Archive for March, 2011

By Marcus Shockley & James Blackburn

The ScoutsFocus Elite 80 Spring Showcase was held in Greensboro, NC over the weekend and there was quite a bit of talent to take note of. The event featured players from 2013 and older with a notable exception, which we will get to. The event ran long in scheduling and there was not an all-star game at the end. However, we attempted to watch as many games as possible and have come up with a Basketball Elite list of the top players that we were able to see through several games.

Apologies to a few players who arrived late and were not listed on the roster sheet, and we did not get a chance to talk to. This is our overall and class ranking for this specific event, and these are also the players we will continue to scout heavily in the coming months. There was a lot of speed on display at the camp, and the style of play was extremely loose. We intend to scout all of the players who attended again as much as possible in the future.

Top Players By Class

Class of 2014

Sadeeq Bello, 5’7″, PG (Westchester Country Day)

Saseeq is undersized at this point but extremely quick and looks to get the pass off with a flair. The younger brother of Duece Bello, Sadeeq was one of the few 2014 players attending but showed flashes of style and promise even against older players. Pushes the ball effectively up the floor and gets the ball to his teammates. He is working on become a serious playmaker and is a player to keep an eye on.

Class of 2013

Christian Hairston, 6’7″, SF (Greensboro Day)

Hairston has an exceptionally fluid game and runs both ends of the floor. Both James and Marcus independently chose Hairston as the best player in this event. At least a solid mid major prospect, he has the length and athletic ability to play either the 2 or the 3 in college. Needs to add some weight but plays hard and puts out effort at all times. Plays defense and is effective even without the ball. Will become more of a name over the next two years and looks like he’s willing to put in the work to elevate his game.

Was listed at 6’6″ but is actually 6’7″.

John Egbunu, 6’10”, PF/C (Mt. Zion)

Egbunu is raw but has a lot of potential. When he gets the ball around the rim he can throw down two-handed dunks, even on the run. Needs to work on his footwork some in the post, and was caught out of position on lateral defense at times, but is long and athletic with size. Really good prospect.

Sharwyn McGee, 6’5″, SF (Ragsdale)

Athletic and strong, with a great ability for rebounding. A solid prospect that works well in the post but has the ability and potential to play the 3 in college.

Reed Lucas, 6’4″, SG (Greensboro Day)

Great outside set shooter and extremely athletic; broke away for dunks, including a reverse. Really understands how to play without the ball and has good court awareness. Plays hard at all times, works and moves his feet on defense. Working on his ballhandling to be able to play PG more in the future.

Class of 2012

Chase Ward-McEwen, 6’2″, PG/SG (Parrot Academy)

Big time guard with explosive elite guard athleticism. Strong, smart player with crazy hops and knows how to play with or without the ball. Can play the 1 or the 2 with ease. Really understands how to play the game and looks like he could play in both the half court or the full court up tempo game. One the best pure athletes at the guard position we’ve seen this year, but it cannot be emphasized enough his court awareness and heady play. Defends, plays all out and is obviously a mature player. Quick hands on defense.

Keerthi Boru, 6’6″, SG (Grace of Raleigh)

Explosive slasher, very fast and smooth up and down the court. Moves well without the ball and can score with the ball in his hands. Needs to work on ballhandling, but is dangerous in transition and knows how to find spacing on the break. Competes on every play. Was listed at 6’6″ on the roster but is listed shorter in other places, so we’ll find out the accurate measurements.

Sheck Sero, 6’9″, PF/C (Mt. Zion)

The other tower in Mt. Zion’s frontcourt, Sero is also long and athletic, but needs to work on running the floor and his hands, handling the ball on the pass into the post.

Mike Dimitropolous 6’6″ SG/SF (Veritas Christian Academy)

A player hails from Greece and who looks more like a college 3 but also plays the 2, an active and fundamental player. Works hard even in drills but sometimes had trouble in the fast pace of the open court games. Decent shooter and does not make many mistakes. Has gotten interest from Elon and Arizona State.

Michael Blum, 6’2″ SG (Veritas Christian Academy)

Solid guard who can shoot and works the offense effectively. Great outside shooter.

