By James Blackburn
Game Scouted: Southern Miss @ Georgia
Southern Miss Wins 62-60 in OT
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (G, 6’6”, SO)
37 min, 5-21 FG, 3-14 3 pt FG, 4-5 FT, 6 rebounds, 5 assist, 1 TO, 3 steals, 17 TP
Caldwell’s main strength is his ability to shoot and score the basketball. Pope shot 30% from the 3-point line last season, but has bumped that percentage up to 37% through 2 games this year (not including this game). Georgia relies on Pope heavily to score and he has been given the green light to shoot. His 21 shot attempts this game more then doubled any other teammate’s shots.
His shooting form is good, as he has a high, quick release with good elevation and he gets his feet, set and square to the rim. Combine that with solid mechanics, a soft touch, and length and he has the ability to get his shot off against anyone at the college level and should not have a problem getting shot off at next level either. He had a 4-point play to end a long scoring drought by Georgia in the 1st half. Showed the ability to take a dribble when a defender closes out too hard and shoot the pull-up 3. Does a good job of running the floor in transition and getting to his spots around the 3 point line. Knows where the gaps are vs. the zone and finds/exploits them. Good FT shooter- shot around 60% from the charity stripe last year but is shooting close to 80% from there this year so far.
Average rebounder at this point. Does a good job of not standing and crashes the offensive boards. Should continue to develop into good rebounding guard with athleticism. ). I noticed him talking several times on the floor and being a leader, which is interesting to note being only a sophomore. Has a good on-court demeanor.
Highly underrated passer who actually led the Bulldogs in assists today with 5, which is above average for a high scoring shooting guard. He had several nice entry passes to the post against the zone and moved the ball quickly and didn’t hold on to it. Once he put the ball on the floor; he is a threat to score as well as make plays for others if secondary defender helps. Georgia uses Pope to inbound the ball on baseline OB plays. Unselfish- turned down some good shots to give teammate a great shot.
Athletic and long- great frame and size for a 2. Solid on-ball defender- stays active and moves his feet well latterly. Contests shots with a high hand (Much better on-ball defender then help/secondary defender at this point Impressive ability to help out to stop the dribble drive and then quickly close out back to his own man and contest shot or prevent his man from shooting as well. Has quick feet- can slide laterally defensively and has a quick first step.
Needs to improve defense off the ball. Has a tendency to turn his back to the ball when his man cuts through. Needs to improve defensive rebounding- stood and watched several times and did not box out.
Must improve ball handling skills. At this point can’t handle ball good enough to play either guard position at next level. Against full-court pressure applied by Southern Miss, Pope did not look comfortable putting the ball on the floor for more then 2 dribbles. Also, needs to improve finishing ability- missed 2 shots with in 5 ft. in 1st half alone. With his athletic ability he needs to finish those lay-ups with dunks. I thought that he forced several shots from the perimeter, particularly at the end of the game- but overall his shot selection was solid. Even though he shot over 20 times today, he is heavily relied on to score for this Bulldogs team.
Needs to get stronger- lanky 185 right now. Adding an extra 10-15 lbs. of muscle would help him immensely on defense to get around screens and offensively by being able to finish inside.
Coming off a career high 27 points vs. Youngstown State in last game, Pope struggled with his shot this game- but you can tell the shooting ability is there. His missed shots hit the back of rim and were straight. Single handily kept Georgia in game in first half with his 3-point shooting. Watched game on TV, so I couldn’t focus on him when he was on the bench- but every time out that was shown and other times when the cameras showed him communicating with the head coach- he was engaged and focused. Poised player who didn’t seem to get rattled or upset when his shot wasn’t falling or things did not go his way. Had a nice drive and dump down pass to post player, but it got waived off because of a bad offensive foul call. Instead of complaining or showing poor body language, he jogged down to the other end to play defense. Impressive body language.
His shooting skill will definitely translate to the next level as many of his 3’s are well beyond the college arc. With his motor/length/athleticism he should be a good defender at pro level. Good teammate who encourages and directs- I loved the body language of this kid. Is a threat to score and shoot no matter where he is on the floor.
Southern Miss played a zone defense the entire game so I did not get to see him against a man defense. I have a feeling I would of seen more of his slashing and athletic ability and overall scoring ability vs. a man defense (will see man to man defense at next level anyway- but it is nice to know that he can play vs. a zone as well).
Pope is definitely NBA material and if continues to shoot the basketball like he has, against SEC competition, he could find his way into the second round in this years NBA draft. If he does not leave this year and stays at Georgia another year to continue to hone his skills, get stronger, improve handles and team defense, then I see him getting drafted late in the first round in the 2014 draft.