The concluding segment of my 4*/3* anthology is a harbinger of marvelous things: we are approximately a pair of fortnights away from Big Blue Madness (October 14) and 58 days from the commencement of real college basketball (November 11; UK hosts Stephen F. Austin and the Armed Forces Classic features monster matchups between IU & KU and Arizona & Michigan State).
While you get lost in the ESPN-fueled Josh Jackson (KU)/Harry Giles (Duke)/Markelle Fultz (Washington), etc. 5* bedlam (and you should; those dudes are NBA-ready), don’t forget that 6 of the last 7 Naismith POYs were sub-5*s.
Everyone knows 4*s like Villanova’s Josh Hart, Duke’s Grayson Allen, Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, Iowa State’s Monte Morris, and Maryland’s Melo Trimble, among others, who will undoubtedly appear on a number of illustrious award watch lists.
But I’ve decided to focus on other, perhaps lesser-known, 4*s/3*s who should at least be all-conference names this season, and one day potentially make an impact in the NBA.
THE 4* JUNIOR TO WATCH
I’m only including one junior here, and it’s because he is the 2016 recipient of the Honorary Kris Dunn Award, as my favorite non-’Cat NCAAB player to watch and effusively gush about to ASoBers.
Edmond Sumner / PG (Xavier) / ‘14 247Sports #107 Recruit
Not only is Sumner my favorite non-UK player, he’s the reason that I might finally be accurate when forecasting Xavier to advance past the Sweet 16 in my March Madness bracket.
He is quite evocative of (you guessed it!) Dunn. On the plus side: optimal PG size (though Sumner is an inch taller), elite defensive capabilities, decent scorers at the rim, seemingly preternatural court visions, and crisp and decisive passing. The negatives: raw shooters (though Sumner is a superior free throw shooter, at 73% last season), somewhat foolhardy at times, and durability questions.
Last February, in (then) #5 XU’s win over (then) #1 and eventual NCAAT Champion Villanova, Sumner delivered one of the best comprehensive PG performances I saw all season: 19 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds in 33 minutes. He all but humiliated ‘Nova’s super-frosh PG Jalen Brunson and NCAAT MOP Ryan Arcidiacono. Don’t be surprised if he notches one or two triple-doubles this season. At the very least, expect him to average 14-5-5-2 per game.
Martinez ‘17 NBA Draft Board Position: Late teens
Other Names to Remember (Including Seniors): Vince Edwards / SF (Purdue) / ‘14 #121, Dillon Brooks / SF (Oregon) / ‘14 #97, Alec Peters / F (Valparaiso) / ‘13 #254, London Perrantes / PG (Virginia) / ‘13 #124, Moses Kingsley / PF (Arkansas) / ‘13 #48, VJ Beachem / SF (Notre Dame) / ‘13 #74, Nigel Hayes / SF (Wisconsin) / ‘13 #145, Johnathan Motley / PF (Baylor) / ‘13 #130, Marcus Foster / PG (Creighton) / ‘13 #225
4*/3* SOPHOMORES TO WATCH
'17 NBA DRAFT POTENTIAL
Due to the absolutely loaded incoming 5* class, next June’s Draft figures to resemble the one-and-done bonanza of 2015 more than 2016’s 4*/3*-centric exercise (refer back to Volume II for the numbers).
That said, there are a few sub-5* sophomores who may see as high as mid-lottery projections when serious mock draft season arrives next year.
O.G. Anunoby / SF (IU) / #280
Upon repeated viewing, one learns that it was not Thomas Bryant’s or Yogi Ferrell’s offense that keyed IU’s NCAAT victory over UK last March.
It was actually Anunoby’s relative defensive shutdown of Jamal Murray straight-up, especially on the perimeter, and occasional stifling of Tyler Ulis on switches that secured IU’s win.
Murray shot 39% overall and 11% on 9 attempts from 3. Primarily because of Anunoby. Ulis had a rare game in which his turnover number (4) exceeded his assist number (3). Mostly because of Anunoby. He flummoxed Labissiere at times, as well.
From a college perspective, he will be the best player on the Big Ten’s best team this season. It’s evident at this point that he can defend all 5 college positions.
From a NBA scout’s perspective, he will be the best frontcourt defensive prospect in next year’s Draft. Also, how can one ignore his reported (not yet official, but it looks likely) 7’6’’wingspan?
Seriously, writing that gave me goosebumps. That’s better than Anthony Davis’, Kevin Durant’s, Dwight Howard’s, and LaMarcus Aldridge’s ‘spans, among others...yet Anunoby is shorter than all of them (6’8’’). Unbelievable.
Martinez ‘17 NBA Draft Board Position: Fringe lottery
Shake Milton / PG (SMU) / #93
Milton’s size is remarkable (6’6’’ with a 6’11.5’’wingspan; the average PG in the ‘16 Draft was about 6’2’’ with a 6’6’’ ‘span) and he’s an extremely efficient and polished scorer (48%FG and 43%3FG last season for the 25-5 Mustangs, good for 10.5 points per game). He’s a natural at either guard spot and played more like an upperclassman than a freshman last season, especially from decision making and turnover perspectives.
