Hoping that your holidays have been filled with joy and basketball, here is our latest breakdown of prospects on the rise and those who might have taken a bit of a tumble:
Mario Hezonja 6-7 215 SG/SF FC Barcelona 1995
He has averaged 9.3 ppg in 27 mpg in the last three ACB games, while going for 12.5 ppg in 22.8 mpg in his last four Euroleague contests. He is very difficult to stop in transition, can finish well above the rim and he has shot well from long range. With questions surrounding many of the top wing prospects in this year’s draft, his rise in both playing time and production is definitely opportune. He will only be 20-years old at the time of the draft. Hezonja is an exciting athlete who has lottery level talent. He also appears to be very interested in coming over immediately, as his contract with Barcelona will be coming to an end.
Delon Wright 6-5 190 PG/SG Utah Sr.
Wright has averaged 17.6 ppg, 6 rpg and 5.6 apg during December, with Utah gaining stellar wins over Wichita St., BYU and UNLV. After a fairly slow start, he is showing the efficient all-around basketball that made him a favorite for Pac-12 player of the year. He has gained more confidence in his shot and still excels as a primary ball handler. With size and the ability to run the pick-and-roll, he is looking like one of the top seniors available in 2015.
Kelly Oubre 6-7 200 SF Kansas Fr.
Expectations were very high for this blue chip prospect and it’s obvious that he has needed time to get acclimated to the college game. Despite the slow start, Oubre is a talented player with attributes that NBA teams love. As he is seemingly still adjusting to the college game, but has been playing more meaningful minutes and was recently inserted into the starting line-up. Oubre still is a work in progress and the Jayhawks are coming off of a blow out loss to Temple. His raw talent and physical tools are enough to make him a very enticing possible draftee. He will need to show added defensive effort and focus and an improved floor game if he remains set on leaving after one season. A second year at Kansas would benefit him, but in such a weak draft, it would be difficult to keep him out of the first round.
Ryan Boatright 5-11 175 PG UConn Sr.
Jones was not the only player who had a strong showing in the UConn-Duke showdown, as Boatright was scoring from all over the floor. He has always made up for his lack of size with waterbug quickness, now he has improved his overall efficiency as a scorer as well. Coming off of a badly sprained ankle, Boatright almost single handedly kept UConn in the game at times. He is incredibly difficult to stop one-on-one and has a talent for getting scoring opportunities. He also defends all of the way up the floor while playing huge minutes. Boatright still had something to prove, even as an instrumental part of UConn’s NCAA title run last year. So far, he is doing his part to garner NBA looks.
Christian Wood 6-11 220 PF UNLV So.
Against an Arizona frontcourt full of former five star prospects, Wood was an absolute match-up nightmare. He used size and quickness to his advantage over former Findlay Prep teammate, Brandon Ashley. Wood finished with 24 and 10 leading the Rebels to a 71-67 win over previously undefeated Arizona. Young for his class, Wood has definitely added upper body strength and is much more confident near the hoop. He has excellent size and length for the position. His outside shot is still not very consistent and he will need to add more upper body strength to enter a NBA rotation. His big game against a tough Wildcats team combined with the progress he has made this season make him a prospect whose stock appears to be rising.
Tyus Jones 6-1 190 PG Duke Fr.
Jones has excelled in Duke’s biggest wins this year, showing the intelligence and poise that had him ranked as the top incoming floor general. He averaged 21.5 ppg in wins over Wisconsin and UConn, getting to the line and doing great things to keep his teammates involved. The package deal with good friend Jahlil Okafor has worked out incredibly well, with few better at feeding the post than Jones. He brings an offensive game that can keep people honest with great court vision and ball security. He lacks explosive athletic ability and his defensive ability may come into question for the NBA . His maturity and leadership have both really stood out, which should make him an intriguing point guard prospect going forward.
Vince Hunter 6-8 205 PF/SF UTEP So.
