top of page

Film Study: Overachieving Freshmen

In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight’s Esayas Gebrekidan identifies current college freshmen who have ‘overachieved’ relative to expectations based on their RSCI (Recruiting Services Consensus Index) ranking coming into the 2023-24 season:

Among our staff’s objectives when diving into film for every draft cycle: pinpoint some relatively unexpected/non-obvious “one-and-done” -level freshmen who jump off the screen. Below, we examine those prospects and dive into what’s made them successful as we approach the stretch run of the college basketball season. Each individual entered the season with expectations, but based on their RSCI ranking, it’s now clear that the bar may have been set too low.

Through hours of film study, we’ve compiled a list of 20 intriguing freshmen (along with another 9 honorable mentions) who have, in our estimation, increased their chances of playing beyond the college level based on their production this year. In this article, we’ve distilled a big chunk of the season’s worth of games into a digestible set of clips along with some written analysis in order to shine a light on some talented prospects that we feel are worth your attention.

*All statistics are as of February 13th, 2024

Tyshawn Archie

6’1” Guard | Tulsa

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Archie has been a productive sixth man off the bench for Tulsa, fitting perfectly into the offense and embracing the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, Archie is currently producing shooting splits of 50.5/42.9/75, displaying good decision-making and three-level scoring. He has shown diversity in his scoring, with an ability to put the ball in the bucket in a variety of ways. On his three-point attempts off the dribble, he is shooting 39.3%, while remaining a strong threat off the ball, hitting 43.8% on catch-and-shoot attempts. At 6’1” and 175 pounds, Archie embraces and finishes through contact and length, as he is converting 60.5% of his attempts at the rim, to date. A crafty and shifty ball handler, he has the ability to break down defenders off the dribble, as he gathers steam downhill to get into the paint or stop on a dime for a mid-range jumper. He understands how to utilize his speed to benefit himself and teammates. Although he is only averaging 1.4 APG, he has shown an ability to find spot-up shooters, cutters and rollers while operating in the half court.

Defensively, he is just as effective; he plays hard and even when the shots aren't falling, he remains engaged. Archie plays with active hands and understands how to remain physical, using his body to create contact and cut off ball handlers with his lateral movement and ball pressure. As the primary defender, Archie has held opponents to 37% FG on the year, showing he can be effective applying ball pressure and contesting shots while limiting fouls (1.2/game). Off the ball, Archie remains active in the gaps, stunting at drivers and as a weak-side defender rotating to tag rollers or closeout on shooters. 

Archie is one of two freshman Tulsa guards potentially returning next season and together they can form an elite duo that has the potential to get them back to the tournament.

Xzayvier Brown

6’2” Guard | St. Joe’s

2023 RSCI : Unranked

In recent years, St. Joe’s has done a great job finding under-recruited prospects like Erik Reynolds and Rasheer Fleming while developing them into instrumental and productive pieces — and Xvayvier Brown is the next in line. Coming off the bench but playing significant minutes (27.8 MPG), Brown is averaging 12.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 1.7 SPG on 48.5/44.3/75.8 shooting splits. In their two games against ranked opponents on the road (Kentucky and Villanova), Brown averaged 33.5 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 4.5 APG, and 1.5 SPG on 57/58.5/70 split, showing just how much he means to the program.

On the defensive end, Brown’s effort and energy have provided a boost to the team when he is on the floor. He plays with a high motor, can defend the length of the floor and slow the pace of the game. A tough guard with a physical style of play, Brown applies ball pressure, fights over screens and doesn’t give up on plays. 

Brown is putting together a spectacular freshman season that has seen him impact both ends of the floor and he could be in line for multiple post-season conference awards.

Blake Buchanan

6’11” Forward | Virginia

2023 RSCI : no. 75

Buchanan has been a promising addition to the Virginia program. He is a high-motor big with an improved frame who projects to be an extremely effective and valuable player on both ends of the floor. His freshman season has been about adjusting to the college level in the 15 minutes per game he has carved out for himself. In an early season game against Florida, Buchanan displayed highly encouraging glimpses, showcasing his ability as a screen-and-roll option, rim protector, and active rebounder where his five offensive rebounds led to multiple put-backs. 

Buchanan's defense has also been noteworthy over the first few months of the season. He can defend in the post and has proven to be a reliable rim protector, where opponents have converted just 41.9% of their attempts at the rim. Buchanan is also a competent perimeter defender; he can hard hedge in pick-and-roll coverage, showing lateral mobility and using his length to deter the entry pass as he recovers back to his man.

