On Friday night, Sam had a chance to watch 2013 Michigan commit Mark Donnal play for Anthony Wayne (Ohio) against Maumee. Here is his evaluation of the recruit Michigan will be getting next season.
Strengths: If Nik Stauskas is the wing shooter that John Beilein craves in his offense, Mark Donnal is the stretch four/five man that the coach is drooling over. Donnal is listed at 6’10″ right now but is closer to 6′8″ with a body that is nearing college-ready. His arms are not extremely long, but he has the length to be a good defender and an adept blocker, and showed that with one huge rejection in the second half. And while Donnal is probably facing guys that are giving up four to five inches night in and night out, Maumee fans wore t-shirts reading “Three 6’6″ Mafia” to acknowledge the trio of 6’6″ big men on the Panthers’ roster.
The Three 6’6″ Mafia’s size, however, was simply no match for Donnal’s inside-out game. The 2013 Michigan signee did the majority of his damage down low early on, posting up in the heart of Maumee’s 2-3 zone and showcasing an array of moves to lead his team to a 34-21 halftime lead with 18 points and eight rebounds. His inside go-to move was a post catch with a quick spin to his right and easy finish on the left hand side of the bucket using nice touch off the glass. He also had one very nice spin to his left that resulted in a beautiful fade-away swish from the elbow. If Donnal can consistently make the shot, he will be nearly unstoppable regardless of who is guarding him.
Donnal also proved that he has the muscle to finish through contact and was very comfortable from the free throw line, making six of his seven attempts there despite constant jeers of “OVERRATED” coming from the small contingent of Maumee students that made the trip to Whitehouse, Ohio. By the time it was clear that Donnal would not be stopped, the Maumee cheers turned into “UNDERRATED” chants from Anthony Wayne’s student section, and rightfully so. Donnal missed his only three-point look in the first half, content to do his work in the post, but as Maumee continued to pack in the lane in an attempt to stop him, Donnal simply slid outside and showcased the three-point shot that undoubtedly sparked Beilein’s interest in the first place.
Big men aren’t usually adept from beyond the arc, and even when they are, their shots are generally not pretty. That is simply not the case with Donnal, however, as his smooth stroke looks like that of a guard’s. His catch-and-release shot is very quick, he gets plenty of air under his feet when he shoots, and his shooting motion is as pure as I’ve ever seen from a big man. With the pick-and-roll featuring so prominently in Beilein’s offense these days, expect Donnal to be involved heavily in pick-and-pop actions, which are so difficult to defend with a big man that can shoot.
His athleticism was also on display in the second half when he threw down two rim-rattling alley-oops and then had a beautiful drive and monstrous dunk late in the game that left the whole backboard shaking until Anthony Wayne regained possession on the other end. Donnal is certainly not a great athlete, but he has enough bounce to scare you. He also runs the floor well and has great hands in transition, but his speed will never be a huge asset.
Along with his overall scoring touch, Donnal did a great job gaining inside position when shots went up on the defensive end and showcased a soft pair of hands, cleaning up every board that was within his vicinity. He wasn’t overly aggressive on the offensive glass, but his defensive rebounding was very advanced. On a couple occasions, Donnal also showed off some nice handles for a big man and even tried leading the break once or twice a la Mitch McGary, but stopped that when he turned it over one time and heard it from his coach.
Donnal’s court vision was another plus, as he was able to find the open man on the perimeter on a couple occasions when the inside was congested, leading to a couple assists. He was also featured prominently in the press-break late when his team was struggling to get the ball over half court. He used his vision and height to make a couple very nice outlet passes that led to easy press breaks.
Weaknesses: It is really tough to find any weaknesses in Donnal’s offensive game at this point. Three of his six misses were from deep, and one of those was a half-court heave at the buzzer. Every shot he took looked like it was going in, and most did.
The biggest thing Donnal will have to improve on-court is his defense. He never stood out as a defensive liability on Friday night, but he didn’t show the aggressiveness I would have loved to see on that end and only recorded one block. Donnal mostly sat at the bottom of Anthony Wayne’s 2-3 zone and was rarely challenged inside, but there were a couple occasions where his feet plodded and he was blown by or shot over by smaller guys. He didn’t record a single foul in the game, which shows me that he needs to be a little more assertive in going for blocks when he can.
There were also a couple of decision-making gaffes that Donnal will have to improve on in college. He turned the ball over three times in this game and will need to know when he can make the fancy pass or lead the fast break and when to slow things down, all which are easily taught.