Basil Deveaux, 6’6″, SF (Veritas Christian Academy)

Ahtletic and long, promising prospect and big time slasher who plays well in the open court and transition. Can get out of control with the ball in his hands going full speed, but also can explode to the rim just as easily. An exciting player to keep an eye on.

Class of 2011

Lindsey Johnson, 6’1″, PG/SG (Cary Christian School)

Also one of both of our favorites of the event. Smart, really understands the game and what’s happening around him, he’s athletic and defends well. Works hard the entire game. Not going to wow you with highlights but impresses with his ability to score the ball in a myriad of ways. Was player of the year in his conference and an All-State performer. He averaged 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assist a game this past season. Definitely has the ability to play at the next level and has the maturity to get it done.

Denzell Hosch, 5’10” PG/SG (Charis Prep)

Good scorer who can shoot and get to the rim. Good team player. Vocal, and obviously a leader. A dynamite scorer who cannot be left open and will burn the defense, but also knows how to run the offense. Solid in many areas. NC A&T and Winston-Salem State have offered him. Appalachian State and UNCG have expressed interest. His team today gelled together very well – they filled the lanes on the break and shared the ball well.

Lacurtis Latimore, 6’1″, SG (Trinity Christian School)

Strong and active scoring guard who is hard to stop when he has the ball in his hands. Can score on the break or from the half court set. Can finish in traffic, even with contact. Dangerous when he’s got the ball, but needs to work on making an impact when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands.

Aaron Smith, 5’9″, PG (Mt. Zion)

Solid, strong guard who can create his own offense. Mature enough and good enough passer to play the PG spot, but also a solid scorer who can play off the ball effectively as well. Very disciplined guard who understands the game and plays with poise and strength. A winner, talks on the floor and competes. Has a nice pull up jumper and his scoring ability keeps the defense from collapsing on the big men.

Top Overall Players (All Star Team)

Christian Hairston, 6’7″, SF (Greensboro Day)

Chase Ward-McEwen, 6’2″, PG/SG (Parrot Academy)

Lindsey Johnson, 6’1″, PG/SG (Cary Christian School)

Denzell Hosch, 5’10” PG/SG (Charis Prep)

Lacurtis Latimore, 6’1″, SG (Trinity Christian School)

Aaron Smith, 5’9″, PG (Mt. Zion)

John Egbunu, 6’10”, PF/C (Mt. Zion)

Most Outstanding Player

Both James and Marcus independently decided on the same player as the top player at this event, Christian Hairston (6’6″, SF, 2013).

There were three players who were not listed on the roster sheet, but would have made this list. We are still working to track them down.

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As long as Denver has a consistent J.R. Smith, the Nuggets title hopes remain intact and a lot less farfetched than most would imagine.

By Andrew Macaluso

J.R. Smith Denver Nuggets
Billups may be gone, but Smith has found new life in the absence of Denver’s previous star lineup.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Swish.

At least that’s what everybody calls him these days. Equipped with out-of-this-world talent, unlimited ranged, a 44 inch vertical leap and a swagger that many can’t match, J.R. Smith can be your best friend or your worst nightmare.

He packs an offensive confidence that’s similar to a Kobe Bryant or a Carmelo Anthony, knowing he can shoot and make it from nearly anywhere on the court, so why all of the struggles throughout his career? Why all of the negative surroundings behind the 25-year-old former St. Benedicts Prep player? During the early stages of his career with Chris Paul and the Hornets, it’s easy to say that J.R. was more of a “wild-child” than a ball player. He could shoot the lights out of a gym but he didn’t do it with consistency, which often earned him early trips to the bench or a confrontation with the coaching staff.

Byron Scott couldn’t handle him, the Bulls didn’t even bother, so eventually he fell in the lap of George Karl and his Denver Nuggets where, if anything, he’s not only become a better and more matured player, but someone teams fear more than their starters.

Now in his fifth-year with the Nuggets, Smith’s maturity the last two years just might have been exactly what he needed in order to stay in a Denver uniform until the day he retires. He’s already stated that he wants to remain in Denver for the remainder of his career and team president Josh Kroenke has stated his pleasure of trying to get Smith a long-term deal once the season comes to an end. With the Carmelo to the Knicks deal finally over and done with, Denver has become arguably the most dangerous team in the League.

