For those who missed it, the preseason top 50 for the Wooden Award was announced last week. The list isn’t binding in any way – someone not on the list can ultimately win the award in March as the nation’s best player. It’s strictly a publicity stunt, but it’s one I welcome at this time of year. It’s a great way to get reacquainted with the top talent in the game. Click here for the complete list.
The preseason list doesn’t contain any freshmen and according to a press release, is based on the following criteria…
The list is composed of 50 student athletes who, based on last year’s individual performance and team records, are the early frontrunners for college basketball’s most coveted trophy.
But that statement isn’t true for two of the players that made the list.
One of those is Leon Powe of Cal, who missed all of last season while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. He may not have much of a chance to win the Wooden, but he has a great chance to fill the shoes of Ike Diogu as that obscure west coast star that plays with little supporting cast but manages to salvage a respectable season for his team almost single-handedly.
Listed at 6-8, 245, Powe’s dimensions are similar to Diogu’s, and so is his game in some respects. Let’s compare Powe’s freshman season of ’04 to Diogu’s of ’03, starting with the boring stuff.
PPG RPG BPG APG Diogu '03...19.0 7.8 1.0 0.8 Powe '04....15.1 9.5 0.6 0.7
That doesn’t tell me enough, so digging in a little deeper…
Player Team OE Off Rtg %Poss %Min Diogu.... 112 121 25.4 79.8 Powe..... 100 107 27.1 71.5
Both players used much more than their fair share of possessions, and both were more efficient relative to their teammates in doing so. Powe played fewer minutes, likely due to the problems with his knee, which started with a torn ACL in the summer before he arrived at Cal.
The biggest statistical similarity between the two is the ability to get to the line in large quantities.
FTA/FGA Diogu...0.712 Powe....0.704
This is about as good as it gets for guys who carry as much of the offensive load as these two did. Diogu even pushed his FT rate closer to 0.8 over the next two seasons.
As shown above, Diogu was significantly more efficient than Powe on the offensive end and that boils down to how well each shot the ball.
FG% FT% Diogu...60.8 73.5 Powe....48.8 60.1
Powe’s shooting percentage looks more pedestrian next to Diogu’s unearthly total. Not only did Diogu shoot well, but he shot a lot (344 FGAs). For reference, last season only three players had at least 300 FGAs and shot better than 60%. Throw in the fact that Powe only took one three-pointer in ’04 compared to Diogu’s 24 attempts in ’03, and the chasm between the two is that much greater.
Powe figures to get both FGAs and FTAs by the bucketful again this season. If his shooting percentage gets into the low 50s, then he can vault into the superstar category. Adding 10 points to the free-throw shooting would also help. Powe’s not so bad that it pays to foul him, but for a guy that will get to the line 7-8 times a game, a competent FT% could contribute to an extra win or two.
There were some things that Powe did better than Diogu.
TO% OR% DR% Diogu...20.4 11.2 17.1 Powe....14.7 12.9 25.2
Powe’s ability to take care of the ball while being the focus of the defense was impressive, especially for a freshman. In addition, Powe’s aptitude for getting to the glass was outstanding. This was the sore spot in Diogu’s game, especially defensively. Ike’s defensive rebounding percentage hardly improved over his three seasons at ASU. Look at it this way – the average team gets 68% of the possible defensive rebounds. That means the average player on the floor gets about 13%. But each player isn’t expected to carry an equal part of the load. For a power forward with Ike’s skills, 17% is disapointing unless teammates are picking up the slack. (Which to some extent they did. ASU was good defensive rebounding team.) At the extreme, Andrew Bogut posted a 16.1/31.0 OR%/DR% split in 2005, helping Utah to finish 12th nationally in OR% and 1st in DR%.
Some uncertainty surrounds Powe’s game regarding his ability to recover from the knee surgery. News on that front is encouraging, with Powe having been named MVP of the San Francisco ProCity pro-am summer league. Granted, the "Pro" portion of the league consisted of guys like Luke Whitehead, so there wasn’t really NBA talent here. In addition, Powe’s shooting numbers were still below 50%. But this was totally outside of Ben Braun’s offensive framework, so there’s not much to read into it. We’ll learn a little bit more from how Powe plays on Cal’s tour of Italy over the next two weeks. But we won’t know about him for sure until the real games begin in November.
There wouldn’t have been much reason to stay up for an Arizona State/Cal game last season were it not for Diogu. This season, that matchup would be similarly unwatchable – except for the presence of Powe.