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Ten Must-Scout College Basketball Games this Week | The Prospect Overview
College basketball is back! Maxwell gives you ten games to watch this week, and who to watch in those games!
College basketball is finally back!
I’m a very regimented person. Part of that bleeds over into my approach to scouting. I always map out a schedule of games for the upcoming week. It keeps me organized and allows me to make sure I’m getting an eye on prospects in a time-efficient manner. As such, I figured I’d share with you a peek into that schedule. Today, we’ll run through ten “must-scout” games for the first week of the college season! I’ll be watching a lot more than ten games, but these are the ones I’m looking forward to most. Keep in mind—we’re talking about the entirety of the matchup and what we can learn from it. As much as I want to see Stephon Castle, Omaha Biliew, and Justin Edwards, they won’t be playing in matchups where we’ll be able to learn a significant amount of information about them at this stage.
10. James Madison at Michigan State, Monday, 8:30 P.M./ET
The prospects I’m most intrigued with here are actually incoming freshmen—Michigan State’s Coen Carr and Xavier Booker. Both are downright exciting if they can round out their games, and against a good James Madison team, we should get an idea for 1.) where they are in the pecking order currently, and 2.) how close they are to actualizing their upside.
Carr is an athletic dynamo. He plays bigger than his 6’5” height thanks to his strong 225-pound frame and obscene athleticism. Carr will make disruptive plays as a defender and is a terror in transition. He’s got some real juice as a passer, too, seeing the floor well and whipping the ball to the open man when he finds them. A respectable jumper would make him a surefire first round pick at worst, and he’s not super far away. Per Synergy, he went 33% on 36 attempts between his 24 total EYBL and high school games they tracked last season. While a volume increase is needed, it’s workable. His 55% at the charity stripe over that same stretch of games leaves cause for concern, though.
Booker was a late riser in high school. The 6’11” mobile big man with a 7’5” wingspan didn’t play on one of the big shoe circuits, but slowly climbed recruiting ranks with his strong play at camps, events, and during his high school seasons. He can stretch the floor, face up, and finish lobs above the rim. On defense, he can swat shots and move with smaller players. If it all comes together for Booker, he could be an ideal modern big man.
AJ Hoggard, Malik Hall, and Jaden Akins will look to pop as returners. The 6’4”, 210-pound Hoggard is a menace on defense. He’ll use his lateral agility and burly frame to lock down opposing guards. He desperately needs to figure out his jump shot, but both his free-throw and three-point percentages and volume have increased year over year. Hall is a strong-bodied forward with nice scoring touch, but his defense and athleticism have left something to be desired. Akins is a 6’4” guard who needs to find more playmaking balance to his game, but he did shoot 46.3% from the field and 43.1% from three over his final fifteen games.
Terrence Edwards is the name to watch for James Madison. The 6’6” wing has the wiggle, shake, and pace to get to his spots, and he’s a genuine shot-maker. The CAA Sixth Man of the Year last season, Edwards posted 13.3 PPG on 52.9/45.8/71.9 splits. His slither and speed got him to the rim for 40.7% of his halfcourt shots, and he converted 56.5% of them, per Synergy. We’re talking real inside-out stuff here. On defense, his quickness and length help him make plays off the ball. He’s on the thin side, but if Edwards can show that he’s able to withstand the physicality of the Spartans while producing efficient offense, that could raise eyebrows in front offices.
9. Milwaukee at Providence, Saturday, 6 P.M./ET
I’m fascinated by Providence freshman Garwey Dual. The 6’5”, long-armed guard is a handful on defense. He’s a quick mover with pesky hands who is able to stay in front of almost anybody. His explosiveness, tremendous use of misdirection, and ability to change speeds make it easy for him to get where he wants on offense. Dual is difficult to telegraph, but even if you figure out where he’s going, his tools will still be too potent to contain in many instances. He can soar off of one foot, has soft touch at the basket, and relishes contact. Long-term, he’s absolutely a player I’m buying. The question is, how close is Dual to being ready for the NBA? He’s still thin, and because he gets downhill so often (not a bad problem to have), he rarely shoots from the outside. Where his jump shot is, and how well he handles college physicality, will at least give us a “Point A” and allow us to better set expectations for him.
The 6’6” bruiser Bryce Hopkins for the Friars will look to build upon his breakout sophomore season. He has counters upon counters to get to his spots, and he posted most of his 15.8 PPG around the basket. Hopkins sees the floor well as a passer and can fit the ball through tight windows, even when doubled or in the midst of one of his attacks. Defensively, he knows how to use his strength and size, but speed and bounce questions exist when it comes to his NBA translation. A 36.4% shooter from deep last year, Hopkins could be tentative from deep and only took 2.3 triples per game. This game should provide a glance into where Hopkins’ is from an athleticism and shooting confidence standpoint.
