Life after Coach Cal: Jeff Adrien

APTOPIX NCAA Purdue Connecticut Basketball

Will Jeff Adrien be doing the same weird, robot dance thing during Thursday's NBA draft (7 ET, ESPN)?

Jeff Adrien is a woyah.

No one can doubt that. It’s a proven fact.

But the senior forward’s past conquests don’t mean much in a league that tends to value upside more than production (see Jennings, Brandon). It’s the same reason Ed O’Bannon now works for a car dealership.

That’s not really a knock on the NBA. Despite averaging 5.5 ppg in Italy, Jennings will no doubt be a better pro than Adrien, or is at least more worth the gamble considering his upside.

Out of the three major leagues, the NBA is probably the easiest to tell which prospects will work well in the pros. And despite nearly averaging a double-double the past three seasons, Adrien’s skills simply don’t translate well.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a chance to be selected in Thursday’s NBA draft. Or that he won’t be able to have a long career as a bench player.

The woyah will probably never be more than a role player, someone who gives a team a few boards a game in limited minutes. But that’s still not too bad. And, as Blane Dog so astutely pointed out to the New Haven Register, Adrien could end up being slightly more than that if put in the right situation.

Over this past weekend, he had impressive performances for both the Utah Jazz and Charlotte Bobcats – particularly for the Jazz, with coach Jerry Sloan in attendance.

"That would be the kind of coach that he’d really do well with," UConn associate head coach George Blaney said.

Great point, Blane Dog. A Coach Cal-type coach would suit him well, and while he’ll never be a star, he could be a solid rotational player in the right system.

Even if he is drafted and becomes a role player, I think everyone, including Adrien, will be happy. And since we’ve set such low expectations for him to begin with, anything else would be a pleasant surprise.

In spite of all of the obstacles he has to come in the pros and the holes he has in his game, I think Adrien will still be a decent player. Here’s a look at the reason’s for and against him becoming a good pro:

Reasons why Jeff Adrien would make a good pro

  1. He’s a woyah: ‘Nuff said.
  2. He can rebound: Although he’s only 6-foot-7 in shoes, Adrien has still been able to average more than nine boards a game the past three seasons. Although it will obviously be tougher in the pros as an undersized 4, he has gone up against taller players – including Thabeet in practice -- his entire career and done just fine. He’s one of the few players who doesn’t need to improve his strength -- a point Jay Bilas will stress for 75 percent of the picks Thursday -- and also has the wingspan of a 7-footer, which is far more important than height.
  3. Players of his size/ability have succeeded: One big thing Adrien has in his favor is history. Players such as Amir Johnson, Craig Smith and Leon Powe are all power forwards 6-foot-8 or shorter who were drafted somewhere in the second round, and each has found a niche in the NBA. And if you want to shoot a bit higher, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap and Glen Davis are all second-rounders with comparable skills sets (sort of) and each has thrived.
  4. He’s consistent: Adrien has been able to produce for three straight seasons, and as a freshman, he still managed to contribute on a team loaded with pros. In each of his final three seasons he averaged more than 13 points and nine rebounds.
  5. He can do this to people.
  6. He’s had success in college: Not sure how much this matters since players like Jrue Holiday (8.5 ppg at UCLA) and Jennings are likely lottery-bound. But Adrien put up numbers in the best conference in basketball and also helped bring his team to the NCAAs two times (three if you want to pad his resume with the ’04 team’s success).
  7. UConn players make good pros: This isn’t Duke.

Reasons why Jeff Adrien wouldn’t make a good pro

  1. His height: You can make a lot of points in his defense, but he’s still 6-7.
  2. He’s never really been the go-to guy: I don’t know how big of a knock this is on him considering he’ll never be looked to for scoring, but he averaged 13.1 ppg as a sophomore and never really improved. He practically carried the 2006-07 team, but players began to finally develop around him and he eventually turned into the third or fourth option by the end of his career.
  3. His shot selection: Another thing that hasn’t improved since his sophomore season. Despite all of those "He’s a woyah" pep talks from Cal, Adrien has never truly embraced being a woyah. He’s certainly come a long, long way from when he used to jack up mid-range jumpers every chance he got. But there are still times he gets the ball at the foul-line extended and you can just see the gears turning before he throws up a brick. It’s like he wants to resist but he’s still addicted to bad shots and can’t fight the temptation to kill a possession. To be fair, he shot over 50 percent from the floor the past two seasons, which shows some improvement. But still, he’s terrible in the mid-range and I’m not sure he’s completely aware of it. (Although this interview shows he may be.)
  4. He’s mid-range game is lacking: See above.
  5. He can’t make free throws: Because of his style of play, he got to the line a lot in college, and probably still could in the pros. Problem is, he’s a 50 60 percent free-throw shooter. He can’t shoot, so his physical style won’t really work if he can’t make teams pay from the line. Why not just hack him every time he gets by you?
  6. He’s not much of an athlete: I hate to use meaningless scout’s jargon, but it kind of makes sense here. He obviously has athleticism, but he doesn’t have much quickness or "explosiveness." He’s just kind of stiff. It’s like comparing a ninja and a Viking. Both effective woyahs, but the ninja is versatile, quick and agile, while the Viking is just kind of bulky and not as mobile. And on an episode of this "Deadliest warrior" show I’ve become obsessed with – it’s awesome; just people hacking at dummies with various weapons – the ninja won. An obvious indication that Jeff Adrien won’t be a good professional basketball player.
  7. He’s from UConn: Although the program has had an abundance of success in the pros – let’s face it, it’s why its remained relevant – second-rounders have not. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of a single UConn player who was picked in Round 2 and went on to have a good career. (Poor Denham.)
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