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Milos Uzan is The Ultimate Orchestrator | The Prospect Overview
Oklahoma's Milos Uzan is ready to build off a successful freshman campaign! Maxwell gives a full scouting report of the exciting playmaker, including excerpts from their interview! PLUS: Quick Hits!
I don’t have much in the way of musical talent. I wanted to learn how to play the drums when our school started offering band class in fifth grade, but just days before we could pick our instrument, I broke my arm in a monumentally stupid Razor Scooter accident. As a result, I ended up taking a different elective. When I got to middle school, I started doing choir, but I wasn’t anything special. I’d always wanted to be good at music, but it never came easily to me. Reading sheet music overwhelms my senses. When COVID hit, I got a ukulele, and I can maybe kind of/sort of play it on a basic level, but anything past that is too difficult.
My wife is the opposite of that. She can sing and play the piano, and in college, she played the flute in our school’s wind symphony. When we’d just started dating, she asked me “are you going to come to our concert this weekend?” In truth, I couldn’t think of anything I’d want to do less. Because I’m not very good at making music, I’m not very good at appreciating it, either. When I listen to music in my spare time, I’m a lyrics-first guy, because I don’t understand any of the other intricacies of the art. Music with no lyrics? No thanks. As a college kid, I’d much rather be smashing PBRs and playing UFC Undisputed 3 with my bros. But when you first start dating a woman significantly more attractive than you, sacrifices must be made.
The concert was actually fascinating. I genuinely enjoyed it! Mostly, I enjoyed watching the conductor. I was captivated by him. He needed to have keen eyes and discerning ears at all times. His timing had to be on point. When it was time for the flutes or clarinets to kick in, he needed to bring them in. It is he who must let the tuba and trombone players know when to ramp it up or scale it down. From a distance, he guided the percussionists with only hand signals. Everything ran through him, and he succeeded because of his poise, finesse, and knowledge of every facet of the symphony. It was he who organized the beauty, but he couldn’t have done it without a deep understanding of the music itself and the personnel surrounding him. I was mesmerized, unable to look anywhere else. I feel something similar when I watch Milos Uzan on the basketball court.
Milos Uzan’s 2022-2023 Stats:
28.6 MPG, 7.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.2 TOV, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Milos Uzan hails from a basketball family. In an interview with him (which you can watch here or listen to here), he told me, “My dad has been a basketball coach for the last 20 years. I’ve always been around the game. I’m also the youngest, so I was always the little brother running around the court trying to play.” Having a father with a wealth of basketball knowledge gave him a leg up. Uzan played under his father for his first two years of high school. “I think it separated me [having a coach as a father]. Me and him used to watch film after games in high school. I feel like a lot of kids weren’t doing that. As a freshman, having that confidence that your dad is the coach…In the games, most of the shots I took were shots I worked on with him, so I had the ultimate green.”
Then, COVID-19 hit, and the season was shut down in his home state of Nevada. This forced him to play elsewhere during his final two seasons. Between his time at Dream City and Prolific Prep, Uzan was consistently teaming with and pitted against some of the best high school talent in the country. His continued success drew the attention of high-major coaches. He decided to enroll at Oklahoma, and he attributed much of that decision to their coach, Porter Moser. Moser quickly rose to prominence after leading Loyola Chicago to a Final Four appearance in 2018. “I felt like me and him [Coach Moser] had the best relationship. It was down to them, Utah, UNLV, and the fourth school Cal. All really good coaches, but it came down to the relationship I had with Coach Moser and the development plan he had for me. And shoot, I had a pretty good freshman year, so I can’t complain. He stayed true to what he said to me, and the development, and the plan he had for me.”