Buchanan has earned his time on the floor by doing the important/little things, rebounding, rim-running and making hustle plays, which should prepare him to take on a bigger role within the program next season.

Kanaan Carlyle

6’3” Guard | Stanford

2023 RSCI: no. 48

Carlyle missed the first six weeks of the season due to injury; his return sparked the Cardinal to a 5-4 start in PAC-12 play. Among all freshmen ranked in the top-100 of RSCI, Carlyle ranks 6th in PPG (13.1) and 10th in APG (2.7). His on-court energy is contagious and his teammates feed off of it. He can score from all three levels, shooting 38.1% from 3-point range, 45% on mid-range jumpers and 47.1% at the rim. Carlyle's speed and shifty handle provide a significant advantage and he uses his change of pace to make it tough for defenders to contain him. He generates offense in a variety of ways, whether he's beating defenders in isolation or navigating screens to get to his spots.

He also displays a good feel for the game, knowing when to relocate around the perimeter where he has connected on 47.2% of his catch-and-shoot attempts from three. The pace at which he plays makes him difficult to lock and trail and he has thrived this season when coming off handoffs looking to shoot. As good as he has been offensively, he has struggled to take advantage of transition opportunities and turns it over nearly 3 times per game.

With that said, Carlyle will be one of the top Cardinal returners next season and the experience he is getting now will prove invaluable. He will be a breakout candidate to watch and a prospect who will have a chance to enter draft conversations with a full season under his belt.

Carlton “Bub” Carrington

6’5” Guard | Pitt

2023 RSCI: Unranked

It is undeniable that Carrington has exceeded all expectations with his impressive start to his college basketball career. As a result, he has quickly become a player to track and his name is now being mentioned in the first round in draft conversations. Carrington is an extremely confident player who has the ability to change the outcomes of games with his scoring prowess. Although his shooting from range has cooled (28.6% 3FG) since the start of the season, he remains a threat from behind the arc due to his ability to shoot off the dribble, connecting on 38.9% of his isolation attempts from 3. Carrington's speed and agility allow him to stop and change direction, creating separation from the defenders and giving him space to rise up and knock down jumpers. When getting downhill, he is converting on 47.8% of his mid-range jumpers and 54% of his pick-and-roll attempts. In addition to his scoring ability, Carrington is also a skilled playmaker, averaging 4.2 APG, thus far. He possesses great court vision and can find his teammates via dump-offs, skip passes, and drive-and-kicks, forcing the defense into rotations. An underrated aspect of Carrington’s game is his off-ball movement —  and his ability to come off hand-offs and screens makes him an effective player without the ball, forcing the defense to account for him at all times.

Carrington is a solid defender and has displayed good awareness and understanding of team defensive concepts early in his college career. At 6’5”, he uses his body and length to his advantage, moves well laterally and as the primary defender he has held opponents to just 37% FG. While it’s worth noting that there have been instances where he's lacked engagement on defense, that could be partially due to his high usage rate on the offensive end. 

Carrington is looking to lead Pittsburgh back to the NCAA Tournament and his play through the next month-and-a-half will be watched closely by NBA personnel. If he continues to produce at his current level, he has the potential to really solidify his draft stock.

Cam Christie

6’6” Guard | Minnesota

2023 RSCI : Unranked

The younger brother of Max Christie wasn’t rated as high as his brother coming out of high school, but he’s blazing his path to a professional career with Minnesota. With the Gophers sitting at 4-3 in early December, Christie was inserted into the starting lineup and the team went on a seven-game winning streak. At 6’6”, he is productive and showing two-way potential, a good IQ, positional size and length. He has the ability to become a three-level scoring threat as he’s currently shooting 41.2.% 3FG (on 5.2 attempts/game) and has also been successful from mid-range, hitting 50% of such shots. Shooting on the move has also been an area in which Christie has excelled, as he plays with great pace off the ball, converting 58.8% 3FG when coming off handoffs and screens on the year. He’s experienced some difficulty finishing at the rim through contact (50% on such attempts, this season) — this is an area where he could show improvement as he adjusts to the physicality of the Big Ten. Throughout his freshman season, Christie has also flashed his vision and playmaking ability — whether it's utilizing pocket passes out of ball screens, identifying skip passes to open shooters, or leading the break in transition, he is always looking for ways to create opportunities for his teammates. He has also done an exceptional job at limiting turnovers (1.0 TOPG), showing he can take care of the ball and make good decisions. 

Christie is a promising two-way prospect who brings versatility to the defensive end of the floor, utilizing his length and active hands to force opponents into contested jumpers. He moves well laterally and possesses the ability to cut off ball handlers, despite occasionally bailing out opponents with costly fouls. 

