“A wise man told me not to argue with fools, because people at a distance can’t tell who is who.” - Jay-Z
Almost nothing tempts my vengeful Twitter fingers like a bad player comparison. So often I see Ayo Dosunmu compared to “blank”, or Samba Kane described as “blank blank-lite”. I don’t know how such a trivial exercise as trying to compare players to one another became a blood-boiling pet peeve, but if I see a bad comparison, I have to step into my subconscious and repeat Jay-Z’s classic line above to avoid destroying the ignorance.
Instead, it’s more constructive to take to the Illini sports platform I’m lucky enough to contribute to. So, as Brad Underwood scours the country for talent, what kind of players is he looking to bring in, and which familiar names can you draw parallels to?
Player: Ayo Dosunmu, 6-4 lead guard
Comparison: Tyreke Evans
Illinois’ five-star signee is a tough guy to compare to others, not only because of his lofty rank and future expectations, but because his playing style is unique. He’s a very long 6-foot-4 and change guard known for elite body control, but unlike some other five-star guards of his body type, he doesn’t have great lift on his jumper or at the rim.
Instead, Ayo gets it done with his touch around the rim and ability to sidestep defenders on his way to creating.
While Tyreke Evans had an NBA body before even entering Memphis and had more explosion in his springs, there are a lot of similarities that I see between both players. Like Evans, Dosunmu is going to have to keep working on his jumper to open up other areas of his game, and pick and choose when it’s time to force the issue or play the role of combo-guard and run the offense.
Player: Alan Griffin, 6-5 wing
Comparison: Justin Minaya
Justin Minaya received late interest from Orlando Antigua last year, but South Carolina and Frank Martin closed the deal. Both Minaya and Griffin provide a lot of intangibles, what with Griffin being a coach’s kid and Minaya being a baseball GM’s kid. Along with those traits, both guys have similar body types and do-it-all-type games. Neither guy is going to explode past you on the dribble, but you don’t mind either one of them bringing the ball up on the wing.
Neither guy is an elite athlete, but they’ll shift gears and blow by you if you aren’t sitting down in a stance. Minaya filled the stat sheet as a freshman and was able to contribute in all facets. I’m not sure of the role that Griffin will carve out next season — too much is still in the air — but I’m certain these guys have a ton in common.
Player: Samba Kane, 6-11 center
Comparison: Gorgui Dieng
One rule of player comparison is, don’t fall in love with only comparing people to their creed, appearance or origin. Unfortunately for those rules, Dieng just happens to fit so well for Samba Kane.
In both size and stage of development entering college, Gorgui Dieng just feels right for Samba Kane. Dieng was always the model for what today’s college basketball center could be: Tall, long, athletic, and skilled out to the elbows. Of course, as you know, with Dieng at Louisville and now in the NBA, that’s a best-case-development scenario. Hopeful comparisons get a lot less ink, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to watching tape and still coming away with these thoughts.
Player: Giorgi Bezhanishvili, 6-9 forward
Comparison: Boris Diaw
Passing, passing, passing. Giorgi Beshivili has an uncanny ability to handle and pass for a 6-foot-9 guy, and he is the embodiment of what you think of European prospects. There isn’t too much video of him because he just came to the US this year, but luckily I live a few miles from his high school and was able to see a little of the young Austrian.
Like Diaw, he’ll need to shed a couple of the negative connotations that accompany that. A man of 6-9 with that strong body should set more screens and grab more rebounds, but the Diaw-level passing is apparent.
Player: Tevian Jones, 6-6, wing
Comparison: Mikal Bridges
Bridges is currently dominating at Villanova, but it took a few years to get there. He came in a highly ranked wing who had ridiculous length and solid athletics, then built himself into an NBA lottery pick. The tools that will put him in the league for a long time are shared with Jones, and as Illini fans have seen over the last few years, size and hops can’t be taught.
I’m nervous that Illinois has led for Jones for so long and hasn’t landed him, so I won’t go too crazy over this video, but is he perfect for what ales Illinois or what?
Player: Courtney Ramey, 6-3, point guard
Comparison: Gary Payton
As the dream recruit left on the board, Courtney Ramey reminds me of The Glove with his willingness to stop the opposing team’s best player and win at all costs. Ramey would be the perfect guy for Brad Underwood’s offense and culture, and will also be the toughest to land.