The Prospect Overview: Still Dancing, The NIT Prospect Preview
Cam Whitmore, Taylor Hendricks, Jett Howard, and Kobe Bufkin aren't done yet. They're still dancing! Come on in for the most comprehensive NIT Prospect Preview you'll find!
There’s more than just one post-season college basketball tournament. Though the NCAA Tournament soaks up much of the limelight, the NIT still exists. The National Invitation Tournament actually pre-dates the NCAA Tournament by one year, though it would eventually be surpassed in terms of recognition and popularity. Still, this year’s field has loads of talent. For evaluators and draft fanatics, there are plenty of players still dancing with a lot at stake. In fact, multiple projected first round picks are in the field! Let’s dive into the first round matchups, the prospects in them, and what they can still prove!
As a quick note, this week’s Prospect Overview will not follow its traditional format. Next week, the feature, Expanding Big Board, and Quick Hits will return. If you’re hungry for Big Board content, stay tuned, as our Consensus Big Board and latest Mock Draft will be coming out later this week!
Oklahoma State vs. Youngstown State
Oklahoma State doesn’t have a sure-thing, “this year” prospect. Their most interesting potential NBA talent is Moussa Cisse. Cisse is 6’10” with length for days, and he’s pretty mobile, too. He’s posted a Block Rate over 10% during each of his three college seasons, but he’s been held back by poor ball skills, a limited offensive game, and 44.2 FT%. Youngstown State actually has the most interesting prospect here in Dwayne Cohill. The 6’2” point guard is an absolute livewire. His handle is nasty; paired with his burst, he’s a walking paint touch. Cohill managed to get to his spots at will against Notre Dame earlier this season. He’s averaging 17.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 0.3 BPG. Another strong outing against a high-major opponent should help shine a light on the Horizon League All-Conference standout.
Washington State vs. Eastern Washington
After an impressive outing during the NBA’s combine week last year, Washington State’s Mouhamed Gueye hobbled out of the gate this season. However, he’s been surging as of late. The agile 6’10” Gueye has posted 16.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 2.2 APG on 55.3/46.2/62.5 splits since the start of February. He’s come into his own in handoff settings, where he can slowly simplify his decision-making process. Gueye does a good job of positioning himself in front of defenders to create space for guards, his shooting brings the opposing big man out of the paint, and he’s making passing reads more consistently. He’s rail thin at 6’10”, so it will be crucial for him to continue to develop his ball skills, as it will be tough for him to play the five out of the gate in the NBA. 6’5” wing T.J. Bamba is a bit slept on, too. He’s scoring 15.8 PPG on 43.3/36.6/74.3. Bamba is a plus-athlete with a pro frame who can finish through contact and get tough buckets. His passing game isn’t very advanced, and he doesn’t show much defensively, but he’s a name to monitor for 2024. Eastern Washington has a slew of dudes. Steele Venters is the most popular name in industry circles. He’s a 6’7” wing who has hit 41% of his threes on high volume over the past three seasons, and he’s a solid team defender. That said, he struggles to guard the ball and is heavy-footed. For my money, Angelo Allegri is the more well-rounded prospect. He’s averaging 13.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 3.4 APG on 47.1/36.8/75.0 splits as a 6’7” wing creator. While he isn’t a fantastic athlete, he’s not a bad one either, and I’m hoping he’s Portsmouth-bound. The 6’6” Cedric Coward is my favorite long-term bet for their squad, though. The D-3 transfer-up looks young in the face, but he’s a top-of-the-line competitor. He plays bigger than his height, rebounding and blocking shots at a fantastic clip for someone his size. Though he only took one per game, he made 40.6% of his threes, and he’s a savvy passer who posted a 15.1 AST%. The box scores are impressive, but his tape is even better. With a bigger role, he might explode next season.
