Friar Basketball

Breaking Down Ricky Ledo

Having covered his journey from St. Andrews to South Kent to Notre Dame Prep and then back to South Kent again I’ve seen Ricky Ledo at least two dozen times since 2009. With just about a month until the NBA Draft his stock is as unpredictable as his game could be at times.

How would I breakdown Ledo’s game a month prior to the Draft? Here’s a deeper look.

Clarifying the myths: I can only imagine what the stories will be about Ledo in 5-10 years. Somehow, even in Providence, myths about Ledo have almost become fact. His bouncing from high schools led to universal agreement that he hadn’t played a full season of basketball in two or three years, depending upon who you listened to. I think I even read he hadn’t played a full season in four years once.

None of this is true.

Ledo played a full season just last year at South Kent (he was 2nd team all conference in 2012). He played a full season at St. Andrew’s two years prior and in-between that season he had a year in which he split time between South Kent and Notre Dame Prep. There was a period in which he hardly played – when he first went to ND Prep. In that February’s National Prep Showcase he saw little run in his home state, but within a month he was a key player for Prep.

It became fact that his St. Andrew’s team struggled, when in reality they finished second in the very competitive NEPSAC Class B (now AA) conference in the regular season.

It became fact that he was never on a winner on the prep or AAU circuit, although his Notre Dame Prep squad made it to the Prep National Finals after he scored 31 points to lead them to victory over Nerlens Noel, Wayne Selden, Georges Niang and Tilton in the quarterfinals. He might have been the best player at the 2010 Providence Jamfest (a field that included the likes of Michael Carter-Williams, Khem Birch, Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Arcidiacono, Naadir Tharpe, Aaron Cosby, Markus Kennedy and more) when he went for 27 points in a semifinal win over Andre Drummond and the Connecticut Basketball Club and another 25 in the championship game – a loss to a Westchester Hawks team featuring Tyler Harris.

Looking for a more negative myth? The thought that he can swing over and play point guard at the next level is not one shared in this corner. There’s a difference between dribbling the ball across halfcourt and running a team, and unless Ledo has developed tremendously in that regard in the past season at Providence, the notion that he is a guard who can play either position is misguided. His is a scorer with a flair from the dramatic pass, but at times an aversion to the basic one. He wasn’t a point guard in high school, and it’s hard to imagine him directing a team of professionals now.

Where does he fit? Two years ago, the feeling in Providence was that Marshon Brooks’ tremendous senior season at Providence was being undervalued by many scouting services heading into the 2011 Draft. He scored at will that year, and his selection as a 1st round pick seemed even more justified when he put points up throughout much of his rookie season, albeit on a poor New Jersey Nets team.

Brooks’ production fell off this season once the Nets fielded a more competitive group – one in which Brooks no longer had the ball in his hands for five second spells to try to create his own shot.

Herein lies the difference between Brooks and Ledo as NBA prospects. While Brooks was the far more accomplished scorer heading in to the Draft, Ledo doesn’t need the ball in his hands for 4-5 seconds at a time to score.

Where Brooks wasn’t a very good catch and shoot scorer, Ledo not only scores off of the bounce, but was the rare prep prospect who looked just as comfortable curling off of screens and shooting from deep. In fact, Ledo was often at his best when he didn’t have 3-4 seconds to dribble himself into traffic and just came off of screens firing. The win over Tilton was a terrific example, when he exploded for 20 in the second half with a majority of those points off of catch and shoot situations.

So many of the top prospects score with ease with the ball in their hands, using superior athleticism against young opponents, and Ledo’s ability to score off of deep curls will be intriguing to NBA scouts. These curls were often beyond the three point arc two years ago, and it’s a safe assumption that his range has only expanded.

There isn’t a successful team in the NBA that will hand Ledo, Brooks or any late 1st round pick the ball for a good portion of the shot clock, so Ledo’s ability to score without pounding the ball into the ground could be an early asset.

The maturity questions: Maturity will be an open question heading into the Draft, and a fair one. This isn’t just a personality question either.

