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March 23, 2012
What we learned: NJCAA nationals
During its heyday, the a National Championship was a must stop for college coaches at all levels who were looking to add junior college talent during the spring signing period. After a recent dip because of the emphasis on prep schools, the junior college talent appears to be back on the rise.
Rivals.com spent two days at the NJCAA National Championship in Hutchinson, Kan., during the week and here is some of what we learned.
Jones is a productive scorer
When it was determined that one-time Tennessee commit and 2011 Top 50 prospect Chris Jones would have to go to a junior college, most figured he would be tough. Even so, the 5-foot-10 floor general is exceeding expectations as a freshman at Northwest Florida.
With high scoring, sub 6-footers who are offensively aggressive, there's always a worry about how their game translates. But it's become quite clear -- and quickly at that -- that Jones has game that does and will continue to translate to high basketball.
Key in his success is that he is extremely quick with the ball and has an explosive first step. Though he's terrific in high ball screen action, what really separates him is that he doesn't need help in creating space and that he can keep defenses honest by knocking down long jumpers. On top of that, he's an acrobatic finisher in the lane and exudes toughness.
Moving ahead, he will have to learn to play with a little more control and cut down on his turnovers. But, at the end of the day he's a playmaker who wants to win badly and there's not a better guard in junior college basketball. He won't mention schools yet, but his recruitment will be a high level affair.
Move from Angola will pay off
In his home country of Angola, there aren't many people who can stop Yanick Moreira from doing what he wants to do on the basketball court. He's nearly 6-foot-10, a fluid athlete, can run the floor, blocks shots and has pretty good offensive instincts.
In order to maximize his game and see how far it can take him, Moreira had to make a move and it landed him at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. Since his arrival in June, he's been making rapid strides and proved that he's a legitimate high-major prospect with his play in Hutchinson and especially while matching up with a few other high-major big men - Orlando Sanchez and Maurice Ndour of Monroe College.
"He certainly has the ability to play with the best bigs in the country," said South Plains assistant coach Hank Plona. "He had a little trouble with Monroe's big guys early. In the second half he was a lot more of the player that he can be."
The player that Moreira can be is a versatile one. He has pretty good hands, is quick around the rim and he can finish in traffic. He can also step out and make some shots and it's just a matter of adapting physically and getting stronger.
"The physical aspect of the game is something he needs to grasp better," Plona said. "We really want him to catch it and take it into the big guys. When he catches it in the lane he's long and he can turn and score. He can also face up and hit some shots and runs the floor."
Because the South Plains campus is just a stone's throw from Texas Tech, the Red Raiders have been involved early, and so has Texas. Plona says that calls are coming in regularly and that he expects Moreira's recruitment to take off after NJCAA nationals and that it will hopefully put the Angolan in position to achieve his dreams.
"He's here because he wants to try and play professionally at the highest level he can," said Plona. "He's hoping to do whatever he can do to go to a Division I school and to prepare himself for going after his goals. While we have him here, we are doing everything we can to help him with that."
Sanchez is filled with potential
This was the second year in a row that we've been able to watch Orlando Sanchez play a pair of ballgames for Monroe College in Hutch. While his numbers remain about the same, it's easily evident that the product of the Dominican Republic has diversified what he can do.
Standing a legitimate 6-foot-8, Sanchez is a gifted athlete. He doesn't just ran fast and jump high though, he's got functional athleticism in that he can change directions, and is quick side to side. Not only that, he retains his athleticism while making basketball plays with the ball in his hands.
Last year, Sanchez was a transition finisher who also held things down on the glass. This year, he's much more diverse and has proven that he is a skillful ballhandler and passer who can also shoot the ball with some range. He played a lot on the wing over the summer with the Dominican national team and that experience allows him to be comfortable facing the basket.
Currently, St. John's and Providence are probably the two biggest factors in his recruitment. While Cincinnati, Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Oregon and several others have interest, the people helping him out would prefer that he stay closer to home to help ease the process of moving to Division I ball in a foreign country where he's just learning the language.
A four-star prospect, Sanchez will most likely begin his NCAA career playing the power forward. However, because of his skill and fluidity, he appears capable of making a legitimate transition out to the wing at some point down the road.
Finally, Sanchez isn't a prospect who yet fits into the category of sure thing. He has to get stronger and he has to use his tools to make a more consistent impact on the game from start to finish rather than floating in and out of the action.