Minnesota will be replacing their top scorer next season and Christie is more than capable of filling that role and excelling on both ends of the floor.

Nils Cooper

6’5” Guard | Pepperdine

2023 RSCI: no. 99

Cooper is one of the more under-the-radar freshmen in the country. At 6’5” and 180 pounds, Cooper brings size and length to the perimeter, but he’ll need to add weight and muscle to his skinny frame. His freshman numbers are not eye-popping, but when you dive into the film, he has a ton of potential to grow into a special player. Although on a limited sample, Cooper has connected on 50% of his mid-range jumpers, showing flashes of his ability to attack closeouts and rise up after one or two dribbles. He has also converted 62% of his attempts at the rim, showing he can finish through contact and length. Offensively, he will need to expand his game this off-season and improve his consistency shooting from three.

Defensively is where Cooper has really excelled in Malibu — he plays with a high motor, great energy and focus, using his length to bother ball handlers and force turnovers both on and off the ball. Cooper has embraced every match-up and as the primary defender he’s holding opponents to 39.7% FG and 31.4% 3FG. He is an active weakside and gap defender, helping over on rotations or using his length to get into driving lanes. 

Cooper has the tools and skill to take on and be successful in a more prominent role with the program next season, his play this season has prepared him for the opportunity.

Silas Demary, Jr.

6’5” Guard | Georgia

2023 RSCI : no. 61

Demary was Georgia's highest-rated recruit in the 2023 class and it's impressive to see how quickly he’s adjusted to the pace and physicality of the college level. Demary is making a significant impact and has the potential to be a standout two-way prospect. He is currently averaging 9.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 1.5 SPG while shooting 31.7% from 3-point range. As a ball handler, Demary can create and facilitate as he changes pace, getting separation off the dribble by using his 6’5” frame to create contact and get to his spots. Although he can be prone to turnovers, Demary has shown potential as a playmaker. He uses screens to get downhill and forces the defense to help before finding open teammates. Demary has consistently crashed the defensive boards (3.6 DRPG), turning rebounds into an opportunity to push the ball in transition (makes up 20% of his offensive possessions), find teammates running the floor or get to the rim, himself (where he is converting 51% of his FGA at the rim).

Demary is an active and disruptive defender who embraces and plays through contact, using his size and frame to get into opponents. Through the first half of the season, he has held opponents to 40.2% FG, using his lateral movement and his size to contest shot attempts. Demary also displays good defensive awareness and instincts off the ball, regularly demonstrating his understanding of positioning, rotations and help defense.

Georgia basketball is in good hands with Demary running the show. His presence and demeanor on both ends have played a significant role in the team's success this season and as it stands, he will be one of the top returning guards in the SEC in 2024.

Kyshawn George

6’8” Guard | Miami

2023 RSCI : Unranked

George had a slow start to his college career — in the first month of the season, from 11/6-12/2, he averaged just 2.5 PPG, 2 RPG and 1.3 APG, and shot 27% FG, 28% 3FG. Since then, he has averaged 10.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 2.2 APG, with impressive shooting splits of 50/47.3/80. George has been a valuable asset to his team as a floor-spacer, hitting on 41.5% from 3 on the season, keeping defenses honest with his shooting ability. He has deep range and a tough shot to contest as he is constantly ready to shoot, with great shot prep and footwork for a freshman. His accuracy from range improves on catch-and-shoot attempts (44%) and in transition (45%), and he does a great job sprinting the floor and getting to his spots. As a ball handler, George does possess the ability to get downhill off screens and facilitate, but can get caught playing with his head down as he drives into traffic, at times picking up charges or getting stripped.

George seemingly did not face as steep of a learning curve on the defensive end of the floor and is already becoming a two-way stud. He embraces his matchups, plays with good effort and energy and has remained committed to this end, even as his offensive role has grown. At 6’8”, he has great positional size and length and is more than capable of defending up and down a lineup. He moves well laterally and uses his bigger frame and length to cut off and turn ball handlers while contesting shots. As the primary defender, opponents are shooting just 32.1% FG, 31.1% 3FG and 33.3% at the rim, proving just how valuable he is when he is on the floor. As a weak-side defender he has shown good awareness and instincts in tagging the roller and closing out to take away the three and defend the drive. 

George could wind up being a one-and-done prospect and if his one season in Miami is an indication of his potential, then it is understandable why NBA personnel are excited about him. He has the size and frame to go along with the shooting and versatility that will give him a chance to stick at the next level.

