Seeking Council | The Weekend Warrior
PRELUDE: Every Team Needs an "OG" | FEATURING: Arkansas Razorback Wing, Ricky Council IV | PLUS: Weekend Warrior Awards
Every Team Needs an “OG”
Veteran players are often said to be immensely valuable to the success of a team. However, rosters constructed with a bunch of young players are usually the ones we get the most excited about. In the NBA, for instance, people in our corner of the basketball community make googly eyes at young teams like the Orlando Magic, the Houston Rockets, or the Oklahoma City Thunder. Draft Sickos especially love when teams decide to “blow it up”—when an organization commits to a rebuild, hoarding draft picks and selecting players that come with “potential.” But what some call potential, others—contenders—may refer to that as “red flags.” Waiting for potential to come to fruition may cause us draft fans to arrive at frustration, but winning teams often look to add ready-to-play prospects.
Even in college, we see that teams that are comprised predominately of freshmen oftentimes don’t make it too far come tournament time. Sure, these teams may have three—maybe four or five—prospects that will get drafted, but the ending of their season comes sooner than the more seasoned rosters. Those teams may continue to get these high-end prospects, and maybe that’s their top priority, but there is something to be said about the institutions that commit to building something that can go the distance. There’s something to be said about those that prioritize winning over a constant roster upheaval.
Now, I don’t want to sound like an “old head” here, but it can sometimes be hard not to get a little upset when I hear such an emphasis on age. You may be finding yourself saying: “Stephen, you’re in the wrong industry, bud.” I understand the fundamentals behind why having a player that is younger than most is enticing. The development curve is, theoretically, longer. The influence a team’s staff can have on their skill progression is more favorable. There are contract control benefits. I’m sure there are more positives that scouts, analysts, fans, and front offices could school me on why younger is “better.” But every team needs an “OG.”
I don’t mean that phraseology in its literal sense (fire up Urban Dictionary if you need to). What I mean is a player that is a locker room pillar. When I say “OG,” I mean players that have seen some…stuff. They are players that have typically been with either a coach, team, or both, for a number of years. They know how their league (professional or amateur) works—the ins and the outs. Players like PJ Tucker that are on the court chirping at their teammates can have a way with the team that coaches simply cannot. Udonis Haslem, who may as well be the Mayor of Miami, holds a roster spot because of his influence on the Heat’s culture—not necessarily due to his play. Holding people accountable and encouraging them when they need it: they are semi-professional psychologists. They are the voice of the coach on the court. Sometimes these players are well-traveled. Maybe their road to their success took unexpected turns. The grind made them who they are. Because of that, they know what it takes to make it. The best keep that hunger. They have an irrational sense of insecurity to where, even though they’ve made it and have financial stability, they play like someone is coming for their paycheck. They keep that fire in their belly.
Thanks to mechanisms that now exist in the NCAA, players have multiple paths to their ultimate goals. Bluebloods are still very prominent in the game. Though legendary hoop giants have recently retired, there are still coaches that dominate the recruiting ranks thanks to their ties to the league. With their ability to seemingly “stamp” their players with a mark of approval, NBA teams will give certain prospects real looks based on who they played for before the draft. Sometimes, these teams will overlook inefficiencies or underperforming seasons because of their standing among their peers prior to their college play. Front offices might come to the conclusion that a prospect may have had to sacrifice parts of their games to make room for other top-shelf, assumed “one-and-done” prospects.
And then the whole thing starts all over again with the next top-ranked recruiting class that the school brings in. The lack of stability impacts the team’s collective outcome, as well as the performance of these young players that are told they will shine in their role under these coaches. But, sometimes, these schools that bring in these top recruits also hit the transfer portal hard. The immediacy that the transfer portal can have on the floor of a team has proven to be just as valuable as recruiting high school players. In a very real way, it is essentially an expansion of the recruitment period—just with older players. The best coaches are now understanding that they cannot simply bring in a ton of freshmen, let them run free, and expect to win games. They need to recruit these “OG’s” because they understand their importance to a team of young, promising players. And that leads us to our featured prospect.
