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What's In Storr?
FEATURING: Wisconsin Badgers wing AJ Storr | INCLUDING: Excerpts and full video from the No Ceilings Exclusive Interview with AJ | PRELUDE: Sophomore Sensations
What’s In Storr?
With one draft over, the beginning of the next draft cycle is upon us! That means a long list of new names will be at the forefront of our minds. This phenomenon is nothing new and has been covered for several years. While the projected one-and-done prospects will garner the lion’s share of the attention, returning players will have an opportunity to “sneak up” within the draft community. Last year, one of the most meteoric rises we witnessed was from Santa Clara sophomore, Brandin Podziemski. Podz went from barely playing at Illinois to being one of the best scoring prospects in the nation with the Broncos.
With basketball being recognized as a “copycat” sport, there will be no shortage of returning players being discussed at the next Brandin Podziemski. While the prospect I’ll be covering today is talented, I will not compare him to Brandin in the traditional sense. They play different positions, the way they transferred within the portal is not the same, and their roles and impact as freshmen couldn’t be more dissimilar. BUT this prospect could absolutely play his way onto draft boards in a similar manner.
Let’s dive into our featured player…
AJ Storr is no stranger to being in good basketball company. Anyone who has done research on him knows that he is the son of a very gifted hooper. His mother, Annette Brandy, was named to the 1997 NJCAA All-American First Team. Her basketball journey included stops at Illinois Central College and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, as well as a run in semi-professional basketball. AJ gives a lot of credit to his mom for his love of basketball.
“It’s very competitive [having a mom that is a hooper]. A lot of arguing. A lot of late-night hoops. Just watching basketball games and, literally, talking for hours…just about basketball and NBA players. My mom watches every basketball game: women’s, men’s, high school, college. A lot of basketball talk in the house.”
The love for the game that was instilled in him by his mom took root in Storr, and it propelled him into becoming one of the best high school prospects in the nation. After playing for IMG Academy and AZ Compass, RSCI would rank AJ as the 89th prospect in the 2022 class. This was ahead of Tyrese Proctor—a player who many are lobbying for as a can’t-miss prospect in the 2024 NBA Draft. The amount of attention he garnered was significant, as one could imagine.
After drawing interest from schools such as Illinois, Ole Miss, LSU, Oklahoma, Miami, and Kansas, Storr ultimately decided to play for St. John’s. The decision to commit to playing for the Red Storm would come down to his conversations with their then-head coach, along with playing at the Mecca.
“Just meeting with coach [Mike] Anderson; he had a plan for me. Being able to play at Madison Square Garden won me over, I would say. When I was on my visit I got to see the gym. I got to look at the court and think about all of the history played in that gym. Being a part of that…that was something that I wanted to do.”
Storr would have a strong season as a freshman playing in the Big East, but it didn’t have a Hollywood beginning.
AJ would play in 15 games, starting from St John’s first game in November until the end of December. However, he did not start a single one—playing about 13 MPG. In that stretch, he logged just under six PPG, less than one RPG, and 0.5 steals and assists per contest. While his shooting splits were solid (49/44/71), Storr’s playing time and role for the Red Storm left something to be desired.
“The first couple of games—I’m not gonna lie—I was a little down. I was like ‘This is how my college career is going to go?’. Then I started working. Working hard. Making 1,000 shots [a day], focusing on my grind. I didn’t want my college career to go like that. I had to make something happen.”
From the turn of the new year until the end of regular season play, AJ averaged 11.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, and 0.4 SPG. He started 15 of 16 games, while also playing 27 MPG. The role and consistent play gave AJ the confidence he was searching for, and it resulted in some big games. He hung 23 points on Creighton, had 20-point and 14-point performances against the would-be NCAA champs, UConn, and had 15-point games against Providence, Seton Hall, and Georgetown.
“I always felt like if I was on the floor for a long period of time that I would be able to produce. Being on the court and being able to figure things out, I was happy. It showed that the work that I was putting in was actually translating to actual games. I was happy. I just wanted to win games and keep a positive attitude. That’s one thing I’ve learned…you have to keep a positive attitude.”
Through his play, hard work, and positive disposition, AJ was rewarded by being named to the Big East All-Freshman team to close out his first season. With St. John’s looking to go in another direction in the coaching department, Storr would opt into the transfer portal. With many schools once again vying for his services, Storr ultimately committed to the Wisconsin Badgers.
“When I entered the portal, it was definitely a tough decision…but it was the best decision at the end of the day. You really have to stay by your phone [when entering the transfer portal]…it’s basically like a second recruitment.
They [Wisconsin] was one of the first schools to reach out. They was telling me how I could fit in with the team. I was looking over the roster, had a talk with the family. I eventually set up a visit. When I came on my visit, coach [Greg Gard] was explaining to me how I could fit in with the team. It was, evidently, the best decision for me. I could really help the team out athletically—just being able to shoot the ball and spread the floor. Create space. Plus, they’re a winning team. That winning culture was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Storr joined a Badger team that returned players like Connor Essegian, Chucky Hepburn, Tyler Wahl, and Steven Crowl, as well as incoming freshman, Nolan Winter. With his new team and an offseason to take another step as a player, AJ is confident for the new season, but he acknowledges that it will take a tremendous amount of work.