Josh Hubbard

5’9” Guard | Mississippi State

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Hubbard has played a major role in big wins for Mississippi State, serving as an impactful piece off the bench while playing 25 MPG. He currently leads the SEC in bench scoring (14.8 PPG) and has recorded double-digits with at least 2 3PM in 19 games. Hubbard is a shifty ball handler who gets separation off the dribble and is hard to contain as he plays with a low center of gravity. He scores in a variety of ways as he can beat you off the dribble, with his spot-up shooting or with his off-ball movement. Hubbard often uses the pick-and-roll to create scoring opportunities for himself, which accounts for a third of his offensive possessions and he’s shooting a respectable 37% from range on such possessions. His off-ball movement has been vital to the Bulldogs’ offense, as he knows when and where to relocate in order to open driving lanes for his teammates. Although he has shown flashes of multi-level scoring, he hasn’t been as effective and consistent from mid-range nor at the rim. 

At 5’9”, Hubbard may lack anywhere near ideal size and length but he does his best to make up for it with his energy, effort and toughness on defense. While he doesn’t generate a ton of steals, he is an effective point-of-attack defender, applying ball pressure, moving laterally and forcing opponents to take tough shots. As the primary defender this season, he is holding opponents to 31.7% FG and 29.6% 3FG. When shots go up, he finds a body, boxes out and keeps opponents off the glass.

In a conference with elite guard play, Hubbard has answered the call for Mississippi State. He has earned big minutes early and is effective during his time on the floor as he has earned the trust of his teammates and coaches.

Ty-Laur Johnson

6’0” Guard | Louisville

2023 RSCI : no. 86

Johnson has been a spark off the bench and a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Cardinals. Johnson is playing 22.5 MPG and has come off the bench in all but six games. When he’s on the floor, he understands his role and looks to pass first. Assisting on 32.3% of his teammates made FGs, Johnson averages 3.7 APG, with his court vision and passing feel standing out as he gets his teammates involved with a variety of passes. He is a crafty guard who plays at different speeds — his ability to get separation off the dribble bends defenses and keeps opponents guessing. Johnson will need to improve his shooting from range (18.2% 3FG) but has made his mark as a driver, getting to the rim and finishing through contact or pulling up for his mid-range jumper.

Although inconsistent, Johnson plays with good defensive energy and has displayed an ability to get into opponents. The defensive end of the floor has the potential to be Johnson's calling card — he is tough, can apply ball pressure and forces opponents into turnovers (1.2 steals per game).

The flashes are there and consistency moving forward will be key, but Johnson has the potential to be an elite two-player — his feel for the game and ability to create havoc on defense makes him a special prospect.

Malik Mack

6’1” Guard | Harvard

2023 RSCI: Unranked

Mack set the college basketball world on fire with his performances through the first month of the season, leading the Crimson to a 7-3 record. Despite missing time due to illness, Mack leads all freshmen nationally in PPG (18.7), is third in APG (4.7) and leads the Ivy League in both. Mack does it all offensively: he scores at three levels, he’s an elite facilitator and he’s effective with or without the ball. He can get any shot he wants in the Ivy League and is ultra-comfortable in pick-and-roll situations, manipulating the defense with his ability to maneuver around screens, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s been connecting on 40% 3FG, forcing his man to fight over the pick. When he rejects the screen, he can get downhill to his mid-range jumper or all the way to the rim. As a facilitator vs. pick-and-roll coverage, he is patient, allows the play to develop and finds teammates with precision passes. Although he hasn’t converted at a particularly high rate at the rim (47.4%) thus far, Mack still finds ways to get into the paint, playing off of two feet and creating space with his pivots. His teammates have benefited from his time on the floor as he has assisted on 31.7% of their possessions.

Mack is committed to the defensive end of the floor with room for improvement, despite still adjusting to the style of play in college and needing to put on muscle. He remains engaged and focused on disrupting opponents looking to shoot by playing with active hands. In gap coverage, he understands where he needs to be and when to stunt, leading to a healthy amount of deflections and steals. On the weak-side, Mack recognizes when to rotate but tends to get caught ball-watching and can take bad angles on closeouts — an area he can surely clean up, over time.

Should he decide to return to Cambridge, Mack will undoubtedly be a continued big time force in the Ivy League in 2024 as one of the most dynamic offensive players at the LM/MM level.