Amazingly, eight players have averaged double-digit scoring for the Nuggets since the trade, and the team’s offensive efficiency is still the best in the NBA. Yes, folks, the Nuggets are playing team organized basketball. And that makes them very scary.

You could say that Ty Lawson benefits the most from this trade because he now becomes the starter and has a reliable backup and All-Star caliber PG in Raymond Felton, but in my opinion, J.R. benefits the most from this trade. Playing behind an offensive player like ‘Melo for the last half a decade isn’t easy, in fact, it might be frustrating to some extent. Just because a player is making millions of dollars doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not interested in playing basketball anymore, and J.R. is definitely one of those guys who loves to be on the court with his teammates. And most of all he just wants to win.

But with Anthony now out of the picture, Smith no longer has to come in off the bench and rifle up shots just so he can get his points for the night before Karl would put Carmelo back in. ‘Til this day that’s the reason why I believe J.R. struggled with inconsistency off the bench most nights. Some nights he’ll come in and start off hot and end up finishing the game with 43 points and a two fistfuls of 3s, but knowing he’s become “the man” who can lead this team to an NBA title has made him that much more relaxed and comfortable with his role off the bench.

Yes, he’s playing fewer minutes this season and taking less shots (9.8 from the previous 13.8), but he’s also become a better all-around player. He’s making up for the lack of rebounding at the small forward position now that ‘Melo is gone and he’s developed more willingness to pass the ball and try to get his teammates involved instead of being selfish. And the most exciting part, he’s defending, and extremely well I might add. J.R. is a big reason why the Nuggets are allowing only 97.0 points per game instead of the 107.9 previously given up when ‘Melo was in uniform.

The more these guys feed off each other, the better they will be.

With not only the best offensive team in the League, but the deepest bench as well, not many teams, if any, are going to be able to be able to figure out exactly how and who to stop on this Nuggets team. Any one is capable of lighting up the scoreboard, which makes it difficult for coaches to try and come up with a solid game plan.

And with the playoffs starting Apr. 17, whoever the Nuggets draw first (Thunder?) are going to have their hands full and could eventually get upset in the first round. But as long as Denver has J.R. Smith, he’ll do whatever he can and pull up from wherever he wants in order to make sure that his team gets a step closer to that golden ball.

Links:

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4298594

http://espn.go.com/nba/team/stats/_/name/den/denver-nuggets

http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/25/nuggets-talk-about-re-signing-j-r-smith-as-trade-deadline-passe/

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By James Blackburn

San Diego State

West Regional Semifinals- 2011 NCAA Sweet 16 matchup
Connecticut wins 74-67

Box Score

Game Recap/Thoughts

1st Half

• UConn is getting only one shot every trip early in the 1st. half – State is doing a great job on the boards.
• Leonard picked up his 2nd foul with a un-sportsmanlike technical 4 minutes into the game – had to be taken out – we will see how this effects State the rest of the half.
• UConn is shooting contested shots – poor shot selection.
• San Diego St. is getting whatever it wants on the offensive end. Going inside out.
• SDSU is getting in foul trouble early – they have 2 guys with 2 fouls each with over half of the 1st half remaining.
• UConn is going one-on-one too much – not a lot of movement. State on the other hand is running a lot of good sets.
• Leonard is back in with 9 minutes left.
• UConn is using a lot of clock on the offensive end – having to take bad shots to beat the shot clock
• SDSU loves to run the floor – they are doing a good job in the half-court too. SDSU is also doing a great job of entering the ball to the post.
• SDSU’s big’s do a great job of passing out of the post.
• UConn closed the half on a 19-5 run because of State’s turnovers and the fact that UConn is starting to run their sets and shooting better shots.