Let’s start by hitting on that growth and development. To begin the season, Uzan wasn’t handed a spot in the starting lineup. He came off the bench in Oklahoma’s first eight contests. “Just like any other freshman, the first couple weeks when you get there, the game is faster and you have a lot to learn. That’s what I was going through in the beginning of the year, and it’s probably why I didn’t start earlier. Once I started to get a feel and see how coach wanted to play…It kind of got easier for me. The game slowed down. And I’m in the gym a lot, I watch film. The more film you watch, the easier it gets for you, the slower it gets. I ended up starting, the next game I played really well, and the next game we played Arkansas, and I really made a name for myself,” Uzan noted.
The Arkansas game was truly a turning point. Against a talented Razorbacks squad, Uzan posted 15 points on 7-11 shooting along with five assists to only one turnover. It became abundantly clear that Uzan wasn’t just ready to be a high-major starter, but ready to be a good high-major starter. “It was definitely getting used to the speed [of the game]. I had a great guard with me, Grant Sherfield, who was a senior. I used to tell him how the game was fast for me. And he helped me out a lot, and I just got a lot more comfortable as time went on,” Uzan said.
The magic of Milos Uzan begins with his ability to get inside the paint. Much like the conductor of the orchestra must utilize every instrument in his band to maximize their output, Uzan uses every part of his body to manipulate opposing defenders. He’ll dramatically sway his shoulders in one direction, acting like he is about to utilize a ball screen, only to swing back in the other direction and reject it. He’ll start moving his feet to one side only to counter back to the other, all while keeping the ball on a string to prevent the point-of-attack defender from getting into his handle. He’ll sequence multiple directional changes in a row, testing the balance of his opponent.
If Uzan comes off of a ball screen and doesn’t like the look of things, he may re-use the screen, never freeing his man from their navigational responsibilities. When a bigger player is switched onto him, he’ll make them dance. Oftentimes, the phrase “playing with pace” is sort of slapped onto any player that doesn’t have blowby ability. But Uzan genuinely uses pace, and the changing of pace, to get where he wants on the floor. His stop-start ability is obscene. His hesitation is dramatic, coming to a near-freezing point before exploiting a defender who has come to a halt and propelling past them.
Even bigger, athletic players, heralded as switchable marvels, struggle to stay in front of Uzan. He blends a mix of toughness and finesse on his way to the cup. While his free throw rate of .170 was low, Uzan doesn’t shy away from contact when carving out his path to the basket. If players are on his tail or beside him, he’ll keep his stride through contact. “It’s hard to be physical with a guy who’s shifty, so, I’m a pretty shifty guard, and I’ve got a good size on me. So, it’s hard to put a bigger guard on me that I’m quicker than, or a smaller guard on me that I’m bigger than. I feel like, a lot of the time, I’m just trying to touch the paint. A lot of good things happen when a guard gets to the paint…My size helps with that. I was playing at 180. That’s solid as a freshman, that’s a good weight…I’m a good 190 now.”
Once he has his man in the dust, things don’t get any easier for the defense. Uzan is a skilled finisher. His ambidexterity goes a long way in this department, and it won’t be the last time you hear about his ability to use both hands in this column. Whether he’s on the right or left side of the cup, he’s comfortable using either hand to finish. His body control is sublime, enabling him to contort to get the best angle possible. Uzan’s touch is wonderfully soft, and even if he doesn’t have the cleanest look at the rim, he can kiss the ball high off the glass to score. His driving package, paired with his rim game, allowed him to generate a lot of shots at the rim for a guard. Per Synergy, 31.7% of his halfcourt shots came at the rim, and he converted 53.8% of them, both figures that stack up favorably to a majority of the guards drafted in 2023. His 39% on floaters is a solid mark when he can’t get all the way to the cup, too.
His passing ability is heightened by his finishing, but what he’s able to create for others opens up his finishing, too. And good gravy, the passing is outrageous. Outlining his process when attacking, Uzan explained, “The first thing I’m looking for is to see if there’s a guy down there protecting the rim. If there’s not, I’m trying to get down there and start the domino. Whichever guy helps, I’m pretty good at passing with my left and right hand—I think that’s a special gift that I have. Whether I’m throwing with my right or left, that’s the initial start. In a pick-and-roll, I’m trying to see who’s tagging the big. If nobody’s tagging the big, I can drop it off. If somebody is tagging it, I’m trying to make the skip. That’s really what I’m looking for to get my guys going.”