Sebastian Mack

6’3” Guard | UCLA

2023 RSCI: no. 56

Mack leads the Bruins in scoring (13.3 PPG) and steals (1.5 SPG) and is off to a productive start to his college career in Westwood. Mack has the potential and the ability to be an extremely impactful player on any given night, but will need to find balance and efficiency in his offensive output while remaining committed to the defensive end of the floor. He is effective on or off the ball and has the ability to create separation off the dribble to get downhill and into the paint, where he’s converted 68 of his 97 made baskets, to date. Mack averages 1.8 APG, and can improve his playmaking ability by learning patience on offense when playing off two feet and letting the play develop before leaving the ground.

He has been solid defensively, using awareness and instincts to play the gaps and effectively stunt and recover to his man. He has consistently converted his gap defense into steals and deflections, using his play off the ball to create easy transition opportunities for the Bruins.

Mack’s immediate impact as a freshman can't be understated. There have been plenty of times this season where he looked like the best Bruin on the floor. Although the season has had its ups and downs, Mack has shown he is more than capable of playing at a high level on both ends.

Baye Ndongo

6’9” Forward | Georgia Tech

2023 RSCI : Unranked

After missing most of the first month of the season, Ndongo didn't take long to solidify himself as a go-to option for Georgia Tech. In his third collegiate game against #7 Duke, Ndongo stuffed the stat sheet with 21p-5r-2a-4b-1s, displaying his ability as a paint presence on both ends of the floor, his toughness, and his feel for the game. The 6’9” forward is skilled, athletic and plays with a high motor. Ndongo has made a living in the paint this year, converting 73.7% of his attempts at the rim in the half court. He scores in the post off put-backs, dump-offs and lobs, and he’s also an excellent pick-and-roll option. Per Synergy, Ndongo ranks in the 82nd percentile for PPP (1.309) as the roll man against pick-and-roll coverage. He rolls hard to the rim, bending the defense and forcing help while converting 73% of his attempts on rolls. An area of his game that is developing is being able to knock down mid-range jumpers (and beyond). With teams looking to get the ball out of his hands, Ndongo has flashed playmaking out of the post as the defense commits two defenders. He is active on the boards as well, averaging 2.6 ORPG, helping him yield his current 1.167 PPP on put-backs.

Defensively, Ndongo has been exceptional as a paint presence and rim protector (1.3 BPG), but he also has the ability to step out and defend on the perimeter. Currently holding opponents to 31% shooting from range, he is just as effective closer in, with teams converting just 35.6% on paint attempts. As a help defender, he has consistently stepped up to alter shots in the paint while playing vertically. 

Ndongo has the size, frame and game NBA personnel tend to fall in love with. If he continues to play at this level and develops a consistent shot from 15 feet and out, he will play his way into draft conversations.

Dennis Parker, Jr.

6’6” Guard | North Carolina State

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Parker has earned his playing time for the Wolfpack by making the most of his limited touches on the offensive end and embracing his role as a defender. With cuts and offensive rebounds accounting for nearly one-third of Parker's offense, his effort on the boards (1.3 ORPG) and functional off-ball movement (converting 75% of his rim attempts) has made him a valuable piece to NC State’s offense. Parker has spaced the floor and has punished opponents for leaving him open, knocking down 38.5% of his unguarded catch-and-shoot attempts on the year.

He brings versatility on the defensive end with his ability to switch seamlessly and keep ball handlers in front. Using his length to apply ball pressure and contest shot attempts, he is disruptive on or off the ball, holding opponents to 25.8% from 3 and 32.8% overall from the field.

Parker's play has made him a prospect to watch heading into his sophomore season. He has maximized his early opportunities and possesses the tools and foundation to be a productive player if given a bigger role.

Tyler Perkins

6’4” Guard | University of Pennsylvania

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Perkins has provided meaningful minutes and is accumulating great experience as he is currently leading the team in SPG (1.5), and coming in second in PPG (14.5) and RPG (5.7), along with third in APG (2.0) while shooting 35.3% from deep (5.3 attempts/game). Despite experiencing less success from mid-range and attempts at the rim, he has been able to remain effective from 3, utilizing his range to keep opponents honest. Perkins navigates ball screens well and has used this as an opportunity to take uncontested threes (54.5%) with defenses sagging. An area of Perkins' game that can be utilized more is his ability to play off the ball — as a cutter, he is averaging 1.353 PPP, playing with pace and taking advantage when the defense ball-watches.

Perkins is one of two Penn players on this list and part of a promising 2023 recruiting class. His development and ability to produce for himself and also create opportunities for his teammates will be key to Penn’s success moving forward.