2nd Half

• SDSU goes to Leonard for the 1st play.
• UConn is setting ball screens for Walker and letting him create.
• UConn should start denying the post entry pass or double the post – SDSU is able to get the ball to their big’s way too easily and once they get the ball, they have space to operate.
• SDSU just took the lead with 13 minutes to go in the game – going inside out and UConn is settling for poor shots and doing too much one-on-one and not running the play.
• UConn’s freshmen are taking some quick shots early in the offense.
• UConn takes a timeout after some recent sloppy play, resulting in SDSU 4 point lead.
• SDSU is losing the mental battle this game – Franklin picked a un-sportsmanlike technical with 9 minutes left for a shoulder bump after a time out.
• The game is starting to get chippy and the refs are calling it tight.
• Game is full of runs by both teams – UConn is on a 9-0 run right now, mostly by Walker, with Leonard on bench with 4 fouls.
• UConn has no answer for SDSU’s post players.
• Big 4 point play for SDSU’s Gay with 3:45 remaining. Big momentum swing.
• Lamb with a big steal to secure the win for UConn.
• UConn is just the 2nd team to beat San Diego State all season, the other one being BYU.

Scouting Reports

Connecticut

Kemba Walker (G, 6’1”, JR)

Strengths: shifty- can get to the lane/rim at will- changes speeds well. Moves well with out the ball. Great shooter – has NBA 3 point range. Can shoot off the catch, off the screen, and can create his own shot – very good form. Gets good elevation on jumper. Plays hard and plays a lot of minutes – well conditioned – never came out of the game. Dived on the floor for a steal. Good anticipation on defensive end. Explosive scorer – can score in bunches when he gets going. Good body control in air. Array of offensive moves in his arsenal – loves to pump fake and step in to mid range jumper. At his best when isolated at the top of the key and is given freedom and space to create. Gets to the FT line at a high rate.

Weaknesses: over dribbles, good FT shooter- but tends to drop his hands after follow through – causes him to miss, he needs to hold his follow through. Goes to his right most of the time – needs to improve left – even though he did show the ability to use his left this game.

Overview: Better at the off guard than at PG – more of a scorer than a play-maker. Tweener – some NBA scouts/GM’s will question how much Walker can contribute at the NBA level because of size. The guy can play – he is a competitor and a winner – had a terrific game tonight – showed off his full arsenal and ability to score the ball in a variety of ways. He wants the ball in clutch situations and when the game is on the line. He comes from a good program and a good conference. The Big East is known for producing good NBA players. He would be a solid top 15 pick in my opinion.

Roscoe Smith (F, 6’8”, FR)

Strengths: Ability to shoot the 3. Long and athletic – gets off the ground quickly. Still raw in the post – but showed a nice drop step. Good rebounder. Had a nice back door cut in 2nd half – and had a nice reverse acrobatic finish.

Weaknesses: needs to get stronger in the upper body – opponents post players get deep position on him – results in foul trouble.

Overview: Highly touted freshman – was a Jordan All-American. A player to keep an eye on – still raw in many areas, but I see a lot of potential in him. The NBA is in his future.

San Diego State

Kawhi Leonard (F, 6’7”, SO)

Strengths: Good rebounder. Can face the basket, put ball on floor and attack the basket, can advance the ball up the court with the dribble after securing the rebound. Active and physical player, strong – constantly moving – full of energy. Good enough ball handler to bring ball up the court and initiate the offense. Underrated passer. Attacks the basket hard – explosive going to his right. High release on shot.

Weaknesses: Prefers to go to his right – needs to improve left hand. Needs to improve shooting – extend range (shooting less than 30% from 3 this year). Slow release on set shot. Needs to improve shooting overall.

Overview: Got a technical foul 4 minutes into the 1st half because he was talking to the opposing players – it was his 2nd foul – had to come out (1st technical of his career). Body is NBA ready – solid effort tonight – scored, rebounded, and assisted. Should be a solid role player in the NBA.

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Justin Anderson, who we’ve profiled before on Basketball Elite, has committed to Gary Williams and the Maryland Terrapins. We’ll be watching Justin more over the summer and getting more insight into the 2012 prospect. Coming out of one of the top areas in the nation for prep talent, Justin hails from the Baltimore/D.C. area.

As we stated before when profiling Justin, he’s a gifted athlete and he should fit in well with the Terps’ style of play.

