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Brandin Podziemski: A Path to Greatness
FEATURING: An Interview with Santa Clara's Guard, Brandin Podziemski | INCLUDING: A Breakdown of Podziemski's Game
Brandin Podziemski: A Path to Greatness
The notion of there being a path to greatness is a little misleading. That’s not to say that there aren’t ways for people to become great—that’s not what was meant by that statement. What can be fallacious is the notion that there is simply one path, instead of a larger number of ways to reach greatness. Greatness can come through a multitude of beginnings, especially in basketball. One can be a hoop prodigy—a player that has such natural gifts or an incredible aptitude to develop the skills necessary to compete at the highest levels. Another could be a relentless, hard-working prospect—someone that works tirelessly to improve in all aspects of their game. Being born into a family whose tree is rooted in the history of the game is another way to become great. Having a family member pass on abilities and knowledge of the sport can be immensely valuable.
It is believed that the path to success becomes easier the earlier you trek it. However, for some, their path doesn’t begin at the same point or at the same time.
Brandin Podziemski wasn’t born into a family with NBA experience. This hooper wasn’t deemed to be a prodigy. In fact, Podziemski didn’t even begin to play the sport until he was in 8th grade. It takes something special to attract a young man’s attention at that age. It’s a very impressionable stage for a young man, so what about basketball drew Brandin’s interest?
“Just the pace, the fast pace. I came from baseball, which is probably the exact opposite; it’s a slower game. Just watching a lot [of basketball] on TV. When I was free, I was like ‘Wow, this looks fun. Let me give it a go and see if I can be good at it’. I took it in 8th grade and never looked back.”
Without unique ties to the game, Brandin took on the path of the workman. He’s always been one to pride himself on his work ethic, even at the high school level. While still relatively new to basketball, Podziemski went to Saint John’s Northwestern Academy as a sophomore. He credited the institution with helping him develop life skills and growth in his maturity.
Podziemski also grew in physical stature. When he reported to Saint John’s Northwestern, he was approximately 6’3” and 160 pounds. As a junior, he reached about 6’4” and 185 pounds. By the time he was a senior, Brandin reached 6’6” and 198 pounds. The growth in his frame and game led to Podziemski receiving a lot of interest among college basketball’s elite schools. Teams were very interested in this highly versatile guard prospect, as he was named the state of Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year.
The high school ranking outlets were very kind to him, grading him anywhere from 63rd to 107th. His RSCI ranking at 79th may not appear to be that impressive to some, but making such a list in any year is a tremendous accomplishment. Take into account that his 2021 class might be the best in recent history, and that grade is all the more meaningful. This class featured current NBA players like Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith Jr., Chet Holmgren, and AJ Griffin—but some of the best in college hoops this year. Some of Brandin’s college peers in this class included Jordan Hawkins, DaRon Holmes, Matthew Cleveland, Ryan Nembhard, and Trey Alexander. Brandin played with current Golden State Warrior Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Tyrese Hunter of the Texas Longhorns on his AAU team—both of whom were also connected to that 2021 class. It’s also worth noting that Podziemski was ranked ahead of current San Antonio Spur Jeremy Sochan and college players like Terquavion Smith, KJ Simpson, and Devin Carter. Brandin understands how unique this class was relative to prior years.
“I tell people all of the time: ‘2021 class of high school was probably the best in recent years’ that I can think of. Just being a part of that group and being a Top 100 player, it was special. But playing with Patrick [Baldwin Jr.], who now plays on the [Golden State] Warriors, Tyrese [Hunter], who’s now at Texas, Kobe [Johnson], who’s at USC, just playing with them [in AAU] and learning new stuff throughout that one year that I had with them, it was special.”
Universities such as Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette, Nebraska, Wake Forest, and Illinois—among others universities—would soon come calling. Brandin would ultimately go to play for Coach Brad Underwood at Illinois, being recruited by players Coleman Hawkins and the since-transferred Andre Curbelo. It wasn’t the dream season that many would hope for on their path to greatness, but Podziemski would learn a lot from his freshman season.