The Arkansas Razorbacks fit the mold of the team that just I described above. Coach Eric Musselman certainly recruited some blue-chip freshmen onto this loaded roster. Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black, and Jordan Walsh were the crème of the Arkansas crop of first-year players. Coach Musselman and his staff smartly targeted players in the transfer portal as well, knowing that these freshmen will need to learn from their experience. The recently-injured Trevon Brazile traveled across the Ozarks to play for this fast-paced team, and he made an immediate impact. Makhi Mitchell and Makhel Mitchell had previously transferred from Maryland to Rhode Island, then made another leap to play with the Hogs. Arguably the most impactful transfer has been today’s featured prospect, Ricky Council IV.
The former Wichita State product made the commitment to play for Arkansas over the summer and, in hindsight, wasn’t appropriately assessed—in terms of potential impact. Council was not included in the Top 40 prospects on the primary round of No Ceilings IPOs, as compiled by our own Corey Tulaba. In October, CBS Sports unveiled a Top 25 of “Best Transfers” for this season. The list included players like Malachi Smith, Fardaws Aimaq, Kyle Lofton, and Keion Brooks, but Council was left off the list. In November, Bleacher Report compiled a list of the “Top 10 Most Important Transfers” for the season. This list included players such as Darrion Trammell of San Diego State and Grant Basile of Virginia Tech, but no Ricky Council. SI did have Council among the better names in their “Transfer Portal Rankings” back in May, but they listed him at #22 behind Isaac Likekele, Jamarion Sharp, and Umoja Gibson.
The point of me citing those rankings isn’t to cast aspersions at them. After all, Council didn’t make the first No Ceilings Big Board—something to which I personally contributed. Many of us didn’t see how Council would translate into being the leading scorer for Arkansas. We can say it was roster construction; we can use age as an excuse—we can validate our initial feel in a variety of ways. That’s not what I want to do here. We’re going to show why Council is proving the preseason prognostication tremendously wrong.
This is where Council gets his bread buttered. Council has proven to be a dynamic offensive force for a team that only has four players on a roster that have played for Arkansas for more than one season. His athleticism, feel, skill, and measurables all lend to Council being a nightmare to stop—as he can get it done in a multitude of ways.
Let’s address the more concerning area of Council’s offensive profile. In his first season at Wichita State, Council shot a promising 44.4% from deep on 1.3 attempts per game. Considering he only took 27 total attempts on the season, there was a concern that there could be a false bottom to that percentage—especially since he shot 63.6% percent from the free-throw line on 55 total attempts that very same year. His next season, Council played in some more games. He got more minutes in a more featured role. He attempted 3.0 shots from distance and had a three-point percentage of 30.6%. His free-throw percentage took a massive leap to 84.9% on 106 total attempts.
This season, Council’s three-point percentage is slightly up at 31.4%. Interesting fact: 10 games into his second season, he shot 45.8% from deep—a 14.4% difference from where he is currently. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but those games did include matchups against Arizona, UNLV, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State. While he isn’t a marksman from range, he does command a decent amount of respect from that distance. Of the ten games he’s played, Council has shot over 40% from deep in four of them. There have been two games where he has shot 33.3%. Those are acceptable percentages, though obviously not desirable. Against San Diego State and UNC Greensboro, he went 0-for-3 in each game. He also shot 25% from distance against Troy and South Dakota State.
What’s been an encouraging “touch indicator” is the fact that Council has shot 79.6% from the free-throw line on 49 total attempts. That’s roughly a +3% in efficiency compared to his first ten games last season and +26 in total attempts. For you partial free-throw truthers—shoutout to Nick—his substantial improvement from the line can give you a “warm-and-fuzzy” that this touch can translate to a further range.
We’ll start with some of the areas that could stand to be cleaned up. Trust me—there are going to be some good clips of shooting coming. This Creighton matchup will be used predominately in the evaluation of Ricky’s game. For one, they have real talent across their starting lineup. Secondly, this is a loss, so there are a lot of lessons to learn. Thirdly, this is a game without Nick Smith Jr., so Council is more heavily relied upon. The last point is perhaps the most important one. Council had to do a bit of everything without their assumed lottery-level teammate.