And because today’s recruiting environment is such that every player seems like they have a mixtape, here’s the obligatory video of Justin dunking on everyone in his path, in slow motion, over and over to the east coast beats of Anno Domini. But, hey, Justin is a solid player and he should be a great get for the ACC.

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Scouting Derrick Williams

Derrick Williams basketball Arizona
roygblivious

Derrick Williams emerged this season not only as a solid collegiate player but a potential NBA lottery pick in his sophomore year. On the back of a stellar season, he’s helped the Arizona Wildcats solidify their return to the nation’s premier list of basketball schools with a return trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

In the Wildcats’ win over Texas in the round of 32, Williams was quiet for most of the first half, but came alive in the second half to show some of the prowess that has made him a draft prospect. Although we haven’t scouted Williams fully, there are some great takeaways from his game that will translate to the next level.

The first is his quickness. Williams moves like a small forward with the ball, or even a slashing style shooting guard. However, at 6’9″, he’s got NBA size and bulk. Although he’s not consistently the kind of player to put the ball on the floor to break down the defender, his agility and athleticism make him a match up nightmare for a plodding big man. He can definitely play facing the basket and looks like he could be extremely effective at the 4 spot.

He will have to use his speed to compete as a power forward in the NBA, but ideally, he needs to develop a mid range shot to be the most effective and make an impact. Right now his game is based on being faster and stronger than most of the players who are guarding him, and he can get a step on them in the lane to put up a shot. He’s a good free throw shooter, averaging 75% for his sophomore year, although he has a tendency to short arm his shot occasionally.

He definitely has the tools to be a starter at the next level, if he could add to his offensive range and continue to work on his ballhandling.

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The East region plays the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight in Newark, NJ for the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Check out the latest prices here.

Thad Matta
mcmann

Even though Syracuse was upended by Marquette, there are still three heavyweights in the region with North Carolina, Ohio State and Kentucky, which means an all out brawl to determine who gets to advance to the Final Four.

Check out all of the latest 2011 NCAA Tournament tickets for Newark at this link.

Check the latest ticket prices for the NCAA Tournament games in New Orleans by clicking here.

Billy Donavon
Paul Lowry

The Big Easy has been the scene of some of the biggest moments in NCAA basketball tournament history, and this year will likely be no different. With Florida already in the Sweet Sixteen, the coaching experience is already on hand in Bill Donovan to make the games memorable. But the games won’t be easy, with a lot of parity in this year’s tournament, it’s wide open for several teams, including the Florida Gators.

Click here to check ticket prices for New Orleans now.

Overseas Basketball Update

We’ve been continuing to follow the career of Gio Woods, as well as other players that we’ve scouted at various places, as they move their professional basketball careers overseas. The latest on Woods is that he is starting for Tenerife Baloncesto who competes in the EBA league in Spain.

On the video he is number 5 in white.

Gio Woods

He is averaging 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assist a game.

In the game that is on the video he scored 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assist. His team is 19-5, 3 games up in first place, and they have 6 games left. His team will be moving up divisions next season to either LEB Silver or LEB Gold, which is the second division in Spain behind the highly talented ACB league.

Another note/update to include is that Jaycee Carroll is leading the ACB league with 18.1 PPG. James Blackburn scouted Carroll at the Orlando Summer League for Basketball Elite. James had said he is a player to watch – named him best undrafted player in the Summer league – Jaycee is out of Utah State.

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By Marcus Shockley

Seth Greenberg NCAA Tournament
techsports

From all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that erupted on Selection Sunday this year, you’d think that the very fabric of justice had been ripped asunder by the NCAA Selection Committee. Analysts, writers and coaches ranted about the inclusion of certain ‘bubble’ teams and the exclusion of other teams and said that this year, the committee “got it wrong”. Even Jay Bilas, a fantastic basketball analyst who I greatly respect, lashed out at the selection committee members.