“I was surrounded by a lot of fifth-year seniors. I look at it as a blessing in disguise. Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams—both 22, 23 years old. I’m just coming in at 18 years old. But just learning so many things, so many aspects of the game has really helped me with where I am now. To help the younger guys now, even though I’m only a sophomore. The roles now have kind of flipped. So I thank them and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
After Illinois’s season ended, Brandin would enter the transfer portal. The Illini would have a couple of players transfer away, but they would also look to add more upperclassmen in Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer. It wouldn’t take long for Brandin to receive interest from another school. As Santa Clara was well aware that their star player, Jalen Williams, would likely be an NBA player soon, they looked for ways to integrate another talented guard to fill his role. While not being the top destination for highly ranked recruits, Coach Sendek and his staff saw an opportunity to make a program-altering move.
“Santa Clara, quite frankly, was the first school that called when I entered the portal—like 15 minutes after I entered my name in. To be honest, I had no clue what Santa Clara was. I talked to an assistant coach, he told me a little bit about it, and then our Head Coach—Coach Sendek—called me. We Zoomed, and then a visit lined up. I really loved it. It was the only visit I ever took because of COVID. When I was in high school, I didn’t take any visits. It was quite the experience. I liked it ever since I stepped foot on campus.”
“He [Coach Sendek] was like ‘You’re one of the most underrated transfer guys. A lot of teams are probably not going to look at you just based on the numbers you had your freshman year, but we see something in you that a lot of schools don’t.’ Obviously with Jalen being the 12th pick—we didn’t know that at the time—but he was like ‘We have a guy similar to you. Not in physical stature and features, but just a guy who works hard and can be a dominant piece on a team.’”
The choice to go from a place where the learning was more incremental to a place where the learning had to happen in heavy doses can be difficult for some players. It can be daunting to go from a highly ranked recruit to a role player to your team’s top option, but that is where character comes into play. With the workman’s mentality that Podziemski has had since his early high school playing days to now having experience at the Division I level, Brandin could now be in a position to take the next step on his path to greatness.
As mentioned earlier, some players reach greatness due to connections to higher levels of basketball. Sometimes this is something they’re born into, but sometimes it can just be a connection made through an alma mater. Brandin would meet a person that knew what it took to succeed at this particular school and make it to the NBA. A person that is a friend of No Ceilings. A person named Jalen Williams.
“During the summertime, he [Jalen] came back for a couple of weeks. We worked out—got to play some open runs against some different colleges and whatnot. I got to play with him, play against him, work out with him, talk to him, pick his brain. All-in-all, good things.”
“He just told me: ‘The coaching staff will let you play. Just do what you do. There’s no restriction on you. Just play. Have fun. Do what you do. You’re definitely good enough and work hard enough. Just keep being great.’”
So far, Podziemski has done just that. Thus far, he’s averaging 18.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 2.1 SPG. He’s also shooting 46.2% from the floor, 39.6% from deep, and 79.5% from the charity stripe. He’s doing this all while playing over 35 minutes per game—quite the jump from his freshman campaign. It’s by way of a lot of hard work and a lot of good coaching. Brandin speaks highly of the way that Coach Sendek has impacted him as a player:
“It’s [playing for Coach Sendek] a little bit of everything. He’s a free-play coach, but he also holds me accountable. As being one of the leaders of the team, he does a great job of that. He allows me to coach my teammates when it’s needed. He gets on me all of the time, which is good for me. I like criticism. I just like getting better. Any time I can do that, it benefits my game in a lot of ways.”
Brandin and Santa Clara still have a tough stretch of games ahead of them. As this interview was taking place, Brandin was preparing to go into practice for an upcoming matchup against conference rival Pepperdine—who they beat 89-79. Having already had some tough games against Gonzaga, Pepperdine, San Francisco, California, Boise State, San Jose State, Iona, Wyoming, UCF, and others, Brandin’s team will have to face off against Pepperdine again, Gonzaga again, another bout against San Francisco, and the rest of the WCC. He understands the task ahead and what he has to do to be ready.
