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Film Study: The Big 12

This month on 'P.I. Pulse,’ Pro Insight’s Esayas Gebrekidan highlights over 100 college basketball players to watch after pouring through countless hours of film throughout the 2022-23 NCAA season and over the summer:

Ahead of last season, we analyzed a number of college basketball’s top returners and transfers via Film Study. Since it was a productive exercise and so well-received — we upped the ante this season. Over the next week, we’ll be publishing written analysis and video breakdowns on over 100 college players. Across each Power 6 conference and amidst Mid-Majors, who are the top returners? Transfers? How about those primed for a breakout season? We've got you covered. Stay tuned later this month for plenty of content on freshmen, as well.

With that said, let's get to it — we will continue with the Big 12:

Top Returners

Jalen Bridges

6’9” Forward | Baylor | Senior

Bridges has the ability to impact games with his effort and hustle, doing the little things that may not show up on box scores. Bridges provides Baylor with a 3-and-D role player archetype, allowing the team to maintain good spacing on the offensive end, while also giving them a versatile defender on the other end of the floor.

Bridges is extremely effective even with limited touches, showing his ability to influence the outcome of a game playing without the ball. A career 34% shooter from 3, he has shown he can be a threat, which allows Baylor to space the floor. When opponents have attempted to take the 3 away, Bridges has demonstrated the ability to attack closeouts and get to the rim. A key differentiator is Bridges’ activity level and motor, demonstrated by his 2.4 offensive boards per game, last season (while converting 69.7% of his put-backs).

Bridges is able to make an immediate impact on the defensive end of the floor and fits perfectly into Baylor's scheme. His ability to consistently and effectively defend positions 1 through 4 gives the Bears an added layer of versatility. He does an excellent job of playing in a stance, displaying active hands and moving laterally to cut off and turn ball handlers. Off the ball, he plays the gaps, rotates as a help defender and shows good instincts and understanding of when to commit as a help defender.

Dylan Disu

6’9” Forward | Texas | Senior

Disu does plenty of things well on both ends of the floor and can impact winning without being an elite scorer. In his second season at Texas, he averaged 8.8p-4.4r-1a-1.3b on an efficient 61.3% from the field and a TS% of 65.5.

One of Disu’s greatest traits is that he doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective — he sets screens, cuts and plays out of the pick-and-roll, which allows him to score in a variety of ways. In the post, he finds ways to carve out space and does a nice job getting opponents on his hip. He’s comfortable shooting turnaround jumpers or hook shots and has the ability to face up to knock down the mid-range J or take opponents off the dribble, flashing some crafty finishes around the rim. In pick-and-roll offense, he is patient, waits for the defense to give him an opening, and can finish off rolls, pops or slips, converting 63% of such attempts. He can also step out and knock down shots behind the arc on occasion.

On the defensive end, Disu has a high motor, can defend multiple positions and provides rim protection. He plays with great energy and routinely makes the hustle plays, dives for loose balls and takes charges.

Dajuan Harris, Jr

6’1” Guard | Kansas | Senior

The reigning BIG 12 Defensive Player of the Year will look to pick up even more hardware as a senior and he’s off to a good start, having been named to the 2024 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Watch List.

Harris averaged 8.9 PPG a season ago and sits at 5.9 PPG for his career but this season could see him take on a bigger role as a scorer. He is an elite creator, has a high BBIQ, does a great job limiting turnovers as he ranked #7 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.1:1) and assisted on 31.1% of his teammates' buckets as a junior. Ranked #9 in the country at 6.2 APG, he has the ability to take over and control the pace of a game with his speed, crafty ball handling and ability to get separation off the dribble. In pick-and-roll instances, Harris does a great job seeing the floor, getting downhill and engaging the defense until he finds an open shooter or roller. A career 39.5% shooter from 3, he knocked down 40% from range on 74 attempts, last season. He’s also an excellent cutter, as he uses his speed and shiftiness to get behind the defense — he does a tremendous job finishing after a cut, having shot 80% on such plays last season.

