pull-up jumpers. He even posted up Desmond Wade and hit two turn-around jumpers from about 8 feet out. The fact that his skill set includes more than just lay-ups and three pointers suggests that he will be able to adapt his offense once he sets foot on the Syracuse campus. His relatively short height (~6-0) means that he will need to adjust when and how he drives to the hoop and how he sets up his perimeter shot. Surely his pull-up 14 footers won't be so easy when he's going up against bigger, quicker guards and his attacking the rim won't be easy with a 6-10 center guarding the basket. How long it takes him to make these adjustments might well determine how successful the Orange are next year, and how soon he makes an on-court contribution.

 


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