“I just do whatever I can to help the team win. We haven’t beat Gonzaga in a really long time. Pepperdine, we got on Thursday [the 5th of January]. They’re a really talented, young team that can score the ball. They just played Gonzaga and put up 90 points. Whatever I got to do to help the team win, that’s all I care about. The points, the rebounds, stuff like that—the awards and stuff will all fall in place if you win and when you play hard.”
In terms of his own self-assessment as an NBA draft prospect, Podziemski is aware of his gifts and some things evaluators may knock him for. Brandin has been billed as “Tyler Herro 2.0” by some fans, but Brandin has mentioned that he grew to be a fan of players like CJ Miles due to his ability to create separation despite not being the highest level of athlete. He’s also a fan of several left-handed hoopers. On the court and off it, Brandin believes he has a lot to offer as a player.
“While other prospects are more athletically gifted, I think I bring IQ, feel, and skill. Those three things. I feel like they can put me on any team and be successful right away. I can do all of the little things. I may not be as athletically gifted as others, but I can defend, I can rebound, I can shoot, I can pass. And I can be a great teammate. I can fill all of those little things. I look at, right now, Donte DiVincenzo from the [Golden State] Warriors. There’s been a lot of injuries, so he stepped up and he’s starting. And he can do everything. He can guard, he can shoot, he can pass, he can play. When it comes to that stuff, I just try to do all of the intangible things that can help me get on the floor.”
When asked what he believes will be his NBA-ready skill:
“Shooting. Obviously people have known that about me, but my game is so much more than that. If an NBA team asked me to be on the ball, off the ball, I could do either. If they want me to get rebounds, I can do that. If they want me to guard the best player, I can do that. I feel like I can just do a lot of everything. It’s not like a team has to be like ‘Well, we can only put him in for this type of situation because he can only do this’. You can put me in any situation and I can be successful. I’m going to figure it out. I’ve never let myself not figure out someway to not get it done.”
It’s that workman’s mentality that constantly surfaces whenever you watch, hear from, or speak to him that has led Podziemski to where he is now. It sustained him before he was recognized in high school. It allowed him to persevere while playing a small role at Illinois. It’s what made Santa Clara leap for their phone as soon as they discovered Brandin was looking for a new opportunity. It’s what has driven him to produce in the ways that he has. Basketball just isn’t a thing to do for Brandin. It’s his pathway to greatness.
“It’s my life. The beauty of the [NBA] game is that they pay you so much money just to play basketball. It’s my dream job. When people say ‘What’s your Plan B’—I don’t have one. Basketball is everything to me. I just love the feeling of a team sport like this and being able to win and accomplish things together. Then also, when it comes down to individual stuff, you get all the rewards—that your hard benefits you. There’s not a lot of people that get to do this. When you play at this level, it’s something that’s rare and not a lot of people get to do it. I just cherish it and I don’t take it for granted. That’s why I feel like I work so hard.”
Brandin Podziemski Film Study
Now that we have gained a little insight into the mentality and some background of Podziemski, let’s take a look at what the numbers and the film say.
As previously mentioned, Podziemski is showing off an array of skills that have helped him become one of the top-performing players in all of college hoops. Maybe some didn’t see this kind of explosion coming, but Brandin’s story could be a victory for the “Per 40” crowd. As a freshman, Podziemski only played 4.6 minutes per game, but his extrapolated figures look strikingly similar to what he’s doing in Santa Clara.
Per 40, Podziemski put up 12.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 2.9 APG. His field goal percentage was 42.1%—just about three percent off from what he is shooting from the floor currently. The three-point percentage was lower by about 13%, and his free-throw percentage is down by approximately 5%. Bottom line: if you squint at those numbers hard enough, you could somewhat reasonably foresee this type of outcome with the added experience. Perhaps that figured into Santa Clara’s calculus.
Even still, an uptick in usage doesn’t mean the efficiency will either stay the same or improve. But that is what Brandin has done.
