"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, January 08, 2007

Recruit Report: Damian Saunders in action

Damian Saunders' Notre Dame Prep squad blew out South Kent Prep 101-86 in the 2007 Westchester Elite Winter Hardwood Classic at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York on Sunday. Head coach Bill Barton's squad is just loaded -- it was great to see so much talent on the court.

Damian Saunders (#32 for Notre Dame Prep) will help Marquette, intially as a defender and rebounder. He's not a scorer and projects to be a role player IMHO.

Saunders is a wiry yet strong athlete who runs well and works hard on the floor. Unfortunately yesterday he was slowed by foul trouble and injury. After collecting two fouls late in the first half, Saunders ended the game with four points (all from the charity stripe) and a handful of rebounds. He twisted his ankle midway through the second half and did not return. As you can see from the photo above, prior to the inury he demonstrated solid hops.

Saunders has the potential to be a beast on defense. For ND Prep, Saunders guards the inbounder and triggers his team's full court press. By my count he had five deflections, two steals and a blocked shot -- he's very active defensively and to a lesser degree on the offensive glass.

Saunders is an impressive athlete and a legit 6'7" if not more -- he's essentially the same height as teammate Michael Beasley (listed as 6'9"in some reports). The picture we have here of him guarding 6'9" Washington signee Matthew Bryan-Amaning (in white) is a good barometer of Damian's height.

Saunders has narrow shoulders and looks to be more of a 3/4 combo forward. I am just not sure he'll match up well as a one-on-one defender on the box. However he did effectively cover a variety of players yesterday, including the larger Bryan-Amaning, 6'10" Ayodele Coker (headed to St. Johns), and perimeter foes like Manual Cass, a 6'7" rifleman who is headed to UTEP.

Back to ND Prep. Saunders' squad is positively loaded -- he does not even start!

ND Prep is led by 6'8" Kansas State signee Michael Beasley, one of the best seniors in the country. Beasley and Saunders are joined on the team by 6'11" SU signee Sean Williams (was not in action yesterday), and a 6'5" jumping jack from NYC, Jamine Peterson. Several other players on the roster will end up on major college rosters in the coming years as well.

Beasley is a silky smooth lefty who's game looks effortless. He's the team leader on the floor -- barking out offensive sets and defensive assignments throughout. Beasley threw in the 30 points against South Kent, taking home MVP honors..

After the game ND Prep assistant coach Mike McMahon picked us out of the crowd (myself, my kids and another MU alum we met there were decked out in our full MU regalia) and stopped by for a chat.

McMahon, a former MU basketball team manager during his undergrad days, was quick to point out that we didn't see Damian Saunders at his best. McMahon said he's been a guaranteed double-double performer this season.

When asked why Saunders didn't start, McMahon indicated that this was standard for the team. Head coach Bill Barton believes that refs can be a bit quick with the whistle early in games, so he likes to bring Damian in after the game settles into a rhythm.

McMahon is a big believer in Saunders, thinks he's 'very good' and will help the MU program quickly.

Many thanks to Coach McMahon for his time yesterday afternoon -- and congratulations on the impressive win over a talented South Kent Prep squad.

Saunders is one of four players who comprise MU's freshmen class of 2007. He'll join guard Scott Christopherson, PF Trevor Mbakwe and PF Patrick Hazel on campus later this year.


Anonymous said...

Great post, it's always exciting to hear about new recruits! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

maybe he can hit a free throw. That would be nice.

Anonymous said...

I know they say he's a project, but hopefully he can become an improvement over what we already have since he's developing alongside Mbakwe and Hazel. Still, if he comes close to a double-double for a competitive prep squad his numbers are no different than that of Dwight Burke at that level. It's good to see he has some skills defensively besides taking up space, but hopefully he can develop enough offensively so MU will not keep continuing to put lineups on the floor with only 3 viable offensive options and two players who average 3 ppg or less.

Anonymous said...

I guess I would question that Damian is a legit 6'7" as I saw him at the Fish Fry dinner last fall standing alongside Jamil Lott and Dwight Burke. From what I saw, he is definitely about an 1 1/2" shorter than those two who are probably generously listed as 6'8". Nothing negative, but I would not get peoples' hope up too far here as far as size. The new reruits for 2007 are all somewhat undersized for the "4" and way undersized for the "5". We still need another true "big" or two.

Anonymous said...

Nice post on Saunders. I have been following this kid since middle school, and he just gets better every year. Hopefully he will continue to progress like his cousin Ryan Gomes(Boston Celtics). Although Damian was never a high scoring player, his defense is second to none. In high school he could out handle and was faster than most point guards.

Here is a link to his high school photo's in action. This kid can jump out of his shoes..