Outlook: Donnal will arrive in Ann Arbor this summer welcomed by a jam-packed front court that already features Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary, Jon Horford, and Max Bielfeldt. There is no question that Donnal brings a unique skill set into the equation, and one that especially Beilein covets, but at this point I would guess he redshirts to have a full year of college under his belt. It’s entirely possible that Donnal could work his way into the rotation, but a year in the weight room and practicing against experienced big men could do wonders for his game on both ends of the floor. After that redshirt year, Morgan will be gone, McGary could very well have developed enough to leave early, and Horford and Bielfeldt will be a redshirt senior and a redshirt junior, respectively. Donnal should really be able to work his way into the lineup at that point and should be the starting four or five (depending on who else Michigan signs) by the time his third year rolls around, at which point I expect him to be one of Michigan’s leading scorers and a force in the Big Ten.
For a college basketball coach, recruiting is a non-stop job duty, the lifeblood of each team. As we continue to develop our college basketball coverage here at Maize and Go Blue, we are going to look to include recruiting as often as possible. When we analyze recruiting, we hope to not only give you an idea of the future of Michigan basketball, but also provide scouting reports on up-and-coming high school talent of today as we constantly wrestle with the questions of who is worth the hype and who is worthy of a coveted offer.
Our first scouting report, then, comes on 2014 guard/forward A.J. Turner out of De La Salle High in Warren Mich. I caught him in the championship game of last week’s holiday tournament in Grand Rapids going up against Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Turner reportedly struggled a little bit the previous night with John Beilein in the house, only managing about seven points in an easy 60-51 win over Lowell, but he came back with a strong performance on Friday to claim tournament MVP honors after leading his team to a 49-36 victory in the finals. Here is a look at Turner’s strengths and weaknesses in the game I attended:
Strengths: The first thing that jumps out about Turner is his body type. While listed around 6’7″ in some places, he looks closer to 6’5″ with a couple inches of hair on top, but his long arms and lanky frame ooze potential. Turner is probably the tallest and most athletic guy on the Pilots roster, but he brings the ball up the court every time like a point guard even though he projects to be a wing at the next level. He easily won the jump ball to start the game off and helped lead his team to a quick 14-3 first quarter advantage despite a poor shooting start that saw him make only one of his seven first half attempts (1-of-3 3-pt.). Turner’s shooting stroke from deep is very smooth, and his release point and rotation are fine. He also showcased some nice court vision with a few longer passes and recorded three assists in the first half to go along with one rebound and a monster rejection.
With a comfortable 25-15 halftime lead filled with very slow play, De La Salle was well on its way to winning the game, but Turner finally flashed some of his scoring potential in the third quarter to help stretch the lead. In those eight minutes, Turner made five of six field goals for 10 points and grabbed two rebounds while turning the ball over once. His makes came in a variety of ways, including a very nice mid-range turn-around fade away that hit nothing but nylon and a couple nice give-and-go finishes at the basket. Turner also showed off his sneaky athleticism with a monster breakaway dunk. The ease with which he rose up and threw down the one-handed slam was quite impressive, and even though he didn’t particularly stand out for his hops, he certainly has some spring when needed.
In the fourth quarter Turner was a little more aggressive on offense, drawing five free throws, and he made his one and only attempt from the floor (another dunk) to finish the game with 15 points (7-of-14 FG, 1-of-3 3-pt.), four rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, and two blocks.
Weaknesses: There were a couple things that I wanted to see a little more of out of the skinny junior prospect. First off, it was clear that Turner was the best athlete on the floor, but he was rarely aggressive with the ball in his hands despite this advantage. I thought he showed a little bit of a lack of urgency when bringing the ball up court and rarely blew by his man early on to create quick, easy buckets for himself or for teammates. Overall his ball-handling was fine, but he certainly could work on it a bit. He dribbles a little high at times and seemed to struggle to get past pressure one-on-one defense while bringing it up, partially due to an apparent lack of proficiency with his left hand. I was happy to see him look for his shot in the third quarter after settling for a few threes in the first half, but I still think he’s a guy that should be shooting 20 times a game right now. The four turnovers he coughed up need to go down a bit as well and, like most high school players, he could add some good weight to his frame.
Lastly, Turner needs to work on his free throw shooting. He went 0-of-5 from the line on Friday night, and even though his stroke looked fine and a couple just rimmed out, he seemed to let his misses get to his head. I know he can be a good free throw shooter based off other video, but he needs to consistently knock down the freebies, especially if he is to become a more aggressive driver.
Outlook: Right now John Beilein has two offers on the table for the class of 2014, one to Mississippi guard Devin Booker and another to Indiana wing Trevon Blueitt. I expect Michigan to continue to evaluate Turner’s game as a potential secondary option for the class, and if things don’t work out for either Booker or Blueitt, Turner could be a prime candidate for an offer if he continues to improve. If he does get that offer, things look good for Michigan.