Devin Carter and Josh Oduro are both tenacious competitors. Carter is a 6’3” junior guard who posted a 3.3 STL% and 3.4 BLK% last year, both tremendous numbers for a guard. He’s also a strong driver and steady decision-maker. His 29.9% from deep will have to improve to draw NBA interest, but everything else is pretty exciting. Oduro follows Coach Kim English from George Mason. The 6’9” big man is strong and physical. Opponents tend to bounce off him. He regressed a bit as a shooter and shot blocker last year (29.2% to 23.3% and 1.7 BPG to 0.9 BPG), but if he gets back to his old self in those areas, he could be a Portsmouth type.
BJ Freeman is the guy to watch for Milwaukee. I previously covered Freeman during my No Stone Unturned series. At 6’6” and 200 pounds, Freeman is a playmaker for himself and others. The junior was named to the All-Horizon League Second Team after an outrageous closing stretch to the season. Over the final twenty games of the season, he averaged 22.4 PPG on 41.6/34.2/84.1 shooting splits, along with 5.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.4 BPG. He can pull from NBA range with his quick release, drive to the basket to get to the free-throw line, or find the open man when he gets deep in the paint. A matchup with Providence should indicate how well Freeman can scale up against bigger, more athletic opposition. A strong outing could indicate that he may be more ready for the next level than the consensus realizes.
8. Clemson vs. UAB, Friday, 8:30 P.M./ET
I kind of feel like Clemson’s PJ Hall can’t catch a break. The 6’9” big man with a 7’2” wingspan and 241-pound frame didn’t get a ton of draft buzz despite his All-ACC Third-Team selection. Part of that may have been that an injury prior to the start of the season ate into his counting numbers a little bit. Still, he earned an invite to G League Elite Camp. He went 4-of-11 from deep there, hitting real-deal NBA difficulty threes. Hall was so good there that he got invited to the NBA Combine. There, he wasn’t as dominant, but he was good. His motor ran hot, he had some passing flashes, and he was super fired up any time his teammates made a good play. He’s got the measurements, athleticism, and skill…and it just feels like nobody is talking about him. If a healthy Hall can add some more rim protection to his game this season, there won’t be much of anything holding him back. A strong outing early in the year against a well-respected Blazers team could reassert his place in people’s minds again.
UAB is facing a colossal amount of roster turnover. For Eric Gaines, that presents a golden opportunity. The 6’2” senior guard is one of the best athletes in the entire sport. He’s fast into passing lanes (1.8 SPG, 3.6 STL%) and blocks shots at an outstanding clip for a player his size (0.8 BPG, 2.4 BLK%). His speed allows him to pressure the rim well, as 33.6% of his halfcourt shots were at the rim last season. Add in his violent leaping ability, and he can finish there, too; he made 53.3% of his rim attempts last season, per Synergy. More than a highlight-reel dunker and defender, Gaines has started to figure things out as a distributor. He averaged a career-best 4.3 APG while posting his lowest turnover rate yet last season. The last piece for him is his jumper. Gaines has always been a solid free throw shooter, and his three-point percentage has climbed from 17.2% to 25.0% to 34.3% over the course of his career. Having a reliable, higher-volume three-ball in his arsenal would make it easier for him to get inside the paint and unleash all that he has to offer. A tough test early in the year against Clemson might give us an idea as to if he can continue his pace of improvement.
7. UNC Asheville at Michigan, Tuesday, 8:30 P.M./ET
I’m actually going to start off with a player at the smaller school here, Drew Pember. A 6’11” graduate (who I covered during 2022’s No Stone Unturned series), Pember surprised many when he opted to not only return to school without testing the draft waters but also announced that he wouldn’t enter the transfer portal, either. He’s an outstanding three-point shooter who went 38% from deep on 7.6 attempts per 100 possessions. If you try to chase him off the line, he has the ball-handling skills and speed to attack a closeout. He gets to the line a ton and has no problem creating for others. Defensively, he gets up off the floor easily, swatting 2.4 shots per game. He also has the mobility to guard in space and should be able to play the four at the next level. The challenge for Pember comes in the form of physicality. Pember, listed at 215 pounds, has a narrow frame and can play weak with the ball. He turned it over 3.4 times per contest last season and struggled most notably with that issue against bigger opponents. Pember had six turnovers against UCF, four against Dayton, three against Arkansas, and six against UCLA.