What stands out to me about Council’s shooting mechanics is how little lift there is in his base. Considering that he is a phenomenal athlete (more on that later), Ricky doesn’t get up when he attempts the deep ball. His vertical ability is a feature of almost every other part of his game, so it is a bit odd that it’s close to absent on the jumper. Should fatigue set in, what little lift is there will become even less. Take a look at the clip.
Davonte Davis (#4) starts off this clip in the left corner, with our guy in the middle of the lane. As he Davis to the lane, his man, Francisco Farabello (#5), stays with him after a pump fake, staying on his hip. Ryan Kalkbrenner (#11) stays in the lane to assist with deterring Davis from finishing at the rim. The defense loses sight of Council, and he goes to occupy the corner Davis was just in. Davis kicks the ball to Council, who is wide open for the shot. Farabello sprints to attempt to block the attempt. Council wisely goes for the up-fake, which Farabello completely sells out to block. Farabello’s momentum takes him completely out of the play, leaving Council enough time to reset for the long ball. Council’s heels clear the floor, but sliding a sheet of paper under his tiptoes would be hard pressed. There doesn’t appear to be any fumbling on the windup or release; Ricky just airballs the attempt. I firmly believe the absence of significant lift contributes in a major way to the shot being short. Council seems to be aware of this at times, and he looks as if he puts measures in place to compensate for it.
A natural way to combat an inefficiency with lower body mechanics is to overcorrect with the upper body. If the legs are gone, the arms have to do more work. We see that here. This play starts with Trevon Brazile (#2) clearing the glass and kicking it to Anthony Black (#0). Black hustles down the court while the defense is getting into position. San Diego State’s Micah Parrish (#3) is in a difficult position. He has to choose whether to come up to slow down Black or ignore his sprint to the top of the key and cover Ricky. He chose secret option three: try to do a little of both. That results in Black having a clear lane to pass to Council—who is wide open on the left wing. Ricky, to his credit, knows immediately that he is going to shoot the shot. The defense is out of position so even if he misses, there is a higher likelihood that Arkansas could get the ball back. Again, the base shows minimal lift. The ball has a nice, high release point, but he misses it long. The overcompensation of arms to negate the underuse of lift is a habit that players can fall into. The good news is that the fix is seemingly a simple one. As I mentioned previously, there are indications that the touch Ricky displays in other areas tell me that the long ball can become a real threat.
Again, it isn’t picturesque, but Council’s scoring ability can carry over to the outer bands of the court. Creighton is operating in the most basic of zone concepts here, likely because Arkansas isn’t a team riddled with shooting. As a team, they currently rank 298th in three-point efficiency at 31.1%. Of the players on the court, only Anthony Black and Trevon Brazile are shooting a respectable percentage from deep—Black is at 40.7%, and Brazile is at 37.9%. Council starts the beginning of this clip with possession on the right wing. He passes to Brazile, to which Nembhard (#2) responds by helping to the left elbow. Council just makes a simple line to his right and spots up for an open three. The shot pops the net in the most beautiful of ways, but the shooting motion isn’t as pretty. His base—normally fairly stationary—varies here. His left foot flares out a bit, which is something that was not present in the previous clips. With the upper body, the ball gets placed in front of his face. That ball placement is also different from what we’ve seen, which the placement being higher previously. The shooting hand and support hand take an unusual, almost deflection-like motion as the ball leaves his hands. While it is a bit unorthodox, you can’t argue with the results. I also am a big fan of the confidence he has in his shooting touch. The first step in making the shot is to take it.
Now that we have gone with the more concerning area of his game, we can begin to get to the strengths. The good news is that we’re still sticking with the shot. The big reason is that Council has what I can only compare to a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” variation in the ways his jumper looks based on where he is in relation to the three-point line. This play starts with Anthony Black initiating the play. Black picks up his dribble along the left wing and surveys the right side of the floor for an open teammate. With there being no one open there, Council shows himself open behind Black. With Creighton in man, Farabello has the unfortunate task to slow Ricky down. As Council receives the ball, Farabello goes under Black. This gives our guy plenty of room to get to the spot he wants. Council drives to the left elbow and gets into a combo dribble in an attempt to catch Farabello’s feet in an unfavorable position. A quick hesi and cross to the right give Council just a second of separation. LOOK AT THE LIFT RICKY COUNCIL GETS ON THIS PULL-UP. This is why I am making such a big deal about how the shooting mechanics and motion is holding Ricky’s efficiency down from deep. Council’s shot is beyond blockable from his man at this point. Farabello can only act like a threatened red panda and stretch his arms as high as he can. No avail. Council nails the shot with tremendous touch.