North Texas vs. Alcorn State
No real NBA guys here. North Texas’s best prospects are Tylor Perry and Abou Ousmane. At 5’11”, Perry is a fantastic scorer, but will be limited by his size and mundane assist-to-turnover ratio (2-to-1.7). Ousmane is a basic offensive big man, but at 6’10”, he’s strong, he can protect the rim, and he generates a solid amount of steals for a player his size. For Alcorn State, Byron Joshua is a fun, pesky, well-rounded 5’10” point guard.
Sam Houston State vs. Santa Clara
Wichita State transfer Qua Grant had a fantastic year for Sam Houston State. The 6’1” guard’s 14 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.9 SPG stat line speaks to his well-roundedness. It’s tough for 6’1” guards, though, and he hasn’t generated much buzz on boards as a result. Brandin Podziemski is the name to watch. After a quiet freshman season at Illinois, he exploded at Santa Clara. Listed at 6’5”, Air Podz (TM Corey Tulaba) has averaged 19.9 PPG on a preposterous 48.3/43.6/77.3 split. His pace has enabled him to get to his spots, and anything in the gym is within his shooting range. He grew a lot as a passer throughout the season, and the game was clearly slowing down for him as he grew into his starring role. He’ll play pick-and-rolls in different ways and change speeds to manipulate defenders. His timing and effort on the glass is top-notch, enabling him to average 8.8 RPG, a ridiculous number for a small wing/combo guard. Defensively, he’s managed to be productive, with a 2.8 STL% and 1.4 BLK%. He knows when and where to rotate. Still, he might be smaller than his listed height; he doesn’t look long, and he’ll be a below-average athlete by NBA standards. For Podziemski, it will ultimately be about proving he is so skilled that he can overcome his athletic limitations. A strong outing against a Power 5 opponent could help to quiet concerns about the level of opposition he’s faced and offer encouragement about his scalability.
Oregon vs. UC-Irvine
Kel'el Ware is the biggest name here, but he’s only averaged 10 MPG since the turn of the new year. Ware is a mobile 7-footer and a capable shooter for his position (28% on 1.6 threes per game), and he can turn away opponents at the rim (8.8 BLK%). Unfortunately, he’s been unable to carve out a consistent role in Oregon’s loaded frontcourt. At times, he floats through games. He’ll play weak inside and lack engagement defensively. Too often, he’ll miss rotations or lose his man on pick-and-roll plays. Given the limited minutes, it can be frustrating to see him play without focus in the time he does get on the court. Still, his tools are outrageous, and he is still projected to hear his name called on draft night. Center N'Faly Dante is sort of on the opposite side of the spectrum. At 6’11” and 235 pounds, Dante is strong and does all the dirty work. He’s consistent, isn’t bad in space, gobbles up rebounds, and finishes well around the basket. As I said though, he’s the opposite of Ware—part of that is that he just isn’t that exciting. He doesn’t have shooting range, his ball skills are nothing to write home about, and as a senior, there isn’t much upside available. UC Irvine’s most interesting prospect is Bent Leuchten. The 7’0” German native finishes well (64.5% at the rim in the halfcourt, per Synergy) and is also a reliable jump shooter, hitting 38.2% of his threes. He’s a skilled offensive player with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. Defensively, the numbers are shaky, especially for smaller conference standards. He’s rather heavy, making him a poor lateral mover and causing him to be ground-bound. A fitness leap this off-season could make him worth monitoring.