This next BartTorvik query is a bit of a doozy, but stay with me. Per BartTorvik, Podziemski is one of 36 in their entire database (that goes back to 2008) to have the following:
Minutes Percentage of 80 or more
BPM of 5 or more
Offensive Rating of 110 or more
Usage Percentage of 25 or more
True Shooting Percentage of 55 or more
Offensive Rebound Percentage of 1 or more
Defensive Rebound Percentage of 10 or more
Assist Percentage of 20 or more
Steal Percentage of 2 or more
Free Throw Rate of 33 or more
While having a Three Point Percentage of 37 or more.
Let’s exhale. The point of this query is to say that a player within this criteria projects to score in a variety of ways, competes on the glass, moves the ball, puts pressure on the defense, can at least be trusted to play the passing lanes, and can space the floor. Some of the players he shares this distinction with include:
Exhale again. Those are some of the players he is in company with. There are some other players that had shorter stints in the NBA, as well as other players that didn’t get a chance to don an NBA uniform. While this query isn’t indicative that Brandin will become a player of the same magnitude as those listed above, his inclusion means that it isn’t out of the question. A quick note before we move on here: Podziemski is the only player that falls within this criteria based on their performance this season.
For those that enjoy the numbers, you’re welcome. For those that couldn’t care less about the numbers and just want to see the film, I got you. Let’s dive in.
Podziemski’s offensive arsenal has been on full display this season. I’ve mentioned the 39.6% from deep, but he is also shooting just a tick over 50% on his twos. InStat breaks down that Brandin is shooting as follows:
According to Synergy, Podziemski ranks in the 84th percentile (Very Good) on catch-and-shoot shot types. When he is unguarded, he is ranked in the 96th percentile (Excellent). When hoisting up a dribble jumper, he is in the 80th percentile (Good). From the “medium 17 [feet] to < 3Pts” range, Synergy has him in the 86th percentile (Excellent), and from “long 3Pts” range he is in the 77th percentile (Very Good).
All of that speaks to what the film shows: he’s a very good shooter.
We’d be here all day if I showed you some impressive shooting clips, so what I’m aiming to do here is to show some different looks Podziemski gives as a shooting threat. In this matchup against California, Santa Clara is pushing the break quickly. To start this possession, fellow Wisconsinite Keshawn Justice (#14) has the ball and pushes the ball into the halfcourt. As California is getting into position, Justice crosses to his left and drives toward the left wing—right where our guy is situated. The two exchange a quick handoff, and Podziemski is now driving toward the top of the key. California’s Devin Askew (#55) stays with Brandin as it appears as if he’s attacking the lane—something Brandin is capable of doing. As soon as Podziemski takes his second dribble he goes into a step-back move, creating a good amount of space to get his shot off. Askew goes vertical once he realizes that his man has him at a disadvantage, but it’s no use. Podziemski goes right into his buttery-smooth, quick release for three points. Just one example as to why Synergy has him ranked in the 80th percentile (Very Good) on the “Dribble Jumper” play type.
In Santa Clara’s recent matchup against Pepperdine, Podziemski put on a show. This clip illustrates some of Podziemski’s ball handling, but I want to highlight some of the progression here. As Brandin gets past his initial defender, Mike Mitchell (#1), he establishes deep paint position and collapses the defense. Without being rushed by the multitude of defenders, he picks up his dribble and kicks the ball out to Justice. Podziemski could have just held tight in the paint with the expectation that Justice would have let it fly, but Brandin relocates as quickly as he passes the ball. Good thing, too. Justice gives a quick up-fake, to which Houston Mallette (#0) bites on. Justice steps in, which draws Podziemski’s man to him. Left alone, Brandin lets it fly for three easy points. This clip reinforces Synergy’s 84th percentile (Excellent) grade on his catch-and-shoot opportunities—96th percentile (Excellent) once he’s unguarded.