He’s going to get the perfect test from an imposing Michigan frontcourt. Olivier Nkamhoua will match Pember in experience. The 6’9”, 235-pound grad transfer from Tennessee is a physical force who loves to muck it up in the paint. A G League Elite Camp invite, Nkamhoua makes life tough around the basket on defense, but he’s also nimble enough to hang in space. In order to bolster his draft stock, teams will want to see a more modern offensive approach. He’s a skilled passer and solid shooter (37.3% from three over the past two seasons), but at his size, teams will want to see him be less interior-oriented. Only 1.5 of his 8.5 field goal attempts per game were from deep. Showing more of an inside-outside scoring arsenal could help his draft stock.
Alongside Nkamhoua is Tarris Reed Jr., one of my favorite sophomore breakout candidates. At 6’10” and 265 pounds, Reed will give Pember another dose of high-major size. Reed has loads of power and can plow through just about anyone to get to the rim. He’s a better mover than one might expect when he has to guard in space and he blocked shots at a good clip last season. The big drawback with Reed is that he was a poor free-throw shooter and had a ghastly assist-to-turnover ratio last season. However, in high school, he displayed heaps of passing feel and was a willing, reliable three-point shooter. If Reed can marry those skills with his improved athleticism, he could be off to the races. Against a good mid-major team, we could get an idea as to if that type of breakout is on the immediate horizon.
6. Texas & AM at Ohio State, Friday, 7:00 P.M./ET
With the departures of Brice Sensabaugh and Justice Sueing, the top two spots in the Ohio State pecking order are up for grabs. The good news for Buckeyes fans and draft sickos alike is that there is a bevy of exciting prospects who could seize that opportunity. On the returners front, Felix Okpara and Roddy Gayle Jr. would be of most interest to NBA fans. The 6’11” Okpara is a nimble big man who posted an 8.9 BLK% last season. While his defensive technique on the perimeter needs to be improved (he often commits fouls when showing at the level, switching, or hedging), there’s a lot of upside on that side of the ball given his tools and motor. His shooting touch looks soft, too, so he could eventually space the floor. Gayle is a 210-pound combo guard who is hellbent on getting to the rim. Later in the year, he hunted his three-point shot more, and the results were encouraging. He finished the year at 42.9% from deep. When he’s engaged defensively, his frame makes him tough to shake. He’ll need to show more juice as a passer given his 6’4” height. Right now, he gets too forceful with his reads, resulting in turnovers.
Sophomore Bruce Thornton will have a tougher path as a short guard who lacks high-end speed, but at 205 pounds, he’s sturdy and tough. Plus, he can shoot from deep (37.5% from three last year) and takes excellent care of the ball (2.6 APG to 1.3 TOV last year). Jamison Battle, a grad transfer from Minnesota, will look to get back on the horse after an injury stunted his production a year ago. Another burly-bodied option for the Buckeyes, the 6’7” Battle had shown three-level scoring capabilities in the past. Adding more to his game as a passer and defender could get him back in the mix.
I’m most intrigued by a newcomer, though—freshman Scotty Middleton. A 6’7” wing, he’s cut from a pristine piece of 3-and-D cloth. At Sunrise Christian Academy, Middleton was often tasked with covering the opposing team’s best player. He’s capable of guarding up or down, his motor doesn’t shut off, and he handles changes of direction well. On offense, he has solid vision as a passer and can scale down to a lower maintenance role when needed. Still, he has the chops to get to his spots and convert in the mid-range. What’s most exciting, though, is his three-point shot. He went 40.6% from deep for Sunrise last year, and 44% the year before that. Few players his age have that type of polish from beyond the arc. I love Middleton as at least a complimentary NBA piece long-term, but if he could become a legitimate takeover guy in the near term, his stock will explode. He’s got as good a shot at that as almost anybody. 6’7” Devin Royal is powerfully built with intriguing shot-making chops but has to make some athletic improvements. The 6’4” Taison Chatman will have to overcome a crowded backcourt situation, but he’s a smooth operator with a tight handle and a confident pull-up game.
Texas A&M may not be the most loaded from a prospect standpoint, but they are a great team to evaluate prospects against. Why, you ask? Because they’re a nasty defensive squad, playing with loads of physicality, toughness, and intensity. Junior guard Wade Taylor IV will always be fighting an uphill battle at 6’0”, but his improving jump shot and point-of-attack feistiness will get him looks after he finishes his college career. He forced a turnover 32.1% of the time guarding pick-and-roll ball-handlers and 38.9% of the time when guarding in isolation last year. That’s wild! I’ve also long been interested in Jace Carter, a 6’5” transfer from UIC. The junior is a hard-nosed wing who punches above his height on the glass due to his strength and work ethic. His 2.9 STL% and 2.2 BLK% are indicative of his ability to make plays off the ball. As a sophomore, he improved his straight-line driving and passing. While his three-point volume increased, his percentage fell from 38.2% to 30.1%. If he gets back on track as a shooter and he can move a bit more quickly when guarding the ball, Carter could be a real-deal NBA prospect.
