O’Connell has written for NCAA basketball for the Associated Press since 1978 and has just recently completed his 3,000th game writeup for the wire service. His CV is way too long to detail here, but let’s just say it culminates with entry into the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s Hall of Fame in 2002.
So who better, BiE figured, to get some insight from on a handful of European prospects in American college basketball in 2012-13? Below run O’Connell’s insights into Patrick Auda of the Czech Republic; Patrick Heckmann and Elias Harris of Germany; Deniz Kilicli of Turkey; and Will Yeguete of France – plus video clips!
(Teaser: O’Connell reckons one of these guys is destined for an all-American-level year…)
Patrick Auda, Seton Hall: “I saw him play probably 10 times in person last year, and he was one of those guys who improved throughout the season … he’s gonna be a big factor for Seton Hall this year. They lost their inside player [Herb Pope], they lost their guard [Jordan] Theodore – they’re gonna have to change the way they play and [Auda’s] going to be a big factor for them … he’s a great outside shooter.”
Patrick Heckmann, Boston College: “[BC] is coming along. They brought in a coach with such a different style: Steve Donahue, who came in there from Cornell after they fired Al Skinner. It’s almost as though they have to wait for Skinner’s players to leave the program, because none of them fit in with what Donahue wants to do.
“I think Heckmann’s going to get a lot more minutes [this season], but what’s going to hurt him is that a lot of those minutes are going to come in the ACC, with so many good players. I think you’re gonna have to give him another year to adjust … I think next year you’ll see BC playing Donahue’s style and [Heckmann] fits into that style.”
Elias Harris, Gonzaga: “A big-time player. There were games last year when he took over for them … he’s that kind of Gonzaga player [about whom] everyone says, ‘How’d we miss him?’” The Gonzaga program is really one of learning and Harris has done that. I’m looking for him to have a big year, maybe getting on to one of the three All-America teams.
Deniz Kilicli, WVU: “He’s a big tough kid who probably shoots the three a little bit more than [coach] Bob Huggins wants, but … he’s such a tough guy and he fits Huggins’ program perfectly. West Virginia moving to the Big 12 out of the Big East [is important]. I think the Big 12 is going to be a better conference for a kid like [Kilicli] because everybody in the Big East tends to have that banger, that big guy that can go after people. The Big 12 doesn’t play that kind of game — the Big 12 is more of an open-court game and i think a kid like Kilicli can get open and hit some shots and then go inside and use his strength to do things that way … when you’re an individual inside/outside guy, you make your team so much better … I think he’s improved his basketball and his English-language skills.”
Will Yeguete, Florida: “He didn’t get a whole lot of minutes last year, but this year [Florida] is in transition … if a guy like [coach] Billy Donovan brings you in because he sees something in you, I’ve got to trust that. I didn’t see a lot of [Yeguete] last season, so I don’t want to comment on him too much…”