Florida vs. UCF
Florida’s Riley Kugel blew up in recent weeks after averaging 17.8 PPG on 51.3/38.1/68.4 splits over a nine-game stretch. The 6’5” wing is still skinny and he doesn’t bring much to the table defensively, but he can fill it up on offense. His footwork and quickness enable him to weave through traffic and get to his spots, and he has more juice as a passer than the numbers indicate. He can hit threes from NBA range. Kugel still seems more like a next-year guy given where he’s at defensively, but if he can prolong his hot streak throughout the NIT, going into the 2023 draft may be what makes the most sense for him. Big man Colin Castleton has been out injured but is a name to know. He’s a high-motor rebounder and rim protector with functional passing skills. Will Richard had a wonderfully efficient season after transferring up from Belmont, scoring 10.6 PPG on 49.3/40.2/85.7 splits. He has a powerful body at 6’5”, enabling him to finish at the basket on offense and guard up well on defense. His on-ball game is still fairly lackluster; he’s more of a play finisher or “keep it moving” passer. Defensively, he still has some shaky habits like cheating off the strong-side corner. Richardson remains worthy of monitoring, though. Alex Fudge had some big fans last year, with some on Draft Twitter hyping him as a “pre-draft” target during the last draft cycle. At 6’8”, Fudge is long and a tremendous mover, both laterally and vertically. His career 2.1 STL% and 4.4 BLK% speak to his defensive prowess. Unfortunately, he is still really far away on offense. He averaged 5.4 PPG on 40.8/24.4/58.9 splits, and he doesn’t have a clear NBA role on that end of the floor. His slender frame further complicates matters. If Fudge can simply become a reliable catch-and-shoot target, there could still be a path for him. The best prospect in this game is UCF’s Taylor Hendricks. A lottery selection is looking increasingly likely for the 6’9” freshman. Hendricks’ sales pitch is simple: he’s long, he’s athletic, and he can really shoot it. His length and athleticism are most evident defensively. When he gets into a stance, he can contain smaller players. He’s a fantastic rim protector, too, blocking 1.8 shots per game and displaying strong help instincts. The shot is what really raises his ceiling, though. Hendricks made 39.9% of his threes this season on 4.6 per game. It’s as pretty a shot as you could ask for, too, with a high release that is difficult to bother. He’s still a limited ball-handler and a more basic passer, but he has enough flashes that it’s easy to see him becoming rock solid in those departments. Simply put, he’s the type of guy every NBA team wants around their star players.
Wisconsin vs. Bradley
No one super-exciting here. Wisconsin’s sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn is quicker than a hiccup, generates a lot of steals, and can shoot from NBA range. Unfortunately, he had a dreadful finishing season, hitting only 35.6% of his twos. He can play pick-and-rolls in creative ways, so if he gets that issue remediated, he could get an NBA cup of coffee. Freshman Connor Essegian is a high-end bucket-getter. Still, he’s undersized on defense at 6’4”, his shot selection can be frustrating, and he needs to find his teammates more. I wouldn’t be stunned if he’s a real prospect in a few years given his scoring ability, though. Bradley’s most interesting guy is Malevy Leons. He’s 6’9” and recently won the Missouri Valley’s defensive player of the year award. Leons is smart and disruptive, tallying 1.5 SPG and 1.5 BPG. He’s a great shooter, too, with a pretty stroke and 37.3 3FG% over the past two seasons. At 23, he’s sort of an awkward mover who lacks fluidity, particularly off the bounce. Some big performances could open doors for him, though.
Liberty vs. Villanova
Darius McGhee has been Liberty’s biggest name, though he’s small in stature. At 5’9”, he’s had a tremendous college career, scoring over 20 PPG the past two seasons. He’s an outstanding pick-and-roll scorer, and opponents cannot go under screens against him. McGhee has never taken fewer than 10 threes per 100 possessions during any of his college seasons, and he’s been around 40% from long range for the past three years. His limited playmaking for others and lack of size on the defensive end make his NBA prospects exceedingly difficult, though he may be able to work his way up through the G-League if everything breaks right. 6’7” Kyle Rode is an outrageous spot-up shooter who can also put it on the floor a little and find the open man. His career 39% from three and 3.6 APG this year demonstrate his shooting and passing acumen. Defensively, he’s not a great mover and isn’t highly productive. On the Villanova end, all eyes will be on Cam Whitmore. A consensus Top 10 pick, Whitmore was one of the top recruits in the country. An injury held him out at the start of the season, and it took him a while to get going once he was back on the floor. His surroundings were shaky, with Villanova having their worst season since 2012. Their defensive efforts were poor, and the ball didn’t move well. Still, Whitmore was partially responsible. His balance was unreliable in space, allowing guards to shake him. He didn’t always make the right rotations. His assist rate of 6.3% is a giant red flag for a wing/forward. When he catches the ball, he takes a second before deciding what he’s going to do, bringing the offense to a halt and allowing the defense to recover. Still, there’s a lot to like. At 6’7” and 232 pounds, Whitmore is NBA-ready from a physicality and athleticism standpoint. He can finish above the rim and plow his way to the basket. His shot is solid, too, as he knocked down 35% of his threes on the season. He had to force many of those looks off the dribble, too—he was 40% on catch-and-shoot threes. His timing as a cutter, paired with his burst, will shine even more on a better-spaced court with teammates who are more reliable as passers. Defensively, he’s become far more consistent, especially when guarding smaller players. A final tear through the NIT could help silence some of the doubts. Conversely, a poor outing against lesser competition would raise more questions about why he hasn’t been a consistent force. (NOTE: Whitmore has been labeled a game-time decision).