A gaggle of writers angrily shouted their frustrations over Twitter, claiming that the committee had no justification for their actions and that they had no idea what they were doing. Several prominent radio personalities launched their Monday morning shows with tirades against the selection committee’s choices. Said Mike Greenberg, “this is the first year where you hear the experts just flat out say, ‘they got it wrong’.” Whereas in past years, it seemed that the experts might have some slight disagreements with the committee, this year they were simply saying that the teams that were picked should not have been in the Big Dance.

Not one of these writers or experts, not even the aforementioned and highly esteemed Jay Bilas, seemed to notice the reason for the sudden change. Why would there suddenly be so many experts stating that the selection field was so wrong, when for decades they’ve been proved right?

Why, indeed.

Could it be that none of these media personalities want to share the truth? After all, their bosses, the corporate television networks supported by ad revenue, need for the tournament to matter, so it’s not like they can tell us the real problem with all of this.

Why, exactly, are we arguing over whether one ‘bubble’ team got a tournament invitation over another, when everyone knows that these teams won’t be around for long? Why do the experts point to a team with ‘x number of wins over Top 50 teams’ or ‘had two quality wins’. Really? Since when did a win or two over a Top 50 (not Top 10, not even Top 20, but Top 50 ) somehow make a team qualified for anything other than the NIT? Everyone knows that the reason they are saying ‘Top 50′ is because they may have beaten a team that was, at one point in the season, ranked at a very arbitrary number 35 or 45.

The tournament is busted, and the hard truth is that none of these ‘bubble’ teams deserve a bid. We as fans have fretted for years that the NCAA committee would push for expansion until they broke the Law of Diminishing Returns, the same law that causes sagging NBA regular season ratings and weeks of subpar NBA player performances.

Simply put, the NCAA wants to add as many games as possible, because they think that will create more product and more revenue. If they push too far, like the NBA and MLB have done, they will stop making significant revenue growth and won’t realize it until the ratings are halved and stadiums for early round games are marginally filled. This isn’t a doomsday scenario; this is exactly why teams in the NBA play to arenas that have more empty seats than a kazoo concert. For every packed house in the NBA, there are 20 that aren’t, and why the NBA started actually kicking around the idea of contraction earlier this year.

But this isn’t about the NBA and how poorly they handled the expansion of their season; it’s about how the NCAA committee is doing it to the college game.

The NCAA tournament needs to cut some of the invitations, not expand. I don’t expect them to; I expect them to continue down the path of silly business, making only slight gains in revenue growth, until 10 or 20 years from now, there are more than 96 teams in the tournament and the lowest seed has a .500 record from a low major conference. I realize that the college game I love will be gone; This week’s selection hammered it home.

The tournament should be slashed to 48 or 50 teams. Maybe, 54. But at least 14 berths should be axed now. I don’t want to hear any more braying about bubble teams. Those teams shouldn’t be in the NCAA tournament. None of them.

You want to get into the NCAA tournament? Do this:

  • Win your conference regular season OR your conference tournament
  • If you don’t win your conference, have at least a 75% winning percentage
  • If you have a 75% winning percentage, you’d better have a decent SOS against teams with an RPI higher than 45 for the ENTIRE SEASON
  • Don’t have double digit losses. If you do have double digit losses, you’d better win your conference tournament.

I am so sick of hearing about the coaches who might lose their jobs because they don’t make the tournament. You want to make it better for them? Cut the number of teams that get in, don’t increase it. If you continue to increase it, it becomes so easy to get in that not making the tournament is a sure bet to get fired; after all, even mediocre teams and coaches get in, right? If you decrease the number of invitations, the bar is set high enough that not making the tournament for a couple of years is not grounds for immediate dismissal.

Spare me the bubble teams. Just send them to the NIT where they belong and actually might accomplish something.

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Now Featuring…

Basketball Elite is proud to welcome Andrew Macaluso to our group of regular contributors. Andrew will be bringing his own take on basketball related content and will help us continue to expand our coverage. Andrew is currently finishing up the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English at Indiana University. He’s interned with and done work for Dime Magazine. Had an article feature on ESPN about Deron Williams and is currently a contributor for sites such as SLAMonline.com and EndangeredHoops.com. He’s the most optomistic writer on the planet.

Be on the lookout for Andrew’s upcoming work and be amazed at his deft skill of insightful basketball discussion.