Every coach wants an unselfish team, and one way to get there is by evaluating and recruiting prospects who understand the value of moving the ball and making the assist.
You can teach players how to make a pass or show film of where the ball should be thrown and what type of pass should be made, but it takes skill, timing and innate instincts to be an accomplished passer.
The following are the five best passers in the senior class, and each has a skill that separates them from their peers.
It’s easy to make passes in open space. It’s much more difficult to penetrate and pitch or drop off effectively in tight areas with help defense. Evans has tremendous passing vision as he takes a mental picture of the entire court. Not only does he see the defender covering the receiver, but he sees the help-side defense as well. This elite assist man would rather set up a teammate than score himself. He plays with his head and eyes up at all times.
It’s a little unusual to have a prospect who is close to 6-foot-10 as one of the better passers in the class, but Simmons -- a point-forward-type player -- is as effective at completing passes as anyone. When he gets double-teamed on the block, he always turns and finds the open man. From the high post, he will hit cutters or make the high-low throw with precision. Any offense should go through him, because he is a willing passer who can make the correct read and distribute in a split second from a stationary position or while on the move. The final and most important part of any pass is its accuracy, and that is where Simmons is very impressive.
Brunson is a pure point guard who has a high basketball IQ and understands how to get his teammates the best shots from the right spots on the floor. When it comes to feeding the post, he not only understands the importance, but has the skill to make it happen at the most opportune times. He brings the ball to the defender to engage him and then throws it in. Brunson has a package of passes that range from the throw ahead to threading a pocket pass from a ball screen, or a lob to the rim. He is a very good decision-maker, not a risk-taker, which helps him complete plays.
Willingness to give up the ball is a trait that most players don’t have, but Simon exudes unselfishness. He is not a shot-happy point guard and will give up the ball quickly in the conversion game or in the half court. A master at keeping the ball moving, he will sometimes get the assist before the assist (hockey assist) because of his mindset to move and swing the ball so the defense can’t lock in. Simon has height (6-foot-5) along with a 6-foot-11 wing span, which helps him distribute. He also prioritizes keeping his teammates happy.
5. C Stephen Zimmerman
This left-handed big man has always possessed outstanding passing instincts, mainly because his slender frame didn't always allow him in the post, so he really polished his face-up game. Not only does Zimmermann throw it out of the post with readiness and peripheral vision, he is terrific passing the ball into the low post, especially in a high-low set. Last season as a junior, he averaged close to four assists per game, and his high school coach, Grant Rice, is also a big fan of his passing.
"His consistency to make good decisions is remarkable," Rice said.