5. Tennessee at Wisconsin, Friday, 8 P.M./ET
I’ve become a Dalton Knecht evangelist, knocking on doors and asking everyone I know if they’ve been introduced to the 6’6” grad transfer from Northern Colorado. I covered him during the No Stone Unturned series this offseason, and a strong exhibition outing against Michigan State has me even more convinced he’ll hear his name called on draft night. Knecht is a high-wire, above-the-rim athlete. Going back through his film, it was astounding how many of his dunks last season came in a halfcourt. He was blowing by guys like Dillon Jones and Grant Nelson, not just overmatched opponents. His mid-range bag is reliable when he can’t get all the way to the rim. Knecht is a legitimate threat from deep. He went 38.1% from beyond the arc as his team’s clear-cut leading option. His range extends to behind the NBA line, and he can also pull up with it too, hitting 34.2% of those attempts on high volume. He’s a three-level scorer, three-point bomber, and a plus athlete at 6’6”. I believe the late-bloomer, who chose to attend Tennessee to round out his defensive skill set, is going to work his way into first-round consideration. Get familiar now.
Josiah-Jordan James will flank Knecht at the other forward spot. The 6’6”, powerfully built graduate has seemingly been on the cusp for ages. Unfortunately, injuries and the inconsistent production stemming from them have held him back. At his best, he can defend multiple positions, and he’s always been a willing outside shooter. He needs a healthy season where his jumper stabilizes to get over the hump. 6’4” junior Jordan Gainey comes over from USC Upstate. He’s a certified bucket-getter who can make plays on defense. If his playmaking for others can come along, there’s a path for him to get onto NBA radars this year. Incoming freshman Freddie Dilione brings a similar game to the table. Though not proven at the college level like Gainey, he does have a stronger frame and boasts lots of creativity. Another 6’4” freshman guard, Cameron Carr, could make his mark. He can really shoot it and takes great care of the ball.
Wisconsin has a number of guys who could get onto radars this season. Connor Essegian is an outrageous scorer. The 6’4” guard has some things to figure out as a passer and defender, but few can fill it up like him. He shot almost 36% from three on 12.7 attempts per 100 possessions and went 88.4% at the charity stripe. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being one of the best scorers in the Big Ten. Our own Stephen Gillaspie covered AJ Storr on our site here. He’s a well-rounded 6’6” wing with a promising jump shot (40.4% from three last year), but he has real bounce and can finish at the rim, too. If his physical tools actualize more on the defensive end, watch out. 6’11” freshman Nolan Winters has been making waves, too. He can stretch the floor and compete on the glass.
4. Auburn vs. Baylor, Tuesday, 9 P.M./ET
Baylor’s Ja’Kobe Walter is one of the top incoming freshmen in the country. A 6’5” wing with guard skills, Walter has an NBA frame and long arms. He’s a real deal shot maker who connected on nearly 38% of his threes on high volume at Link Academy last year. Whether it’s a long-range pull-up, a quick-trigger shot off the catch, or a contested three, every shot has a chance. Walter led Link Academy to a 24-1 record and the GEICO Nationals championship. During that tournament, his three-level scoring abilities were on full display. More than just a bucket-getter, he can whip high-velocity passes to an open teammate out of his dribble. His physical tools can do wonders for him on the defensive end, too. With pro size, an amazing scoring profile, passing prowess, and the ability to defend, Walter appears to have the full package. Getting to see him against a high-major opponent out of the gate could give us an immediate read on where he’s at to start the season.
Baylor’s got some other dudes, too. Jalen Bridges is an athletic, 6’7” forward who excels on defense. His ground coverage and nose for the ball make him a persistent thorn in the side of opposing offenses. He’s an above-the-rim finisher who can soar for lobs. His outside shot remains a question, as he’s shot 32.4% from three on solid volume over the past few seasons there. A leap as a shooter will plant him firmly in the mix to hear his name called on draft night. There’s room for optimism, as he went 40.8% over his final 21 games.
Rayj Dennis is an up-transfer graduate from Toledo. A 6’2” guard, Dennis posted an eye-popping 19.5 PPG on 48.4/36.6/76.9 splits last year. He’s also a great passer, as evident by his 5.8 APG to 1.9 TOV. For Dennis, the challenge will be building on his three-point percentage, which was a career-high last season. He’s more of a pace-oriented guard, so how he adapts to a faster game will be interesting. The 6’4” Jayden Nunn comes over as a junior from VCU. His 3.0 STL% and 2.1 BLK% are high marks for a guard, and he earns them, using his length and non-stop competitive edge to pester his opponent for all 94 feet. Nunn shot 40.4% from deep last year. Front offices will want to see more of a steady playmaking balance from Nunn, who can look to be more of a scorer at times. 6’10” freshman Yves Missi has garnered some buzz heading into the year. He’s got a good body for a young big man, can put it on the deck a little bit, and finish strong above the rim.
