When the 2007 recruiting class was announced, all eyes immediately turned to Austin Daye. Daye, was arguably the most decorated recruit to ever sign with GU out of high school, and was even a 5 star recruit according to rivals. After an incredible senior year in high school, in which Daye averaged over 30 points and 10 rebounds, many people were curious to see how Daye's game would translate at the college level. To be completely honest, Daye surpassed my lofty expectations with an incredible freshman year, that firmly established him as an NBA lottery pick whenever he declares. Any GU fan will remember his unbelievable debut against Montana, when he started his career off with a double-double. His strong play continued throughout the season, and despite some inconsistency in playing time, Daye emerged as the best pure scorer on the team.
Strengths: No discussion about Austin Daye can occur without mentioning his incredible offensive game. Despite his slight frame, there is literally nothing Daye cant do with the ball in his hands. Despite playing only 18 minutes per game, he ended up 3rd on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points per game. What makes Daye so outstanding on the offensive end is the multiple ways he can score the basketball. Throughout the season, we were treated to a player who was as likely to shoot a 3 in the defenders eye, as he was to post up a smaller player. What makes Austin so difficult to guard is the matchup problems he causes. If you put a small forward on him, Austin is so tall and has such long arms, that he will take the defender to the post and dominate him. If you put a power forward on him, then Austin can take him off the dribble and finish at the rim, or pull up and hit a 3 in the eye of the defender. Having a father who played in the NBA has allowed Austin to develop a great understanding of the game. On the offensive end, Austin is incredible passer, and 9 times out of 10 will make the pass to the right person, or make the correct decision on whether to shoot or pass. Because of his size, Austin is a great weapon to pass the ball into the post, and play a high/low game with. This understanding of the game also helps him on the defensive end. Despite not being the most intense defender, he knows where to be on the court, and how to use his great size and wingspan to disrupt shots and grab rebounds.
Room for improvement: Despite possessing an incredible offensive game, Daye could take it to even another level with added strength. When matched up against a quick power forward, Daye often struggled, because the defender could muscle him around and take Austin out of his game. With added strength, Daye would become an even better finisher in the paint, as well as a better player in the post. It would also help him greatly on the defensive end, where often times Austin would be pushed out of position for rebounds by stronger bigs. While Austin may never possess a whole lot of muscle on his long frame, it is vital that he adds strength to become a more complete player. I also believe that Austin could add some toughness to his game. When GU went up against very physical and athletic teams, Austin often struggled and had his minutes greatly reduced(8 minutes against Memphis, and 10 against UCONN). For him to make a huge impact against teams like Memphis and UCONN, Austin needs to not allow the physicality of these teams to hurt his game. I think a lot of this had to do with being a freshman and making this difficult adjustment, but for GU to reach its potential next season, Austin needs to be on the court and productive against teams that play with great physicality.
Projected Role: Depending on the rest of the starting lineup, we will likely see Austin starting at either the small forward or power forward. For this team to be as successful offensively as some of the past GU teams, the offense must run through Austin. Not only is he the teams best pure scorer, he is also one of the best passers at his position in the nation. He doesn't necessarily need to have a huge increase in his shots from this past season, but the ball must be in Austin's hands every possession, because he will deliver the ball to his teammates at the right place and at the right time. I anticipate that we will see lots of high/low basketball between Austin and either Heytvelt or Sacre, which will put those two post players in the position to have lots of great scoring opportunities.
Summer Assignment: Austin has two very clear things to do this summer. The 1st is get in the weight room. The more strength that Austin puts on, the more dominant he can be at both ends of the court. My other assignment for Austin is to emerge as a leader for this team. If Austin has the projected role that I predict he will, he will need to gain the trust of his teammates and emerge as a leader. There is no player more talented in college basketball then Austin, and with all the things he can do on the court, he must develop the trust of both the coaches and his teammates. As Coach Few has mentioned, we will never see the best of Austin at GU, because he wont reach his true potential for another 5 years. But next season, we could be blessed with one of the great talents in the college basketball world, and along with Sacre, one of the most important pieces to the success of next season.