Rutgers vs. Hofstra
Rutgers big man Clifford Omoruyi is obscenely long, he jumps really high, and he plays hard. The 6’11” center boasts a potent 9.2 BLK%, and that number could potentially be even higher if wasn’t surrounded by other good defenders. He cleans up on the glass, too, grabbing 9.7 RPG, with 3.2 of the coming on the offensive end for easy putbacks. His hands are soft; paired with his outrageous catch radius, he’s able to dunk everything thrown his way. Dunks-and-blocks bigs aren’t the most exciting type of prospects, but one as long, athletic, mobile, and high-energy as Omoruyi could have a long NBA career if things break right. Only a junior, still has eligibility in front of him. Cam Spencer is a guy I feel could get an NBA cup of coffee. The 6’4” guard isn’t a good athlete by NBA standards, but he can shoot (42.6% from three, 89.4 FT%) and he gets after it on defense. In college, he can compensate for his physical shortcomings with his superb awareness and fast hands, nabbing 2.1 SPG. Spencer’s motor, shooting, and table-setting skills give him a chance. 6’7” graduate wing Caleb McConnell is sort of like, “we have Andre Jackson at home.” He has a good handle for his size and can pass the rock, and he’s a fantastic defender. Unfortunately, a jump shot eludes him (20.6% from three), and that makes an NBA role difficult to find. 6’3” freshman Derek Simpson had his moments this season and might be an interesting four-year guy. Next year should be telling, as he’ll likely have a lot more responsibility. Aaron Estrada is the name to watch for Hofstra. After pit stops at St. Peter’s and Oregon, Estrada exploded during his junior campaign for Hofstra. The 6’4” senior guard averaged 20.5 PPG this season on 48.8/37.4/80.4 splits. He changes speeds well as a pick-and-roll operator, and he keeps his head up for open teammates. Estrada hasn’t faced much high-level opposition the past two seasons, though, and he’s a mundane athlete. Still, he went off for 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists in an upset win over Arkansas last season. A few strong showings against high-level opposition could get him onto more radars.
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Landers Nolley II leads the way for Cincinnati. He feels like he’s been around for an eternity, but the 6’7” wing just turned 23 this week. Nolley is a knock-down shooter, hitting 42.2% of the 211 threes he’s taken this year. He’s also shown some more creativity as a passer, and he’s a reliable skip passer on the outside. Nolley is long enough to hang defensively, but his skinny frame holds him back there and prevents him from being a more well-rounded scoring threat on the other end. 6’11” redshirt sophomore Viktor Lakhin is interesting, too. Lakhin is a potent offensive rebounder with soft touch around the basket. He does pretty well moving his feet in space, and he can get up a bit off two feet. He’s not a high-end athlete, and he probably needs to expand his range more to generate more attention. Justyn Mutts is the hottest name for Virginia Tech. He’s older (turned 24 in January), but he can do a little bit of everything. His powerful frame helps him guard up, and he’s nimble enough to guard down. He sees the floor well, and his handle is more polished than you’d expect for a 6’7”, 230-pound power forward. Mutts stuffs the stat sheet, averaging 13.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 0.8 BPG. His age is certainly going to hurt him, but he might be plug-and-play enough as a low-maintenance role player that he could carve out an NBA roster spot at some point. 6’9” graduate post big Grant Basile had a fantastic season after transferring up from Cleveland State. Scoring 16.4 PPG on 52.3/39.3/70.8 splits, Basile is a skilled offensive big who can score at all three levels and pass. Defensively, he’s not the worst mover, but his lack of rim protection and subpar athleticism will make an NBA opportunity difficult to come by. Sean Pedulla looks like a rock-solid four-year starting college guard. If he becomes a nuclear shooter or finds a way to make a bigger defensive impact, he could get an NBA chance at some point.
