After watching two exhibition games and one “real” game, I’ve had a bit more time to learn about this year’s Tulsa’s men’s basketball team. These are my updated my player comparisons. They aren’t perfect, and were mainly scribbled on napkins in much the same way that J.K. Rowling supposedly first wrote out her ideas for Harry Potter. Except, instead of napkins, I used a smartphone. Anyways…
(In order of jersey number)
Junior Etou—pronounced “E-too” as I quickly learned. He plays similar to Paul Millsap, the versatile power forward for the Atlanta Hawks. He’s a bigger guy that can shoot, especially showing an affinity for the trail three. He seems quick enough to drive on some heavier footed opponents as well.
Martins Igbanu—a freshman who doesn’t play like one, and certainly doesn’t look like one. I compared him to Julius Randle, the power forward for the Lakers. He’s mobile, doesn’t shoot outside much, and is a very athletic, powerful guy. Igbanu can rebound based off pure talent alone. It will be exciting to see how many boards he can swallow up when he’s had more college coaching under his belt regarding technique.
Corey Haith—a solid backup point guard. Don’t expect Coach’s son to hit a series of game winners this year, but if he is in the game, count on smart play that won’t hurt the team. Older Jason Terry is who I see, as someone who is a veteran on his team, who won’t make many mistakes, and is poised leader off the bench.
Travis Atson—Sam Dekker, F for the Rockets. He won’t wow you with his athleticism, until he does. He’ll surely have a few dunks this season that’ll make you think “he can do that?!”. He’s not the fastest guy, but he has a great frame, he’s a physical forward, and can shoot. He drained a corner three in the second exhibition game with a defender closing out who didn’t even phase him. If he can hit shots like that already, he can join Pat Birt in the “most likely to hit a clutch shot” club this season.
Sterling Taplin—CJ McCollum, G from Portland. He’s a smooth, ball-controlling guard. He can shoot, and occasionally makes a highlight-worthy pass. One of the two returning scorers, look for him to develop into a much more aggressive player as the season goes along.
Lawson Korita—similar to Kyle Korver, F for the Hawks. He knows how to find the spot up shot, not too fast and won’t do much slashing, but he is always a threat to pull from the three point line or mid-range.
Pat Birt II—affectionately referred to as “BIRT TWO!!” by the Reign Cane guys, I actually think he’s taking over a familiar role. He’s the 2016-17 Hurricane’s James Woodard. They share the mechanical lefty shot, both shoot well above average from three, and can drive. Birt is much more of a forward to Woodard’s guard, but Birt can drive effectively, and create his own shot like Woodard used to. Finally, Birt, as the senior veteran on this squad, will be relied upon for leadership and clutch situations, and, as this awesome clip from last year’s SMU game shows, he already knows how to hit the tough shots.
Will Magnay—Tiago Splitter, the center best known as a Spur, but currently a Hawk. Like Splitter, Magnay is not from the North American continent. He also finishes in a somewhat comparable way, often going up and under rather than attempting a brute force effort straightaway. He also moves fairly well for his size, which will pay dividends in pick and roll defense going forward. Alas, like Splitter, Magnay is limited offensively currently, but as someone who is listed at 6’10 as a true freshman, the coaches will assuredly work with him to that end.
Jaleel Wheeler—James Harden. This was my most confident answer. The beard. The #13 jersey. The good size for a ball-dominant guard (6’4, 195 to Harden’s 6’5, 225). And they play so similarly! This comparison is actually what led me to re-write these comparisons. Coming to Tulsa from a JuCo, Wheeler plays confidently and poised. Like Harden, he plays patiently, reading the defense and simply waiting for the game to come to him. He doesn’t force the issue, and when several of our younger players seemed to get flustered when they were pressured, Wheeler seems to keep his calm. Finally, Wheeler finishes through contact. He attacks the rim protector, which is invaluable in a conference with so many athletic forwards and true bigs. Here’s hoping Jaleel is much better on the defensive side of the ball than his NBA counterpart.
TK Edogi—He’s very athletic, and a quick forward. He seems offensively focused, and seems to have the right skills to rebound should he put them all to practice on the court. TK reminds of Jeff Green (forward for the Orlando Magic), only without the outside shooting ability of the professional.
Joseph Battle—Jrue Holiday, PG for the Pelicans. Other than the fact that they both have awesome names, Battle has the same physical traits as Holiday. They’re both long, very athletic guards, and don’t shoot too much outside. Battle, for whatever reason, seems to be the odd man out in this year’s rotation early on, but he is certainly intriguing and I hope that, over time, he can develop into a Shaq Harrison-esque talent, showcasing his driving ability and exceptional athleticism.
Corey Henderson—Not as fitting as some of the others, but Henderson is John Wall (PG for the Wizards) for this article. He’s a smooth, quick, evasive driver that shows flashes of shooting, and then stretches where the ball just won’t go down. He finishes at the rim exactly opposite of Jaleel Wheeler, preferring to switch hands and ball positioning to avoid contact and finesse the ball into the hoop, rather than Jaleel’s downhill attack style. The American has many schools with talented guards, and I’m curious to see how Henderson handles the challenge.
Alex Foree—Brian Scalabrine. This one is slightly humorous, as Alex is the walk-on who likely won’t see too many minutes, but whenever he does see the floor? The whole arena will be cheering for him. He isn’t stunningly athletic, but it isn’t like he doesn’t deserve to be out there. Again, I hope to see him score in the Reynolds sometime this year. Even in games that were decided many minutes prior, inserting Alex into the game will likely cause the crowd to get back into it. A more apt player comparison might be an older Tayshaun Prince, best known as a former forward for the Pistons. Someone who can give solid minutes, fill a role, and knock down a couple set shots, but isn’t a threat to take a starting job any time soon.
Geno Artison—He’s raw, but the potential is definitely there. Coming in as a sophomore is great, as he has just under three seasons to develop into something special. The 6’9, 202 lb. Seattle native was compared to Kevin Durant in my earlier article, but that was mostly comparing him physically. Now, thanks to the new NBA rookie class, I have a better comparison: Brandon Ingram. They’re both raw, but they both just have so much upside. They are lanky, but their mobility at their height is unteachable; no matter what I do, how much I eat, or how hard I pray, I’ll never have a similar frame. They already show the ability to shoot, and seem to glide to the basket for easy dunks if given the open lane. Coach Haith already seems to trust him, allowing him to keep playing, even if he takes shots that would be ill-advised for others. As long as he wants it and is willing to listen to his coaches and teammates, Artison could turn out to be a fantastic player for the Hurricane. Everyone just needs to be willing to stay patient with him through his development in the meantime.
(Not included is Curran Scott, the transfer from UNC-Charlotte. He played at Edmond Memorial before college, and is a scoring threat who can shoot outside. Though I probably could have thrown something together for his comparison, I just wasn’t as comfortable doing it for a player I haven’t seen play in person in a college setting.)