“Right now, I’m training—trying to put up as many shots as I can. Everyday, I’m trying to make 1,000 shots. Everyday. I’m trying to be in high-level shape—get my legs stronger and my wind up.
Our turnout for this season…how ever far we go—how hard we work, that’s how far we’re going to get. How much work we put in the gym, how much film we watch, how much advice we take from our coaches, how much our chemistry builds…that’s how far we’re going to go.”
It is interesting when a player’s year has such a clear line of demarcation in it. When a player turns a corner, it can be the determining factor in how they develop as a prospect. As previously mentioned, AJ became more of a factor for his team at the turn of the calendar year. This is not to say that he became a superstar, but he finished the season on a high note and gave a strong foundation to build upon this offseason. Observe.
What’s interesting about AJ’s line—despite how unassuming it appears on the surface—is the company he keeps with the following BartTorvik query:
Effective Field Goal Percentage: At least 50%
True Shooting Percentage: At least 50%
Steal Percentage: At least 1%
3 Point Percentage: At least 40%
3 Pointers Made: At least 35
Dunks: At least 15
Storr, as a freshman, was grouped with the likes of the following players: Kobe Brown, Hunter Tyson, D’Moi Hodge, Gradey Dick, Keyontae Johnson, and Jaykwon Walton. Dick and Brown were taken in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. Tyson and Johnson were drafted in the second round. Hodge was signed to a two-way contract as an undrafted free agent. Walton was a sought-after transfer prospect in the offseason.
Now, this isn’t to say that AJ would have been drafted if he entered last season, but it is interesting that his offensive skill set positioned him into a grouping that only included seven players—with five of them now on NBA rosters. He also ranked behind the rest of the group in almost every category, with the exception of three-point percentage, where he ranked fourth—over Dick, Hodge, and Walton.
We’ll get to it in the film study, but one can piece together some of the areas of AJ’s game that he’ll need to improve. The ball movement, rebounding, and ability to draw fouls were chief categories considered to be lower-than-average among college basketball prospects. It’s also worth noting that when he moved into a starting role with St. John’s, his rebounding and free throw rate took some steps in the right direction.
Again, the film will cover some more of these categories, but the assist percentage stayed about the same despite a larger role. Regardless, the signs of a potential NBA-level player are there for Storr.
The whole sell with AJ as a prospect begins with his offense. With his frame—listed at 6’7”, 205 pounds—Storr has great size for an NBA wing. He graded out in the 67th percentile (Very Good) in the NCAA on his total possessions. In transition, he was in the 88th percentile (Excellent), while being ranked in the 37th percentile (Average) within the halfcourt.
“Transition is something I thrive in; I love playing in transition. I love to get the crowd involved with those showtime plays.”
To go back to AJ’s words, he is an absolute monster in the open court. Against the UConn Huskies—the current national champs—AJ was able to have some very good outings. In this clip, AJ is lined up against former high school teammate, Alex Karaban (#11). While the ball is in the hands of Tristen Newton (#2), Storr keeps his head up, while also keeping tabs on Karaban. The ball gets tipped and winds up in the hands of David Jones (#23). Jones finds a streaking AJ Storr for a one-handed flush.
In this matchup against Georgetown, we see another fast break conversion—this time with a little more sizzle. Hoya guard Brandon Murray (#0) brings the ball up the floor and throws a somewhat lazy pass to his teammate, Primo Spears (#1). With the ball hanging in the air for far too long, St. John’s picks off the pass and gets the ball up the floor, and Storr ends up throwing down an amazing oop.
This next part of AJ’s game is something that will, admittedly, need some more work. While operating as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, Storr graded out in the 55th percentile (Good). The reason that AJ needs more work in this area is the creation aspect while handling the rock.
Against Creighton, we see AJ attack the defense off the bounce while initiating the offense. The ball swings around the perimeter and ends up in the hands of Joel Soriano (#11). Soriano hands the ball off to Storr. AJ and Soriano get into a two-man game, which allows AJ to take Baylor Scheierman to the hole for a smooth layup.
Now, while there are some flashes of positive creation, Storr also has some plays where he can force the issue.
Against Marquette, St. John’s got trapped off of a play here. The ball is skipped to the opposite corner and then swung to AJ on the right wing. Our guy is guarded by Stevie Mitchell (#4). He gets by Mitchell, but the additional pressure put on the ball by Olivier-Maxence Prosper causes AJ to rush things a little. He gets to the elbow and tries to hit Soriano, but Oso Ighodaro gets the ball delivered right into his hands instead.
Storr recorded 25 assists to 37 turnovers—which will automatically raise some concerns among some scouts and analysts. This isn’t an unfair critique, but it’s worth noting that Storr found his footing at the beginning of January—and he was a freshman. The foundation and flashes of feel are a great foundation to build on.