In UTEP’s close loss to Arizona, Wildcats coach Sean Miller praised Vince Hunter as the best player they have faced all season. Hunter finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with more than 8 minutes left in the game. Averaging 10.4 rpg, he is a quick leaper who shows a lot of potential on defense. He has also been great off of the cut, using speed to make up for his lack of consistent range. Hunter may still take another season, or two, before entering the draft, but his play as of late puts him on the radar.
Robert Upshaw 7-0 250 C Washington So.
While Upshaw may not be the only reason that Washington has gone 11-1 thus far, but he is definitely a big reason. The 7-footer is leading the nation in blocked shots despite only averaging 20 mpg. He has been a big force on the offensive boards, and also shows a developing post game. He has shown some touch near the basket and has very good athleticism, helping to make him a big time rim protector. There will be question marks regarding his past after being kicked off of Fresno State due to a marijuana habit. He’s on a short leash at Washington, but has been a model citizen thus far this year. Upshaw has physical tools to be a mid first round pick, and he has an NBA ready skill in his shot blocking.
Zach Auguste 6-10 240 PF Notre Dame Jr.
With a nice combination of size and strength, Auguste is having a breakout season for the Irish. Playing center, he has used his speed to his advantage in transition and cutting through the lane. Auguste also is showing greater defensive acumen and overall energy now that he is being further relied upon. He is averaging 14.5 ppg in only 23.5 mpg, posting a ridiculous 67.2% FG through ND’s 12-1 start. Still, playing primarily at center, he still has not shown much ability to stretch the floor. If he can improve on this facet of his game, he will get a lot of interest as a PF prospect.
Chris McCullough 6-10 220 PF Syracuse Fr.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had been insistent that he did not believe that McCullough was a potential lottery pick in the 2015 Draft. McCullough’s hot start suggested otherwise, until this past four game stretch. He struggled in a narrow win over Louisiana Tech, was a relative non-factor in a loss to Villanova and even struggled in their last blow win over Colgate. Over these three games, he shot a combined 2-16, fouling out of the first two contests. Focus is part of the issue and a need to develop fundamentally is also at the root of it. McCullough is still a prospect with major upside, though this current stretch has to temper expectations.
Caris LeVert 6-7 200 SG Michigan Jr.
It has been a difficult last couple of weeks for LeVert, as Michigan looks to rebuild its season after a shocking loss to New Jersey Institute of Technology. He actually was the lone bright spot during the NJIT loss, though he struggled in the next 3 games of their 4 game losing streak. He has been held under double figures in his last three games, settling for jumpers and rarely getting to the line. LeVert has really nice size and has been a fantastic underdog story as someone who went from being off of the radar to a legitimate NBA prospect. While he has done great things to get to this point and still has very nice size for a SG, he does not have top flight athleticism and this may limit his potential at the next level.
Perry Ellis 6-8 225 PF Kansas Jr.
It looked like Kansas would turn to Perry Ellis as their go-to guy this season and so far, it has not exactly gone according to plan. He has some nice games in KU’s marquee wins, but has been their greatest scapegoat in their two losses. Kentucky’s size bothering Ellis was not a major surprise, however his latest game against Temple was much more of a head scratcher. Shooting 1-10 FG, he finished with only 5 points while looking bewildered at times. Ellis is a strong player with some strong post fundamentals, but he looks to be very much undersized as a PF without the skills would hope for on the wing. With another year to prove otherwise, he will need a lot of work to show he can fit in a rotation at the NBA level.
Norman Powell 6-4 215 SG UCLA Sr.
Powell is a strong athlete who has still shown some possible 3 and out potential as a next level SG. UCLA has played a really tough schedule and while their last two losses were both to fantastic teams in Gonzaga and Kentucky, Powell struggled mightily. Powell was held to 2 points on 1-13 shooting against Kentucky, an ugly performance even against the nation’s best defense. Powell has not had a bad senior season in the least, he just still leaves something desired as a strong first round candidate. Creating off of the dribble is still not his strong suit, which limits his long-term appeal as more than a rotation guard.
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