The X-Factor Files: Files For the Future
With so many X Factor Files to parse through, which paranormal players may be better served staying in the shadows until 2025?
In my line of work, I receive hundreds of potential paranormal sightings. It’s my duty to comb through each and every one to determine what’s real and what’s fake, with the majority sadly being of the faux variety. Such is the life of a draft investigator.
However, a potentially paranormal prospect sometimes falls in the gray area between extraterrestrial and a false alarm. Maybe they had some promising flashes before a major injury, a la Darius Garland. Maybe their high school tape doesn’t match what’s on the screen at the college level. Maybe they were abducted by aliens in the middle of the night amidst a career-best streak (this situation is rarer).
When promising players fall into this in-between space, that’s where I come in. One of the most common befuddling cases is with freshman players who only show sparing flashes of the dominant games they paraded at the high school level. Why aren’t they dominating now? Was their potential all a fantasy? Or is something else afoot?
For the files today, I’m out to find out if these touted freshmen still have enough substance and flash to back their preseason draft buzz or if they’d be better hiding, Bigfoot-style, in college for another year before emerging from the shadows in 2025 and captivating the world with their supernatural skill sets.
X Factor File #1: Elliot Cadeau, UNC
Elliot Cadeau has been a well-known player in every draft circle for the past couple of years due to his domestic and international pedigree, but it hasn’t been the easiest first year in college for him. It shouldn’t be ignored that Cadeau chose to reclassify and play at the NCAA level early, so some of his struggles should be taken with a grain of salt.
He’s had to fight through the usual freshman mistakes, uneven playing time from Hubert Davis, and the natural ebb and flow of blowouts, but Cadeau hasn’t lit the world on fire with his play. He’s only started five games, averaging 7.3 points and 3.7 assists in his limited minutes. It’s encouraging that he has almost a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, is shooting 49.1% from two-point range, and is getting to line more than three times a game. However, his shooting struggles from deep, the free-throw line, and his lack of steals have hurt his overall impact.
Cadeau is slightly undersized, which leaves him at a defensive disadvantage, but that was never the appeal for him. He’s had an up-and-down offensive campaign, with enough flashes as a downhill driver and a prolific passer, alongside, per Synergy, a “Very Good” rating on his dribble jumpers.
Of all of the files in this week’s briefing, Cadeau’s is the one that has the most pro potential for the 2024 draft class. With his passing, he has clear NBA-ready skills, is quick enough to create for himself and others at the next level, and still has a lot of room to grow. However, with that room to grow, it could also behoove Cadeau to stay another season in Chapel Hill and be “the guy” for the Tar Heels.
It’s too early to tell whether Cadeau has enough extraterrestrial highlights to put in front of NBA eyes. Still, with his minutes slowly stabilizing and creeping up, there’s an outside chance that Cadeau’s found footage goes from grainy to 4K before our eyes. If not, he should enter next year as the most devilish passer in the draft class.
X Factor File #2: Elmarko Jackson, Kansas
Although he cropped up on radars later in the recruiting process, Elmarko Jackson entered this season as one of the spookiest point guard prospects. There are few players his size who have the same athletic twitch, vertical pop, and natural passing instincts, which made him a beast at the high school level.
Like a handful of Kansas recruits before him, Jackson has struggled to make an immediate impact for the Jayhawks. He’s started every game, but he’s only averaging 6.2 points on 42.5% shooting from two-point range and 29.6% from deep. His poor efficiency has dulled the rest of his prowess, as his 2.9 assists and 0.9 steals a game are still helping Kansas win games.
Despite his inefficient play, Jackson has flexed the same supernatural talent that made him a coveted recruit late in the process. He’s attacked the rim with force, as evidenced by his 57.9% mark at the rim, all while playing an unselfish brand of basketball to keep him listed in the X Factor Files.
The safest path for a dangerous prospect like Jackson might be staying at Kansas another year, even with a strong close to the season. He’s playing the shadow of college titans Kevin McCullar and Hunter Dickinson, which has naturally led to a reduced role. Jackson could take the reins for the Jayhawks next year and put together the type of season that terrifies general managers who may miss out on his talents.
X Factor File #3: Mackenzie Mgbako, Indiana
There was certainly something mysterious happening with Mackenzie Mgbako’s recruitment, as he decommitted late from Duke and ended up at Indiana in the blink of an eye. Instead of wanting to fade into the background with the Blue Devils, Mgbako chose the Hoosiers for the chance to pair with Kel’el Ware as a diabolical Big Ten duo.