Auburn has loads of players looking to crack through the pack and get onto NBA radars. Johni Broome is likely the most familiar name. Broome cleaned up (see what I did there? Would you believe this is not the first time I’ve made this joke? You do believe that? You think I’m a lazy hack? Alright, fine, whatever) at G League Elite Camp and the NBA Combine before deciding to head back to school. At 6’10”, Broome is big, tough, and difficult to move. He’s a handful on the glass and a devastating screener. Despite not being an otherworldly leaper, he blocked 2.4 shots per game last season, often due to his timing and ability to swallow up players with his chest. A 29% three-point shooter on just one attempt per game last year, Broome was knocking down triples at the combine. Expanding his range more consistently could finally get him over the hump.
I’ve long been a sucker for Jaylin Williams (Auburn’s Version). At 6’8” and 245 pounds, he’s a high-motor hustler, multi-position defender, and clever operator. He can finish above the rim, but he’ll also use deceptive pass fakes to get to his spots. His funny-looking jumper and inconsistent results from three have held him back, but it’s easy to see him earning a two-way if the shot falls. 6’0” freshman Aden Holloway is a dazzling playmaker, but his diminutive frame will likely put off some front offices. 6’4” Florida International transfer Denver Jones has a pro build. He can score inside and out, posting 20.1 PPG on 47.8/37.1/84.5 splits last season. The biggest question for Jones is the playmaking, as he falls victim to tunnel vision and can be rather turnover-prone (2.0 APG to 3.2 TOV last season). Chad Baker-Mazara enters the fray after stops at Duquesne, San Diego State, and Northwest Florida State College. A wiry 6’7” wing, he can stroke it from three and make disruptive plays on defense.
3. USC vs. Kansas State, Monday, 10 P.M./ET
All eyes will be on USC freshman guard Isaiah Collier, one of the top-rated freshmen in the nation. Collier, listed at 6’5” and 210 pounds, has the strong body type that front offices like to see in a modern guard. Through eight EYBL games, Collier ranked in Synergy’s 97th percentile for the league in overall offense. He’s a threat from deep, whether it’s pulling up or off the catch. When he drives, he brings both slither and toughness, and he protects the ball well while attacking. He has some creativity as a passer in terms of his angles and deliveries. While fully capable of running the show, he’s not overly assertive and is comfortable playing within the flow of an offense. There’s a lot to like, and in an open draft, he has a chance to compete for the number one spot.
The status of Bronny James is still up in the air, but I’m bullish on his prospects. I believe he’s a better athlete than he gets credit for, boasting awesome explosiveness off two feet for finishes and blocks. He’s chiseled, so despite his 6’3” listing, I don’t worry about him getting eaten up in the NBA. His defense is intense, playing tight and strong at the point of attack with the ability to navigate screens. A savvy passer and promising shooter, James brings the on-ball/off-ball skill set necessary for a modern guard.
Kobe Johnson is another name to know. The 6’5” junior wing is a nasty defender who covers ground like few others. His motor and balance are top of the line when closing out and rotating. On the ball, his fast hands help him rack up steals. Johnson is also an intelligent connective passer who can attack moving defenses well. While the volume was moderate, he hit 36% of his threes last year. Another shooting leap, paired with a sublime complementary skill set, could make him a 2024 draft target.
7’1” sophomore big man Vincent Iwuchukwu bounced back from a health scare to have a solid freshman year. A highly touted recruit, Iwuchukwu is a talented shot-blocker. If he can fill out his frame and round out his offensive skill set, watch out. 6’3” graduate guard Boogie Ellis quietly had an excellent senior year. He scored an efficient 17.7 PPG while improving his outside shot, tidying up his playmaking, and showing a renewed spirit on defense. Given his age and position, I doubt he’ll get drafted, but he could work himself into a two-way. Graduate big man Joshua Morgan is a legit rim protector. He blocked 2.2 shots per game and held opponents to 37.5% at the rim. With a limited offensive skill set and skinny body, he may be more of an overseas pro than an NBA prospect, but don’t be shocked to see his name turn up during the pre-draft process, whether it’s at the Portsmouth Invitational or during team workouts.