New Mexico vs. Utah Valley
New Mexico’s Jaelen House is the one to watch here. Yes, he’s 6’1”, but he fits the profile of small guards who have stuck in recent years—he’s a nasty defender and a good shooter. He’ll bust out the Grand Theft Alvarado move after made baskets on occasion. House’s 2.6 SPG and 0.6 BPG immediately jump off the page statistically, and the impact is real on film. Offensively, his 37.9% from three catches the eye, but there’s more to him than that. He has NBA range (just like his father, Eddie House), but he’s also a good downhill player. House is stronger through contact than one might expect, and he has some footwork to get to his spots. He really found his playmaking groove as a senior, too, posting a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ration for the first time. He’s tough, he defends, he can shoot, he’s selfless, and he competes. You could do worse when filling out the back end of a roster. 6’2” junior Jamal Mashburn Jr. is a bucket. The second-generation star is averaging 19.5 PPG on 43.7/38.4/81.3 splits. The difference between him and House is the passing, though. Mashburn is trailing him there, and he doesn’t have anything close to the same defensive impact either. For Mashburn, it’s more about what 2024 looks like when he has the keys to the offense (presuming House goes pro this year). Trey Woodbury leads the way for Utah Valley. He’s a great shooter (40% from three on 4.5 per game) and a stable playmaker (4.5 APG to 2.6 TOV). At 6’4”, he doesn’t quite have the speed to play point at the NBA level, and he doesn’t have the tools to defend on the wing. Still, he’s got the footwork and polish to create looks for himself and others at the college level. 7’ big man Aziz Bandaogo is likely their most interesting pro prospect. An NBA Academy Africa graduate, Bandaogo came to Utah Valley after seeing limited action for Akron during his first two college seasons. Now, he’s averaging 11.5 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 3.0 BPG. Bandaogo is still really thin, causing him to get bumped off his spots, and he’s still getting the hang of covering ground. He’s not always the fastest off the floor. Still, such a remarkable jump from one year to the next leading to fantastic low-maintenance big man production is eye-catching. The flashes of quickness that he shows in space and possessions where he forces bad shots as a pick-and-roll defender are enticing. Another leap next season could make his name a more common one among draft fanatics.
Colorado vs. Seton Hall
Colorado’s Tristan Da Silva is probably the most relevant 2023 Draft candidate here. He’s still a junior, but if anyone from this game tests the waters, it will likely be Da Silva. Standing 6’9”, Da Silva averages 16 PPG on 50.6/40.3/74.5 splits. His jumper feels automatic when he has space. He knows how to move without the ball and replace the moving player offensively. Da Silva is comfortable back-pedaling into his shot, too. He does have a fairly dramatic dip in his shooting motion that I’d like to see cleaned up, though. It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but he’s also a sharp passer from the elbow and top of the key. He’s a bit stiff laterally, but he has quick hands to poke the ball loose and generally knows where to go. Sophomore point guard KJ Simpson has a bit of a breakout campaign, but questions still remain. His pure counting numbers pop (15.9 PPG, 3.8 APG, 1.5 SPG), but he struggled from an efficiency standpoint (39.6 FG%, 27.6 3FG%). His stroke is ultimately clean, and I do believe he’s a better shooter than the numbers would suggest. Simpson has loads of counters and heaps of creativity when it comes to getting to his spots. Defensively, his ground coverage is about as good as it can be for a 6’2” guard, and he’s good at swiping the ball when opponents get sloppy with their handle. From a frame standpoint, he’s still thin, and he’s a poor vertical athlete. Given his lack of burst, he really needs the shot to come around to warrant NBA looks. Kadary Richmond has had a somewhat similar trajectory to the previously mentioned Alex Fudge. His defensive acumen gained him heaps of attention, but his offense has yet to get him over the hump. The 6’6” Richmond is further along, though. He’s a creative ball handler and passer who averaged 4.1 APG each of the past two seasons, and his body is more developed, too. His outside shooting percentages are good (34.5% from 3 last season, 44.4 from 3 this season), but the volume is extremely low (1.7/game last year, 1.3/game this year). Richmond’s inside touch is shaky, too, with some bad misses at the rim. If he can find a way to score consistently and efficiently that will lend itself to an offensive role, he could be a name to watch in 2024.
