Wednesday, July 2, 2008

TKR Breakdowns: Micah Downs

When Micah Downs went to Kansas his freshman season, many Gonzaga fans breathed a sigh of relief. Downs had a bad reputation coming out of Juanita High School in Washington. Observers claimed that he was a "me" first player, his dad was crazy, and he would ruin a team. Micah Downs shut each and every one of those people up with his "prodigal son" like return to Gonzaga. The Kirkland product tested the water at Kansas, and he got a good amount of minutes, but he never got comfortable. He came to Gonzaga and had to sit out a season due to eligibility rules but even though he was off the court he had every Zag fan on the edge of their seat. As his senior season approaches, Micah is poised for a big season. He as much talent as anyone that has walked into the McCarthey Center, the question still remains, however, if he can exploit that talent on a consistent basis.

Strengths: Micah Downs was a McDonald's All-American in high school, meaning that the kid could flat out score. Everyone knew it but what Downs has consistently shown in his years at Gonzaga is that he can play some great defense. Micah along with recently departed Larry Gurganious, have been two of the best defenders that Gonzaga has seen. His ability to guard stronger players in the interior as well as face up guards on the perimeter makes Micah a very valuable asset for Gonzaga. Like Austin Daye, Micah has a long and lanky physique which has helped him greatly. Micah is someone that does all of the "little things" or intangibles. He may not score in loads (only 8 ppg last season) and he may not be on highlight reels but he's a player that will tip a rebound back out to a guard to reset the offense or injure his wrist but still come out and finish the game out (true story). He just does things to help his team win, and the fact that he is a freak athlete doesn't hurt either. Anyone knows about Micah Downs knows that he has an incredible motor and has made some "WOW!" type plays. He has great hops which had led to some insane blocked shots and dunks. There is no doubt that Micah brings so many values to this team, many of which never really show up on stat sheets.

Room for Improvement: In order to completely understand the "weaknesses" in Micah's game, it's necessary to understand that he has been plagued by injuries. He, along with seemingly every other Gonzaga player, has spent some time in a boot and he has also suffered through a nagging wrist injury. Both these injuries have interrupted his tenure at Gonzaga or at least made it very uncomfortable at times. One of the things which has been hurt by the injuries or has just failed to get better is his inconsistent shooting. He came out of high school as one of the better shooters in his class and even in his first season at Gonzaga, he exhibited some deadly outside shooting. This past season, either by desire or by doubt, Downs shifted his focus from taking over games, to helping with the little things. Zag fans expected Downs to be a key force in their success as far as scoring the ball but he contributed in other ways. He came off the bench most games and many fans were surprised by his lack of minutes during some games. One thing I would love to see Micah get back on offense is that killer instinct. This is a seemingly team-wide problem outside of a few players but Micah played with such an edge in high school and early in college where if he was struggling, he would just keep shooting. Gonzaga needs that. Micah is one of the most mentally tough Gonzaga players and for this team to have success, he has got to show it.

Projected Role: Much like Steven Gray and Robert Sacre, it is hard to say where Micah fits in regarding the starting lineup. Many think he should be a starter but it depends on what lineup Coach Few is comfortable with. Their would realistically be several starting lineups that I would take no issue with and many include Micah Downs. I believe that it is hard for Micah to come off the bench and score. He is a streaky shooter and has to get off early or he will struggle. He started for the first 10 or 12 games of the year last year and I hope he is given the same opportunity this season. With the arrival of Austin Daye and his projected big season, it will be interesting to see how Few uses Downs and if we see lineups with Daye and Micah. If we do, they will be dangerously athletic and very long.

Summer Assignment: Micah needs time to get his body completely healthy; something he hasn't been in quite some time. Much like was written about Matt Bouldin, Micah has got to find a way to develop consistent shooting before it is too late. Downs is a true competitor and he should be on the court during crunch time because he plays with such an edge, but you can bet he won't be if he is not producing. He has to spend time shooting and shooting and shooting. He's already a great passer, rebounder, athlete and his body has probably filled out as much as it will so he must develop his shot. He's got a beautiful stroke and when he is hot, no one is going to shut him down. All the coaching staff has to do is find a way to unleash him consistently.

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