Even if you’re obsessed with Canadian basketball, you’ve likely never heard of Prince Oduro.
He bounced like a pinball in university, hopping from one school to the next, which often raises eyebrows about the character of the individual doing it.
But having been a member of the U-19 Gold Medal Canadian team and having represented the SMNT twice, he’s the exact prototype that benefits from the CEBL.
When I first saw him play at the CAA Centre, I noticed his 6’8’’ frame would burst out of picks too early or too late. He nodded his head in agreement in a post-game interview when asked about it, and credited his assistant coach Josh Estes for helping him through film sessions.
Estes is a coaching analyst for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but like Oduro, who spent the past season in Finland’s Korisliiga, he too benefits from in-game reps in the off-season.
“I think it takes a player who wants to be great,” said Estes, complimenting Oduro’s willingness to study film. “To actually put the time in and sit there, it’s a tedious job to watch the film, and actually dissect what’s going on.”
“When you first watch film, you see a bunch of things, but as you get better at it, as you go through the years, you start learning what to actually focus on, what’s the important part of the play.”
Estes fired off a series of questions that tests a player’s screen-setting ability: “Did you set the screen, set the right screen, set the right angle of the screen?”
Estes was kind enough to share a nugget from his film sessions with Oduro – that Oduro could consider slipping (as a screener) when the on-ball defender opens his legs up a little early.
“The defender has now given the ball handler an angle to get down hill, so now this puts the screener’s defender in a bind because he either has to help stop the ball handler or go with the roller.”
Here, teammate Christian Vital got downhill using Oduro’s screen, Montreal’s Nathan Cayo dropped, so Oduro took full advantage, bursting out of the screen. He forced help defender Treveon Graham to commit the foul, made the basket, and got to the line (on the following play, Oduro grabs the defensive board, sprints down the court, and gets an easy bucket cutting directly to the hoop).
While Oduro could lift weights and workout with skill trainers in the off-season, situational reps like the ones above can only come from pro games. More importantly, player development on the defensive side of the ball comes won’t come from summer runs.
I don’t know whether Oduro’s stunt-and-recover execution (Oduro is in a black #8 uniform) comes from studying film, but reps like these are invaluable for those who aren’t going down to Vegas.
Oduro has been playing in the shadow of former 905er Jeremiah Tilmon, who recently announced his signing with a Japanese B3 team, Kagoshima Rebnise. For Tilmon, the CEBL will keep him in tip-top shape, and he’ll gain more knowledge playing under head coach Antoine Broxsie (who is also a Cavs player development coach).
Lastly, there’s a high demand globally for stretch bigs.
“I just go out there and try and play my game, and the job will come,” 6-foot-9 forward Zane Waterman said after the June 7th game. “So I go wherever I’m asked to go.”
Through nine games, Waterman has shot 44% from downtown, attempting 3.8 per game. In-game threes beats open three-point shots in an empty gym, but there’s a fierce competition amongst the stretch bigs of the world for limited jobs. For Waterman, getting more in-game decision-making reps only improves his development.
Against Montreal, he drew four players to collapse on him, held the ball high in the air, and made the Black Mamba-like decision to fight through all of them and attempt to score.
Though he could have dished it out to a cutting Kyle Johnson on the weakside, Waterman protected the ball, and chose the right battle to fight early in the game. He also displayed great timing on the roll below, and made the extra pass to Johnson for a more efficient corner 3 shot. Water did this despite having made three 3s before this play.
Last year’s CEBL champions dwell in the basement of the East. They have lost the last three games by an average of 21 points, but with more than halfway into the summer season, the Honey Badgers look to turn things around tonight at Meridian Centre.