Clemson vs. Morehead State
Clemson’s PJ Hall is probably a 2024 guy, but he’s worth monitoring. The 6’10” big man is a mobile athlete, and he’s really strong. While he doesn’t fly off the floor, his chest can deter opponents at the rim. He has good shooting touch, too—Hall made 40.2% of his threes this year, and he scored 15.4 PPG on the season despite limping out of the gate due to an injury. A leap as a rim protector to show he can play the 5 or a ball-skills leap to show he can play the 4 could get him into next year’s mix. 6’8” graduate forward Hunter Tyson had a huge scoring season, leading the team with 15.5 PPG. His 41.4% from long range and 9.5 RPG are both eye-catching. He can hit off a side-step, and he finishes well at the rim, too (67.9%), though he doesn’t get there often. Tyson isn’t the best athlete and can have a tougher time navigating screens, but there are some Cole Swider vibes here as far as being a tall, reliable shooter. Similar to Swider, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a name that pops up on a few workout lists after not getting much buzz throughout the season. Still, Swider was younger, stronger, and a better mover. 5’10” point guard Mark Freeman is Morehead State’s best player. He’s a potent scorer and reliable decision-maker. Their most interesting pro prospect, to me at least, is Drew Thelwell. At 6’3”, Thelwell can mix it up on the glass a bit, score from long range, and he’s a capable passer. With a bigger load next season, he could be one of the OVC’s better players.
UAB vs. Southern Miss
UAB is a good team, and they are also an EXPERIENCE, as they have what is likely the nation’s most exciting backcourt. Eric Gaines is truly a high-level athlete by any standard. He’s a highlight-reel dunker, to be sure, but he’s also an impactful defender. Gaines is all over the place, and I mean that in the best way possible. His career 4.0 STL% and 2.2 BLK% are tremendous marks for a 6’2” guard, or any guard for that matter. His ground coverage makes him a great rotator and a serious threat in passing lanes. The fact that he can jump to outer space also enables him to meet opponents at the rim. Gaines grew as a shooter and playmaker this season. His 34.3% from three is up from 25% a year ago, and he took more of them, too. After posting even assist-to-turnover ratios, Gaines played more under control this season, using more pace and playing at different speeds more consistently to freeze defenses. The result: 4.5 assists to 3.2 turnovers. There are definitely Eric Gaines fanatics, and pundits who would advocate for drafting him this year. But given his year-over-year growth in college, I selfishly want to see him take one more year to get even better before heading to the pros. His teammate, 5’11” scoring guard Jordan "Jelly" Walker, has amassed a cult following. Walker is a lights-out shooter, hitting 39.6% of his 19.1 threes per 100 possessions. He’s a pretty average playmaker for others and a limited defender but has a chance to stick in a Patty Mills type role if he can find the right fit. For Southern Miss, Austin Crowley is the standout to watch. At 6’5”, Crowley moves like a pro. He can change directions and speeds well, his mid-range game is polished, and he’s a true three-level scorer. He averaged 16.1 PPG on 46.7/35.8/74.1 splits. Crowley isn’t just a scorer, though, averaging 2.6 APG and 1.9 SPG. Though he didn’t have a ton of buzz, he had a fantastic season and should be in the mix for post-season combine-type events.