This play is a prime example of his feel and the way he can use his shot (more on that in a second) as a way to open up his passing game.
“I feel like I’ll be able to handle the ball a little bit more here [Wisconsin]. I can really handle the ball. I could really play point guard in middle school, high school, AAU. I can be more hands on with the ball. Making decisions and coming off of screens. I’m really a good passer, too. When I get to showcase my passing, I feel like I’m a good passer, too.”
No bones about it, the primary skill that Storr brings to the table is his jumper. Looking on Synergy, Storr is in the 41st percentile (Average) in spot-up play types. On catch-and-shoot looks, he is in the 71st percentile (Very Good). On unguarded jumpers, he is in the 94th percentile (Excellent), and he was in the 86th percentile (Excellent) on dribble jumpers. Needless to say, the shot is wet.
AJ is the type of player—and shooter—that can fit next to a ball-dominant player with relative ease. On this play, Andre Curbelo (#3) gets the ball inbounded to him, works the two-man game with Soriano, and slips his way into the paint. With the defense shifting to recovery mode, AJ takes advantage and relocates. His movement is subtle, but he gets into perfect position for a kick-out pass. What I love about this play is the fact that Storr can receive a less-than-perfect pass and still get into his shooting motion. He is unfazed by the defense closing out on him and nails the shot from deep.
Again, we see another play where the ball handler (Posh Alexander, #0) gets into some pick-and-roll action with Soriano. Posh gets a step on the defense, which forces Trey Alexander (#23) and Ryan Kalkbrenner (#11) to converge on him. Scheierman rotates over from the weak side to provide assistance but gives our guy way too much space. Posh sees AJ and kicks the ball out to him in the left corner. Splash!
Here, we see that St. John’s looked for ways to involve AJ on scripted possessions. On this inbound play, we see the ball get thrown into the block. As the ball is backed into the right corner, O’mar Stanley (#4) sets a screen that gets Storr open at the top of the key. The result? You guessed it. AJ is automatic when left alone from beyond the arc.
In speaking with AJ, defense is the area of his game that he is working on in conjunction with improving his ball handling. Looking at the analytics, there are some unfavorable numbers. Against spot-up possessions, AJ ranked in the sixth percentile (Poor). The number of possessions he’s credited with defending against that play type was 60—which took up over 40% of his total time on the floor. What should give scouts and analysts hope is how he grades out in other areas. Against the pick-and-roll ball-handler, AJ was in the 55th percentile (Good). Against handoffs, he was in the 58th Percentile (Good). Defending off screens, he was graded in the 79th percentile (Very Good).
The problem with the latter play types is that they accounted for slightly over 30% of the time he is credited with defensive possessions. The key with returning players is finding what they did well the season before—especially for sophomores—while evaluating how likely it is that they can improve in other areas.
This is the type of play that AJ could find himself in quite often as he continues his path to greater heights. As a freshman, he’s given a tough assignment by defending Trey Alexander and Ryan Kalkbrenner—especially in this play set. Alexander and Kalkbrenner work themselves into a handoff action, which then turns into a screen. That’s a lot to process for a defender. AJ has to get around Kalkbrenner twice, as Alexander goes left while getting the handoff, and then back right while the screen is set. Storr does a great job fighting through each action and is able to keep up with Trey as he drives left. The shot is able to go off, but AJ is able to bother it and force the miss. Alexander is considered to be a legit NBA prospect this season, and AJ is able to demonstrate his potential as a true 3-and-D wing against him.
On top of showing promising production as a Top 100 prospect—as well as having the size and skill set that teams want—AJ has also enjoyed some recent success with the Bahamian National Team.
He was allowed to participate in their pre-qualifying games, playing alongside NBA players such as Deandre Ayton, Buddy Hield, and Eric Gordon.
“Overall, it was a great experience…just being able to get those reps in over the summer and play against a great program like Kansas. Just be with those experienced guys on the Bahamian team…it was a good experience.
It was a little bit of everything, to be honest [speaking on having fun and receiving mentorship from NBA players]. I definitely picked up a lot of knowledge on the trip. They gave me a lot of tips about paying attention to detail, that the small things matter, being vocal on the court. I picked up a lot of things.”
When asked if he’s going to put those tips into practice this season:
“Definitely, definitely; I’m already starting it. I’m more vocal in practice. Definitely paying more attention to the details. I feel like those small things are what wins the game—what makes you a better player.”
That is exactly what the draft community should be expecting. If the NBA players are believed to take a step in regular season play after a great run with the national team, it seems only natural that the same thing would happen for a collegiate prospect.
With it being so early in the draft process, it’s incredibly difficult to project a player. The top players have been projected and names have been given out, in a sense, so speaking apart from them is not considered to be in vogue yet. It’s also premature to say that AJ will be a sure thing as an NBA player this season. That being said, the pathway and breadcrumbs are certainly present to credibly say that it very well could happen.
Full Video Interview with AJ Storr