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Darren Collison, Shot Makers and the NBA

UCLA point guard Darren Collison is the epitome of a player that we take for granted. Dick Vitale typically goes ga-ga any time a highly touted prospect returns to school. Collison has returned to UCLA twice. After his sophomore season, he was pegged as a late lottery selection, but he returned. After his junior year, he was pegged a mid-1st Round pick, but he returned. Now, as a senior, some feel he needs to prove himself to be a 1st Round Pick. What am I missing?

Has Collison gotten worse? No. In fact, he has improved his shooting percentage, 3-point shooting percentage and free throw percentage every season. He is shooting over 65% from the field and over 95% from the free throw line, yet people question whether he is a good enough shooter for the NBA.

How does a player improve from year to year by every objective measure, yet fall in terms of his status with the scouts?

Collison will be an NBA point guard. As I wrote last week, UCLA’s players are well-prepared for the NBA. Some astute NBA General Manager will make the same conclusion. Collison runs the pick-and-roll as well as any college point guard in the country. He is lightening quick. And, all he does is make shots.

He is not shooting a high percentage because he overpowers college kids. The shots that he makes are the types of shots that he’ll have to make in the NBA: running hook shots, floaters, deep three pointers, fall-away jumpers, step-back jumpers and more. He simply has an amazing feel for making shots at different angles – like Steve Nash – and that feel is not going to disappear when he makes the next level.

In the two clips below, you get a sense (1) for his shot making ability and (2) for the types of shots that a young point guard needs to develop to play at the next level. In watching a couple women’s basketball games over the weekend, possibly the biggest difference between men’s and women’s basketball is making shots – the ability to hit runners, floaters, hooks, off-balance shots, pull-up jumpers and more from all locations and angles. Players who have this feel, this ability to put the ball in the basket are valued at every level, which is why Collison, despite the current media prognostications, will be in the NBA next year and will be a starting point guard during his rookie contract, if he goes to the right team. If I had to compare him to an NBA player, I think he is a Devin Harris-type player, though not as tall and he enters the NBA with a better understanding of the pick-and-roll and a better three-point shot.

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