With the college basketball season nearing its most important stretch, it’s difficult not to feel somewhat disappointed when appraising the progress made by one of the more scrutinized prospects in the sophomore class, West Virginia’s Devin Ebanks.
Starting off the season suspended for his team’s first three games for undisclosed reasons (reportedly academic), and then hurting his hand in early December in an unconfirmed fist-fight with teammate Truck Bryant, Ebanks has been very up and down all year long both on and off the court.
This culminated in an extremely underwhelming performance in 2010 thus far, being able to hit double-digit scoring in just 4 of his last 10 games. While his team is nonetheless surging at 18-3 and is currently ranked in the top-10 of the various polls, Ebanks’ off-court issues and disappearance in Big East play has to be giving NBA decision makers cause for concern when assessing his draft stock for this upcoming spring.
Ebanks’ numbers have mostly stagnated or regressed slightly when comparing with last season. His scoring production, rebounding, shooting percentages, free throw attempts and turnovers are all pretty much the same, while his assists and free throw attempts are down.
Considering the spike in production most college players see between their freshman and sophomore seasons, and the fact that Ebanks is already older than some members of his class (he was expelled from Bishop Loughlin high school and forced to redo his junior year), this can’t be viewed as a positive development. His skinny frame doesn't look much better than it did last year either.
The impression you get from watching Ebanks largely depends on the game in which you catch him, as his energy level and assertiveness seems to fluctuate drastically for reasons that are still unknown.
We’ve discussed Ebanks’ limitations as a half-court player in a fair amount of depth in previous reports, and there’s not much new to report on this front. He’s 3/26 on the season from beyond the arc, and has not hit a 3-pointer in over a month, which tells you all you need to know about where he stands as a perimeter shooter at this point in time.
His ball-handling skills remain porous, particularly with his left hand, as he struggles creating his own shot against set defenses, and thus does not get to the free throw line at a great rate.
The incredibly slow pace that West Virginia plays at (they are the 288th fastest paced team in college basketball according to KenPom.com) doesn’t help matters much, as Ebanks is far better off running the floor in the transition where his length and athleticism really allow him to shine. The fact that he remains a willing passer despite the increased expectations that have been put on his shoulders this year is a good sign, and you regularly see him finding teammates for easy baskets with nice passes in the half-court.
Where Ebanks continues to excel is on the offensive glass, as his physical tools and the aggressiveness in which he plays allows him to make a major impact at the collegiate level when he’s truly dialed in.
Defensively, Ebanks is effective guarding small forwards thanks to his combination of size and length, even if laterally he’s not the quickest player around. He does a good job of contesting shots out on the perimeter, and doesn’t have much of an issue with his lack of bulk when being posted up by stronger collegiate big man, due to the toughness he brings to the floor. Ebanks puts a great deal of pride into his work on this end of the floor, and you’ll regularly see him switching between guards and big men over the course of the game. That’s the type of versatility he has, and this manifests itself in his ability to generate extra possessions for his team in the form of steals, blocks and rebounds.
All in all, this season hasn’t gone exactly the way Ebanks may have hoped thus far, even if there is still plenty of time to turn things around. He’ll need to do that in order to give his draft stock a boost, but we should keep in mind that he didn’t really get going in a major way last season until March rolled around either, which means there may still be hope. NBA teams will want to look at his entire body of work when deciding how he stacks up with some of the numerous other combo forwards in this draft, but a deep and productive NCAA tournament run could benefit him greatly. [Read Full Article] NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/16/09 March 16, 2009 After somewhat of an inconspicuous start to his college career, Devin Ebanks has been far more productive as of late, establishing himself as one of the most productive freshman in college basketball, and a significant contributor on a very good West Virginia squad. Ebanks was especially impressive in this week's Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, establishing career-highs in scoring (20 and then 22 points) and rebounding (18) and in the process marking himself down in the notebooks of every NBA executive in attendance as a top-shelf prospect to keep an eye on next season.
