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Michigan vs. Ohio State | In-Person Scouting Experience with No Ceilings
A couple of weeks ago I drove down to Ann Arbor, Michigan to catch a glimpse of 2023 NBA Draft prospects Jett Howard, Brice Sensabaugh, and Kobe Bufkin.
Happy Sunday, No Ceilings family!
This week, I wanted to try out something different than my normal day-to-day duties for the No Ceilings collective—and that’s dropping some writing content on the internet!
As the Social Media Manager, I do a lot of things behind the scenes across our social platforms. Whether that’s overseeing our accounts on a daily basis, video editing, copywriting, creating graphics, cross-platform posting, researching trends, etc.—I’m doing all I can to help our content grow and reach as many different audiences as possible. Aside from all of that, I absolutely love the NBA Draft and deep dive into as much film as I possibly can.
I started to look into covering the NBA Draft in-depth during COVID—which in March 2020 was the ending of my junior year of college at Michigan State University. Everything went from having only “two weeks off from school” to “oh, actually, see you in August” in a matter of weeks. So, I had a lot of time on my hands.
I found myself not watching every episode of Outer Banks, like my friends did, but instead heading over to YouTube to watch old high school and college highlight tapes of Anthony Davis, Andrew Wiggins, Devin Booker, and Grayson Allen, most notably. I remember just feeling so nostalgic watching these highlight tapes I used to watch in high school and how much I missed playing basketball. I had played AAU basketball since I was nine years old and played on Varsity since my freshman year, so I was never really “without” basketball until college.
So, as you can expect, I was hooked. I watched all the full-game film I could get on YouTube, scouting breakdowns, player write-ups—basically anything I could find to help me learn and be more involved in the draft space.
Fast forward to now, three years later, and I’m lucky to be a part of one of the hottest NBA Draft media outlets out there, made up of awesome people.
So, when I had the opportunity about two weeks ago to venture out to the depths of Ann Arbor, Michigan, AKA the home of our little brother, the University of Michigan, to see some of the top 2023 NBA Draft prospects live, you betcha I jumped at that opportunity!
Anyways, enough about my story on how I got involved in the “Draft Maniac” lifestyle (it’s really not that exciting, haha)—let’s get into my first experience with No Ceilings watching Jett Howard, Kobe Bufkin, Brice Sensabaugh, and Bruce Thornton live as Michigan faced Ohio State at the Crisler Center!
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After arriving at the Crisler Center about an hour ahead of game time, I headed up to the upper level where the media seating was located (as you can see from my view above). I headed to an open seat wherever I could find one and got prepared for the game to start.
Jett Howard - Michigan - Freshman
Jett is a BIG DUDE. He looked every bit of 6’8” and 215 pounds, and he looked lankier than I expected in person. In January, our own Albert Ghim wrote about why Jett is considered a Top 5 prospect in the 2023 NBA Draft class—and after my live experience, I wholeheartedly agree he can possibly go that high.
Howard finished with: 16 points, two rebounds, 5-12 FG, 2-8 3PT, and 4-4 FT in Michigan’s 77-69 win over Ohio State.
What popped the most for me was Howard’s impressive three-level scoring ability. While it wasn’t an efficient night from downtown, he still was able to hit a variety of tough jumpers coming off movement, off-the-catch, in pick-and-roll action with Dickinson, and over double teams; Howard displayed the ability to create his own shot off the dribble as well.
PSA: Howard can really stroke it, and I could probably watch him shoot all day long.
Aside from shooting—Howard still needs to work on his playmaking, rebounding ability, and defense. One of my favorite possessions of Jett’s was actually his lone assist of the game. Howard made a tip pass in the air before landing on the ground over to Kobe Bufkin in the corner for the knock-down three-pointer. It was one of the smoothest passes I’ve seen from Jett all season long, and it was even better witnessing it in person.
Jett, if you’re reading this: Please do this more often. This pass you made is a thing of beauty.
Howard did put up two rebounds in this game, but I would love for him to average four or more rebounds to close out the season. At 6’8” and with his size, that should be easy money for Jett. He’s currently averaging 2.6 rebounds per game, and he did have a four-rebound stint in Michigan’s latest game against Wisconsin. Just saying, making that improvement closing out the season would be very encouraging from a scouting perspective.
Kobe Bufkin - Michigan - Sophomore
Bufkin’s name has started to creep up in first-round territory on some of the most mainstream Big Boards and Mock Drafts. However, I have to give my fellow colleague Tyler Metcalf his flowers, as he’s been in on Bufkin since the beginning, including him being a possible first rounder. Quick plug—we dropped our latest BIG Board and Mock Draft a few days ago, and we have Kobe Bufkin being selected at #41 to the Boston Celtics and drafted with the #39 pick overall in the 2023 NBA Draft, respectively. I currently have the 6’4”, 175-pound sophomore guard at #32 on my personal Big Board, and boy, did he play like every bit of a potential first-round prospect in this game. He’s also been on quite the heater as of late.
