Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports
Late to the recruiting party because of the situation that Jim Weaver put the staff in, and short on quality domestic options, the Hokies basketball program has once again found an overseas option that they are high on. That option: Malik Mueller, a German guard whose commitment gave the Hokies a nice Valentine's Day present and likely rounds out the 2013 recruiting class.
Mueller, unranked by any of the four major U.S. recruiting sites, is however ranked by one of the premier European ranking sources: Eurobasket. Unfortunately, what they have to say about him is not very complementary. Based on a five-star scale (just like U.S. sites do), Mueller is ranked a 2-star on his skills level. His potential is apparently his best asset, as he is ranked a 3.5-star (yes I know, weird that they do that). His remaining attributes (based on the rankings) appear to be underwhelming, as he gets half a star in both rebounding and defense, and is only awarded 1.5-stars in scoring.
These highlights are from the U-18 International Tournament in Manchester, England. First off, before passing any judgement, the German team in this competition is U-17 playing against opponents who are U-18 (according to the video). But Mueller is actually U-16 at the time, so he's playing against players two years above him. So keep that in mind when watching. He's quite a bit stockier than I imagined from his image on Eurobasket.
Here are the things I realized when watching this highlight tape:
- He's not blazing fast, that's for sure. Looks slow.
- Completely out of control, going to get called for a lot of charges.
- Not a great handle on the ball.
- He is a pretty nifty looking passer.
- Good looking form on his shot.
- Awkward. Having watched a more awkward looking player going to a BCS conference school since I broke down the tape on Marquise Williams (albeit a football player).
- Looks like he's jogging up and down the court.
- Not very good with lateral movement.
- The way he runs the floor in transition, especially on a breakout, he's going to...how do I put it...get his shit rejected several times in the ACC when someone runs down the play from behind.
- Has great arm extension when rebounding and looks like a good rebounder for a guard.
- The level of play he's facing is not so good. WOOF.
- Would definitely benefit from a redshirt year.
- Also, fire whoever is doing his tape. Seriously? Why do we have 30 second long lapses where there is no highlight to be found and it's a completely uninspiring play? It's like "look at this guy pull a complete derp while the guy you're supposed to be watching looks on from the other side of the floor." REALLY!? GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER HIGHLIGHT GUY!
- One of the most troubling things about him is that he absolutely REFUSES to move off the ball. He finds his spot and stays there as a spectator. If his team happens to find him, fantastic, he's a knock down shooter from deep. If not? Good luck everybody else. Enjoy playing 4-on-5. It's a Cardinal sin to sit in the same spot on offense, because you're making the player who's guarding you guard a spot. As long as he knows you're there, he can go as far away as he wants as long as he knows he can get back.
I found this video showing a few select highlights from the Jordan Brand Classic he played in at Madison Square Garden. These highlights impressed me much more, as you can see him with a wide, delayed crossover, a turnaround fadeaway and a mid-range jumper, the first I've seen from him.
Here is a highlight video of him (if you can call it that) from the FIBA U-17 World Cup in Hamburg, Germany, presumably on or around July 5, 2010. He looks a great deal faster, but still out of control, and with a poor handle, as you can see he has to pick up his dibble several times, something that won't fly in the ACC. He misses every shot attempt in this video, and there's nothing revolutionary about this one, but I am beginning to feel more confident about him as I see him playing against the likes of Spain and not looking completely out of place.
You may be thinking at this point, "well, it's not really fair to grade a 18-year old on the player he was two years ago." And I get that. Which is why I was glad I found this video from December 4, 2012. And if you watched the three videos from above, you can absolutely tell that he has evolved as a player. First off, and for me the most noticeable difference: he has much better floor speed and a much better handle than he did in the previous videos. He also is much more assertive offensively. For the first time in these highlight videos, we're seeing movement off the ball! Atta kid!
He's looking more like a combo guard, but if I had to lean one way, I'd say he's more of a shooting guard than a point. His defensive intensity has also improved, as we're seeing him D guys up, not simply steal their cookies whenever they do something stupid with the ball. He's just an all-around smarter and better player, as you would expect him to be.
Perhaps I was a little harsh on Malik early on, but not knowing if this was the only tape on him at the time, I can say I freaked out almost to the point of hyperventilation knowing this kid was going to be playing for the Hokies. Now, I see why. I don't know if he'll ever be a star, but he is at least an interesting option who will at the very least provide the Hokies with another body (particularly one that's a guard)and some scoring punch. He may still benefit from a redshirt (as most international players do) to adjust to the game, but he also may be pressed into action because of the Hokies roster situation (depending on what happens between now and the start of next season). After all, Joey van Zegeren did the same (though not by choice) and ending up going from looking like Bambi to a productive, contributing post player for the Hokies. He may not be much, but there's a stark difference between the JVZ of last year and this year, and that redshirt year is why. And while I'm a xenophobe when it comes to basketball, I would much rather see the Hokies take a flyer on an international player with international experience than a domestic kid that may be more of a sure thing (which doesn't necessarily mean good, just you know what you've got) but has a lower ceiling.
As for a projection of what kind of player Mueller will become? Well, in the first couple videos he looked a lot like an early version of former Hokie Markus Sailes, which isn't a ringing endorsement except to someone like me who lauds glue guys who are simply solid contributors. Sailes was that guy. He wasn't spectacular at anything. He was a good passer, a good ball-handler, a solid defender and a guy you could throw out there and count on to not screw things up. But as I watched his offensive game evolve (literally) throughout the videos, I'm thinking he's a lot more like A.D. Vassallo, which any Hokie would know was glowing praise from a basketball standpoint. So is it fair to say I think he'll be somewhere in between the two? Even if it's closer to the former, Sailes put together a career that was well worth a scholarship. So I'm looking at Mueller from that benchmark, fair or unfair. Anything less and we'll be second-guessing the decision to offer him a scholarship. Anything more is icing.
Also as a bonus, you can check out Mueller's team playing in the 2011 Arby's Classic (or 2010, the video's not sure and unfortunately the Arby's Classic archives are incomplete). There's not much here, but if you're of the "I want to hear bad commentary/rap thrown together haphazardly set to basketball," then this video is for you. Also, I should've warned you that if you are easily offended by profanity, you probably shouldn't watch most of these videos. Is it too late for that? Aw shucks. What can you do?
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