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St. John's basketball 2008 Year In Review Part V-Dele Coker

Part 0: Opening | Part I: Team stats | Part II: Boothe | Part III: Burrell | Part IV: Cavataio

Dele Coker

(stats taken from, Statsheet, Ken Pomeroy's Basketball Prospectus, and my own calculations)

2007-2008: Freshman
Position: Forward, Center
Height: 6-10
Weight: 270 lbs
Age: 20 (03/18/1988)
Home: Newburgh, NY

Coker bats a shotDele Coker 2007-2008 Highs

High Points 6 (St.Fr.)
High Assists 1 (WVU, SHU, USF)
High Rebounds 6 (Duke)
High Minutes 20 (G'Town)
High FT Att 5 (G'Town)
High Blocks 2 (Uconn)
High Steals 2 (Duke)

Dele Coker was a great get for Coach Norm Roberts’ staff—a true center, which is hard to find, and a relatively coveted one at that. An aside; Dele Coker was one of the recipients of Kelvin Sampson’s infamous phone calls (along with DeJuan Blair) during his recruiting periods.

"Coveted" for a center usually still means "project." Looking back at the NBA draft before the age requirement, we see a landscape of mountain men drafted out of high school like Eddy Curry, and "potential" men drafted from college, like Patrick O’Brien.

What they had in common was that they did not regularly face the size and strength that they would on the next level. They were so large and dominant on their original levels that they had a hard time adjusting to the nuances of the game – getting the footwork right around the basket, tricks to getting to rebounds and reading the ball, how to get position against tough defenders who aren’t 6’2" to 6’5".

Coker has played a bit of basketball – he is now too old for the Nigerian under-19 team – but he is still a project. As most bigs are when they arrive at college, especially at the high-major level. He has a lot of warts on his game from the limited time we have been able to see him. The major issue is that he needs to play and play against high competition over the summer so the team sees what it has in him. He’s large, for sure, but watching him at the edge of the action live or on one’s television, it was obvious he didn’t quite know what he was doing on either end of the court. That earns a player about 10 minutes per game in conference play. Dele is like a home builder in Florida, he needs work. He also needs to play more than 4 minutes a game when he plays; the quick hook is part of what makes it so hard to evaluate what Coker could be.

Coker vs GeorgetownOn offense, he has to work on his positioning, and of course, how well he finishes at the basket. The old Red Storm paradigm of just get your hands on the ball won’t work anymore; Coach Roberts' forwards get offensive rebounds, tap the ball up, and play hard, but they have no touch in getting those shots in, which negates the effect of the rebound.

Dele has a 10-foot jumper that seems to work, but falling in love with that shot will take him farther from the basket, where he needs to own that paint. But from high school, he’s never been known as a scorer, though he gets to the free throw line with a regularity. He might want to shoot better than 44%, though.

On defense… this is where Coker needs to work. Opponents regularly got deep post position on him, negating his height advantage. And then he gives cheap fouls. The game against Notre Dame – where he defended Luke Harangody – was telling; he fought hard, pissed off the Big East Player of the Year, but only lasted 15 minutes. The fight is good, but sometimes Coker has to remember that the battle is won early, with preparation and positioning. He’s more likely to block a shot when he’s off the ball coming from the weak side than he is as his man is making a crafty move on him. Stay on the ground, big man!

But Coker, even out of position, is long, and pulls down rebounds when he plays. Extrapolating that 10 minutes per game in conference play to a full game, Coker would have averaged a decent 6 rebounds per game. Not a world beater, but a better rebound rate than anyone else on this team.

He offsets it with a per-40 minute average of 7 fouls per game. And this was the reduced foul rate from conference play. I do believe that would be over the NCAA mandated limit.

Overall, Dele Coker's always a little faster and quicker than I think, and he is strong, though he could use to hit the weight room and make sure that it's all muscle, not belly fat. I like how his hands are already better than Jasiulionis’. I hope Coker is good enough to leave Tomas on the bench waving the towel. Coker needs to stay on the ground unless absolutely necessary, confine reach-ins to situations where he can actually get the steal, keep his hands up, and clean that glass like a window washer. Even when he was recruited, all the interested parties knew Coker hadn’t come close to reaching the limits of his potential. He could surprise this year.

All Conf
Minutes Per Game 9.9 10.2
Effective FG Pct 32.7% 25.0%
FG Pct 32.7% 25.0%
3pt FG Pct - -
FT Pct 44.4% 33.3%
FT Rate 49.1% 46.9%
Points Per Game 1.7 1.3
Rebounds Per Game 2.4 2.3
Off Rebs Per Game 0.8 0.7
Def Rebs Per Game 1.7 1.6
Assists Per Game 0.2 0.2
Steals Per Game 0.2 0.1
Turnovers Per Game 0.6 0.4
Assist-Turnover Ratio 0.3 0.5
Blocks Per Game 0.5 0.4
Fouls Per Game 2.1 1.8