Jayden Reid

5’10” Guard | South Florida

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Reid has been consistent in his approach, playing with pace, moving the ball, knocking down catch-and-shoot attempts, and bringing energy and toughness to the defensive end. He’s been effective and efficient enough for the Bulls that he has earned some time in the starting lineup, resulting in a 12-1 record. At 5’10”, Reid understands his strengths and plays to them, connecting on 47.4% 3FG (1.7 attempts/game) and it’s worth noting that nearly 40% of his made FGs have come from range. With 15 of his 18 3PM coming off catch-and-shoot attempts, Reid has rewarded his teammates that look his way by knocking down more than half of his catch-and-shoot attempts. As a facilitator, Reid is averaging 3.6 APG (2.7 A:TO). He has a great foundation, playing off two feet when he gets into the paint before dumping off to a teammate or finding spot-up shooters on drive-and-kicks. He has also excelled in transition offense — which accounts for a third of his offensive possessions — wasting no time taking the ball from end to end as he has great open court speed, pushing off of rebounds and turnovers.

Reid plays with a high motor and some scrappy physicality on the defensive end. He plays with active hands and does a great job moving laterally and applying ball pressure. Although opponents are shooting 49.4% FG with him as the primary defender, they have mostly been tough, contested shots. On or off the ball, Reid forces teams into turnovers with his active hands and gap defense.

Reid’s early playing time will ease the transition for his opportunity to take on a bigger role next season. More will be expected from him but he is more than capable of taking on a lead role and excelling.

Miles Rubin

6’10” Forward | Loyola Chicago

2023 RSCI: Unranked

Rubin, the highest-rated recruit in program history for the Ramblers, did not take long to assert himself as a productive contributor on both ends of the floor. In his second career game, the 6’10” freshman recorded 8p-7r-1a-4b-1s while shooting 75% from the floor. On offense, Rubin does more with less, working off the ball as a cutter, roller and rebounder. Defenses have been slow adjusting to his cutting and rolling, as they continue to blitz the ball handler, leaving him free for dump-offs and lobs. Rubin has converted 70.6% of his attempts at the rim on cuts and rolls, playing with pace/timing and understanding when to relocate. An above-the-rim finisher and explosive athlete, teammates have done a great job throwing the ball up for him where only he can catch it, providing opportunities for Rubin to showcase his functional length and athleticism.

Rubin is one of the top shot-blockers (2.2 BPG) in the country, ranking 17th nationally — just one of two freshmen in the top-20. Boasting a 13.5 BLK%, his instincts and awareness combined with his understanding of rotations and help defense has made him a deterrent in the paint. When Rubin is on the floor, opponents are converting just 43.3% of their attempts at the rim. He has held his own on the block containing opposing bigs, walling up and playing vertically while holding his man to 36.4% on post-up attempts. As the season has progressed, he has grown increasingly comfortable while defending on the perimeter and he’s shown good lateral movement and an ability to stay with quicker opponents.

He’s still just scratching the surface of what he can be offensively and with a full off-season of development with a focus on expanding his range and getting stronger, Rubin should be primed to take a huge leap during his sophomore year.

​​JT Toppin

6’9” Forward | New Mexico

2023 RSCI : Unranked

New Mexico is in the midst of a great season, ranking #2 in a competitive Mountain West that has six teams ranked in the top-60. They have excelled with strong play from their guards but a name not being mentioned enough is JT Toppin. His impact and play has earned him Mountain West Freshman of the Week honors six times. In the midst of an excellent season, he has been vital in the Lobos’ success. The lefty ranks #3 nationally in both eFG% (67.4%) and FG% (66%) and #34 in double-doubles, while averaging 13.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG, and 1.2 SPG. With put-backs accounting for a quarter of his production, Toppin’s greatest impact has been on the offensive glass where he is grabbing 3.5/ ORPG. Averaging 1.275 PPP, he uses his strong frame to hit opponents on box outs, forcing them out of position as he grabs rebounds and goes right back up. Toppin’s consistent movement off the ball is an aspect of his game the Lobos have utilized well, whether screening away or setting screens on-ball, he cuts and rolls with pace. Converting 71.8% of his attempts combined on cuts and rolls, his teammates have rewarded him with dump-offs and lobs. Toppin also gets it done in the post (72.2% FG), as he can finish with both hands and has an array of finishing moves (drop-steps, up-and-unders and hook shots). A whopping 93% (120 of 129) of his made field goals this year have been around the rim, emphasizing how effective he is close in, even at this early of a stage in his college tenure.