His numbers figure to explode now that he doesn’t have to share PG duties with Nic Moore, who was a borderline NBA Draft prospect after graduating last May and is now playing professionally in Italy.
Martinez ‘17 NBA Draft Board Position: Mid-20s
Tyler Lydon / PF (SU) / ‘15 247Sports #99 Recruit
Simply put, Lydon is what everyone expected Labissiere to be last season — a silky and long shot blocker with an excellent jumper and offensive range at the 4.
His most impressive attribute is his adept shot. He shot 48% overall and 41% (!!!) from outside the perimeter on about 3 attempts per game last season. On the other end, Lydon is an aggressive but skilled and restrained defender. He notched 1.8 blocks and 1.1 steals per game, while committing just 2.7 fouls per.
Martinez ‘17 NBA Draft Board Position: Late Lottery
Dedric Lawson / SF (Memphis) / #38
New Tigers head coach Tubby Smith almost certainly breathed a massive sigh of relief when Lawson, the AAC Rookie of the Year and All-AAC Second Team member, withdrew his name from the NBA Draft last May.
A leviathan in transition, he is an athletically gifted scorer who is not afraid to pass in order to avoid forcing his own offense. I also love his willingness to rebound, and his productivity in that area (9.3 total per game, 3.2 of which were offensive boards). He possesses solid size for his position, at 6’8’’, 225 pounds, a 7.’2.5’’ wingspan and and 8’10.5’’ standing reach.
Lawson should be the preseason favorite for AAC Player of the Year, and, at the very least, find himself on the All-AAC First Team along with Milton, mentioned above.
Martinez ‘17 NBA Draft Board Position: Mid-30s
Jessie Govan / C (Georgetown) / #44
Govan, at 6’11’’ and 270 pounds, was exceedingly productive in limited minutes (17.6 per game) for the Hoyas last season — 6.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1 block per. That amounts to 15.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes; not bad at all.
With previous starting C Bradley Hayes’ graduation last spring, Govan is set up to play minutes in the mid-thirties as the squad’s anchor in the paint.
Martinez ‘17 NBA Draft Board Position: Fringe first round
Chimezie Metu / C (Southern Cal) / #40
Metu, a bench player for the Trojans last season (18.5 minutes per game), is apparently now 6’11’’ and has added 25 pounds to his frame (now 240).
An alarmingly gifted athlete, he also has great body control and basketball awareness, and is a surprisingly good ballhandler, for a player of his size. He also showed a Jahlil Okafor-like ability to pass out of the post last season.
Metu is somewhat redolent of Marquese Chriss, a 4* one-and-done lottery selection last May.
Martinez ‘17 NBA Draft Board Position: Early 30s
KeVaughn Allen / G (Florida) / #64
Though he was plagued by inconsistency, Allen (the centerpiece of Billy Donovan’s final class, which current head coach Mike White closed on) was the third most talented freshman in the SEC last year, behind LSU’s Ben Simmons and Murray.
White has stated that Allen is a gym rat. He was once denied entry to UF’s practice gym...because key cards don’t work at 4:30 a.m. down in Gainesville.
An athletic scorer, his one appearance at Rupp last season was a dud, but he showed his potential against UK at the O’Connell Center in March with 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists.
He should be at or near the top of the SEC (and perhaps the nation, among P5 players) in scoring in ‘16-’17.
Isaac Humphries / PF (UK) / #63
As we all know, Coach Calipari has tabbed Hump as the team’s most improved player this summer (though people seemed to have ignored the “he still has a ways to go” part of Cal’s quip).
Still, that’s glorious, as a lack of frontcourt depth plagued the ‘Cats severely at times last season; however, he still figures to slot in as the #4 frontcourt option, behind Bam Adebayo, Derek Willis, and Wenyen Gabriel. Tai Wynyard and Sacha Killeya-Jones also seem likely to see minutes in the frontcourt this season.
Donovan Mitchell / SG (U of L) / #36
Since he’s a Card, I won’t link any videos, but Mitchell is the best dunker on this list, and maybe the best at the craft in all of NCAAB. Also, no one squeezed more out of their athleticism than he did last year.
Mitchell, a front-of-bench backup last season, wasn’t very conspicuous in the clash at Rupp last year (8 points in 21 minutes), but expect to see plenty of him this year. He is the obvious candidate to fill now-departed Damion Lee’s 33.6 minutes per game at the starting SG spot, and G Trey Lewis is gone, as well.
Jacob Evans / G/F (Cincinnati) / #164
Evans, a spot starter last season, finished his freshman campaign in a remarkably strong fashion highlighted by a 26 point, 9 rebound performance in the Bearcats’ loss to Saint Joe’s in the NCAAT. Without him and now-departed sub Coreontae DeBerry, Cincy would have lost that game by 30.