This clip shows something in between the previous two clips. We say it all of the time but if you are going to be a floor-spacing threat, you cannot just be a stationary shooter. Once the defense sells out on the jumper, you have to be able to adjust and be a threat to put the ball on the deck. This play is simple, but Podziemski’s ability to make quick adjustments while being committed to shooting the three makes him a valuable asset as a shooter. To start this play, Carlos Stewart (#1) and Justice run some quick touch-and-go action to get the defense in motion. Jaden Bediako (#12) screens for Justice as he comes from the right side of the floor to the left, where Brandin is. Bediako quickly turns and sets a flair screen for Podziemski as he curls to the top of the key. As Podziemski catches the ball, he sees the impending defender, Malik Moore (#3), fighting through the Bediako screen. Taking a quick dribble to his right makes the geometry Moore will have to solve difficult enough to where Brandin has plenty of space to get three points.
Brandin’s shooting touch isn’t exclusively reserved for the long ball; he can make the defense pay on the middy, as well. In a good outing against Gonzaga, Podziemski begins this possession on the left wing. Once he gets the rock, he goes into a Pick and Roll action with Bediako. Brandin’s defender, Julian Strawther (#0), has to hand his assignment over to Drew Timme (#2). This is unfortunate for Gonzaga, as Timme is not the best perimeter isolation defender. Podziemski gets into his rhythm going to his right and then gets into a quick step-back from there. Timme simply doesn’t have the position or the footspeed to stop Brandin from knocking down the mid-range jumper. This possession is just one example of why Synergy grades him in the 87th percentile (Excellent) when shooting in this range.
Though not the most explosive or dynamic athlete, Podziemski has a good command of his handle, uses a variety of cadences when attacking the defense, and has a solid understanding of how to position his body in order to finish when it comes to scoring inside the three-point line. His ability to slip past the defense is made evident by his free-throw rate (34.9).
This clip encapsulates the touch Podziemski has on his shot but also the type of shot he can weaponize in a couple of ways. For one, he can use it as he did here. In this game against New Mexico State, we see Kosy Akametu (#3) bring the ball up the floor on this play. Podziemski flashes open to the top of the key and gets the ball. Brandin drives while maintaining continuous motion—never stopping as he attacks the lane. Once he steps inside the free-throw line, the defense converges on him. Brandin quickly picks up his dribble and lofts up a beautiful, soft floater that gracefully falls through the net. The capability to hit this type of shot consistently—he grades in the 57th percentile (Good) on these shot attempts—can allow him to mask his floater as lobs, and vice versa.
Numbers can be misleading, especially on smaller sample sizes. That makes film dives that much more important when scouting players. Podziemski operates in “Isolation” only 10.3% of the time (per Synergy), but he grades out in the 87th percentile (Excellent)—scoring 1.111 points per possession in this play type. During this inbound play, Santa Clara stacks three players on the left side of the floor, with Brandin stationed in the right corner. Stewart inbounds the ball to him, with Bediako being the only player shifting to Podziemski’s side of the court. Brandin’s man, Kyle Feit (#5), does a good job of using the baseline as another defender—only allowing Brandin the option to drive to his right. Podziemski does take it to his right (his non-dominant hand), takes a few dribbles, brings the ball back inside to his left, and finishes the contested layup before the help-side defender, Shakiru Odunewu (#34), can get into position.
Brandin likely won’t be a primary initiator at the next level, and the numbers bear that out. However, it should be noted that with limited playing time last season, this is essentially Podziemski’s first real look at significant playing time. And the creation reps have been pretty encouraging. When graded as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, he grades out in the 51st percentile (Average). When including passes, Synergy assesses him to be in the 35th percentile (Average). I’m of the mindset that if the numbers and the film do not mesh, the film is more important. Understanding a player’s starting point, team, scheme, level of competition, and processing is vital in such a case as what I see with Brandin Podziemski. The film is encouraging.
Effectively making any sort of read while running the pick-and-roll can be difficult, but Podziemski has shown throughout this young season that he can make a number of passes in one of basketball’s most important sets. This play may appear to be simple, but the timing is key. Stewart begins this play with the ball against California. Podziemski receives the pass from him on the right wing. His pick-and-roll partner will be Parker Braun (#23). Braun screens Brandin’s man, Askew, and Brandin goes to his left. With the scoring gravity Podziemski possesses, the defense drifts toward him. He only takes one dribble, with the timing on the bounce aligning perfectly with the cutting of Braun. By the time the ball comes back up to Podziemski’s hand, he dishes it quickly to Braun for an exciting dunk. More to come from these two later.
