Earlier this month, Joseph poured in 25 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots while leading the Archbishop Carroll Lions to a 70-61 victory over perennial DC power DeMatha. The game solidified his status as one of the best players in DC and served as notice that performances such as his monster 25 pt, 7 reb, 5 ast, 5 bs game against Paul VI High School are no fluke. Indeed, when one takes a closer looks, they'll find that Joseph has been putting up similar numbers all season long.
Kris Joseph has been a monster on the glass for Archbishop Carroll.
Perhaps most importantly, Joseph has proven he can take his game on the road and produce. He scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Archbishop Carroll's narrow 56-55 loss to Benjamin Cardozo High School on January 19th. Prior to that, he had a brilliant four game stretch in Bristol, Tennessee when he led the Lions to the Championship game of the Arby's Classic. He started the tournament with a 21 pt/12 reb/5 st effort against Tennessee High, then went off for 32 pts, 11 rebs, and 7 st against Science Hill, then dominated the semifinal game against Columbia, GA with 19 pts and 9 boards. His 22 pt/10reb/2 st game against Briarcrest Christian earned him a spot on the all-tournament team despite the fact that Archbishop Carroll lost 71-61 in the finals.
The following scouting report is based on Joseph's play against DeMatha on January 8th, 2008.
Strengths: Versatility is the first thing that jumps out at you. You'll be hard pressed to find another player his size who has such a complete game. While Joseph doesn't absolutely wow you with any one skill, he just seems to have a knack for making plays, whether it's a big rebound, a putback on the offensive glass, an unselfish pass leading to a basket, or a key defensive stop. He has a very advanced handle for his size and above average court vision. Most importantly, he's unselfish almost to a fault.
Perhaps Washington Post sports writer Josh Barr said it best when he noted "he never seemed to force the issue, calmly waiting for chances to drive to the basket or shoot from the outside."
DeMatha coach Mike Jones re-iterated this sentiment, telling Barr that "He picks and chooses his plays very well for somebody who can get to the rim or get space for his jump shot whenever he wants. He showed a lot of composure. With the skills he has, there might be a tendency to always be in attack mode."
Joseph prepares for the second half against DeMatha.
A major strength for Joseph is the fact that he is engaged on the defensive end. So many big time high school players, particularly forwards, show little to no interest in anything that doesn't directly leads to points on their statline (see: Greene, Donte). Joseph, however, battled hard all game long and had several excellent off the ball blocked shots. He played solid help side defense and always worked hard to cut off transition opportunities for DeMatha. That said, he did get beat off the dribble on the perimeter several times, but he was usually 4 or 5 inches taller than the player he was defending, so the disparity wasn't too worrisome.
Weaknesses: As with most high school players, Joseph needs to get stronger and more physical in order to compete on the glass and in the paint against Big East schools. DeMatha forward Kenny Tate, a dynamic 6-4 WR on the football team, was able to body Joseph out of position on several occasions. Joseph, to his credit, was able to get Tate into foul trouble and capitalized on that by hitting all 9 of his free throws, although he reportedly entered the game shooting only 61% from the line.
Another worrisome attribute was the fact that there were several times when Joseph seemingly gave up on a play. For example, one time he knocked the ball out of Naji Hibbert's hand, but then simply stood and watched when it bounced out of bounds, even though he had the space to try to save it. This actually happened more than once. While the first interpretation would be lack of effort, it seemed to me more like he simply "froze" on the spot - as if there was a disconnect between brain and body. Also, considering how hard he played all night long, a lack of effort on these plays seems completely out of character. To be honest, considering that he's only played 2 years of American basketball, this sort of problem may simply be lack of experience. On the other hand, it may signify a lack of aggression.
Although it is hard to classify this as a weakness, Joseph is also not exactly athletically on par with most of Syracuse's all-time greats at the forward position. He is certainly a quick jumper and showed on several occasions. that he can get off the floor multiple times while the opposition is working on a single jump. But at the same time, he doesn't get great elevation. He made two strong moves on turnaround jumpers in the paint, but Tate got up and blocked one of them relatively easily. Simply put, he's not in the same class as a Donte Greene or Hakim Warrick, but then again few are.
Room for Improvement: Composure is all well and good, but in every basketball game there are times when star players need to assert their will on the opposition. I never got the impression that Joseph was ready to take that next step to completely take over the game, but this was only one game in a long season, so it is hard to brand him as too passive after a single viewing. However, a member of the SU coaching staff re-iterated this opinion to me, stating that he wanted to see Joseph be more aggressive and continue to improve his offensive game.
Overall Assessment: Joseph is certainly a major talent, and should be good enough to step in a provide some minutes next year depending on need. While he is not quite on the level of the McDonald's All-American players in this class, I'd easily put him in the next group of 25 or so outside that lofty position. His immediate future at Syracuse will be determined more by the look of next year's roster than anything he does between now and then. You shouldn't expect him to be a one-and-done type, but you should expect him to be a major contributor before his stay on the hill is over. From a comparative sense, I'd qualify his game as falling somewhere between a more polished Ryan Blackwell or a less polished (and less athletic) Grant Hill.