Toppin is just as active and effective on the defensive end of the floor and a presence in the paint. Ranking second in BPG (2.0) and first in BLK% (8.2%) in the MWC, he consistently contests and disrupts shot attempts. Opponents have struggled to score against the Lobos, but Toppin’s ability to defend both the paint and away from the rim has made it all the more difficult. He is a versatile defender with a good motor who has the ability to switch, move his feet and defend in space. In pick-and-roll coverage he can hedge and recover to his man, allowing his teammate to get back in the play. Leading the MWC with a defensive rating of 89.8, teams are shooting 30.8% 3FG and 30.1% FG when Toppin is on the floor.

Toppin’s impact on both ends has led to great individual and team success, this season. Expect to hear his name often as New Mexico prepares for a postseason run.

Money Williams

6’4” Guard | Montana

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Williams asserted himself on opening night and the freshman’s impact through the 11 games in which he played (and the team's 7-4 start) should not be overlooked. Williams' strong start to his college career has been on hold due to an injury suffered in mid-December, but that doesn’t change the fact that he really stands out on film.. At 6’4” and 200 pounds, he is a guard who can create for himself, evidenced by his 14.3 PPG, as well as initiate and facilitate offense for his team to the tune of 3.5 APG. He is not the quickest or shiftiest, but possesses some burst and uses his body to create contact and get separation. Converting 40% of his jumpers from mid-range, Williams has a knack for using shot fakes and jabs to get opponents out of position as he gets to his dribble pull-up. He embraces and finishes through contact, using crafty finishes, while converting 57.4% of his attempts at the rim. Assisting on 32% of his teammates’ FGA, Williams has shown he is not just a scorer but can beat you as a facilitator, as well. He has good feel and vision and makes live reads as he breaks the defense down off the dribble. Although he hadn’t been shooting it from range at a high clip, he hasn’t been shy about letting it fly as he aims to keep the defense honest.

Williams brings energy and activity to the defensive end and he remains focused both on and off the ball. He’s a physical defender who uses his big guard frame to get into ball handlers; he fights over screens and makes it difficult for opponents to get into a rhythm. Along the perimeter, he has held opponents to 25% three-point shooting and 38.7% overall from the field. Off the ball, Williams locks and trails, chasing opponents through and over screens as they work to get open. In the gaps, Williams stunts and recovers back to his man and understands his role as a help defender, rotating to help on dump-offs. He sees man and ball but when he gets beat he does not give up on plays, showing how much he cares about this end of the floor.

Williams has already laid the foundation and expectations of what you're getting from him and with the team sitting in third place in the Big Sky, his return can help propel the program into the tournament.

Honorable Mentions

Eric Acker

6’2” Guard | Long Island

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Rod Strickland hit a home-run with the commitment from Eric Acker and through 15 games, the freshman has already helped the Sharks reach their win total from a season ago. Acker has played big minutes (34 MPG) in year one and is currently averaging 12.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.9 APG. He has been given the green light and although he has struggled to remain efficient, Acker has found a balance between scoring and facilitating. Turnovers have been an issue (3.6/game) but he has been able to turn the attention defenses give to him into opportunities for his teammates. He possesses good court vision and an ability to make live-dribble reads, finding bigs with hook passes and dump-offs or shooters when the defense tags the roller. Acker generates some real speed getting downhill and likes to use ballscreens to get to his mid-range jumper.

There's a lot to like on the defensive end of the floor as well. At 6’2” and 160 pounds, Acker isn't the strongest or most physical player, but he brings energy on a nightly basis. He’s a good lateral mover, applies ball pressure and consistently communicates with teammates. Acker does not force steals or turnovers but his ability to make ball handlers and opponents feel his pressure has led to opponents shooting 38.8% FG and 45.2% on attempts at the rim.

Abdi Bashir, Jr.

6’7” Guard | Monmouth

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Bashir is getting great experience while also providing valuable minutes off the bench. In 14 MPG, he is averaging 7.1 PPG off 45.3% 3FG shooting on decent volume (3.4 3FGA/game). His efficiency as a scorer and how he gets his shots off are eye-catching, as he shows an ability to create separation off the dribble and is currently connecting on 40.9% of those OTD 3s and 48.1% on his catch-and-shoot attempts from range as he plays off the ball, consistently moving and relocating. In limited possessions coming off hand-offs and screens, he is shooting 41.6% from 3. Bashir will need to improve as a facilitator and find ways to use the threat of his shooting ability to find teammates off the dribble, but he’s done enough to warrant real attention heading into year two.

Sam Brown

6’3” Guard | Penn

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Brown is a shooter in every sense of the word and provides his team with the floor spacing they need to run their offense. He is currently shooting 41.3% 3FG on volume (6 attempts/game), good for #25 nationally. With 75% of his offense coming from 3, Brown scores in a variety of ways from range as he is shooting 44.8% on catch-and-shoot, 50% off screens and 40% in transition. Brown has also shown he can utilize a screen to get downhill for a layup or a kick-out.

