Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12, Part Seven: Prospects 10-13 September 27, 2016
Known just as much for his track and field success in high school after winning back to back triple jump titles in the state of Texas, Kerwin Roach decided to stay in his home state to continue his basketball career with the Texas Longhorns. He was able to make his mark on the team in his freshman season by averaging 16.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per 40 minutes in his 18 minutes per game, and will look to build on those numbers as he returns for his sophomore season.
One of the most athletically gifted players in college basketball, Roach has elite speed and leaping ability that allows him to simply fly around the court. He has a great first step with the ball in the half-court and a high top speed in the open court with or without the ball, as he leads the transition break or runs the wing. He has solid size for a combo guard, listed at 6'4”, but has an average wingspan and a thin frame at just 175 pounds. He'll have to fill his frame out as he matures to be able to handle the physicality of the NBA game, while retaining his two best physical attributes in his quickness and explosiveness.
After spending a good portion of his time off the ball as a freshman, with both backcourt starters Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix moving on to the professional ranks, Roach will likely spend more time on the ball as a sophomore and projects as a combo guard at the next level. He can get separation from his man with his initial first step, followed by some nice change of pace moves and a quick crossover to get to his spots in the lane, but is just an average ball-handler overall in the half-court, particularly when forced to use his off hand.
Roach has shown an ability to get to the rim but needs to improve his finishing once he gets there as he made just 49.2% of his attempts around the basket according to Synergy Sports Technology. He will look to finish with either hand but is not a very composed finisher and lacks touch off the backboard to finish the shots he is able to generate in transition and the half court. Getting stronger will likely help him do a better job of utilizing his tremendous athleticism inside the paint.
While he did struggle to finish in the paint in the half-court, he was able to get to the line at a high rate to the tune of 7.8 free throw attempts per 40. Incredibly dynamic in the open floor, in the early offense, or attacking closeouts, thanks to his tremendous burst, he's an aggressive driver and is not afraid to barrel into contact when attacking rim protectors once he gets going operating downhill.
His shooting struggles showed up from the free throw line as well as he was only able to make 63% of his free throw attempts. He will drive right into the chest of opposing big men but against NBA level rim protectors, he will need to work on developing a floater or a pull-up jumper he can utilize to avoid such regular contact to preserve his body over a long season and help him score when he can't draw a foul or finish through contact.
Roach showed some potential as an offensive facilitator, with a willingness to make the extra pass, but will have to clean up some areas of his passing game as he attempts to develop into more of a point guard. He can get virtually wherever he wants on the floor by virtue of his dynamic first step, but once he draws the defense he isn't always able to make the right pass to the open teammate. He's still learning to see the entire court and make accurate, on-time passes to put his teammates in position to score. His passing metrics weren't great as a freshman with a 0.78 A/TO ratio and a -4.24 pure passer rating. Being able to find the balance of getting his own offense while creating for his teammates will help him see more actions as a playmaker and facilitator moving forward, which is a big key considering his size. He does show some potential in this area, though, so it will be interesting to see how he grows in this area with more repetitions in the coming years.
While not quite skilled or experienced enough yet to be trusted on the ball in Texas' crowded backcourt, Roach struggled at times off the ball as well, since he's not a great spot-up shooter yet, converting only 33.3% of his 45 catch and shoot jumpers according to Synergy Sports Technology. He has an inconsistent release point which can spray his shot all over the place and he has to improve his mechanics to become a better shooter across the board. While the results weren't always there as a freshman, Roach demonstrated enough potential as a shot-maker to leave room for optimism that his jumper isn't broken and can be honed into a more consistent weapon.
Roach was a bit of a mixed bag defensively as a freshman and scouts will be looking to see improvement as a sophomore. On one hand, he showed a willingness to guard multiple positions including bigger and stronger shooting guards while being engaged on the ball and looking to pressure his man. He also helped his team rebound by contributing 5.3 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes by leveraging his explosiveness and quickness to be first to the ball.
On the other hand, his on the ball defense needs improvement as he was easily beaten off the dribble at times before committing a needless foul trying to swipe the ball away. This caused him to foul at a high rate of 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes by committing careless off-ball fouls or reaching in after his man is past him. He'll need to improve his fundamentals and discipline to become a more impactful defender as a sophomore, but has the tools to do so with his tremendous athleticism.
Scouts will get a better feel for Roach's NBA potential this season as he is likely to see more minutes and offensive responsibility for the Longhorns. With his rare and elite level of athleticism he will stay on NBA radars for some time regardless due to his extremely high ceiling, and will be a player to monitor to see how he develops his physique, ball-skills, feel for the game, jump-shot and defense.
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