Kansas State is slightly less appealing in the wake of Nae’Qwan Tomlin’s suspension. Still, there’s Arthur Kaluma, a legitimate prospect who just transferred in from Creighton. The 6’7” junior looks and moves like an NBA player. Many evaluators (including myself) anticipated a big sophomore breakout, but it didn’t quite happen. Kaluma’s defense, while solid, didn’t seem to match what he should be capable of. He was a bit awkward with the ball going downhill, and his decision-making left something to be desired. Still, Kaluma shot better from three, going from 26.5% to 31.1%. He got to the free-throw line more and hit his shots there at a higher clip. To quote the great Tyler Rucker, “sometimes, it just takes time.” If Kaluma can even take a few more baby steps as a defender and passer while making another leap from three, NBA teams are going to be seriously interested in him. There’s a path for him to take a big step forward in a new environment this season with a bigger offensive role, especially with Tomlin sidelined. A matchup against a USC team that’s smaller outside of their true centers could allow him to feast on the interior and kickstart his season.
2. Florida vs. Virginia
This game simply has loads of interesting players on both sides. The biggest name is Riley Kugel, a 6’5” sophomore who enters the year with loads of momentum. He closed last season with red hot a ten-game stretch, scoring 17.3 PPG on 49.6/39.6/66.7 splits. Kugel’s got a strong frame, but it doesn’t weigh him down—he still has a fast first step and the slither to get to his spots. 37.4% of his halfcourt shots came at the rim thanks to his creation craft and physical tools. He’s got real spring off one foot, too. Kugel’s flashed NBA range off the dribble and off the catch, too. His playmaking for others will need to come along, as his 9.5 AST% last season was low for a two/three wing prospect. He can fall victim to tunnel vision, but in certain moments, he’ll make passes that are both creative and functional, so he’s not a lost cause by any stretch. Defensively, it would be nice to see more effort. He can be flat-footed on the ball and allow himself to get beat too easily. Kugel could put the world on notice with a big outing against Virginia, a team historically known for making games ugly.
People have been sleeping on Will Richard. A 6’5” wing with a sturdy frame, Richard generated a ton of buzz during his freshman season at Belmont thanks to his shooting, connective passing, and defensive playmaking. He transferred to Florida for his sophomore season and quietly put together one of the most efficient scoring seasons in the country—10.4 PPG on 49.3/39.8/85.7 shooting. He’s got a sweet stroke, he’s tough inside, and he makes quick decisions with the ball. Richard has some frustrating defensive habits (he likes to cheat off the strongside corner), but he’s proven capable on that end at the high-major level now. He could be a nice complementary player in the NBA if he keeps improving.
I covered Walter Clayton Jr. during my guard edition of the No Stone Unturned series. The 6’2” guard has every tool you could want in a shorter guard for the modern NBA. He’s an electric shooter (43.1% from deep and 95.3% at the free throw line, the best mark in the country last year), he takes care of the ball (3.2 APG to 1.8 TOV), and his athleticism helps him stay above water defensively (3.5 STL%, 2.1 BLK%). Whether he’s on or off the ball, he should contribute to winning, and I believe he’s going to be on an NBA floor someday.
He’s not their only No Stone prospect! There’s also Micah Handlogten, who I covered during my big man article. The 7’1” center is extremely long, and he knows how to leverage that on defense. He swats shots, gets into sloppy handles, and generally deters opponents from going near the basket. While he’s not Dereck Lively, he’s not an immobile stiff, either, and he moves pretty well for his size. Handlogten is still very thin, though, and easy to move around the basket. How well he handles the physicality of a high-major opponent after transferring up from Marshall should give us an idea as to how close he is to being ready for the big time.
Zyon Pullin comes over from UC Riverside, where he had a great four-year run. The 6’4” guard isn’t the most athletic and can be too mid-range heavy in his shot diet, but he did go 39.4% from deep last year, albeit on low volume. Another strong season at a high major could get him deeper into the draft conversation. There are two freshmen to watch, too. The 6’11” Alex Condon comes from Basketball Australia’s Centre for Excellence, which has produced heaps of NBA players. He’s a multi-dimensional forward who can score at all three levels. I’m also bullish on Thomas Haugh, a modern 6’9” forward from Pennsylvania. Haugh has the mobility and strength to guard up and down the line-up, some creativity as a passer, and the ability to score inside or out. While a veteran-heavy roster may limit their reps this year, Condon and Haugh are two of my favorite incoming under-the-radar prospects.
On the Virginia side of this matchup, front offices will likely be most drawn to Ryan Dunn. Though not the most proven commodity on his college squad, the 6’8”, 216-pound Dunn has what NBA teams want—size, athleticism, and defensive versatility. Even though he played less than 13 minutes per contest last season, Dunn showed an ability to lock down high-level opponents. His ground coverage and balance are both outstanding and often display his understanding of the game. He’s not a pure tools bet, he knows how to put his physical gifts into a dominant, effective defensive performance. Offensively, he primarily acted as a play finisher. He’s a big-time leaper who can finish above the rim and his handle looks solid when he drives. His jump shot remains a question, as he went 31.3% from deep and 50% from the charity stripe. Dunn’s base is exceptionally wide on his jump shot and it doesn’t feel totally in sync mechanically. Turning 21 in January, he’s also an older sophomore. Still, if Dunn can find a way to make a real mark on offense in a bigger role, he could find himself in the top 20 come June.