Brandin’s scoring and dribble cadence can be difficult for defenses to stop. The threat of his hang-dribble pass keeps the defense honest—especially on switches. We’ll start with Brandin at the top of the key. Camaron Tongue (#21) comes up from the left block and sets a high screen. California shows a lot of help to Brandin on this play, as his man, Joel Brown (#1), plays off Podziemski’s hip while denying the interior pass. On the left wing near Brandin, Cal’s Monty Bowser (#2), helps off his man to try and hem up Brandin on the drive. Grant Newell (#14) appears to switch off Tongue and on to Podziemski.
That’s a lot of action in just mere moments to stop our guy. As Brandin gets past the left elbow he goes into a hang-dribble that forces Newell to help up onto him, due to the threat of the floater. Newell coming up to Brandin leaves the roller, Tongue, open for a pass that comes around the defender vice on the inside. Tongue finishes with a dunk.
Those two clips illustrate some of the more conventional looks that ball handlers can hit, but being able to survey the entire court points to feel rather than repetitions. Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton (#45) is lined up against Brandin at the top of the key. Bediako comes up to screen for Podziemski on his right side—something cool to see for a lefty ball handler. Timme comes up to put pressure on Podziemski, as Brandin had a strong first half against the Zags. Bediako’s screen gives our guy enough room to split between Bolton and Timme, and Brandin uses good burst to run through the lane. Strawther can’t abandon his assignment to help, which leaves Nolan Hickman (#11) all alone as the last line of defense. Podziemski is well ahead of his roller and has plenty of room to either attack Hickman hard or pull up for one of his beautiful floaters. Instead, Brandin drives deep enough to force Hickman to come up, leaving Stewart by himself in the corner. Stewart beelines it from the left corner to the rim and receives a nice dime from Podziemski for an easy layup. This is the type of look that isn’t born out of repeating typical pick-and-roll reps with the screener. It comes from natural feel.
Podziemski’s role at the next level could look a lot like what he shows on this particular play. Despite being Santa Clara’s best player, the Broncos do a great job of involving Brandin on multiple looks—both on and off the ball. Stewart and Braun are involved in the initial action on the left wing, as they engage in a pick-and-oll. Podziemski is on the right wing as a floor spacer. Even without the ball, his shooting gravity provides significant spacing for others to get an opportunity for clean looks. San Jose State does a good job of shutting down this first look from the Broncos, which forces Stewart to swing the ball to Brandin. SJSU rotates well and our guy takes a second to examine the defense. Bediako comes to screen for Podziemski on his left. As Brandin attacks to the left wing, Alvaro Cardenas (#13), Ibrahima Diallo (#5), and Omari Moore (#10) all wall off his driving lane. What happens next is interesting and, again, is all predicated on feel. In one fluid motion, Brandin leaps off the floor, looks to the diving Bediako (which freezes the defenses), continues his momentum to his right, and hits his open teammate—Keshawn Justice—right in his shooting pocket for a pretty three. Gorgeous feed.
Last pass, I promise; same game against SJSU. Braun has the ball at the top of the key and hits Podziemski on the right wing. The screen from Braun comes on the left side of our guy, which allows him to attack the middle. Similar to the previous play, San Jose State walls off the lane against Podziemski. The pass to the left corner to Stewart was open. The overhead pass to Bediako in the post was available. However, Brandin lobs a pretty pass from the left side of the floor to the right side of the rim for Braun to convert with a thunderous, one-handed jam. Again, the number of looks Brandin gives his team with the ball in his hands makes him a constant threat on offense.