Ebanks is attractive mostly thanks to his intriguing combination of size, length, athleticism and aggressiveness at the combo forward position. He's not a particularly polished player at this point, with most of his offense coming in transition, on the offensive glass or off cuts to the basket, but he does find a way to be productive despite his limitations. Ebanks is capable of taking players off the dribble despite possessing shaky ball-handling skills--he has no left hand to speak of, and can't really change directions with the ball or execute advanced moves—but his long strides and nice quickness do allow him to get to the rim from time to time. He lacks the strength to finish through contact, but he can be fairly effective in the paint regardless thanks to his length and explosiveness.
As a perimeter shooter is where Ebanks needs the most work if he's to make the transition to playing the small forward position full time. He's only made 5 of 38 attempts from beyond the arc on the season, although his shooting mechanics lead you to believe that he should be able to become respectable down the road. In the Big East tournament he knocked down a number of pull-up mid-range jumpers, showing pretty smooth touch in the process. Ebanks is also a solid passer, displaying nice court vision and looking fairly unselfish in West Virginia's deliberate and extremely well executed half-court offense, helping him pick up an unusual amount of assists in his freshman season. He's clearly bought into Bob Huggins' system, and is already playing 30 minutes per game for him right off the bat.
Defensively is where Ebanks is currently at his best, as he combines great physical tools—size, length and lateral quickness, with a real hard-nosed mentality, being extremely intense and active, just like his coach demands him to be. He already understands the nuances of using his wingspan to contest shots out on the perimeter (without fouling), which leaves a lot of room for optimism regarding his ability to defend perimeter players down the road. West Virginia likes to switch on pretty much every screen, and Ebanks really suits their style of play in that regard. In the post he can be backed down due to his lack of strength, but will not allow players to score on him without a fight. He's a tough, aggressive young player who takes a lot of pride on this end of the floor—something that also translates to his rebounding ability, where he has been very good this season. Ebanks has had five games already with 14 or more rebounds, which is quite impressive considering how underdeveloped his frame is.
All in all, Ebanks still has a long ways to go before being able to legitimately consider entering the draft, but he shows quite a bit of potential as long as he continues to develop. He'll need to improve his shooting and ball-handling skills to project as a full-time small forward, but already some things he can hang his hat on in regards to his defense, rebounding and passing ability. It will be very interesting to see how he looks next season. [Read Full Article] Jordan Brand Classic Scrimmage (Day Two) April 19, 2008 Devin Ebanks played a much more controlled game here today, not relying too much on his developing ball-handling and generally taking high efficiency shots, helping his team in multiple ways, slashing to the basket, finishing with both hands, getting out in transition, and hitting two very nice three-pointers, both pull-ups, with one coming on a stepback. His shot looks a lot smoother when he has the operating room and isn’t pulling up off a fancy, unnecessary crossover, and it was nice to see him make that adjustment here today. He wasn’t as noticeable over the course of the game, not being his team’s center of attention, but he still had at least 14 points, near tops in the game, while not forcing the issue at all, possibly not even missing a shot by our charting. Wherever he decides to go, he should have an immediate impact, and in a very good way if he plays the way he did here. [Read Full Article] National Prep Showcase, Day Two November 18, 2007 Ebanks continued to affirm his status as one of the elite players in attendance with his team’s win over Lee Academy, throwing together an outstanding all-around performance. He was downright dominant in stretches Saturday afternoon, using the talents that make him a consensus top 20 player in the recruiting rankings.
The 6’9 lanky wing provided about as much as you can ask. He shoots the ball well with range, can put the ball on the floor against slower opponents, and will now even take defenders down to the post. It proves to be an absolute nightmare when the New York native gets the ball with a head of steam, given his size and remarkable body control when attacking the rim. He maneuvers his way to the basket the way some guards are able to, not the way that one would generally expect out of a player the size of collegiate power forwards. For the second day in a row, Devin surprised many with his ability to consistently find the open man and make everyone around him better. This serves as a testament to his basketball IQ, evidenced by the fact that he did not take a single bad shot almost all weekend long. On the defensive end, Ebanks was just as good. He showed the ability to stay in front of much smaller wings with his lateral quickness, but was able to make his shot blocking presence felt around the rim at the same time.
