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Bear Necessities: A Look At Baylor Forward Johnathan Motley

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With Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince graduating, junior forward Johnathan Motley is looking to take over as the leader of Baylor.

Baylor v Yale Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In last week’s piece on Justin Jackson, I mentioned that UNC head coach Roy Williams was one of the best coaches in college basketball in terms of being able to develop players. That acclaim was due to how Williams could keep prospects around for multiple years and develop them into solid NBA prospects.

Another coach that could join Williams on that list is current Baylor coach Scott Drew. Although Drew hasn’t created the array of top-flight NBA players like Williams, he has established a nice reputation over the course of his thirteen years with the team. During that stint, Drew has shown a knack of pushing players from being unknown high schoolers to elite college prospects.

A prime example of is Drew developed current Hawks forward Taurean Prince. Way before he was a lottery pick, Prince entered Baylor as a pedestrian three-star prospect that was the least-known player in Baylor’s 2012 recruiting class. Still, Drew was able to help mold Prince from an unknown recruit to being one of the best forwards in college basketball during his final two seasons at Baylor. As a senior, Prince averaged 15.8 points, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game on 43% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. That performance ultimately pushed Prince towards being selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 12th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft.

As Prince joins Donald Glover and company in Atlanta, coach Drew seems to have his next big project in place. That player is 6’11 forward Johnathan Motley, who will be entering his junior season with Baylor. Like Prince, Motley entered the school as a 3-star prospect that actually was a redshirt during his freshman season.

After that intial redshirt season, Motley has been slowly able to progress as an all-around player. That progression started during his freshman season, where Motley averaged 7.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game on 44% from the field in 21 minutes per game. In the following season, Motley evolved into averaging 11 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game on 61% from the field in 21 minutes per game.

Motley’s sophomore season was especially impressive as Motley really became an analytical darling. First off, Motley averaged an impressive 21.2 points (5th in the Big 12), 9.8 rebounds (10th in the Big 12) and 2.2 blocks (5th in the Big 12) per 40 minutes. Alongside that, Motley maintained a 61% True Shooting Percentage, which was the 6th best average in the Big 12.

The biggest proponent behind Motley being so effective on the offensive end is due how comfortable he is with working inside the paint. Over the course of that sophomore season, Motley displayed multiple ways of scoring inside the paint whether it’s on and off-ball cuts, post-ups or as an offensive rebounder.

As an off-ball cutter, Motley stands as a superb target due to his solid 6’10, 230 pound frame with a long 7’3 wingspan. Motley’s able to combine that frame with solid mobility as he does a great job of quickly working from the perimeter towards the paint. Transitioning into his role as an on-ball cutter, Motley has shown some good flashes. An example of that is seen in the clip below, as Motley makes a hard on-ball cut towards the paint where he finishes with an athletic finish around the rim.

Another area where Motley has shined is through his work as a post-up player. Working primarily on the left block, Motley shows a lot of poise in every move he makes. That confidence is definitely warranted as Motley exhibits very smooth footwork which allows him to get an advantage over the opposition.

Probably the biggest proponent behind Motley’s success from inside the paint is his work as an offensive rebounder. As a sophomore, Motley averaged an impressive 4.4 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes, which was the 7th best average in the Big 12. That average would’ve probably been significantly larger if he wasn’t paired with Rico Gathers, who snatched 6.3 offensive boards per 40 minutes.

That impressive work as an offensive rebounder was due to the combination of terrific instincts and aggression. Motley regularly shows this key knack of where the ball is going to be before it evens bounces off the rim, which gives him an immediate advantage over the opposition. Alongside that, the 6’10 forward isn’t afraid to just attack the rim with sheer ferocity. Both of those traits are shown in the clip below, as Motley seems to come out of nowhere for the putback slam.

Last but not least, Motley shows some potential as a mid-range shooter. Although it’s definitely not the biggest part of his offensive game, it’s definitely something that could boost his stock as a draft prospect. In those rare mid-range attempts, Motley shows pretty good form with a quick stroke and high release point.

On the defensive end, Motley shows plenty of upside, especially as a rim protector. In a similar way to how he worked as an offensive rebounder, Motley has a great nose for the ball as a rim protector. Whenever an opposing guard or big attacks the rim, Motley seems to regularly be there to help prevent an easy basket. Motley’s great rim protecting prowess is shown through him averaging 2.2 blocks per 40 minutes.

With Johnathan Motley looking to begin his junior season, he seems destined to take over the spot as the leader of Baylor. Although the jury is still out on how he’ll actually perform in that role, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Motley has already shown himself as one of the best front-court players in the Big 12. If he’s able to maintain that efficiency from his sophomore season while adding onto his all-around plethora, then it’s definitely reasonable to think that Motley can lead Baylor to more Big 12 success.