Bufkin finished with: 13 points, eight rebounds, and five assists on 5-10 FG, 2-4 3PT, and 1-2 FT. A clean sweep in all three categories of shooting at a 50% clip.
Kobe Bufkin not only puts some HEAT on his passes, but he also can thread the needle at such an impressive rate. Some of the passes he was throwing had me in awe, as he not only could feed his teammates in the smallest of spaces, but it genuinely looked like he enjoyed playmaking for others; every play he made had a natural touch to it.
Bufkin’s game and movements did give me some flashbacks of Jordan Poole in a Michigan uniform. Now, I don’t think Bufkin and Poole are comparable play-wise, but in terms of size, frame, and athletic ability, I do see a resemblance.
I really enjoyed watching Bufkin shooting the basketball and enjoyed watching him on the defensive end in this game as well. His stroke is not only smooth like butter, but he also looks so poised when he shoots. It looks comfortable to shoot when defended well and doesn’t differ when he finds himself wide open. He also had some tough finishes at the rim he made while coming down in transition that impressed me. Bufkin doesn’t shy away from contact; he embraces it. He is also super fast in the open court, and he easily blows by opponents that try to keep up with him while they get back in their defensive spots.
On the defensive side of the ball, the dude is a menace. His hands are extremely fast, he uses his length to disrupt shooters, and he just slides very well in rotations.
Overall, Kobe Bufkin was an absolute joy to watch.
Brice Sensabaugh - Ohio State - Freshman
This game was a full-on mania of being able to see some of the top shot-makers and shooters in this draft class go head-to-head. Brice Sensabaugh, AKA Brice Buckets, displayed his tough shot-making ability on his pull-up jumpers, fadeaway jumpers off the initial post-up, and off the catch. Yes, there have been questions on why Sensabaugh rarely takes “easy” shots or if he is consistently able to create space for his own shot—and the answer is yes he can.
Brice is also a built, built dude at 6’6” and 235 pounds. He’s just frankly too much for the majority of the players on the court to handle, and he can bulldoze his way to his own shot and at the rim as he pleases.
He finished with: 14 points, nine rebounds, 4-14 FG, 1-4 3PT, and 5-6 FT against Michigan.
Simply put, Sensabaugh is a bucket. I think Brice is a Top 6 shooter in this year’s draft class, and his shot-making ability just has “NBA Player” written all over it.
Brice’s weaknesses also lie in his playmaking ability and on the defensive end of the ball like Jett Howard—with both being on display in this match-up. As the season has gone on, both of these top prospects have steadily improved in these areas, but they still have a lot to work on to be average defenders in the NBA. With this in mind, wherever those two land, I think having a great development staff behind them will work wonders, and there’s a lot of upside there due to how offensively gifted both of them are.
Above, I included a reel of Sensabaugh not shooting but rebounding. Brice didn’t have the most efficient night shooting-wise this night, but I loved how aggressive he was on the boards. This was one of his best rebounding nights ever (nine), and it looked pretty nonchalant for him. Not only was he crashing the boards, bullying Michigan defenders for the ball, and capitalizing on second opportunities on his own shots, but he almost always got a rebound and immediately pushed the ball. That is one of the main qualities I love in a wing: being able to immediately initiate offense at a fast pace and turn defense into offense consistently is a great skill set to have at any position.
Bruce Thornton - Ohio State - Freshman
The last prospect I came to watch in this game was Bruce Thornton. The 6’2”, 215-pound wing looked like an NFL running back on the court. No joke. The dude is a force for his size.
Thornton ended up having his best game of the season thus far against the Wolverines with 22 points and two steals on 10-of-13 from the field and 2-of-3 from behind the arc. Bruce could not miss, and it seemed every time he got to his spots, whether that was in the mid-range or with finishing at the rim, the guy couldn’t miss. Thornton doesn’t have the plus size, outlier speed, or insane shooting ability that elite point guard prospects typically possess—but let me tell you, Thornton has an amazing feel for the game and is a legit floor general as a freshman.
This game was a true “coming of age” game for Thornton. It showed what can happen when he plays his game exactly how he can play, and how he can make a mess of defenses when he consistently gets to his spots.
Bruce Thornton will be a name to watch out for next year, and I’m super intrigued to see how this offseason goes for him as he heads into a potential breakout sophomore season.
A little side note…
Shoutout to one of my favorite NBA Draft Analysts in the space—Krysten Peek of Yahoo! Sports. Not only is she the lone woman in the draft space across all major media outlets like ESPN, Bleacher Report, The Athletic, etc., but she also covers the nation’s top high school boy’s basketball recruits and does amazing work! So, just wanted to say thank you for contributing to my inspiration on wanting to get involved in covering the NBA Draft and showing us “Gen-Z” girls that we absolutely can have a great time in this space.
My goal is to show any woman that works in sports that not only do you belong here, but you are heard and seen, and you have worked hard to get to the point where you are at, no matter what anyone else thinks! There are going to be bumps in the road, but what journey doesn’t have those—just stay the course, and you’ll eventually get to where you want to go.