Adam Woodbury comes to Iowa as one of the highest rated centers in the nation last year. ESPN rated him as the 10th best center in the country and 39th best player overall.
Those are lofty accolades and when one is 7-1, big expectations seem to follow big frames. However, I think some are prematurely believing that he is going to be some sort of savior for this program in 2012-2013. I write this based on some fan posts and reactions from Prime Time League observations I have seen on this site and elsewhere.
Let’s take a look at the recently concluded NBA draft and the centers who were selected. We’ll shed light on how they played as true freshman.
Andre Drummond, UCONN: 10pp/7rpg/2.7bpg. That’s a great stat line for a freshman and Drummond was one and done.
Meyers Leonard, Illinois: 2ppg/1rpg/8minutes per game: Leonard had a very good sophomore season this past year which prompted him to leave school early. That decision was rewarded with his being selected as the 11th pick of the first round. However, things were not always wine and roses for the 7-1 big man, as his freshman stats illustrate. Two points per game, one rebound per game and less than ten minutes per game. In year two, his averages shot up to 13/8, while playing over 31 minutes per game.
Tyler Zeller, UNC: 3.1/2.0/7.8 minutes per game. Zeller was the 17th pick in this year’s draft by the Dallas Mavericks and had a solid four-year career for the Tar Heels. But as a freshman, he did not look so good. As a sophomore, his averages jumped up to 9.3/4.6 in over 17 minutes per game and as a junior and senior he was around 16/7 to 16/10. Again, his freshman season was a big learning experience both on the court and in the weight room.
Fab Melo, Syracuse: 2.3/1.9/9.9 minutes per game. Another learning season as a freshman as Melo didn’t play all that much and didn’t stuff the stat sheet. As a soph he jumped to 7.8ppg/5.8rpg but a blistering 2.9 blocks per game which was good enough for him to leave school and get selected as the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft.
Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt: 3.8/2.6/12.4 minutes per game. Ezeli was the last pick in this year’s first round and a four-year college player. His numbers for his first AND second years were similar, then he had break out years the final two years.
While this is not scientific and all players are not created equally, these are five players who are now millionaires and in four of the five instances the players struggled as freshmen. Or rather, they didn’t put up big numbers as freshmen.
The toughest position to ‘learn the ropes’ at the highest levels of college basketball is center. The learning curve for most players is steep and there are few exceptions. Those who are the exceptions wind up going pro after a year or two. Cody Zeller of Indiana could have turned pro this past spring and would have been a lottery pick and the same could likely have been said for Jared Sullinger of Ohio State if he would have gone pro after his freshman season. At the least, he would have been a first round pick.
I don’t believe Adam Woodbury will have seasons like that. I think his freshman season will be more along the lines of four of the five players listed above; 10 or so minutes per game plus or minus one or two…three to four points per game and a rebound or two, on the season average. He hasn’t shown shot blocking prowess at the high school level so I don’t expect it on the college level, either…or at least not right away.
If that is how it plays out, don’t get down on the kid; that road is far more traveled than the breakout freshman star center road.
That said, I do have much higher expectations for Mike Gesell. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.