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Woolridge vs. Barnes: Day 1 of the Jayhawk Invitational

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The first reaction after watching most recruits is to overhype them.

We're all guilty of it. There were over 2,000 fans crammed into Haskell's Coffin Complex, and I can guarantee you the KU fans didn't go there to report back to their friends, "Well, Royce Woolridge is an OK player."

My job, in this blog, will be to give you my thoughts on these two guys, hopefully without overhyping. As you probably know, Woolridge has verbally committed to KU, while Barnes is a top-10 player in the class of 2010.

Again, take it for what it's worth. This was one AAU game of dozens for these players over the course of the year. This is just one reporter's thoughts while watching the game from courtside.

Royce Woolridge

Stat line:
29 points, 11-for-25 shooting, 1-for-7 from three-point range, 6-for-9 free throws, three rebounds, three steals, two assists, three turnovers.

Strengths:
Has an ability to get to the rim with ease. Good ball-handler that is able to break down a defender off the dribble. For most of the game, the taller (and more athletic) Harrison Barnes was guarding Woolridge, and Woolridge was able to use his quickness to get by him pretty easily. Woolridge showed a good touch close to the rim. I can't remember him missing a layup, as nearly everything he put off the backboard fell through. After penetrating, he also was able to make some tough shots in the lane over taller defenders. He showed a good vertical leap, and on one play he finished off an alley-oop with a slam at the rim. Showed flashes defensively and came away with three steals. A nice, soft-spoken kid who was polite, honest and even critical of his own play afterwards in the postgame interview.

Weaknesses:
Both Woolridge and his coach admitted it was a bad shooting night, and they were right about that. Almost all of Woolridge's points came from either inside four feet or the free-throw line. He missed almost all of his three-pointers and also clanked a few open mid-range shots. He forced quite a few more bad shots, including at least one airball that was nowhere close to the rim. He looked frustrated a little bit when Barnes played physical against him defensively. He is only a high school junior, but obviously he still could use a lot of work in the weight room. I noticed while standing next to him that he wasn't much taller than me, and I'm 5-foot-8. I'm guessing his listed height of 6-3 might be a bit generous. I would guess he's 6-foot-1 or so.

Kind of reminds me of ... :
Player comparisons are always unfair, but I'll do it any way. When I first saw Woolridge, his body type reminded me of a shorter Keith Langford. His ability to drive, get to the rim and make shots off the glass in traffic also was reminiscent of Langford. So I'll go with that for now. He's a raw Langford with a shot that still needs some work.

Harrison Barnes

Stat line:
23 points, 8-for-17 shooting, 3-for-7 from three-point range, 4-for-5 free throws, nine rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, two steals.

Strengths:
Extremely athletic and long. Has a great vertical and oftentimes plays above the rim. Threw down a pair of vicious one-handed dunks in transition. Has a good stroke from all areas of the court. Showed a nice touch from the outside, including a 22-foot three that beat the first-half buzzer. Has quick hands that led to a pair of second-half steals. Unselfish player that isn't afraid to find his teammates. Strong passer in transition, with a good feel for knowing when to throw a bounce pass and when to throw a lob. When he decides to penetrate, he has a quick first step and a long stride. Nice touch when finishing inside, and he showed it on a three-point play in the first half when he had to muscle through a foul.

Weaknesses:
Oftentimes, he would blend into the game and you'd forget he was out there. Wasn't aggressive enough inside, though it was tough for him to do that for a while because he was guarding Woolridge on the perimeter. Was passive inside on rebounds, sometimes watching less talented players beat him for boards. Still can improve his offense with his back to the basket and when receiving it in the post. He played a lot of the minutes, but he looked pretty gassed for a large portion of the game. Better conditioning should improve his game in college.

Kind of reminds me of ... :
Unfair again, but I'll say Julian Wright in this context: Barnes has a high ceiling with tons of room for development. Like Wright, he has the ability to help a team in a variety of ways with his athleticism and quickness, but he was inconsistent with his play (at least on Friday).

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