: DraftExpress had the pleasure of attending a small workout in Northern California Friday to check in on draft mystery man Saer Sene and St. Mary’s product Reda Rhalimi. The workout was run by former San Jose Spartans coach Keith Moss who was quite forthcoming and very enthusiastic about his two studies. Moss has only had 9 days to work with both players, but he’s made up for lost time by running them hard and heavy every day since they stepped through his door.
Moss has had much success working with agent Bouna NDiaye over the past two seasons. The tandem has uncovered the hidden talents of Ronny Turiaf, Mickael Gelabale, Ian Mahinmi, and DJ Mbenga just over the last two seasons and have started a trend of finding mobile big men with the work ethic and intensity that’s worth following. Each of the four aforementioned players are all known for their length, defensive intensity, and mobility to create problems for the opposition. Technique and repetition were the key words of the day for all these prospects and Moss runs the type of solid routine that can clearly get results.
The morning session was close to two hours with both players working at a vigorous clip. Neither said a word nor showed any outward signs of fatigue as they methodically went through every drill, stopping briefly perhaps once or twice for water. The players started with standard ball-handling drills as well as jump-stop and other balance and fundamental positioning work. The regimen went extensively into hand-eye coordination and touch development, which is clearly paying off as both players showed a soft clean release of the ball. Motion drills were incorporated into the shooting routines and the players worked from 3 attack angles during each series of repetitions. Much of the shooting work was predicated on recovery speed and endurance, which is certainly to the benefit of these two big men. Player Evaluations: Saer Sene, 7’0” 235lbs, Center, Senegal
The most important thing to remember when evaluating Sene is how new most of this drill work is to him and how raw a physical specimen he is. Moss made no attempts to hide this fact and was actually quite enthusiastic about the progress Sene has made over such a short period of time.
The physical attributes Sene brings to the table are impressive and even more so when thought of in the context of his lack of any formal weight training and overall developmental experience. When talking to Moss, he projected that Sene could put on 30 pounds of muscle without altering his agility or range of motion whatsoever. After seeing Sene’s impressive frame there is no disagreement. Sene has the ability to touch the rim while standing and uses his phenomenal length to its fullest extent both offensively and defensively. Once his lower body strength is improved he’ll be a terror on the boards and in the paint defensively.
Athletically, Sene has quick feet and is fairly fluid. Nothing he did in the drills was geared to a speed for gauging his peak explosive ability, but Sene was up to his elbows effortlessly on his dunk attempts while going half speed. At one point, coach Moss asked if I had a camera so I could take a picture of him slapping the top of the backboard, so there’s not much more to say about him in terms of shot blocking potential.
Skills wise, Sene has a long way to go before he’s game ready. Sene is working on harnessing the most fundamental of concepts such as jump-stops, post footwork, body positioning, and other form related core basketball concepts. Because of this, all of Sene’s drill work was done at a more measured pace in order to maintain the fundamental approach that is essential for him at this stage in his career. Moss was quick to point out that there are a number of things that Sene does well that simply do not translate into this setting, and that is understandable. Sene has got to continue to develop his hands. While the touch is soft he had only modest success receiving the ball, though not poor. Repetition is something that this 19 year old needs before he can become the aggressor in any offensive area.
Sene does have some tools that are refined enough to serve as an excellent foundation for his future game. For one, there are shades of Kareem in his hook shot. The release point has to be near 11 feet in the air with Sene utilizing the full length of his reach and enormous hands to cup the ball effortlessly before the smooth release. While the footwork isn’t there yet to be a competent offensive weapon, his release is high and consistent with good form, making it unblockable on any level. Sene was actually at his best when doing the motion shooting drills, using glass as well as dropping the ball in directly with an excellent arching trajectory. The improvement on execution during these drills serves as a good indicator of Sene’s ability to perform better in live situations where his instinct takes over.
The negatives are obvious with a player who’s only played 3 years of organized ball. He doesn’t have the lower body strength to hold position in the post against NBA centers and will not be able to simply rely on timing and reach to block shots. Because of the lack of leg strength, Sene cannot establish a low base and he’ll need that on both sides of the ball in the paint. Sene has no defined footwork or feel for the post at this point aside from his nice finishing ability. He’s still at the rudimentary stages of learning how to get himself into a position to utilize his excellent shooting form, so primary offense is not an option at this stage. Also, the lack of repetition leads him to tweak his delivery after a miss or two, though a quick word from Moss here and there would snap him back into line.
The most significant portion of the workout, and what truly will determine if he becomes a factor in the NBA, is his attitude and approach to the game. From what we saw and heard, these areas are only going to serve him well. Sene is visibly hard on himself when failing to execute effectively and was vocal on numerous occasions. But, he also maintains his signature smile and seems to genuinely be having a good time while pushing himself through the routine. Despite there only being two players here, Sene never looked winded, never rested his hands on his knees or said a word about the pace of the drills.
Overall, there is plenty to be encouraged by with Saer Sene. He is definitely a player that shows all the traits that lead one to believe that he’ll continue to develop. But, situation will be essential for Saer as he’ll need a ton of extra attention from the coaching staff of whatever team chooses him. He’s quiet, but has a warm personality that will only serve him well as he attempts to overcome the language barrier and become an active part of whatever organization chooses him.
The best situation for Sene would be one where he has some type of veteran to emulate and practice against, but also have some young players who he can identify with and come to when things are tough. Also, Sene will need a coach that knows how to foster development through positive instruction instead of someone who relies on intimidation and fear to get their message across. A team like Boston, Atlanta, or even Phoenix would be ideal for the various reasons mentioned above.
It’ll take some time to harness his talent but our opinion is that anyone looking for rebounding and interior defense from the center spot, and has the patience to wait for it, would be happy with what their working with. Reda Rhalimi, 6’11” 255lbs, Center/Forward, St. Mary’s
Rhalimi was certainly the less heralded of the two prospects coming from an unspectacular St. Mary’s program and spending 3 years in anonymity with limited playing time and injury. But, continuing with the trend that NDiaye and Moss have established, Rhalimi showed skills that exceed his limited reputation.
Rhalimi has good quickness for a player his size and can face up from 15-18 feet and hit his shot with regularity, despite a slightly flat trajectory and less than perfect form. Rhalimi’s feet splay apart slightly and his release point is roughly three quarters above his head, so he doesn’t take advantage of his sizable reach to its fullest extent. Rhalimi’s post work and feel on his moves was very solid and his ability to finish with power only served to emphasize these points. Rhalimi has a strong core and can spin and change direction on his secondary moves quite well and has the strength to absorb some contact.
Rhalimi’s hands are solid for the position and he can control the ball cleanly with either his left or his right. Rebounding ability is tough to gauge for him due to the nature of the workout and the lack of game film on him. But, he’s got a good frame and seems very active overall, so there is some indication that he has the tools to handle things on the glass.
Considering the small sample of game experience there is to work with, it’s no surprise that Rhalimi hasn’t been on anyone’s radar to date. But, there is skill here and with a continued approach to his development as well as some good fortune with his health, Rhalimi could parlay his enthusiasm and energy into a shot at the pros.
Rhalimi obviously is working out of a hole and has a ton of questions to answer because of his choice of school. If his heart is set on the NBA he’ll have to earn in the hard way, but he’s got a shot if he works at it and is patient. Another quality character guy, Rhalimi was realistic with his personal assessment, saying “it’s always been my dream to play in the NBA, but I just want to play.” There is a lot of Ronny Turiaf in Rhalimi’s game and they have virtually the same body and athleticism, so he’ll be playing somewhere next season and getting paid for sure.