Although defense isn’t going to be Podziemski’s calling card, his effort and court awareness give him the ability to be a factor on that end of the floor. The numbers are also hard to ignore in conjunction with the effort the tape shows. Synergy grades Podziemski’s defense against all shot types as follows:
All Field Goal Attempts: 70th percentile (Very Good)
Jump Shot: 71st percentile (Very Good)
Catch-and-Shoot: 72nd percentile (Very Good)
Dribble Jumper: 52nd percentile (Good)
At Rim: 31st percentile (Average)
Some great numbers. Synergy grades his defense based on shot distances as follows:
Short to 17 [feet]: 66th percentile (Very Good)
Medium to <3 Pts: 54th percentile (Good)
Long 3 Pts: 65th percentile (Very Good)
What else is encouraging is how Synergy grades him against specific play types:
Spot-Up: 72nd percentile (Very Good)
P&R Ball Handler: 42nd percentile (Average)
Handoffs: 42nd percentile (Average)
Off Screen: 87th percentile (Excellent)
Post-Up-:82nd percentile (Very Good)
That was a lot of analytical data there, but I just find it interesting that Podziemski doesn’t grade out as below average in a major, defensive statistical category. Some of those numbers may turn out to be a little high; however, Brandin has played four conference games and some high-level non-conference games thus far. The sample we’ve seen from him isn’t everything, but it isn’t nothing either.
We’ll take a look at a few (three) defensive possessions by Podziemski to demonstrate what the numbers speak to. This first one is against California. Our guy is tasked to defend Monty Bowser (#2). Cal does a decent job of trying to free Bowser up by having him run off a couple of screens on the left side of the floor. Watch the technique Podziemski uses to get around multiple screens. Besides a good helping of “give-a-crap,” Brandin hustles through the screens and uses great closing angles to recover. After getting around the screen on the left elbow, Podziemski gets his hands elevated to avoid a bad foul and slides his feet to stay with Bowser. Bowser does attempt the shot, but Brandin doesn’t give any ground for a clean look. The shot falls well short and misses by a significant amount to the right.
Block totals aren’t a catch-all when it comes to using the stat as an indication of athleticism. There’s no perfect metric. If you believe dunks do point to athleticism, Brandin has four. If you believe blocks indicate athleticism, he has seven. The point is, he at least has a good amount of functional athleticism (Draft Twitter buzzword!). Podziemski’s court awareness and ball-tracking ability are on full display here. Brandin is, arguably, defending SJSU’s best player, Omari Moore. Moore receives the rock at the top of the key and goes into an isolation play. Moore tries to use a quick arm bar to create separation on the drive, but Brandin does well to stay glued to his side. Moore may have felt that he had a length, speed, or vertical advantage, as he did not attempt a counter at all. There was time left on the clock for an up fake, at least, but Moore tries to loft up a floater. Podziemski stayed with him every step of the way, got vertical, lifted his hand, and blocked the shot before it even had a chance to go in. The ball fell well short, and possession traded hands to the Broncos.
Don’t roll your eyes, but effort is contagious. If the best player on your team is doing stuff like this, everyone else is without excuse. In their game against New Mexico State, Santa Clara is in man defense. Xavier Pinson (#3) goes into attack mode, trying a number of dribble combinations to create space. Part of that attack was putting his back to his defender. Noting the spacing of the offense, Brandin seizes the opportunity to gamble a bit and go for the ball as Pinson spins toward the middle of the court. This was a perfectly timed risk, as Pinson loses control of the ball—allowing Brandin the time to dive for the ball, recover it, and find his teammate without turning the ball over. This effort and ability to create extra possessions without fouling (Brandin only averages 2.1 fouls per game) will be a welcomed commodity for any team.
Wrapping it Up
We’ve looked at the things that Brandin Podziemski does well on both sides of the ball. These areas of strength also happen to be areas that NBA teams tend to value tremendously. Floor spacing for larger creators is at a premium. Podziemski has that. These floor-spacing guards also have to be relied upon to find advantages once the defense chases them off the line. He can do that too. The floater is there. Should a team need him to handle some on-ball reps, he’s shown that he has the foundation to be able to do that from day one. However, he has the potential to grow even more in that aspect. Being able to defend is essential in order for coaches to trust rookies with playing time. The film and the numbers indicate that he will be a competitor on that side of the ball. He’ll crash the boards, too. Bottom line: Podziemski has good positional size, the skill, and the feel to contribute to any team’s path to greatness.