Given Ebanks’ stat line, it is hard to believe that he could have done more out on the floor, but he actually could have. He consistently disappears for stretches throughout games, leaving many to forget that he is even on the floor due to him not being around the ball. Also, he could have utilized his height a little better on the offensive end. To Devin’s defense, his guards were not exactly the highest caliber recruits, and were more concerned with putting points on the board than they were getting their star player the ball.
The Indiana recruit finished his time in Boston as arguably the top performer here thus far, putting up monstrous numbers and leading his team to two victories. Fans should expect Ebanks to be an impact player from the day he steps foot on campus not only due to his refined skill set, but also due to the graduation of D.J. White and the likely early departure of Eric Gordon to the NBA. [Read Full Article] National Prep Showcase: Day One November 17, 2007 It’s been about a year since the last time this writer saw Devin Ebanks, and you can definitely tell that he’s continuing to progress as a player and prospect. His appeal as both a top high school recruit and intriguing draft prospect is quite obvious on first sight—he’s a 6-8 or 6-9 wing player with outstanding physical tools to play the game. We compared him in the past to Rudy Gay (probably not the first or last ones based off the physical resemblance), and he even wears the same number as Rudy and plays somewhat of a similar game, although he’s a notch below Rudy athletically.
Ebanks has added a quite a bit of weight to his lanky frame since the last time we saw him, and this to have given him some newfound aggressiveness that he certainly once lacked. He’s a very good, but not off-the-charts athlete, blessed with a terrific wingspan and good fluidity and coordination. He dropped quite a few glimpses of his excellent potential—for example facing the basket on one possession and getting to the hoop with a terrific first step to finish with an emphatic tomahawk jam.
He was also extremely active, particularly in the early going, showing terrific timing coming up with a number of on-ball blocks and getting in the passing lanes and taking the ball coast to coast himself. When he’s on, he’s a really impressive prospect as his lofty recruiting rankings would indicate. He’s been criticized in the past for being too passive at times, and although you could certainly see where that’s coming from, he seems to be making nice strides in this area.
Defensively he showed really nice lateral quickness on the perimeter besides the havoc he wreaked with his length coming up with steals and blocks. He’s not the toughest kid in the world, but his physical tools give him great potential. His intensity does seem to waver a bit at times, though.
We didn’t get to see much in regards to his perimeter jump-shot, as most of the game was played in transition where Ebanks obviously excels. In warm-ups his shot did look pretty smooth, though. In the half-court, Ebanks could definitely still stand to improve his ball-handling skills if he’s to reach his potential as a shot-creating small forward at the college level, even if they aren’t that bad at the moment. Being a little bit tougher using his size and length in the paint could also benefit him greatly. He doesn’t always finish strong through contact—although adding weight will help to a certain extent.
All in all, there is a lot to like about Ebanks as a prospect moving forward, even if we’re still not sold on him as being an elite one and done type guy. How much of his vast potential he’ll actually realize will largely depend on him, particularly regarding the mental part of the game. [Read Full Article] National Prep Showcase-- Day Two November 19, 2006 One of the more highly touted juniors in the 2008 high school class, Devin Ebanks had a solid, although not overwhelming game today in a loss to Patterson. He was opportunistic around the basket and in transition, using his size and length to pull down rebounds and make plays for his team, mostly in the 1st half. He’s long and incredibly skinny in the Rudy Gay mold, but unlike last year’s #8 pick, he lacks incredible explosiveness. Ebanks is a smart player who is already adept at making a living on the wing at 6-7, showing good passing ability, plenty of smarts, and the ability to fit in within a team’s system. His ball-handling skills are good, as are his shooting mechanics, even if his jumper really wasn’t falling for him at a great clip today. At this point Ebanks projects as a nice college player who has a chance to develop into a pro after (at least) a few years in college if he adds strength to his frame and continues to add polish to his game. Whether he continues to be considered a top 20 player in his class is anyone’s guess, though. [Read Full Article]