Here’s our list of ten mid-major players on NBA scouts radars this season.
Ron Baker, Wichita State: The former walk-on is a Swiss-army knife in the backcourt. Baker can do a bit of everything, shown in his averages of 13.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game last year. He shot 45.6% from the field and 38% from behind the arc last season while spending time at both guard spots. He plays primarily off the ball at Wichita State, but the hope is that he can move over to the point guard position at the next level due to his 6-foot-4 frame. Baker has shown maturity as the primary ball handler, but isn’t overly quick or explosive.
R.J. Hunter, Georgia State: A quality scorer who can shoot the ball at a high level, Hunter will be one of the top shooting guard prospects in the country. He averaged 18.3 points per game as a sophomore while shooting 44.4% from the field and 39.5% from deep. Hunter has enough size at 6-foot-6 but could add some muscle to help his dribble-drive game. With a lack of elite shooting guards in this year’s draft class, Hunter will push for a lottery selection.
Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette: While Elfrid Payton stole the spotlight at Louisiana-Lafayette last season, Long will emerge as the leader this year. He averaged 17.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore and shows the ability to stretch the floor offensively. He’s also a threat on the defensive end, shown in his 2.7 blocks per game. It’s unknown what position he’ll guard at the next level, but the 6-foot-10 prospect has some intrigue offensively.
E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island: Matthews is a former top national prospect out of Michigan who chose Rhode Island over some well-known programs. He had an impressive freshman season, averaging 14.3 points per game, and looks to boost his draft stock as a sophomore. Matthews is an aggressive scorer that uses a quick first step to beat defenders off the bounce. He’s a solid shooter that should improve his efficiency this season. At 6-foot-5, he can play either guard spot but could add some strength to endure more physical defenders. He’ll also need to limit his turnovers this season.
Keifer Sykes, Green Bay: Last year’s Horizon League MVP returns for his senior season looking for an NCAA Tournament bid. Sykes averaged 20.3 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 46.9% from the field. He’s an electrifying 5-foot-11 point guard with tons of athleticism. He uses his quickness to beat defenders off the bounce and eventually finish against bigger opponents. Sykes will need to improve on his three-point jumper, especially at his size, since he shot 30.9% from deep last year.
Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State: Van Vleet is a heady floor general that averaged 5.4 assists to just 1.3 turnovers per game last season. He had eight games without a single turnover. Van Vleet is also a good shooter who made 41.8% of his three-point attempts last season. He’s strong and tough on the defensive end but it will be interesting to see how he translates to the next level due to his lack of size (6-foot-0) and athletic ability.
Briante Weber, VCU: While most draft prospects draw NBA attention due to their offensive skill set, Weber is quite the opposite. Weber is a lock-down perimeter defender who averaged 3.5 steals per game. He uses his lengthy 6-foot-2 frame along with elite quickness to keep opponents in front and disrupt passing lanes. Weber has the defensive ability to excel at the next level, but needs to show some offensive potential to remain on the floor. He averaged 9.4 points per game and shot just 24.4% from deep as a junior. If he can show improvements on the offensive end, Weber will make his way into the draft conversation.
Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara: Williams is a double-double machine who averaged 21.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game as a junior. He earned Big West Player of the Year honors and returns looking for his third consecutive season averaging double-figures in both the scoring and rebounding departments. He’s a monster in the Big West Conference, but faces some questions at the next level. Williams is slightly undersized, listed at 6-foot-8 and doesn’t have a consistent mid-range jumper to stretch a defense. He does most of his work on the block but he may not be as effective against NBA caliber big men. Williams also faces questions defensively due to a lack of quickness and athleticism. The senior has been one of the most productive players in the country and will get a chance to prove himself at the next level.
Christian Wood, UNLV: Wood had a quiet freshman season, as he averaged just 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 13.0 minutes per game, but could have a breakout year ahead. He needed a season to add some necessary weight, but his physical tools are outstanding. Wood stands 6-foot-11 with a massive wingspan and plenty of athleticism. He can stretch the floor with his jumper, but 50 of his 117 field goal attempts came from behind the arc. As an athletically gifted big man, Wood will need to become more aggressive around the basket.
Rashad Vaughn, UNLV: The highly touted freshman is expected to make an immediate impact at UNLV. Vaughn is versatile scorer with an NBA build at 6-foot-5. He’s athletic and a strong shooter that should have impressive numbers in Vegas. The key will be in his efficiency, as Vaughn can have a questionable shot selection at times.
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