In an attempt to learn more about Tubby Smith's new point guard recruit, I talked today with Justin Cobbs' coach at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, Calif. Doug Mitchell gave us insight into Justin's game, his recruitment and his strengths and weaknesses. And what former Big Ten guard and NBA point guard does Mitchell think Cobbs should model his game after? It's all in the Q&A.
Tell me about Justin's game. Strengths?
Mitchell: I think he's ... he's a true point guard. We're not a big team, so he does different things for us. He's at his best on the ball, distributing. He's a very smart player. He has a lot of physical attributes. He understands the game, has a good feel for it. Wish I could take credit for it, but he's a student of the game. His greatest strength is making plays for others. He's a strong physical guard.
Physical attributes, what do you mean by that?
Mitchell: He's 6'1 to 6'3, and about 190, which isn't huge. But he's really got a good strength base. He was a heckuva a football player. After sophomore year he dropped football to concentrate on basketball. He played safety and was a skill position guy. He could have been D1 in football. He likes to bully the little tiny guards, uses strength to his advantage. And he also has good lateral quickness. I think people see first his biggest strength is his physical strength.
Tubby Smith likes to apply tough man pressure on the ball. How will Justin adapt to that?
Mitchell: Yeah. We try to play that way too. We don't zone much. We don't trap much. We play man to man. I've been here for 20 years. Justin is one of the players in that time who has a natural affinity for that style of play.
What UofM coach had the most interaction with Justin? What was the sales pitch?
Mitchell: Assume it was coach (Vince) Taylor. Saul Smith was out here. He visited the campus. Saul said he saw him play quite a few times. I think they came in fairly late (in the recruiting process). The fact that they are not a west coast school had something to do with that. Think this summer they made a decision to recruit him. Late in the process actually. But I think they did their homework. Comparitively speaking they came in pretty late. That didn't matter. Justin liked the fit in Minnesota.
What was the fit he saw in MN?
Mitchell: I think Coach Smith had a lot to do with it. Justins Dad, Greg Cobbs, has immense respect for Coach Smith. Justin wanted to challenge himself. He wanted to really test himself. He wanted to play in the PAC 10 or Big 10. The Big Ten was exciting to him. Coach Smith's reputation. He has a pretty good repuation of caring about his players and trying to improve them as players and people.
What part of his game needs the most improvement?
Mitchell: Justin's really good at playing his best in the big games. I'd like him to play his best in every game. Guess you'd call him a gamer or competitor. I'd like him to be more consistent with his performance. He's one of those kids that rises to the moment. At the next level, every game is the moment. Always going to play against top competition in the Big Ten.
Does any player at the college or pro level remind you of Justin?
Mitchell: Don't want to sound like I'm comparing the two, but the style of game, the pace he plays with, the player, a professinoal player I tell Justin to watch, where there is some similarties, not trying to compare him to this is Darren Williams. Strong body, Darren plays at a great pace. You don't think of Williams as jet quick. I think Justin has a lot of that.
Talk to me about Justin's progression as a player. In what areas has he grown and in what areas does he still need to work on?
Mitchell: I think he's had to learn to become a leader. Started as a freshman as a point guard. That's a hard thing. Each year he's taken more responsibilites as a leader.
Pass or score first?
Mitchell: Honestly I think Justin prefers passing. Not that he can't score. I think he gets a charge out of creating for others. In the paint, making plays. He can score. But he likes to create.
When he looks for offense, is he a slasher or outside oriented?
Mitchell: Pretty good blend. A pretty good three ball. He has a good in between game. Beacuse of his strength he can get to the rim. He doesn't attack the basket as much as I would like. He can get to the line. Get to the foul line. He can draw fouls. He was mid 80s (free throw percentage) last year. We charted last year, did not miss a foul shot in the last two mnutes of a game. He wants the ball in his hands at the end of games. He's hit buzzer beaters. He's clutch down the stretch. That's when he looks for his offense.