After seeing the Baylor Bears advance to the Elite 8 in the 2010 NCAA Tournament (and leading the game with less than 5 minutes to go), many people were quick to credit the guard play of Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn.
While the two had a pretty strong tournament, it was the defense of Baylor that was the unsung hero of their run, holding their first three opponents to 58.3 points per game on a paltry 37.1 shooting.
The anchor of that impenetrable defense? 6’10” junior Ekpe Udoh.
A transfer from the university of Michigan, Udoh held down the lane authoritatively for Baylor, averaging 9.8 rebounds and a stunning 3.8 blocks per game. He pulled down double-digit rebounds in 26 games this season and notched 16 double-doubles.
Udoh was one of the most impressive breakout players in college basketball this season. Many mock drafts have him slipping as far down into the 20s, but his length, athleticism, toughness, and defensive prowess make him a top-10 talent.
NBA Position: F/C
Weight: 237 lbs.
Looking at the stat sheet, the line that leaps out at you is his blocks. He averaged nearly 4 per game and was fourth in the NCAA in total blocks.
He’s tall, lanky, and has long arms (his wingspan is measured at 7’4 ½”). Combine those long arms with his athleticism and he’s always in a position to recover defensively, making it extremely difficult to get shots off over him.
When he does get a piece of the ball, he does a great job of not knocking it into the fourth row, something that even NBA powers like Dwight Howard have trouble with. He keeps the ball in play routinely, another lost art in the league.
But even he though he does go for blocked shots frequently, he isn’t caught out of position that often. He uses his quickness to get inside of opposing big men and is fairly sound in boxing out. On the offensive glass, he’s extremely active and a difficult cover for slower, less-athletic power forwards; he averaged over 3.5 offensive rebounds a game.
Check out the stats of some notable big men against Udoh this year:
vs. Duke: Brian Zoubek/Lance Thomas – 4/14 FG, 14 pts, 0 blocks
vs. St. Mary’s: Omar Samhan – 7/17 FG, 15 pts, 9 rebs, 0 blocks (after going for 62 pts & 19 rebs on 24/32 FG the previous 2 games)
vs. Kansas: Cole Aldrich – 4/7 FG, 10 pts, 4 rebs, 0 blocks
On the offensive side, he’s never going to be Kevin McHale. But everything he does, he does well.
He’s got a relatively decent face-up game and is able to attack off the dribble. His mid-range game is solid, and he even stepped outside to hit seven three-pointers this year. While it doesn’t appear that he’s going to be a Rashard Lewis-type shooter, the fact that he can step out and hit a 15-foot jumper will only open the lane up for his dribble-drive, and for him to crash offensive rebounds.
He’s also a solid passer, averaging 2.7 assists and only 2.4 turnovers; an assist-to-turnover ratio of over 1 is extremely solid for a big man.
Defensively, he’s very well put together; he can rebound, block shots, play strong pick-and-roll defense, and use his length to bother scorers in the post. It’s on the offensive side of the ball where he needs the most work.
He’s still very raw and never really developed a dominant go-to move. He doesn’t handle size in the post very well; guys like Cole Aldrich really affected his offensive game by overpowering him with brute strength and equal length.
He’s also a bit undersized for a power forward. While he’s lankiness and athleticism is one of his biggest virtues, he needs to add a good 20-25 pounds to his frame.
Mentally, he needs to be a bit tougher as well. There were games this year that he committed some bad fouls and in turn didn’t make much of an impact.
NBA Comparison: Josh Smith
Draft Projection: Lottery Selection