That hasn’t gone exactly to plan, as Ware has held up his end of the bargain while Mgbako has struggled on the wing for Indiana. Mgbako has only put up 10.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists through his first eleven games. While he’s hitting 52.9% of his twos, he’s taking 3.8 threes a game and only hitting 28.6%, making him a negative spacing asset.
It would go a long way for Mgbako to refine his shot selection from deep, especially as the entire Hoosiers team has struggled from beyond the arc. Mgbako isn’t helping on that front, but there are still some positive kernels to his offensive approach.
He’s shown a dogged zeal on the offensive glass, has used his handle to get downhill, and has even flashed some shot creation chops in the mid-range. The “Excellent” rating for dribble jumpers and the“Very Good” for lay-ups speaks to what Mgabko’s been able to do even with his efficiency struggles from the field.
There’s still a lot of time for Mgbako to reappear as the frightening prospect he once was in high school, but that may have to wait for next year. With another season in a college weight room and given more of the keys to the offense, Mgbako could enter the 2025 draft conversation as one of the scariest sophomore prospects.
X Factor File #4: Xavier Booker, Michigan State
Watching Xavier Booker has felt like the first half of a horror movie: although there are glimpses of the monster he could become, they’re few and far between as tension is built. The problem for Booker, however, is that there likely won’t be a grand, horrific reveal of his game at the end of the feature.
Booker was a raw player in high school, but his sky-high potential and length meant he could’ve been thrown in at the college level to learn on the fly. That hasn’t happened under Tom Izzo, as expected when he went to Michigan State, and he’s playing a shred over ten minutes a game for the Spartans.
With such inconsistent time that’s only come in the late stages of blowouts, it’s hard to get a full read on Booker’s X Factor File. There are some obvious flashes of his skills, whether it’s his spot-up shooting or his vicious blocks, but most of the flashes that Booker’s shown have come after long stretches on the bench.
Unless there’s a major shakeup for the Spartans in the second half of the season, Booker will likely have to wait for the sequel to this season to emerge as a draft prospect. While his flashes are supernatural, there isn’t enough tape behind the intrigue to justify a draft decision.
X Factor File #5: Myles Colvin, Purdue
We’re deep enough into the X Factor Files that it’s time to delve into some deep sleeper files. Myles Colvin isn’t an unknown name, but he’s long been considered a multi-year menace, not a one-and-done alien.
He’s barely playing over ten minutes a game for the country’s top team, but some encouraging signs have made his case worthy of investigation. He’s only putting up 4.8 points a game, but a key part of Colvin’s game seems to have traveled far into the future: his shooting.
Colvin’s role in the Purdue offense has been the designated bench sniper, which he’s fulfilling with gusto. He’s taking 2.8 threes a game in his limited run and striping 38.9% of them after a few cold nights shooting, which has made him a threat whenever he touches the ball. He’s combined his deep prowess with a few tantalizing moments of ball-handling brilliance, though his shooting is his supernatural skill.
The guard combination of Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith has solidified their spots in Purdue’s backcourt, which makes it hard for Colvin to crash the 2024 party. That’s why it’s worth putting his X Factor File toward the top of the 2025 pile, as he could enter next year’s draft conversation as the most mythical shooter in the draft class.
X Factor File #6: Silas Demary Jr., Georgia
The mission of the X Factor Files is to determine what’s real and what’s a myth regarding potential prospects. It’s most difficult to parse through the evidence of a late-season surge, as we’ve seen this year with Riley Kugel, who had a monstrous close to last year yet has struggled to maintain the same hype in his sophomore season.
Silas Demary Jr. comes to mind when looking for similar players who could have the same late-season SEC streak. After committing to USC initially, Demary Jr. avoided the USC backcourt logjam and found his way to the Bulldogs, where he’s started every game. He isn’t lighting the world on fire with just 8.5 points on 41.9% shooting, but there are enough flashes to demand further attention.
Demary Jr. fills the stat sheet more than others with his rebounding, passing, and steals, which gives him an easier path despite his efficiency concerns. Even though he hasn’t shot the ball well, Demary Jr. has flashed some real driving talent and the ability to create from the dribble as a creator.
Like most athletic guard prospects, the swing skill for Demary Jr. will be his ability to stroke shots from deep. He’s only shooting 30.8% from deep on 26 attempts, which simply isn’t spooky enough to demand draft attention, but just like with Kugel before him, a hot streak late in SEC play could vault him into further conversations.
It’s safer to assume that Demary Jr. will wait a year to make a splash in the 2025 class, but that’s not guaranteed. There’s a world in which he catches fire late, shows off his all-around game, and plays so well that his file not only stays in the 2024 stack but starts to rise toward the top of the potential paranormal prospects. All that will come down to his shooting, but with a great frame and his current production, he could be a supernatural prospect hiding in plain sight.