Simply put, overhelping can be a deadly sin when Milos Uzan has the ball in his hands. If a defender misses a rotation or a tag, he’ll see that immediately and get the ball to the open man. He’s beyond creative, and not a single pass is off the table. His ambidexterity pops up again here, as Uzan himself noted. He’s able to whip the ball out of the live dribble with either hand. Paired with his timing, defensive errors are punished immediately. He’ll use head movement to look off where he’s going to pass the ball, baiting defenders into going to the wrong spots.
If a player cuts to the basket and has their man behind them, Uzan can deliver them the ball with either hand. If the roller is open, he’ll find the best angle possible to get them the rock. He will slither through traffic, draw over the rim protector, go up with the ball, and then dump it off to his own big man after their defender has already left their feet. His other-worldly body control enables him to make passes across his own body in the paint to players on the perimeter that generally wouldn’t receive a pass in most situations.
My favorite Milos Uzan passing trait, though, is his ability to hit the weakside corner. He sets up an outrageous amount of corner threes for his teammates. Because he’s able to gain an advantage on the perimeter so often, the low man has to be prepared for him at the rim. This draws the lower weakside defender closer to the basket in case Uzan hits the big, and it leaves open a corner shooter. Uzan’s ability to recognize this, but also dart a precision pass with loads of velocity on it at a moment’s notice to that shooter, makes him exceedingly difficult to scheme around for opposing defenses. It often doesn’t make sense for that defender to stay hugged to the corner, because if they do, Uzan and his big man will often get a 2-on-1 at the rim. But when that defender comes to help, Uzan is better than almost anyone at setting up one of the highest percentage shots in basketball.
I hate to be hyperbolic, but Uzan is a genuinely special creator. His deep bag of setups as an attacker helps him get an edge early in the possession on a consistent basis. Once that initial advantage is created, the defense has few good options. If he gets to the rim, he has a great chance to finish. If someone else comes to cut him off, he knows where they came from, and he’ll make them pay the price. There isn’t a single pass that’s off the table for him, as he truly sees the whole floor while having the size and creativity to reward an open player the second they become available. Playmaking is a genuine, signature skill in Uzan’s game that will draw NBA interest.
After shooting 40.8% from long range this year, it’s clear that Milos Uzan is at least something of a threat from long range. If one wanted to pick nits, they could point to his three-point shooting volume—he only took 2.2 per game and 4.7 per 100 possessions, both lower numbers for a guard. However, as the year progressed, Uzan made strides in that department. He noted a change in confidence as the year progressed, telling me, “I’ve always been a pretty good shooter, but I just didn’t really shoot it like that. I was more trying to get Grant [Sherfield], he’s a scorer, get him the ball and get him the going. Toward the end of the year, though, I saw that that’s what we were missing. Me and Coach Moser had multiple talks about me shooting the ball and not deferring. And I kind of did change my mindset a little, and I saw some growth. I started to take off. I knew I could make these types of shots I was passing up, so I started to take them.”
A turn in the calendar marked a change in approach. In his first 13 games, Uzan took 0.9 threes per game and hit 41.7% of them. After January 1st, Uzan stayed efficient, hitting 40.7% of his threes, but he more than tripled his output, taking 3.1 per game. He began hunting his shot more aggressively, particularly off the catch when defenders gave him room. Per Synergy, Uzan connected on 44.8% of his catch-and-shoot threes, giving him real off-ball value. He commented that playing with talented guards like Grant Sherfield last year and Javian McCollum heading into this season has helped him grow and that he’s comfortable creating for others while also being ready to help them when they have the ball.