A nightmare for opposing defenses at the 2 spot due to his 6’6’’ frame, Evans improved his perimeter shooting efficiency as the season wore on, shooting above 44% from 3 in 4 of his last 6 games. He also rebounds like a bigger PF, as he averaged 4.1 per game last season in 24.4 minutes of action.
If he picks up where he left off last season, he’s a legitimate All-AAC First Team candidate.
Tyler Davis / C (TAMU) / #45
Davis will again be a bruiser in the interior for the fringe-top 25 Aggies. Expect him lead the squad in blocks and rebounds, and to be near the top of the SEC in both categories. Not at the very top, though, because...Bam Adebayo (if he can stay out of foul trouble).
Another member of last year’s All-SEC Freshman Team, Davis seems likely to take Jalen Jones’ place from last year as TAMU’s representative on the First Team All-SEC unit.
Additional Names to Remember: Chris Clarke / SG (Virginia Tech) / #61, Tyler Dorsey / PG (Oregon) / #28, Ethan Happ / PF (Wisconsin) / #149, Jawun Evans / PG (Oklahoma State) / #27
4* FRESHMEN TO WATCH
Though it seems unlikely that we’ll see a 4* one-and-done taken in the 2017 Draft (I would’ve said the same thing last summer about the ‘16 Draft, though), here are the sub-5* newcomers who I think are likely to make a noticeable impact on their teams and lay a foundation for being solid prospects in the ‘18 Draft.
James Banks / C (Texas) / '16 247Sports #62 Recruit
If a 4* one-and-done is drafted next June, it will be Banks.
I started to compile this list last May, before 5* big Jarrett Allen committed to Texas. Though Allen’s presence may affect Banks’ minutes, I’m leaving him here because he’s an elite rim protector (a premium skill in today’s NBA) and possesses to the type of physical measurements that NBA personnel people salivate over — 6’10.5’’, 242 pounds, 9’3.75’’ standing reach (!!!), and 7’5.25’’ wingspan (!!!!!!).
Tyus Battle / SG (SU) / #38
Battle is a smaller, less athletic and explosive Jaylen Brown — a defensive specialist on the wing. He doesn’t possess Brown’s remarkable motor, though, but few do.
He’s not transcendent, so he’ll need minutes to get recognized by NBA scouts. Those minutes are now in jeopardy with fellow 2 Andrew White’s summer transfer into Syracuse.
Expect Battle to spend this season developing off the bench and make a strong push for the late first round in ‘18.
Xavier Simpson / PG (Michigan) / #93
Simpson is your Tyler Ulis Special on this list. Listed at 6’ (generous) and 180 pounds, he hails from Lima, OH, where Ulis lived prior to high school. Further, the two have been friends for a long time (if you follow Ulis on Twitter, it’s fairly obvious) and Simpson has tried to model his game after Ulis.
He is listed here for more than the UK connection, though. He will get playing time early as John Beilein’s backup PG, but he’s one injury to (oft-injured) starter Derrick Walton away from serious minutes.
Thanks to Nationwide Nick for insight on UM’s roster.
De'Ron Davis / PF (IU) / #47
Davis is Tom Crean’s foremost incoming freshman. Though he didn’t arrive in Bloomington until late last month, he still figures to be the shot-blocking specialist and tertiary part of one of the nation’s best frontcourts (which also includes Bryant, Anunoby, and Juwan Morgan, a former 4* sophomore whom I omitted above due to serious concerns about a bad shoulder that has affected him since high school and was seriously injured in the aforementioned UK NCAAT game).
I am probably too high on Davis as a NBA prospect because he doesn’t possess the skills to play the NBA (or college, for that matter) 3 but is too short to play the NBA 4. Still, he is a great passer and sports a versatile offensive game for a prospect of his size and will likely be a high volume starter for the Hoosiers’ frontcourt in 2017, after Anunoby and Bryant have departed for the NBA.
Udoka Azubuike / C (KU) / #39
To me, Azubuike is a slightly smaller Dakari Johnson. Big and strong (probably stronger than Johnson), a hard worker on the glass, but ungainly and severely lacking in offensive skill and a general awareness of and feel for the game. That said, his upside and potential are much greater than Johnson’s were coming into UK.
What Azubuike does have is this move, which, if he perfects, could certainly vault him into the ‘18 Draft ether as long as he continues to develop the rest of his game.
Additional Names to Remember: Bruce Brown / SG (Miami) / #30, Kostas Antetokounmpo (yes, Giannis’ brother) / SF (Dayton) / #52, Alterique Gilbert / PG (UConn) / #31, Mario Kegler / SF (Miss. State) / #64, V.J. King / SF (U of L) / #33, Romello White / PF (ASU) / #70, Juwan Durham / C (UConn) / #45