Wednesday, June 25, 2008

TKR Breakdowns: Andy Poling

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest is the last member of Gonzaga’s 2008 recruiting class. When Andy Poling committed to Gonzaga, he was one of the hottest players in the nation. After his sophomore season at Westview High School in Oregon, Poling was one of the top centers in the nation as rated by Rivals. He earned second team all state in Oregon and led his team to the state semifinals. Then a nasty illness struck which stripped 30 pounds from Poling’s frame and significantly hurt his high school career.

Strengths: Around the NBA Draft time, it feels necessary to be talking about Poling because he is loaded with upside. Most of his upside comes from his excellent length. He is nearly 7 feet tall and has a very large wingspan meaning that he has the ability to challenge shots as well as grab long rebounds. He has always been characterized as lanky and for the Zags, this could be a very good thing. Another positive thing about Andy is that he is extremely advanced offensively. He was a scoring machine in high school when he was healthy. He has an outstanding feel for where he is on the court especially in the post. He is an excellent fit for what Gonzaga needs because he has a variety of post moves and a very smooth hook shot in the paint. The bulldogs have struggled to find a back to the basket big man since the departure of J.P. Batista. Like the other Zag recruits, Poling has a very high basketball IQ. He is a student of the game and really respects the history of the game and plays like an old time center. He is an excellent scorer not because he is the most athletic but because he knows how to play the game the right way.

Room for Improvement: Before Poling came down with his mysterious illness, he had very few areas where he required serious improvement. Now that he is barely 200 pounds, strength has become a huge issue for Poling. He must dedicate himself to the weight room if he is going to be a successful interior presence for Gonzaga. If he can add all of that lost weight back, Poling is going to be a force but if he stays slim, he is really going to struggle in the future. Going along with Poling’s overall lack of strength right now is his lack of defensive presence. He is notorious on the offensive side of the court but is a below-average defender. Obviously, an increased presence will come with an increase in his weight but it must also be a mental change. Gonzaga needs defenders in the low blocks, especially with the type of non-conference foes they take on. The last thing he needs to do is continue staying healthy. No one ever really found out for sure what his illness was but hopefully it is not recurring. If he stays healthy, he should be on the fast-track to success at Gonzaga.

Projected Role: Poling is the most likely candidate to redshirt his freshman year. He is coming off the illness, he is not physically where he needs to be and a year off could really benefit him. He could focus most of his time to adding strength and getting all of his confidence back. Gonzaga will be thin in the interior as the departure of Kuso really hurts but they still have Josh Heytvelt, Robert Sacre and Will Foster. Ira Brown can also double as a power forward because of his size and Gonzaga is probably going to have to play small this year because of the lack of bigs.

Summer Assignment: WEIGHT ROOM. Poling has to become a gym rat. Strength is the key to getting him back to his old self where he dominated Oregon high school basketball as well as in the AAU ranks. Aside from that, he needs to continue perfecting his post moves and developing faster footwork but everything with Poling stops and starts in the gym. I wouldn’t mind if he even set up a cot in weight room.

Possible Nickname: A friend of the Kennel Report has suggested “Smooth Criminal”

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