Vanderbilt vs. Yale
Vanderbilt 7-footer Liam Robbins has started to gain traction as of late. I saw him in person in December, and he looks and plays every bit of his listed height. His 14.2 BLK% and 3.2 BPG are a testament to his awareness and length. Besides being a large person who can protect the rim, Robbins has a buttery jumper, hitting 36.5% of his threes on the season. If he can continue to polish his shot and improve his mobility, an NBA role as a third big with a 3s-and-blocks skill set is on the table. Yale has a well-rounded roster, but I’ll single out local (to me!) wing John Poulakidas. The Naperville, Illinois native hit 41% of his 5.6 threes per game this season, he can pass a little bit, and he’s able to hold his own defensively.
Michigan vs. Toledo
This might be the most interesting match-up in terms of the volume of prospects. We have to start with Jett Howard. After a hot start, Jett Howard went from being seen as a multi-year prospect to a potential Top 10 pick. Now, many pundits are selling their stock, with some even wondering if he might head back for another college season. During his college games in 2022, Howard shot 60.2% on twos and 38.6% on threes. Since then, he’s 41.2% on twos and 35.7% on threes. With a lanky frame and slow first step, Howard struggles to get to the basket, and when he has, he’s struggled to convert there. Defensively, he recovers well, but he has to recover too often because he gets beat off the dribble quite a bit. Off-ball, he can be completely inattentive. Still, I can’t convince myself to sell his stock. Howard is an excellent shooter, particularly off movement. He has great size at 6’7”, and I’m confident that he will fill out his body given that he had a late growth spurt in high school. His handle has some polish to it, and I trust him as a passer. Given his pro bloodline and offensive feel, I see the defense coming around in time. If it does, then we’re looking at a 6’7” shooter with length who can make good decisions and hold his own on the other side of the court. I want that guy on my team in a playoff game. I understand the concerns, but I’m not entirely moved by them yet. For Howard, the NIT will provide a final opportunity to prove himself as a lottery-level talent. While Howard’s stock has fallen, Kobe Bufkin’s has surged. A freshman-aged sophomore, Bufkin has been red hot since the 10th game of the season. Since then, he’s averaged 15.1 PPG on 50/38.8/83.9 splits. His quickness enables him to weave through traffic, he can finish with both hands at the rim, and he can sling long, accurate passes with his off hand. Defensively, his athleticism shines, using his vertical pop to swat more shots than you’d expect from a 6’4” guard and darting into passing lanes at warp speed. A strong NIT performance could rubberstamp his first-round projection. Hunter Dickinson feels like the type who will stick around college for more guaranteed money in NIL. He’s a solid rim protector with a burgeoning jumper who feasts around the basket, but he struggles in space and can turn it over when double-teamed. 6’2” guard Rayj Dennis leads the charge for Toledo. His 19.8 PPG and 5.7 APG make it quite clear that he is their offensive hub. Dennis has some wiggle to get downhill, he can shoot (37.1% from three), and he keeps a wonderful view of the floor to hit open teammates. Dennis can generate steals, too. Given his firepower, I wouldn’t be stunned to see him in the Portsmouth mix. He’s flanked by Setric Millner and JT Shumate. The 6’6” Millner hit 43.2% of his threes this season and can keep the ball moving. Shumate is similar, but a more well-rounded scorer and a better defender. At 6’7”, the graduate forward hit 62.5% of his twos, 40.1% of his threes, and 87.1% of his free throws. There were few players in all of college basketball more efficient than JT Shumate, if any, this past season. His 4.2 BLK% and 1.1 STL% also show that he’s a capable team defender. His instincts and communication on that end of the floor shine through, and his length helps him when he has to guard on an island. I’d love to see him get a Summer League or Exhibit-10 look.
Always nice to be able to add a few names to the database! I’m really hoping UAB and/or New Mexico makes a run, would love to see those backcourts get some shine