Jimmy Dykes: "Joel Embiid reminds me more of Hakeem Olajuwon than anyone I've seen in the last 25 years."— Jonathan Tjarks (@JonathanTjarks) December 7, 2013
These are the kind of things people are saying about Kansas freshman Joel Embiid, who came into college nearly as hyped as teammate Andrew Wiggins. A 19-year old from Cameroon, Embiid only started playing basketball three years ago. That would be in 2011, a year after "The Decision."
Embiid is obviously still a little raw, but all it takes is one look to see his next-level talent:
That's 7-feet, 250-pounds getting down in a defensive stance. He doesn't need the switch because he thinks he can stay with the point guard.
Put a guy with his size, length (7'5 wingspan) and athleticism in the middle of the lane and predictable results occur:
You can see his volleyball background there. Embiid is averaging two blocks per game, but he's also averaging an outrageous 3.6 fouls over just 19 minutes per game. He wasn't called for a foul on that play, but you can also see why he's been a magnet for whistles.
On the offensive end of the floor, Embiid already shows a surprisingly strong feel for the game. Here's a basic little spin move in the first half of their loss to Florida on Tuesday:
Will Yeguete (6'8, 230) has no chance of physically matching up with Embiid, but to be fair, there aren't many guys in the country who can.
It wasn't long before Billy Donovan decided to go into a zone Tuesday evening, which has and will continue to happen a lot against Kansas this year. The Jayhawks don't have a lot of outside shooting and their point guard play is very questionable. Florida sat in a zone, kept Wiggins out of transition and made Kansas try and beat them over the top.
As a result, Embiid rarely got the chance to go against man coverage in the post, but he did showcase the ability to pass out of a double team:
He may have forced that a bit, but his ability to feel help coming and read the defense is still impressive.
Look at this move Embiid makes to get Wiggins an open three:
That doesn't look like someone who just picked up the game three years ago.
Embiid finished with six points, six rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal. Those could be the kind of numbers he puts up this year if teams continue to successfully zone Kansas. Wiggins will need to keep taking and making outside shots, otherwise teams will just shrink the floor against the Jayhawks.
Kansas' major problem right now is at point guard, which could prevent Embiid from being the recipient of too many nice entry passes. Here's him getting a nice feed off an inbounds play:
That's a chin-up at the rim.
I wasn't alive when "Phi Slamma Jamma" was around, so I can't speak to some of the comparisons floating around out there. In terms of recent prospects, I could see Embiid being like Andre Drummond and Steven Adams as a rookie, putting up better numbers when he can play in space with better guards.
Embiid is the kind of prospect NBA GMs can dream big about. He also picked the right school, since Bill Self is one of the best coaches in the country at developing big men. Watch how much better Embiid is in three months than he is right now.
Self has won nine straight Big 12 regular season championships for a reason; his teams get better as the year goes on. I'm just as curious as everyone else to see where Wiggins is in three months, but I'm really curious to see where Embiid will be.