It wasn’t surprise to see an NBA scout tell Sports Illustrated that the confident Ledo he saw one day was a completely different player the following afternoon. The eye rolling at teammates and occasional head shaking that some brought up during his prep career aren’t as concerning from my perspective as much as his wildly inconsistent performances at times.

The optimist in me blamed it on boredom. Ledo was rarely bad, and quite often exceptional, when the opposing jersey read “Tilton” or “Brewster” or “New Hampton”, but it was hardly a guarantee that you’d see a vintage Ledo performance if you saw him just once or twice.

Some PC fans watched him at the preseason Mal Brown scrimmage – a mixed bag for Ledo – and questioned if he was easing his way in with a new team rather than taking over, but what we saw at Mal Brown was often what you’d see with Ledo prior to his arrival at PC. Scoring in a variety of different ways, but also turnovers and periods of silence.

This was my biggest hesitation with him coming to Providence as the savior he’d been built up to be. He would have had seven or eight nights when he looked the part, but also a handful when he could be a non-factor. Those nights when he was a non-factor would have not only incurred the wrath of Friartown, but given scouts film to draw questions from – fair questions. For all the talk abut him being a potential top 10 pick had he stayed a year at Providence and excelled, if his prep career was any indication, there would also have been plenty of bad film to create questions for scouts.

There’s a chance, and my belief has been since he announced, that his best shot at going in the first was to enter a weak 2013 Draft and have a series of lights out workouts.

When Ledo isn’t shooting well from deep his impact can be minimal. While Brooks can be a ball stopper, he turned himself into a very good rebounder in his final season at Providence, and he’d learned to effectively score from 17 feet in, get points off of offensive rebounds, while drawing bumps and fouls when needed. Ledo wasn’t at that point the last time I saw him.

Physical maturity may be a concern as well. Ledo has good length for the position, but he’ll always have a slender build. I have serious questions about his ability to defend right away next season.

Where does he stand now? In one of the more intriguing pieces on Ledo written this spring, the Providence Journal’s Kevin McNamara caught up with Ledo’s agent, Seth Cohen, who sold Ledo as a player whose scoring capabilities will most certainly transition from high school to the NBA.

The choice of Cohen is an interesting one. He is a relatively inexperienced agent with a short client list. Brooks was “his first big client” according to McNamara, and unless I’m missing someone it looks as though Ledo would be his only other client in the NBA next season should he get drafted (the rest of the stable looks to be comprised of D League talent like Hollis Thompson and Tyler Wilkerson).

Going with Cohen led me to wonder what level of interest there was in Ledo among more established agencies when he was looking for representation in April. Cohen seemed to anticipate that question and stated to McNamara that he’d won Ledo’s services from bigger name agencies.

Ledo’s stock has certainly seen a jump since mid-April, when he was almost universally left off of the 2nd round of most mock drafts, whereas now he’s seeing his name pop up in the late-first in national publications.

As it looks today, there should be a run on big men from picks 10-20. If we’ve learned anything in these NBA playoffs it’s that size can make up for talent disparity, and in a reactive league teams will more likely to jump at a Dieng, Withey, Plumlee, Adams, Olynyk or Zeller before reaching for an enigma of a shooting guard in the 1st.

Where Ledo will have to separate himself is from the glut of wings who should follow the run on bigs. All of these players have their question marks.

Is Shane Larkin big enough?

Can Archie Goodwin shoot at all?

Can GMs overlook Glen Rice’s issues at Georgia Tech?

Exactly how good is Tony Snell?

Then there’s the huge list of kids who looked to be 1st rounders earlier in their careers before being exposed a bit with the type of film that doesn’t exist with Ledo: CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown of NC State (both hurt by an underachieving season for the Wolfpack), Deshaun Thomas (shooting ability), Tim Hardaway Jr (falling shooting numbers), and a group of point guards in Nate Wolters, Pierre Jackson, Myck Kabongo, Isaiah Cannan, and Ray McCallum who could make a push for a late first round selection, despite various questions that exist about each.

Ledo has the combination of length and shooting ability that many of these prospects lack, and over the next month the key for him will be to string together a number of solid workouts to answer questions about consistency (both in effort and play) and to overcome the on-court production each of these other prospects has shown.

 

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