Myles Colvin

6’5” Guard | Purdue

2023 RSCI : no. 74

Colvin could be next up at Purdue and has been getting valuable early minutes on one of the best teams in the country. Purdue has been extremely effective in finding under-recruited prospects that end up playing major minutes (Jaden Ivey/Fletcher Loyer/Zach Edey/Braden Smith) and contributing to the winning culture — and Colvin fits this mold. His numbers don’t pop and his playing time has been sporadic but when given the opportunity he has shown he can be an effective and productive player, ranking 20th among freshman in the RSCI in eFG% (57%). He has converted 75% of his attempts at the rim and as a floor-spacer, has hit 44.2% 3FG, good for 4th among freshmen ranked in the Top-100 of the RSCI. Defensively, he can play on or off the ball and as a weak side defender, he has shown good awareness and understanding of positioning and where he needs to be.

Alex Condon

6’11” Forward | Florida

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Condon has embraced his role with the Gators and has provided his team with a spark off the bench. He is a high motor big who does a little bit of everything but has really popped as a rebounder (6.7 RPG) and a rim protector (1.3 BPG). Offensively, Condon is a capable low-post scorer with good footwork, using his frame to seal opponents and finish with both hands. One aspect of his game that has been on display is his ability to get his teammates open with his screen-setting, as he consistently makes sure he bumps opponents as they fight through.

Defensively, Condon is a rim protector and shot blocker, currently holding opponents to 39% FG on attempts in the paint, consistently deterring drivers with his length. In pick-and-roll coverage, he has been effective in drop, playing man and ball, using his length to keep guards in front as he recovers on the pass to contest. Florida has also featured Condon in a two-big lineup alongside Micah Handlogten, giving them two defensive anchors who provide rebounding, rim protection and the ability to defend on the perimeter.

Nick Dorn

6’7” Guard | Elon

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Since arriving at Elon as an unranked prospect in 2023, Dorn has become a starter and turned into one of the top freshmen in the conference while earning three CAA Rookie of the Week honors. Dorn has good positional size and length and possesses the potential to be an effective 3-and-D player. Although he has struggled through some shooting slumps, he has shown some multi-level scoring potential, shooting 37.2% 3FG (5.3 3FGA/game) and 38% on mid-range jumpers. Defensively, Dorn has the size and length to be disruptive, moves well laterally and stays in front, but has been inconsistent on this end.

Jizzle James

6’1” Guard | Cincinnati

2023 RSCI : no. 68

James has experienced some big moments through the first three months of his college career. Offensively, he is still finding his rhythm, adjusting to the pace and physicality of the college game. James is currently shooting 34.3% from 3, although his 3FG% increases to 42.9 on catch-and-shoot attempts and he’s steadily improved throughout the season at finishing in the paint (48.8%). He also has secondary playmaking skills, getting teammates involved with drive-and-kicks and dump-offs.

Providing a spark off the bench, James’ energy and focus on the defensive end has been critical for the Bearcats. As the primary defender, James has held opponents to 29% FG and 28.9% 3FG. He is an active defender who gets into his opponents, and fights over screens while applying ball pressure, moving well laterally. The freshman has also been vocal on the defensive end, calling out matchups and communicating with teammates on switches.

Anthony Robinson II

6’2” Guard | Missouri

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Robinson has carved out a role with the Tigers and his impact on the defensive end cannot be overlooked. He is a tough, physical defender who plays with a high motor, defends the length of the floor and changes the momentum of the game with his activity and ground coverage. He moves extremely well laterally and does a great job pressuring ball handlers. He consistently forces opponents into tough, contested shots and mistakes with his ball pressure and gap defense, leading to his 1.4 SPG in just 13.7 MPG. Offensively, Robinson’s touches are limited, but he looks to get downhill, converting 55.5% of his possessions at the rim in the half court.

Tru Washington

6’4” Guard | New Mexico

2023 RSCI : Unranked

Washington is in the midst of a good freshman season, proving to be valuable on both ends of the floor as he is currently averaging 8.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, and 1.7 SPG for the Lobos, who have a 19-5 record, sitting in 2nd place in the Mountain West. During a six-game span between 11/22-12/9, he gave UNM fans a glimpse at what he is capable of as he averaged 15 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.8 SPG while shooting 58.6% FG and 50% 3FG, with the team going 6-0 during that span.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page