At 6’6 and 235lbs ’12 Rivals 4-star Forward Ricardo Gathers has the physique and strength of an SEC Linebacker and the quick twitch agility and change in direction of a D1 Small Forward. Wrapping up his High school career as a Riverside Academy Rebels Gathers averaged 22.0 Points, 17.0 Rebounds, 3.4 Assists, and Blocked 2.6 shots per game for the ’11-’12 campaign. It was all but unfair. A man amongst boys. Quick enough to take his man of the dribble and powerful enough to finish through him. Ricardo Gathers proved all but unstoppable for Riverside’s opponents. Duke took note of the recruit. As did Florida, and Georgetown. LSU offered, and scholarships were extended by St. John’s and Syracuse. In the end, Gathers decided to decline the overtures of the more traditional NCAA powers and ink with the upstart Baylor Bears program which seemingly overnight exploded onto the national scene in basketball (Men’s and Women’s) and football. When asked for insight into his Baylor decision Gathers noted, “The atmosphere of the Baylor campus is incredible. The fans and the student body have nothing but love to offer to everyone in attendance at Baylor”. Clearly embracing the Baylor Bears frenzy, the 6’6 Forward is already looking to payback some of the love he’s been shown, “I hope to have left a lasting impact on my Baylor family that would persuade more ballers like myself to come embrace the Baylor atmosphere”.
You need not go more than a couple of minutes into a Ricardo Gathers highlight package before a few trends become clear. The man is an explosive in-game dunker. Similar to the NBA’s Blake Griffin, Gathers has taken the dunk from a weapon of opportunity to one of high frequency. There’s an element of intimidation delivered with a violent throw-down and Gathers throws it down as ferociously as anyone. Herein lies the second trend. At the High school level, once it was established Gathers had a head of steam and a path to the basket, defenders simply moved out of his way. Many, if not most, of his mixtape dunks are all but uncontested. Possibly more impressive than the physicality and power he brings are the agility and handles he appears to possess. I for one did not expect to see a man of his size go behind the back (multiple times) let alone leave a would be defender flat-footed after breaking off a hesitation dribble and head-fake on him. Gathers is decent from the Free Throw line (74% ’11-’12) and willing to feed the open man (3.4 Assists ’11-’12). Both should serve him well against the dialed up competition of the Big 12.
What remains to be seen, and frankly won’t be until the start of Baylor’s ’12-’13 season, is Gathers reaction to consistently facing opponents whom also carry advanced skill-sets. As previously mentioned, in a 2 minute highlight video I counted half a dozen defenders who clearly moved out of they way as Gathers powered towards the hoop. D1 basketball, specifically at the high major level, houses a level of physicality and contact few High school players have encountered. Much of Gathers power game appears best suited for the 4 spot. Reality is however, at 6’6 with average arm length, battling 6’8+ Power Forwards would/will prove a substantial challenge. On D he may find PF’s shooting over him, and on O it’s reasonable to assume they’d be better physically equipped to match his strength/power game. His game says 4, his frame says 3. The concerns at the 3 spot would be foot speed and a consistent outside game. Given the volume of high percentage shots (dunks, put-backs) Gathers ’11-’12 Field Goal rate (52%) is a bit lower than expected. He carries a quick burst, and as mentioned, surprisingly strong ball skills, but many of his Riverside High opponents were simply physically over-matched. This will not be the case as he squares off against Texas, Missouri, and Kansas. Self-awareness is critical in fostering consistent development and Gathers appears clear as to his areas of opportunity. When asked to lists aspects of his game up for improvement, “My perimeter jumper because it makes me that much harder to guard , defending the wing it shows my versatility and athleticism, and being able to play the whole game it shows my longevity”. Taking his jumper out to the 17 foot range will make it necessary for his defender to play tight. This in turn should allow Gathers the opportunity to take advantage of the aforementioned quick burst to the hoop. Short of that, opportunities to drive the lane against a sagging defender will surface far less frequently.
There’s little doubt Ricardo Gathers carries many of the physical traits needed to thrive at the D1 level. He’s strong, hyper-athletic, has solid hands, and possesses explosive leaping ability. Two inches taller or with above average arm length he would prove a nightmare match-up for most D1 4′s. As is, it will be interesting to monitor his ability to secure the to-the-hoop opportunities which garnered so much fanfare at the High school level. I expect he will remain effective in transition and on the boards, and with consistent work should prove effective out to 15-17 feet. The Big 12 is wrought with high level athletes and few, outside of Kevin Durant, dominate as freshmen. Assuming he deals well with the physicality soon to come his way, I project Ricardo Gathers as an early impact freshman in the 12-14 Pt and 7-9 Rebound per game range. If the outside game does not develop, Gathers’ athleticism and strength should afford the Riverside Academy alum a productive college basketball career and a solid education. If however, Gathers develops a reliable outside shot and thrives on the heightened level of physicality D1 ball invites, there are elements of power, athleticism, and controlled aggression to his game which scream Larry Johnson (UNLV 89-91, NBA 91-01).
Gathers himself may have best summarized his potential at the collegiate level, “Ricardo Gathers brings intensity, hard work, physicality, and dominance.” Works for me, but in truth, if it didn’t, I’m not sure I’d be in any hurry to tell him so….