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Why You Might Know Him
Joel Embiid was a hot recruit heading into college last year but was overshadowed by fellow incoming freshman phenoms Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Embiid, however, quickly made a name for himself and began to overshadow both his teammate, Wiggins, and Parker. Embiid has been atop ESPN.com’s mock draft since its second installment was released in early March. He was considered to be a heavy favorite to become the No. 1 overall pick in this Draft until he ran into back problems toward the end of the season. Still, though, the 7-footer is almost guaranteed to hear his name called very quickly on Draft night, maybe even with the top pick.
It is unbelievable to think that Embiid has only been playing basketball for four years. He looks like a phenom who has been playing the sport his entire life. Embiid possesses incredible coordination and athleticism for his size. He’s very agile and has great feet at both ends of the court. He moves like a small forward, yet he’s seven feet tall. He has incredible instincts and reactions for a guy who is in the infancy stage of his basketball career. Simply put, he’s a natural. Embiid has a soft touch and a great feel around the basket. He has a ton of post up moves, from the Dream Shake to blow-bys to strong pivots. His first step on face-ups would frighten any opposing center. Embiid can also shoot it. He’s a very capable jump shooter with a sound shooting motion and release. Though I don’t expect it to become his go-to avenue of scoring in the NBA, I expect Embiid to become an excellent shooter from 15-20 feet, much like Tim Duncan. He’s also very adept at playing off of the ball. He positions himself well to succeed and always has his hands ready. He did not run many pick-and-rolls at Kansas but with his size, foot speed and offensive repertoire, I expect him to be able to succeed in such situations at the NBA level. He sets good screens, with a nice, wide base. Those screens will become a weapon once he adds more weight. Adding more strength will also aid Embiid in his ability to finish around the basket. He does make questionable decisions at times and sometimes forces things, but that’s to be expected from a guy this young. He can shake that with good coaching. Defensively, Embiid is a game-changer. He has impeccable timing and hand-eye coordination, making him a dominant shot blocker. His length is imposing. He can turn an open shot into a blocked shot and make it look easy. Embiid’s length and feet should allow him to become a great pick-and-roll defender, particularly when his team chooses to ice. I see a lot of Kevin Garnett in him in this aspect. His wingspan and lateral agility will prevent guards from turning the corner and getting to the rim. It’s shocking to fathom that this kid has only been playing basketball for four years. He is just so smooth at both ends of the court. If he continues to improve the way he has since he first began playing, he could put together a career worthy of the Hall of Fame.
Embiid was born on March 16, 1994 in Yaounde, Cameroon. He is the son of Thomas and Christine Embiid and has two brothers, Arthur and Muriel. Embiid grew up playing soccer and volleyball in his home country but eventually moved to the US to learn and play basketball. Embiid did not begin playing basketball until he was 16 years old. He took to the game quickly all while growing from 6-foot-9 all the way to seven feet tall during his high school career. He played his high school career at The Rock School in Gainsville, Fla. He improved so much in just a few years that he was ranked sixth on the ESPN 100 recruiting list as a senior. Embiid was naturally recruited heavily by the University of Florida, as well as Kansas and Texas. He visited all three schools and wound up signing with the Jayhawks on Nov. 13, 2012. Following his freshman season at Kansas, he was named as an Associated Press All-America Second Team member while also earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He is widely regarded as a prospect who could be chosen with the top overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft.