Yags’ Point Forward - Checking in on the Class of 2017
The winter holidays are here and the new year is right around the corner. With a slow prep schedule for the next few days and most college programs taking an extended break, it’s a good time to check in on how our latest group of New England prospects are faring at the college level. This is always a productive exercise, regardless of your point of view.
As scouts, we should almost always be checking on the development of players to hold ourselves accountable, learn from our mistakes and recognize areas of a player’s skillset that have or have not translated at the next level. Repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
As coaches, it’s an opportunity to look back on former players’ strengths and weaknesses to realize whether or not they were actually prepared to make an immediate impact in college. Players who know what they do well and can consistently do what they know well are much more apt to find a roll at the next level. The level of their advanced skill usually translates into playing time when it correlates with their level of competition.
Most importantly, this is a phenomenal practice to bring players back down to earth. Whether you’re bound for a high-major program this summer or have convinced yourself that you chose a school where you’ll be able to play right away, a lot of these guys were in the same position last year. There is only one real guarantee: Nothing is guaranteed!
If you are elite in one specific area (Marcus Santos-Silva’s ability to rebound or Andrew Platek’s ability to shoot), it will most likely earn you at least some immediate minutes. But in order to crack the starting D1 rotation at the mid/high-major level, you better be extremely polished in multiple areas (Tremont Waters’ shooting, ball-handling and creativity) or provide a rare blend of skills (Hasahn French’s toughness, athleticism and strength) that every team needs in order to win.
It’s also not a coincidence that we’re referring to some of the hardest, smartest and most efficient workers from last year’s class as examples. Not only did these prospects take pride in their craft, they also become obsessed with developing their game and invested the necessary hours in the gym to make it happen.
Either fall in love with every little detail of skill/IQ development within the game or fall by the wayside as those around you do. It’s all part of the process, young fellas!
We’ll go in the order of where last year’s prospects were ranked, followed by their current program and stat production as of Christmas Day.
1. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky – Averaging 28.5mins, 15.5pts, 4.6rebs, 2.2ast, 1.2stl and shooting 46% FG/36% 3pt/66% FT through 11 games…Enrolled at UK at this time last year and sat out the 2nd half of the season. Averaging 20pts over last 5 games. I’m sticking with a statement I made earlier this year: If Diallo can finish the season shooting 37%+ from 3 and 72%+ from the line, he’s not slipping out of the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery. Already owns 2nd highest Max Vertical (44.5”) in Combine history.
2. Tremont Waters , LSU – 31.6mins, 17pts, 6.3ast, 3.2rebs, 2.5stl and shooting 49% FG/44% 3pt/81% FT in 11 games…Definition of college-ready and has not disappointed. Dropped 39pts (13-22 FG/5-11 3pt/8-10 FT) on Marquette in 5th college game at the Maui Classic and has recorded at least 10 assists in 3 of the six games since. One of the most entertaining off-ball defenders in the nation. Despite being 5’10”, Waters owns the necessary skillset and the ability to consistently knock down shots beyond NBA range, making him a legitimate NBA prospect down the road.
3. Makai Ashton-Langford, Providence - 21.2mins, 7.1pts, 2.7rebs, 2.9ast, 1.0stl and shooting 39% FG/12% 3pt/48% FT in 13 games...Sample size is too small to make definitive projections but shooting was always the concern with Ashton-Langford. Open layups at the prep level turn into tough, well-contested shots in the Big East and Ashton-Langford is experiencing that, and yet still his finishing ability is shining through with 48% 2pt FG% and more impressively 1.077 points per possession on runners, ranking him in the 84th percentile in the country. His role has increased as the season has gone on as he’s started 4 of the last 5 games (increasing his minutes to 27.8 and his assists to 4.6 in that time) and currently sees the 5th most minutes on the team overall.
4. Jermaine Samuels, Villanova – Has played in 11 of 12 games so far the undefeated #1 team in the nation…5.7mins per game and has only attempted one FG in his last 9 games. Veterans in front of him on the depth chart include fellow NE prep-products Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall. Sticking to the typical Jay Wright script though. Current starters Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth, along with 6th man Donte DiVencenzo all redshirted as freshman and now combine to give Nova almost 86mins, 42pts, 13rebs and 7asts a night as vets. Spellman (academics) and Paschall (transferred from Fordham) have also spent redshirt seasons on the Nova bench. Bridges will be a 1st Round Pick in 2018 and Spellman will join him whenever he declares. Perfect examples of falling in love with the process and the rewards of not being caught up with instant gratification as a frosh.
5. Jordan Nwora, Louisville – Entered a tough situation as Adidas scandal rocked Louisville and HC Rick Pitino got fired. Season averages don’t tell Nwora’s story accurately. In the 6 games in which Nwora has played 14mins or more, he’s averaged 18mins, 10pts (57% FG/47% 3pt) and 3.5rebs. In 6 games playing 13mins or less, he’s averaged 7mins, 0.8pts (2-11 FG/1-3 3pt) and 1.8rebs. Louisville is 10-2 so far and return to action against in-state rival Kentucky on Friday at 1pm on CBS.
6. Kimani Lawrence, Arizona St – Has spent the majority of the season rehabbing from foot surgery that took place on November 13, a few days after ASU’s opener. A pin was inserted to repair a stress fracture in Lawrence’s left foot and he was given an estimated recovery time of 6-8 weeks. As long as Lawrence continues to progress accordingly, he should make his debut for the 12-0 and #3 Sun Devils shortly after the holidays.
7. Wabissa Bede, Virginia Tech – Finds himself behind six returning senior or junior guards with ACC experience, who have led VT to a 10-2 record so far this season. He’s seen action in 10 of the Hokies’ 12 games. In his 7 games with 10+ minutes played, Bede is averaging 6pts, 2.3rebs and 1ast in about 13.5mins of action. He’s knocking down shots (52% FG/54% 3pt) and defending like a rabid dog on the perimeter. Similar to Nova, Buzz Williams has created a blueprint for success at VT and players like Bede eventually thrive when they follow it.
8. Hasahn French, St. Louis – 27.8mins, 8pts, 6.8rebs, 2.2blk and 1.2ast with game-highs of 16pts/12rebs/5blk and two double-doubles already… Started all 12 games that he’s played, while missing one with a dodgy ankle…Elite strength and physicality has been a gift and a curse for French so far. It’s earned him a huge role and a reputation as a versatile shot-blocker but it’s also brought him 4-or-more fouls in seven games. His minutes total speaks to how much HC Travis Ford values his frosh, whether he’s in foul trouble or not. French’s struggles at the foul line have carried over early into his college career (11-33 FT) and he also isn’t the shooter that some projected. Already a tone-setter within the program and an important piece for SLU’s future.
9. Thomas Allen, Nebraska – Played in 12 of the Huskers’ 13 games, missing one after banging up his tailbone during a fall in practice…Averaging 4.7pts in 11.9mins while proving that his shot is one of the most trustworthy in America, knocking down 44% from 3…In the 3 games prior to the break, Allen averaged an uber-efficient 10.3pts (12-19 FG/6-11 3pt) in just 18mins per game, including 13pts (5-7 FG/3-4 3pt) in just 14mins in a 1-point loss to #13 Kansas. Allen’s 26mins, 14pts, 4ast and 2stls against Delaware St all established season highs and gave the coaching staff an extended look at the type of playmaker he can be. Could be in line for a big 2nd half of the season.
10. Kellan Grady, Davidson – 32.2mins, 15pts, 3.4reb, 2ast and shooting 48% FG/75% FT/40% 3pt in 11 games…Burst onto the college scene with 23pts/4ast/3reb in 18mins in his debut and backed it up with 24pts/5ast/3reb in his second game. Dropped 30pts (12-19 FG/5-9 3pt/1-2 FT) in a Christmas Day win over Akron. Grady has hit at least one 3 in 10 of his first 11 games and already has four 20-point games on his resume. Has lived up to the hype after being named a Preseason A-10 Rookie of the Year candidate and looks like a future pro. An example of an extremely talented player making an informed college decision and focusing on a program that fits his skillset, rather than being enamored by the biggest name that comes to the table.
11 Christian David, Butler – Now two years removed from a torn ACL, David decided to remain at Butler after the previous coaching staff was hired by Ohio State…6’6’” wing is still being indoctrinated into the system and has averaged 7.7mins and 2pts per game while playing in 10 of Butler’s 13 games so far…Within a program that has seen players make massive jumps from year-to-year, David will be depended up to hone all areas of his game and become comfortable with the physical nature of the Big East this season.
12 Sidney Wilson, UConn – After taking a set of summer courses at St. John’s, Wilson found the “comforts of home” to be a false advertisement and decided to transfer to UConn instead. Due to the NCAA’s outrageous rigidity and antiquated set of rules, Wilson will be forced to sit out the entire ’17-’18 season in Storrs. Wilson should adapt and overcome, which is a lot more than I can say about the NCAA.
13. Geo Baker, Rutgers –32.2mins, 12.6pts, 4ast, 3reb and 1.3stl while shooting 43% FG/35% 3pt/80% FT as Rutgers’ most efficient and creative offensive player through 14 games… A starter from day one, Baker’s role is big as any member of the ’17 Class…After starting 3-16 from 3 in his first 4 games, Baker has shot 40% (17-42) from beyond the arch since. Scored 29pts (10-14 FG/7-10 3pt/2-2 FT) in a win over Bryant and had 11 assists in a win vs. Fairleigh Dickinson. Baker’s 17-point, 4-rebound, 4-assist gem led Rutgers to a win over #15 Seton Hall in front of a sold-out home crowd at the RAC, their first win over a ranked team in Steve Pikiell’s tenure. Baker currently leads all Big Ten freshman in points, assists and minutes played. He was named the conference Rookie of the Week heading into the holidays and is making Pikiell look more prophetic with each passing game.
14. Anthony Gaines, Northwestern – 15.2mins, 3.4pts and 2.6rebs while shooting 80% FT as a do-it-all back-up at multiple positions…Has played in all 14 games for HC Chris Collins and his role may be expanding…In the last five games before the holidays, Gaines averaged 22.6mins, 6pts, 5rebs, 1stl and 1ast. Northwestern also went 4-1 during that stretch, after alternating wins and losses in the eight games prior. That’s the type of effect Gaines has on a team. He’s a player whose value is more likely to reflect in the win column at the end of the season than the stat sheet at the end of each game. At 6’4”, with a 6’10” wingspan and a relentless attitude, any young prospect who’s ignorantly been labeled a “tweener” can look to Gaines for tips on how to positively effect a game when the ball isn’t in your hands.
15. Curtis Haywood, Georgia Tech – 29.1mins, 8.3pts, 3.8rebs, 3.5ast and 1.1stl while shooting 48% FG/50% 3pt/81% FT…Became GT’s most reliable bench weapon before missing the last 3 games with a shin injury…Haywood’s ability to impose his will on a game has been taken to high-major D1 court on a nightly basis. In a 5-game stretch spanning just his 3rd-to-7th career game, Haywood averaged 34.8mins, 11.6pts, 5.6reb, 4.6ast and 1.8stl. Haywood is a rare breed who can create for others without an absurd usage rate and dominate entire sequences of a game even when plays aren’t being run in his direction.
16. Michael Okauru, Florida – 10.5mins, 4.4pts, 1.1reb and 1ast while shooting 56% FG/56% 3pt/69% FT and playing in all 12 games…Has already experienced more ups and downs than most freshman experience in a season. Team rose as high as #6 before losing 87-84 to then-#1 Duke and proceeded to lose four of five to drop out of the Top 25. Okauru averaged 5mins and totaled 3pts in that stretch. Has averaged 14.5mins and 7pts in other 7 games. Versatile player who chose a perfect system to showcase his talents.
18. Alexis Yetna, South Florida – After needing just three years to graduate from high school in his native France, Yetna headed to America and enrolled in prep school for ’15-’16. Realizing it wasn’t a good fit, he returned to France where he played with the National Team. Yetna then enrolled at Putnam for ’16-’17 as a full qualifier and was under the impression that it would be treated as his prep season by the NCAA, since he used only 3 years in France. The NCAA ruled Yetna ineligible for the entire ’17-’18 season, since he was technically two years removed from his graduating HS class in France. Like Wilson, my money is on Yetna becoming exponentially more successful in his life than those at the NCAA who were allowed to judge him.
19. Malik Ondigo, Texas Tech – May be on pace to redshirt this season, as TTU has jumped out to an 11-1 start and are currently ranked in the Top 25. HC Chris Beard raved about Ondigo’s skillset and potential during the preseason, both of which should become more pronounced as Ondigo adds muscle to his 6’10” 210lb frame.
20. Chris Duarte, NW Florida State – After committing to Western Kentucky late in the process, Duarte flipped and decided to attend juco powerhouse Northwest Florida State this fall. Windsor, CT native Jared Wilson-Frame (Pittsburgh) and Sacred Heart-Waterbury alum Malik Petteway (Robert Morris) are two New England prep products that have made their way to the D1 ranks from the same program recently.
21. Andrew Platek, North Carolina – 10.8mins, 3.4pts, 1.4rebs and 1ast while shooting 50% FG/43% 3pt/75% FT and playing in all 14 of UNC’s games…Most thought that Platek would wallow on the bench for the majority of his freshman season. Some even claimed he’d be on the 4-year pine plan. Personally, I never bought into that narrative. Platek’s toughness, competitive nature, will to win and ability to knock down shots would be welcomed anywhere. When you’re surrounded by UNC-type athletes, being a 3pt threat will draw defenders to the perimeter, give your teammates additional room to operate and provide an offensive value that we still haven’t found a way to fully quantify. Platek did it for two years at NMH and he’ll continue doing so during his time with the Tar Heels.
25. Marcus Santos-Silva, VCU – 12.1mins, 4.1pts, 4.7rebs while shooting 53% from the floor and playing in all 12 games…Rebounding translates well from level to level. But great EYBL Rebounding predicts big production and translates to success at such a ridiculous rate, that it’s almost comical. The fact that Santos-Silva is averaging over 14 boards per 36mins is still pretty impressive. In a 4-game span, that included matchups with future top-5 pick Mo Bamba and 19th-ranked Seton Hall, the 6’7” wingspan big man averaged 8pts/7rebs in just 19mins of work per night. That’s really impressive.
35. Jordan Burns, Colgate – 25.9mins, 11.7pts, 3.3ast, 1.8reb while shooting 52% from the floor and playing extensive minutes in all 11 games…Erupted for 26pts (12-15 FG/2-3 3pt) to go along with 3st/3rebs/2stl in a win over UMBC and went for 11pts/6ast vs UConn in his college debut. Changes speeds, has the guts of a burglar and isn’t afraid to bark at his teammates or opponents.
40. Azar Swain, Yale – 20.2mins, 7.7pts, 2.2rebs, 2ast while shooting 36% from 3 and starting in over half of Yale’s 14 games and playing in all thus far…Swain has ripped off two or more 3’s in seven games already and had a season high 7 assists in a win over Bryant.
44. Javante McCoy, Boston University – 24.6mins, 8.5pts, 2.2rebs, 2ast, 1.2stl while shooting 48% FG/45% 3pt and playing in each of BU’s 11 games…Was ranked lower than BU teammates Walter Whyte and Sukhmail Mathon coming in but has been the most productive early on. Tied a season high with 15pts vs Harvard before the break.
58. Caleb Green, Holy Cross – 34.5mins, 10.5pts, 2.6reb, 2.6ast while shooting 40% from 3 and starting each of HC’s 11 games…Went wild for 14pts/11ast/5rebs against Rhode Island and followed up with a season high 22pts vs FDU. Baker’s backcourt mate at Proctor and with the DC Blue Devils also came in with a college-ready game and was prepared to produce.
59. Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac - 32.2mins, 10.4pts, 5.8ast, 2.3rebs while starting in all 12 games for QU…Needs to become more efficient as a shooter (37% FG/30% 3pt) but already has the mentaility, savvy to be a solid 4-year contributor.
78. James Lewis, Chattanooga – 27.1mins, 9.1pts, 6rebs while shooting 53% FG/74% FT as a starter in each of his 13 games…Recorded a double-double (15pts/11reb) against Tennessee Tech for the 6-7 Mocs.
80. Carl Pierre, UMass – 23.8mins, 10.5pts, 1.8rebs while shooting 45% FG/50% 3pt and working his way into the Minutemen’s starting lineup…Pierre committed to UMass this summer after new head coach Matt McCall took the reins and has been a revelation in Amherst. Has connected on 57% (25-44) of his 3’s over the last six games and headed into the holidays fresh off a 25-point performance in a win over Maine.