The next step for Uzan is developing his pull-up game. He singled this out as an area of development this past off-season, saying that, “Game wise, I’m shooting the ball off the dribble a lot better. I just didn’t shoot it a lot last year. I’m shooting the ball a lot better when guys go under ball screens.” Last season, Uzan went 40% on pull-up twos and 26.7% on pull-up threes, but the volume here was low—10 pull-up twos, and 15 pull-up threes. His release can be lower on these shots, but otherwise, it’s a smooth process from a mechanical standpoint. Rounding out this area of his game could make life even more complicated for defenders in ball screen scenarios given how dangerous he is when he gets downhill.
From a pure metrics standpoint, Milos Uzan might not pop off the stat sheet defensively. His 1.6 STL% and 0.7 BLK% aren’t captivating numbers, but they aren’t red flags, either. The tape, however, tells an encouraging tale. Uzan was put into loads of ball screens as a guard defender, and he did well on those possessions. “I think it’s because I’m a lot stronger than I look. I’m really good at getting in front and using my forearm. And then, this year, what I’ve gotten better at is bullying ball screens and listening to the command from the big on what the ball screen will be. I mean, it’s probably my length a little bit. When I cover a point guard, I’ve got more length on me and my closeout, for sure,” he explained. Uzan has the length to wall off opponents, but his footwork and nose for navigating ball screens take him even further. He does a good job of staying connected to his man and preventing them from getting clean looks. His balance and discipline him difficult to shake, too. Uzan won’t leave himself vulnerable by trying too hard to make a play on the ball. Opponents scored under 0.7 Points Per Possession against him in ball screens last season, per Synergy.
Uzan’s work in the film room only helps. “If a guy’s a refusal guy, or dominant right hand, it all plays a part. Depending on who I’m guarding, I know the scout before the game. If I know this guy doesn’t like to go left, I’m definitely trying to push him left. If he doesn’t like to shoot off the dribble, I’m definitely sliding under the ball screen. It depends on personnel and having the right mindset and wanting to guard,” he noted. By knowing player tendencies and forcing them to go where they are uncomfortable, Uzan bolsters his team’s chances to win.
His size and toughness help when he gets switched. When he was covering bigger wing players, they didn’t have the same advantage over him that they would against your standard college point guard. This bodes well for him scaling up to the next level, where the smallest man on the floor has often been made a hunting target for opposing offenses. Against Uzan, things won’t come so easy. His timing with his hands and knack for getting in low on the ball around the basket should do wonders for him, too. Even defending off the ball and within a team concept, his ground coverage stands out. His balance shines when closing out, making it hard to get him on his heels if someone drives at him instead of shooting. Uzan gets off the floor easily, making his contests meaningful and difficult to deal with. He’s a solid defender now, and with another year under his belt, he should progress forward.
It’s hard not to get excited about Milos Uzan. He’s an exceptional playmaker who can manipulate and bend defenses time and time again. His shiftiness, combined with his ability to play ball screens in a wide variety of ways, makes him one of the trickiest players in the country to contain. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s good at the rim, either. Having help come over doesn’t even do much, as he’s great at dumping it off to his big man inside, and he’s outstanding at finding the weakside corner. He’s one of the most creative passers out there, and his knack for slinging off the dribble with both hands makes him a persistent headache. When he gets going, nothing is off the table. All five defenders must be entirely tuned in to what Uzan is doing, and where their man is. His feel is simply too good for any lapses by anyone on the court to go unpunished. He’s truly the ultimate orchestrator of offense.
His off-ball shooting, particularly later on in the year, further adds to the intrigue. At 6’4”, Uzan has ways to make life difficult for the defense at all times. This makes him the modern, malleable guard that teams are looking for. He’s always a threat, and he’s difficult to pick on in a concrete, discernable way on both ends of the court. High-level playmakers who can hit from distance, such as Monte Morris and Andrew Nembhard, have carved out important rotation spots in the NBA. Uzan is bigger than Morris, and there’s a good chance he’ll get to the league at a younger age than Nembhard. I’ll be starting the year with a first-round grade on Milos Uzan. His skill set is exactly what teams should be looking for in a modern guard, and his size only sweetens the pot.
