Most college basketball players improve steadily from their freshman to senior seasons. It's not too difficult to understand why. Players in their freshman seasons are fresh out of high school and often overwhelmed by the advanced size and athleticism of players in the college game. Over time, many players gain the skills and experience necessary to make a positive impact for their teams.
That path isn't true for everyone, though. Every once in a while, you'll find a player who peaks as a freshman and never quite reaches his potential in college basketball. One of those players is Melsahn Basabe. After bursting onto the Big Ten scene with 11.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game in 2011, Basabe has faded into the background as a role player while Iowa's fresher faces have led the team to the NCAA Tournament. He may not have fulfilled the potential he flashed as a younger player, but Basabe still has some skills that will make him useful as a professional.
Strengths: One of the reasons for Basabe's decline has been the increase in Iowa's talent under head coach Fran McCaffery. With players like Aaron White, Adam Woodbury, and Gabriel Olaseni in tow, there hasn't been as much need for Basabe. That hasn't stopped him from being great at grabbing rebounds, though. With 5.7 boards per game in 17.8 minutes per game last season, Basabe had the potential to be a double-digit rebounder if he was a full-time player. His long arms and athleticism allowed Basabe to lead Iowa in defensive rebounding percentage in 2014, and he was 65th in the nation in that category.
On offense, Basabe carved out a nice role for himself as a senior with 7.2 points per game. He was third on Iowa in two-point field goal attempts behind White and Roy Devyn Marble, but his lack of a three-point game in an age when forwards are being relied on to shoot is going to affect his draft stock.
Weaknesses: At 6'7" and 220 pounds, Basabe is a power forward playing in a small forward's body. He may be athletic and an elite rebounder, but shot blocking and field goal shooting are two areas that Basabe needs to improve in order to have an impact as a pro. He blocked just under one shot per game in his senior year, which is not a bad rate considering his minutes. Unfortunately, though, Basabe's height will limit his rebounding and shot blocking when he plays in a league with bigger players. And as noted above, a player of his mold will be asked not only to defend and rebound in the pro ranks, but to shoot from distance as well. A long-range field goal is something that Basabe hasn't shown he possesses yet.
Overall: Basabe showed some NBA potential as a younger player, but he's failed to build on his breakout freshman season. While his athleticism and rebounding ability may be good enough for the NBA, his size and shooting leave a lot to be desired. Right now, Basabe is stuck in the "tweener" zone. He doesn't shoot well enough to be a small forward or stretch four, but he doesn't have the size to be a traditional power forward or center. He can still forge out a professional career somewhere with the possibility of coming stateside if and when he develops a long-range shot.