Reece Beekman has been on the cusp for a few years now. With the 6’3” Beekman, it’s all about the defense. His point-of-attack defense is downright devastating. He’s got the grit, footwork, and hands to play super tight on the ball. Opponents turned it over 33.7% of the time against Beekman in pick-and-roll possessions last season, per Synergy. That’s bonkers! His career STL% of 3.5 and BLK% of 2.1 put him in strong company, in a similar camp to guys like Jalen Suggs and Davion Mitchell. Beekman’s a cerebral passer, too, averaging 5.2 APG to 1.5 TOV over the past two seasons. Athletically, Beekman often finds himself below the rim on offense, and his first step isn’t anything to get excited about. He doesn’t have the same burst that someone like an Alex Caruso has, for example. Given that he’s not an excellent three-point shooter (35.1% on low volume last season), there isn’t a clear-cut role for him on offense at the NBA level. Showing more spring in his step and an improved jump shot out of the gate could generate more excitement about him.
6’4” guard Isaac McKneely is a hooper. A 39.2% shooter from deep on 11.2 attempts per 100 possessions as a freshman, McKneely can get his own or space the floor for teammates. He has a ways to go as a creator and defender, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. The 6’6” Andrew Rohde is actually the third No Stone Unturned prospect in this game. He’s a skilled passer who is a much better shooter than his 32% from deep would suggest. On defense, his length and timing help him collect steals at a high clip. Given that he was a just-okay finisher in the Summitt League and has a skinny body, I’m anticipating the jump to the high-major level to take him a bit of time. But his on-ball/off-ball versatility makes him worth monitoring, even if it’s a while before he’s ready.
1. Arizona at Duke, Friday, 7 P.M./ET
I’m very excited about Duke’s roster from a scouting standpoint this season, but Arizona has some sneakily intriguing guys, too. Let’s start with Oumar Ballo. He won the PAC-12’s Most Improved Player Award last season after a breakout season. The redshirt senior is listed at 7’0” and 260 pounds, and he makes his opponents feel every ounce of him. Even alongside Azoulas Tubelis, he managed to post strong rebounding numbers, controlling the glass with his power and effort. He’ll boss around smaller players to get easy buckets. His 10.8 AST% was a strong mark for a big man, and he’s got a level of passing feel that he doesn’t always get credit for. Ballo’s mobility, both laterally and vertically, needs to continue to progress so that he can better compete in space and protect the rim. Still, don’t write off the late-blooming Ballo.
There are a lot of guards here. The 6’2” Kylan Boswell was one of the youngest players in college hoops last year, but he still looked like a power five starter. He posted a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and shot a scorching 39% from deep. His strong body and quick hands help him on defense. Though he struggled in the U19 World Cup, Boswell still won’t turn 19 until April. His on-ball/off-ball versatility as a steady playmaker and shooter, paired with his defensive toughness, could enable him to rise back up draft boards. Given his age, he’s still got plenty of time, too. Jaden Bradley comes over from Alabama. Though he has real punch as a playmaker, he’s never been a consistent outside threat, and his defense left a bit to be desired last season. 6’4” senior Caleb Love comes over from UNC. While he’s a great athlete, Love has never shot above 38% from the field, and his defense needs a lot of work. 6’4” freshman KJ Lewis has a pro frame and brings a ton of fight on the defensive end. Offensively, his shot hasn’t proven consistent in terms of both results and volume. Seeing which of these four can progress, build upon their game, and earn the biggest role amongst these guards will be a fascinating process. An early test against Duke will throw them into the deep end of the pool.
Pelle Larsson is physically strong at 6’6” and 215 pounds. He uses his body well on defense. Offensively, the threat of his shot and nifty footwork help him to get inside, and he sees well on the go. His three-ball still hasn’t come close to matching the 46.3% he shot as a freshman the past two seasons, though. At 36% on modest volume over the last two years, NBA teams will want to see Larsson’s results match his reputation. The 7’0” Henri Veesaar should be primed for a bigger role. He’s agile for his size, can get up to finish, and can shoot a little bit. A monstrous breakout campaign could be in the cards for him with more minutes available this year. It will be interesting to see Keshad Johnson in a new contest. I don’t see the 6’7” graduate as a super legitimate NBA prospect, but there’s a reason he was a key part of a Final Four team—he’s tough, he can defend, and he can finish inside. A career 24.6% shooter from deep, he’ll need to improve there to get on radars.
