The common thing for us at Mid-Major Madness has been to save the highlight video for last in these NBA Draft profiles.
Then we came across Camel Vision's video of Eric Griffin.
You may have missed this because Griffin and Campbell play in the Big South, and there is not a lot of television coverage unless you live nearby one of those schools. This was the conference that gave us UNC-Asheville this season. There isn't a lot of hope for wins in the NCAA Tournament here.
But there were highlights, like the kind that Griffin put on against North Carolina A&T:
School: Campbell (Buies Creek, N.C.| Big South Conference)
Hometown: Orlando, Fla.
Accolades: 1st team All-Big South.
Team Record: 29-34
The other reason you may not know Eric Griffin is that this past year -- the one with those high-flying dunks -- was only his fifth year playing organized basketball. He somehow, despite the height, despite the athleticism, didn't make his high school team until he was a senior.
Then he spent two years in junior college before joining the Fighting Camels, who then played in the Atlantic Sun before shooting over to the Big South. In other words, he was easy to miss.
But once you see those dunks, and the ability for this still lanky, raw big man to move with the basketball, it is easy to understand why he is appearing on draft lists and teams are so eager to work him out.
Final Season Averages:
15.7 pts... 1.5 asts...8.6 rebs...2.4 blocks...2.7 turnovers..30.3 mins...61.0% FG...36.7% 3 PT...56.8% FT
Obviously the dunking ability is there and when Griffin is working near the basket (as you will see in his Campbell workout) he has the ability to get up and hammer the ball down.
But he also has great range, something that wasn't always in use for the Camels. He hit 36.7 percent of his 3-point attempts, and when you are talking the big guy that can step that far out for a jumper with consistency, that is a rare talent.
He also brings in the swat factor, pushing aside 2.4 shots per game, while corralling 268 rebounds during the season. This is a guy who knows how to work around the basket already, despite his relative rawness on the basketball court.
This showed up in Griffin's value numbers. On the defensive side, he was good for 20.5 points per 100 minutes -- rare air for any player, even the big men with the blocking talents. He used that to help generate a 6.86 HOOPWAR/30 score, which puts him in that next tier of big men after the Thomas Robinsons and Draymond Greens of the world.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Do we even need to mention the leaping ability that Griffin brings to the court? I can't help but think of the Clippers' Blake Griffin being just a little shorter, when I watch the highlights of Eric Griffin. Obviously the Campbell star would need to add some weight to his frame to get to to that level, but the same ability to get up and create the "Wow" factor is there. He adds in impressive range and rebounding skills, to go along with a quick first step and an ability to move with the ball. There is a lot of raw talent here to dream on.
And that is where the weakness lies. There is too much raw talent and so little time on the floor playing basketball for Griffin. While other players were developing skills during high school, he just wasn't playing. That doesn't mean he can't catch up (and maybe it will be easier now that he has stopped growing and can just learn in his current body), but he is behind the pack in terms of refined talent on the court.
He is wiry for his size. If we talk about Blake Griffin again for a second, Eric is giving up two inches and 50 pounds to the Clippers forward. That is a lot of size and weight to move off the block in the NBA. As with a lot of mid-major players, the strength and conditioning for the pro game will be a major part of him becoming an impact player at the next level.
Chad Ford has Griffin among the best 60 players available which should project into a second round pick by somebody.
The D-League exists, but in no way can you compare it with the minor league systems in hockey or baseball. It is too bad that there isn't a development league of the same caliber for basketball, because Griffin is the prototype of a player who would benefit the most from that system.
Here is a guy with all the raw talent in the world. He has the jumping ability and the shooting ability, but he needs time to learn the game and develop the strength he needs to succeed in the NBA. There is no reason to not dream on a talent like this and believe that he can make it happen.
At the same time, there is every reason to believe that riding the buses in the D-League, he won't get that opportunity to grow. Even in Europe, he isn't going to see the level of competition that he needs to improve.
It almost wouldn't be the worst thing for Griffin to be chosen in the second round, make the team, and then see only five minutes of action per game. In the rest of the time, he can learn the talents he needs to succeed while putting on that extra strength to really be a force in the NBA.
This is a rough diamond just waiting for a good chisel. Some team is going to put the polish on this gem and be very happy with the results.