Cameroon native Joel Embiid of the Kansas Jayhawks has been improving with each game this season and had his best performance to date this week against New Mexico. His play against the Lobos is why Embiid has been named NetScouts Basketball’s International Player of the Week for games through December 15, 2013.
The 7-foot freshman center finished with a career-high 18 points, as he was 5-of-6 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. He also chipped in six rebounds and four blocks in the 80-63 victory on Saturday.
“We need to play him all the time,” Bill Self told Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star after the contest. “But the more he plays, the less time he’s going to spend in Lawrence. So I’m not sure it’s a real wise decision for me to do this. But he’s got to play.”
No matter how often Self plays Embiid from here on out, the big man who has drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon will likely be entering the NBA draft after his freshman year. He’s climbing up draft boards with each game as he only started playing basketball three years ago. Embiid is filled with upside, but he’s already a very good prospect.
With a lengthy, 7-foot frame, Embiid can dominate in the post on both ends of the floor. He has good moves on the block including shoulder shakes that end with a jump hook over either shoulder. Embiid has good footwork and hands to help his exceptional offensive game. On the defensive end of the floor, Embiid uses his size and athleticism to block or alter shots. Although he’s still raw with areas to improve, his progress from the start of the year to now has been enormous.
Embiid may have moments where he looks like the best player in college basketball, but he also has spurts of inconsistency. He’s only averaging 9.8 points per game this season, which is a small figure compared to most lottery picks. Embiid has also been in foul trouble all year. He has had four or more fouls in seven of ten games this season that limited his time and effectiveness on the floor. Although he blocks 2.4 shots per game, he averages 3.6 fouls. Embiid has a tendency to fall for ball fakes, which can cause for him to be stuck in the air and pick up a foul.
Nonetheless, Embiid’s rapid improvement was validated in the win over New Mexico. With 18 points in only 25 minutes of action, it’s safe to bet that this won’t be his career-high for very long. He’ll be in contention for the top overall selection in this year’s draft and if he continues to improve at this rate, the sky’s the limit for Embiid’s career.
Cameron Schott is a Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.