This is just another quick example of how Council displays touch and lift on his jumper inside the arc. Black and Brazile are running a typical pick-and-roll action on the right wing. Davis is set up on the left short corner, with Council and Walsh in position to set some baseline screens to give Black a few options on his drive. Nembhard fights hard around the Council screen, which takes Davis out of the play. As Brazile is diving, he sets up to set a screen on Ricky’s man, Baylor Scheierman (#55). Brazile gets in Scheierman’s way and gives Council plenty of room to make the catch, square up, and let it fly—in motion. Again, so much more lift on this shot compared to his three-point shot. A nice, high release, and the ball floats down the net—like the feather at the beginning of Forrest Gump.
While shooting is still an area of improvement, Council is making a name for himself with his relentless pursuit of the rim. He is a high riser, capable of throwing it down over the top of anyone and patting the top of his head while getting back on defense. The blend of burst, power, body control, and soft hands gives him a mid-air bag that is reserved for only the special players. Council ranks 30th in college hoops in dunks, and he is 15-of-17 on the season.
In this matchup against Louisville, we get to see an example of how Council’s off-ball activity can lead to some easy buckets. At the top of the key, Anthony Black gets the ball to Ricky Council IV. Davis is right behind Council but then dives to the free-throw line as the defense chases Ricky to the right wing. Davis creates enough space to catch the ball in a tough spot. Council flairs out, giving the indication that he is going to space the floor for someone else. Instead, Makhel Mitchell (#22) sets a screen for Ricky to back cut San Diego State’s defense for a devastating dunk. It’s easy to see how his off-ball activity can translate to more sophisticated NBA schemes.
Ricky Council has a nose for the rim. Once the other team’s offensive possession is over, Council can punish them if he is given a sliver of daylight. Back to the matchup against San Diego State. The Aztec’s Micah Parrish is attacking the rim, but he is covered by Davonte Davis. Davis does a great job of maintaining a vertical stance without fouling and block Parrish’s attempt. Council is on the other side of the defense, playing help between the block and the wing—away from the play. As the ball becomes loose, Jordan Walsh (#13) recovers it. Once it becomes apparent that Walsh is going to get possession of the ball, Council takes a quick look to see who’s around. He sees he has a runway. By the time Walsh has the ball, Ricky has a step on everyone else on the court and bee-lines it for a transition opportunity. There might not be a more special player in the open floor—outside of his teammate, Trevon Brazile—that can pull off such spectacular finishes. Council punishes the rim before anyone can comprehend what just happened.
As an NBA wing, it may not be a player’s sole responsibility to initiate the offense, but it doesn’t hurt to have players that can be trusted on second-side possessions to keep defenses honest. Ricky Council IV may not be asked to come in as a cook, but the best role players in the NBA demonstrate the ability to be good at multiple things. Things that might not be their primary role. He can take defenders off the bounce, and he can move the ball to an open man. The connector skill set is present.
Back to the Creighton game. Council had to show more of his creation bag without Nick Smith Jr. available. As great as Anthony Black is, it’s always good to have multiple pressure points you can attack. As Ricky is bringing the ball up the floor, Scheierman comes up on him to try and take as little of the Brazile screen as he can. Because Ricky is such a bursty athlete, Kalkbrenner steps out to his right a good amount to take his path away. The two Bluejays do a pretty poor job of talking through who is going to stick with Council. Our guy does a great job of recognizing it and takes a step back behind the three-point line, drawing the Creighton duo two him. This leaves Brazile unchecked to dive to the lane. Council shows great control here, as he does a great job dribbling to his left with his left hand, gathering the ball, and then throwing it to his right. The placement and timing are great, as Ricky accounts for the defensive guard, Trey Alexander, and gets Brazile the ball in a place where he can comfortably gather the ball and get a shot up over the shorter defender.
