Contributor's Note, by rook6980:
This is the 10th installment in a series of regular postings on draft prospects. This series will take a look at the top draft prospects for the 2010 NBA Draft in June. The plan is to have one or two a week, leading up to a flurry of activity the week of the draft. My DVR is crammed full of college games, and I'm watching and writing as fast as I can (between Wizards games).
Ekpe Udoh (pronounced epp-AY YOU-doe)
22 years old
6'10"; 240 lbs.
Udoh's father Sam is only 5-foot-9. He emigrated from Nigeria to the United States to provide a better future for his family, and it appears as though that decision will pay off big time for his son Ekpe. Born and raised in Edmond, OK, Ekpe gets his height from his Grandfather, a 7-foot giant of a man.
Michigan's head coach Tommy Amaker recruited Ekpe Udoh when few other big name schools showed any interest. But when Amaker was fired after Udoh's freshman year, Michigan hired John Beilein. Udoh stuck it out for his Sophomore year, but he never made much progress in Beilein's high-post, perimeter oriented Princeton offense. His statistics and his game stagnated. Udoh didn't think he was going to be able to reach his full potential, so he decided to transfer to Baylor.
Udoh had to sit out the 2008/2009 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, but he was not just sitting around waiting. He was in the gym every day, working on his game with assistant coaches, team managers, other players, or anyone else that happened to be around. All that work paid off this year when Udoh had a breakout season, averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds, almost three assists and around four blocks for the surprising Baylor Bears, who made it to the Elite 8 before bowing out in a hard fought game against the Dook-ies. Udoh's final line in probably his last college game? 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five blocked shots.
Not bad Ekpe, not bad.
I couldn't find a good video highlights mix of Udoh's play - so here's one that shows off some Baylor stuff -
Ekpe Udoh is number 13 - start watching around the 2:10 mark.
Udoh has the prototypical build for an NBA power forward. Standing 6'10", with broad shoulders, and a frame that can still add bulk, Udoh is an imposing physical presence. He's got a ridiculous JaVale McGee-like 7-foot-5 wingspan. Udoh will not wow you with his athletic ability - he's not the most electric leaper, and not especially quick. But his Baylor Coach says you can be fooled by his seeming lack of athleticism, until he goes up to block your shot and you realize he's more athletic than he seems.
Some General Managers may be turned off by his age (he'll be 23 by the time of the Draft in June), but Udoh is a late-bloomer, not showing much in high school or his first two seasons at Michigan, so there's probably a ton of untapped potential there. He's got a terrific attitude along with a firm determination to work harder than everyone else.
A true power forward, Udoh has all the post moves and is very effective with his back to the basket. He has decent footwork in the post, showing a nice jump-hook in the lane. Close to the basket, he can finish with either hand. His extremely long arms allow him to shoot without fear of being rejected. He has a variety of crafty moves (fall away jumpers, step throughs, up-and-unders and drop steps, scoop shots, etc.), along with some advance spin and pivot moves. He's especially good along the baseline, and good at using his long arms to go to the opposite side of the basket, using the rim to protect his shot.
Ekpe Udoh is comfortable either in the post or outside creating shots for himself. He has improved his ball handling and footwork to the point where his college coach isolated him outside about 15 feet away from the basket and let him go to work. He has a teriffic first step along with variety of step backs, jab steps, fakes, spins and pivots that allow him to snake to the basket or pull up for an effective jumper. He has apparently worked long and hard on his mid-range jump shot. His mechanics are very sound with a nice high release, a consistent release point, soft touch and high arc, and it shows in his 50% shooting percentage. At one point during the season, he was hitting only 42% of his free throws, but over the last half of the season he was shooting a very respectable 72% from the line.
Another hidden talent in Udoh's favor is his court vision. He's a very underrated passer, able to create shots not only for himself, but for his teammates; averaging just shy of three assists per game. He can hit cutters in the lane, or pass out of the double team to an open three-point shooter. That's a rare skill for a big man.
Except when he's dunking, Udoh tends to play below the rim. He's also has the tendency to disappear from games for stretches, seemingly just going with the flow and not asserting himself.
On defense, the first thing that jumps out at you is his blocks. He is a world-class shot-blocker, working the angles, using his incredible 9'4" standing reach and impecable timing to swat away shots. He had a game with 10 blocks (a triple double against Morgan State in January). He's had multiple nine-block, eight-block and seven-block games as well. The best part is that he knows when to challenge for the block, and when to just contest and alter. He easily alters more shots than he blocks. And he does it all without picking up unnecessary fouls (only 2.7 fouls per 40 minutes).
As for the rest of his defense, he can play off perimeter shooters and because of his length still contest shots. he needs to get stronger and put on more weight, as bigger and heavier players tend to push him around in the post. He plays the pick-and-roll well, flashing out on the guard, but still able to get back to his man, and there's just NO WAY a guard can lob the ball over him. He's not especially quick, so perimeter players can get around him, but they better watch out from behind when they do.
Adding strength and gaining experience are the two things that will make a huge difference for Udoh on the defensive end. I think he projects to be a very solid one-on-one defender and an elite shot blocker at the NBA level.
Udoh averaged a fair 11.0 rebounds per 40 minutes - a huge increase over his sophomore year (7.7 per 40), but still lower than I would have expected, considering his height and length. He's pretty good on the offensive glass, but less effective on the defensive side. I think the reason is that he rarely boxes out or fights for position, and he seems to shy away from contact.
- Underrated as a passer
- Excellent skill level
- crafty player with a lot of moves
- Extremely Long, lanky shot blocker
- Good athlete (not great)
- Improving offensive player
- Has a solid midrange game
- Good playmaker
- Good ball handler
- Excellent feel for the game
- Good Free Throw shooter
- Intangibles: work ethic, maturity, experience, steps up in big games
- Needs to add weight and strength
- Poor finisher with contact
- Perimeter defense
- Lateral quickness
- Shies away from contact
All in all, Ekpe Udoh has an intriguing skill set. He has a versatile offensive game. He can create shots for himself and his teammates. He's a terrific shot blocker and has some defensive skill as well. Despite being 22 (23 at the time of the Draft), he should still have some upside. Skilled. Versatile. Long and lanky. Shies away from contact. Needs to get stronger and tougher. Sounds like another Andray Blatche to me.
He wears # 13. His middle name is Friday. So, naturally his nickname is "Nightmare". With his skill set, he will be giving some NBA Head Coaches nightmares for years to come.
Previous Draft Profiles:
|Derrick Favors||PF||6-9||246||Fr.||Ga. Tech||Undecided|
|Al-Farouq Aminu||F||6-8||218||Soph.||Wake Forest||Declared for the NBA Draft; signed with an agent|
|Cole Aldrich||C||6-11||245||Jr.||Kansas||Declared for the NBA Draft, will hire agent|
|Greg Monroe||C||6-10||247||Soph.||Georgetown||Will stay in school|
|Ed Davis||F||6-10||225||Soph.||North Carolina||Undecided|
|Hassan Whiteside -Upcoming
||Declared for the NBA Draft; will hire agent|
||Senior - Eligible for the Draft
||Senior - Eligible for the Draft|
||Declared for draft, has not hired agent|