The Duke side of the equation…SHEESH. There are five different players on this roster that I’ve seen mocked in the first round. 6’5” sophomore Tyrese Proctor is likely the buzziest. There are fair reasons to be skeptical. He’s a below-the-rim finisher, his skinny frame can give him trouble against more physical opponents, and he shot below 40% from the field last season. However, there are plenty more reasons for excitement. Proctor is a master of setups and plays ball screens in a variety of ways to get to his spots. His instincts as an initiator and passer are razor-sharp. He posted 3.3 APG to 1.6 TOV last season. While he struggled with efficiency, at no point did Proctor lose confidence. He also ended up shooting 40.5% from deep over the last ten games, a key development for him. If he can continue to grow into his body and score more efficiently, Proctor could work himself into the top half of the lottery.
Kyle Filipowski had what I would call “an encouraging down year.” That’s not a slight, and it’s not to say he was bad, either—he was incredibly productive and conducive to winning for Duke. Even with that being true, it felt like he was capable of more. Filipowski’s jumper looks clean as a sheet, and while his 28.2% on 3.4 three-point attempts per game isn’t a great mark for a 7’0” player his age, the results didn’t match the eye test. It’s reasonable to expect improvement there. He also struggled around the basket and needs to go up stronger with the ball. Still, teams respect his gravity on the perimeter, his first step and passing on the go are good for a player his size, and his motor runs hot. Defensively, there have been encouraging murmurs about his mobility after an off-season surgery. If he can hang on the perimeter and/or add more rim protection, it should help more clearly define what role he’ll play in the NBA. He’s a plus passer, rebounder, and shooter for a player his size/age, and his feel is apparent on both ends. Filipowski could also find himself taken in the lottery come June if he takes a step forward.
I’m a sucker for Mark Mitchell, who I recently wrote a feature about. The 6’8”, 235-pound wing has NBA size, athleticism, and feel. He makes the right play time and time again and plays hard. Defensively, he’s comfortable guarding up or down the lineup. His handle, straight-line driving, and passing acumen tend to be underrated because he played such a tertiary role last season. A 35.2% three-point shooter last season, he’s still a tentative shooter who only took 3.5 triples per 100 possessions last year. If he can be more assertive with his shot, he’ll be the type of forward that every NBA team wants.
Two of their freshmen guards have significant buzz—Caleb Foster and Jared McCain. I’m partial to Foster, a 6’5”, high-feel operator. He thinks several steps ahead. While not a special athlete, his slither and movement patterns make him difficult to read when he’s initiating the offense. Foster can make advanced reads on the go, and he’ll find anyone the defense leaves open. He hit 38% of his threes in EYBL play, making him a legitimate threat from beyond the arc. His defensive skill set and effort can be frustrating, but in a smaller role, he may be able to focus better on those areas. McCain is a 6’3” guard with a strong frame who can fill it up. He’s a stellar shot maker, whether it’s off the catch or dribble, with loads of confidence. While he can make mistakes as a passer, his flashes of ambidextrous live-dribble dealing give reason for excitement. He’s a tough, smart defender who times his swipes well. Both Foster and McCain could see their reps limited, though. And that’s not just because of Tyrese Proctor…
Jeremy Roach is a guy who doesn’t come up much in draft circles, but the college basketball folks love him. He’s a steady game manager who will be entering his senior season. While I don’t necessarily view him as a high-end NBA prospect, he’s probably rock-solid enough to get into events like the Portsmouth Invitational. His presence on this team needs to be noted because he’ll be a stabilizer for the younger players at certain times. That said, he may also limit the number of bites the freshmen guards get at the playmaking apple.
Sean Stewart and TJ Power appear to be longer-term propositions to me. At 6’9” with a strong body and some playmaking juice, you can squint at Stewart’s tape and see Julius Randle at times. I know Randle’s had a slow start, but you know what I mean. Stewart will likely need to add range to his shot, as he’s pretty mid-range heavy for now. Power has a pretty jumper for a 6’9” forward, and he’ll even pull up with it from deep. However, he’s not the most natural mover, and he may struggle to adjust to the speed of the high-major game.
-Mid-Major Game of the Week will return next week! Make sure you’re following me on Twitter/X here to vote in the weekly poll that determines which game I will cover! This week, The Sickos have voted for Thursday’s contest between New Mexico and St. Mary’s!
-I’ll be on the ground Wednesday for the Barstool Invitational in Chicago, so expect coverage of that in the Quick Hits next week’s column. I’ll get to see Florida Atlantic vs. Loyola Chicago and Mississippi State vs. Arizona State.
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