A little later in the same game, we get to see Council make a play to the same teammate, but as a “popper” rather than as a “roller.” Similarly, Council is bringing the ball up the floor and is picked up quickly by Farabello. Brazile does a great job of selling Kalkbrenner that he is going to get into position to try and do something in the lane. He quickly turns around and gets into position to set a screen. Brazile doesn’t try to set the screen at any particular angle, which might show that this is a trap. Council runs off of Brazile’s left shoulder on the right elbow. Farabello doesn’t want to be on a poster, so he stays with Ricky, and Kalkbrenner is doing what drop bigs do: he drops. This leaves Trevon wide open at the top of the key, and Council is aware of who is on him. He quickly and smartly hits a quick pass behind him to Brazile, and he hits a three.
This play demonstrates Council’s understanding of how his attacking can lead to cleaner looks for other teammates. This play happens pretty quickly, and a lot of players touch the ball on this possession. Walsh brings the ball up the court, as he cuts in front of the trailing Anthony Black. As those two run toward the left wing, Ricky Council IV starts to veer to the right wing. As that is happening, Trevon Brazile runs out to the right wing. Black takes advantage of a defense that is not in position yet, and kicks it out to Council. When Ricky gets the ball, he recognizes that the closest defender to his, Nathan Mensah (31), is at an athletic disadvantage and is out of position. The only help Mensah has is Brazile’s man, Lamont Butler (#5). Council jets past Mensah and right at Butler. He understands that Butler has to converge to him, or Council will have another poster opportunity. Butler steps out to try and take a charge. This had to happen, and Ricky understands how the defense has to slide. Brazile catches the ball in the right corner and lets it fly—another example of Council’s court awareness and connective ability.
The hits just keep coming. Watching more and more prospects has widened my gaze on the number of prospects that could be drafted. The games have been fun too. Another week of games down, another week of players that deserve to be recognized. Here are the Weekend Warriors!
Taylor Hendricks | Forward | UCF
14.0 PPG | 1.0 APG | 5.0 RPG | 0.0 SPG | 2.0 BPG | 42.9 FG% | 50.0 3P% | 87.5 FT% | 1.5 TOPG | 1.5 FPG
Terquavion Smith | Guard | North Carolina State
20.0 PPG | 5.0 APG | 4.5 RPG | 3.0 SPG | 0.5 BPG | 40.5 FG% | 37.5 3P% | 66.7 FT% | 2.5 TOPG | 3.0 FPG
Gradey Dick | Forward | Kansas
20.0 PPG | 0.0 APG | 6.0 RPG | 5.0 SPG | 1.0 BPG | 66.7 FG% | 80.0 3P% | N/A FT% | 1.0 TOPG | 1.0 FPG
Oso Ighodaro | Big | Marquette
16.0 PPG | 2.0 APG | 12.0 RPG | 1.5 SPG | 0.0 BPG | 66.7 FG% | N/A 3P% | 50.0 FT% | 0.5 TOPG | 0.5 FPG
Brice Sensabaugh | Wing | Ohio State
22.0 PPG | 3.0 APG | 8.0 RPG | 1.0 SPG | 0.0 BPG | 52.9 FG% | 33.3 3P% | 66.7 FT% | 3.0 TOPG | 4.0 FPG
Jaylen Clark | Wing | UCLA
17.0 PPG | 2.4 APG | 7.0 RPG | 4.0 SPG | 0.0 BPG | 59.1 FG% | 0.0 3P% | 66.7 FT% | 0.5 TOPG | 1.5 FPG
Brandon Miller | Forward | Alabama
30.0 PPG | 3.0 APG | 7.0 RPG | 0.5 SPG | 1.0 BPG | 54.3 FG% | 52.6 3P% | 92.3 FT% | 4.0 TOPG | 2.5 FPG
Brandon Podziemski | Guard | Santa Clara
12.0 PPG | 3.5 APG | 7.5 RPG | 3.5 SPG | 0.0 BPG | 33.3 FG% | 33.3 3P% | 72.7 FT% | 3.5 TOPG | 2.0 FPG