-Few prospects have been as difficult for me to gauge as Zaccharie Risacher. Often mocked in the first round, he’s a fluid mover at 6’8” who looks like a pro even when competing in the EuroCup and France’s top domestic league. He does a great job of covering smaller players defensively. Additionally, while he can be overly passive at times, he’s played with a bit more confidence and assertiveness lately. Still, I have concerns about his lack of physicality, how upright he plays, and how contact can force him to pick up his dribble when driving. At 28.6% from deep on the year as of this writing, he’s not a first-round guy for me at this point. He really needs to shoot at a high level to warrant that type of consideration given his other issues. You can read more about him here in this great piece by our own Ignacio Rissotto!
-Alex Toohey joins the growing list of overachieving prospects in the NBL. The 6’8” wing is playing for the Sydney Kings. More of a fringe top 100 guy in his recruiting class, I thought Toohey would take some time before he warranted real attention. WRONG. His shot is clean as a sheet off the catch, and he’s at 33.3% through six games as of this writing. He’s an active mover who knows how to play without the ball. When he gets the ball, he knows where his teammates are and can keep things moving. Toohey has some bounce off one foot, too. My first concern with him is that he’s still a bit behind physically, and he feels like you could hide smaller players on him. The bigger issue is that when he guards the ball, directional changes give him a great deal of trouble, and teams have already targeted him quite a bit. Still, within a team concept, he knows how to play on both ends of the floor. He’s a genuine prospect to monitor over time because of his size, shooting, and feel.
-Let’s get to the sicko stuff! First, a lower-ranked freshman prospect that I’m interested in longer-term is Jaylin Stewart at UConn. At 6’7”, there are some athletic limitations, as he’s not the fastest or bounciest. Everything else is pretty sweet, though. Stewart’s passing feel is tremendous, and he can use his length to deliver the ball at unique angles that are difficult for defenders to anticipate. He’s physical and will bang it out on the glass. For his age and size, his jump shot looks solid, and his polished mid-range game is super encouraging. Stewart also led Seattle Rotary 17U in blocks while slotting second in steals. It may be tough for him to carve out minutes on such a talented team but keep his name in your back pocket for later.
-Now, it’s time for international sleepers! Lucas Langarita is an 18-year-old competing for Zaragoza in Spain’s ACB, one of the best leagues in the world. He has good size for a modern guard, standing 6’5”. There’s a glitchy-looking shiftiness with his handle that makes him hard to telegraph, he’s great at changing speeds, and he’s a master of disguise when it comes to fakes and looking off passes. The most glaring offensive concern at the moment is his jumper. Through six games, he’s at 20% from deep. That’s a small sample size, but what’s more worrying is that he’ll often pass up open looks from three off the catch. He’s a willing pull-up shooter off one or two dribbles around the elbow, but it’s hard for guards to reach the highest level without being an active, efficient three-point threat.
-Another interesting guard is Oleksandr Kovliar. The 21-year-old, 6’3” prospect has started the year strong for BC Kalev-Cramo in the Estonian-Latvian Basketball League. There’s some quickness to him, and he’s a creative passer on the go, enabling him to average 6 APG to 1.5 TOV through four games. His pocket passes are especially mesmerizing. Kovliar also has the ability to generate space east-west using his footwork before going into his pull-up. At 40% from deep to start this year, and after going 39% from three last season, he’s a legitimate floor spacer. Kovliar is pesky with his hands, too, posting 2.5 SPG. That defensive feistiness could help separate him from other guard prospects. While he isn’t playing the greatest competition in the world, Kovliar’s productivity and skill set should make him worthy of consideration for NBA teams.