Matt Freije: Where will he go in the NBA Draft?

After a series of workouts with individual teams and a trip to the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp, Vanderbilt's Matt Freije learns his NBA fate Thursday when the league holds its annual draft. We quizzed an NBA scout, who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity, for a candid assessment of Freije's abilities and a projection as to how high he could go. <I><B>ESPN televises the NBA Draft starting at 6 pm CT Thursday, live from Madison Square Garden.</i></b>


VandyMania: Have you had a chance to see Matt Freije up close and in person? And what impressions have you had of him so far?

NBA Scout: I've seen Matt Freije several times. I saw him as a junior several times and as a senior several times. And Matt Freije's one of the guys I like. He was in Chicago for the Pre-Draft Camp and just played fair, I thought. But he's better than he showed up there. Of course, Chicago is not a place where, if you're a true team player, you exhibit your skills. Because you've got to be a little bit selfish up there.

But the things that make him interesting are his size, No.1, and his shooting ability. He's not unlike a lot of European players, in that you've got to go out on the floor and guard him. That's his strength. Also he's an excellent free throw shooter.

He needs to take the ball to the rack a little bit more often. Another thing is, I'd like to see him go to the glass a little bit more. I think he averaged under five rebounds a game, but with his size he ought to be a little better rebounder. But in the NBA a lot of big people are reluctant to go out on the floor and defend, and that's why he's got a shot.

VandyMania: What do you think might be the biggest thing that will probably prevent him from being a first-rounder?

NBA Scout: Well, I don't know that he won't go first-round. He could go late-first, early-second, but at the same time what he needs to work on is, he needs to take the ball on the wing and get a little more efficient taking the ball to the hole and hitting the mid-range jumper instead of shooting the 3 all the time. He shot about 35% from 3, and he ought to be a little better than that, because he's got a great, great stroke. He's got a great follow-through, great arc on the ball, good backspin. He's got a shooter's touch, and he ought to be a little better than that.

But I'd say his ball-handling skills are what he needs to work on. Then also, it's a little different in the NBA, because you get pushed and shoved around a little bit. He's going to have to play a little bit more physical and get a few more rebounds.

VandyMania: Is he the kind of guy you could see having a ten-year career with the NBA?

NBA Scout: Yeah, he could. His body will allow him to. It really depends on what team he's on. If he's on a team that consistently draws a double-team in the post, and they kick that thing back out to him, he'll be deadly. If he doesn't have a good post player, where the defense can extend itself and come out on him, that's where his ball-handling and taking it to the rack come in. Yeah, he could have a good career in the NBA. I know he's a good kid. He's got a good attitude and work ethic, and anyone who works hard will get better. I think he's a prospect.

VandyMania: The question everyone is wondering... about where would you see him going on Thursday?

NBA Scout: It just depends. Some people have him projected as high as late first round. There are 29 picks in the first round, because Minnesota had to forfeit one. Wherever he goes, late first, second, that's irrelevant. At least he's going to get a chance. That's all anyone can ask for is an opportunity.

VandyMania: Some people have compared him to another Vanderbilt player, Dan Langhi, who has had a hard time sticking in the NBA. Could you talk about Dan, and how Matt might compare to him?

NBA Scout: Dan was a good shooter. I don't think his body was quite as good as Freije's. He did build it up a little bit, but some can do that and some can't. But they're similar players. I think Freije's probably a Matt Voller type, who played a long time in the NBA and had a good career.

VandyMania: Any comments on the number of high school players going in the draft this year?

NBA Scout: It's unfortunate, but I understand. If I'm a high school player and can make umpteen million dollars, I'd do it too. But I don't know what can be done about it. If a high school player is a prospect, and you don't take him and somebody does, and he turns out to be good, well, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. I think too many of them are coming out. They're like a lot of sophomores and juniors in college-- they're just not ready. They don't understand the difference between high school and pros. There are a few that are going to be players, but they're not going to be immediate players.

VandyMania: As an NBA scout, what will this week be like for you?

NBA Scout: We'll spend it in the war room. We'll have the General Manager and the coaches and scouts. What people do is rank their best players, one through five or one through seven, at all five positions. Then you just throw it around the room, and when your time comes, if your best player's not taken, that's who you take.


Click here to talk about this story on our men's basketball message board.
Click here to talk about this story on our members' men's basketball message board.

Photos by Mark Humphrey, Associated Press (top); Neil Brake, Vanderbilt Athletics; and Bryan Hufalar, Top Stories