Harris is terrific on and off-ball, possessing really strong instincts and awareness on the floor while holding opponents to 32% from the field. He is a scrappy and physical point of attack defender and his elite lateral mobility helps him cut off driving lanes, forcing opponents into mistakes. He swiped 2.2 SPG a year ago, which seems attainable this season, too.

Dillon Mitchell

6’8” Forward | Texas | Sophomore

Mitchell is an elite athlete who boasts eye-catching explosiveness on both ends. The decorated high school recruit brings high expectations into his second season with the Longhorns. His ability to quickly launch off the floor with such pop is impressive, even by pro standards.

What makes Mitchell’s ceiling intriguing is the aforementioned physical gifts coupled with his high-end motor and ground coverage. He constantly fights on the offensive glass, tipping balls out for second-chance opportunities and runs the floor hard in transition, where he is often rewarded with highlight reel alley-oops from his teammates. Not only is Mitchell an efficient finisher in transition, but he consistently gets it done in the half court, ranking in the 71st percentile in PPP as a freshman; at the rim, Mitchell converted an impressive 77% of his 87 shot attempts. His points per shot ranking at the rim also graded in the 98th percentile. Even though Mitchell is limited as a perimeter scoring threat, there is no denying his effectiveness as a rim finisher. However, if Mitchell can grow as a perimeter shooter, his appeal as a pro prospect would grow immensely. Another element to watch for this season is his playmaking for others, an area he really developed as an upperclassman in high school. His APG numbers in 2022-23 may not indicate ‘secondary playmaker,’ but he’s shown encouraging flashes in the past.

Mitchell also possesses elite potential as a defender given his superb athleticism, where he can elevate to protect the rim or switch onto guards and defend in space. He differentiates himself from most forwards due to his natural mobility on the floor, which adds value to his upside, defensively.

Top Transfers

Max Abmas

6’0" Guard | Texas | Senior

Since his sophomore season at Oral Roberts, Abmas has been one of the most prolific scorers in all of college basketball, scoring over 2500 points. Listed at 6’0”, Abmas is extremely confident, plays with great pace and can make plays with or without the ball. He scores in a variety of ways but his three-level scoring ability is what makes him special. A career 38.8% shooter from three-point land, he has good shooting mechanics, a quick release and deep range.

His ability to take advantage of his defenders in isolation and pick-and-roll coverage has played a role in his ability to knockdown the mid-range jumper at a 45.2% clip for his college career. Operating in the pick-and-roll has historically accounted for around one-third of his offensive possessions and considering his heavy production, he’s clearly comfortable making decisions after receiving a screen. Per Synergy, Abmas averaged 5.6 PPG in transition last season — ranking #7 nationally — oftentimes grabbing the defensive rebound himself and pushing the pace. An underrated aspect of his game is his ability to cut/slash and remain a threat off the ball — over the course of his college career, he has averaged 1.422 PPP on cuts to the basket on 78% shooting.

Abmas has shown he can defend and when locked in does a good job getting into his opponent and making them uncomfortable. He is a good defensive rebounder for his size and does a great job turning rebounds into easy offense for his team.

LJ Cryer

6’1” Guard | Houston | Junior

Stepping into a program who lost the heart of their team to the NBA Draft, Baylor transfer Cryer has the ability to step in and play a major role with Houston on both ends of the floor.

Cryer is an elite shooter who excels on or off the ball in a variety of ways. Last season, the majority of his shot attempts were from behind the three-point line, accounting for 55% of his total FGA. He was able to convert 41.5% of those attempts on an average of 6 shots per game, showcasing his prowess as a shooter from long range. Displaying the variety in which he scores, Cryer made 44% of his catch-and-shoot 3FG opportunities and 45.9% coming off screens. He is great off the ball, playing with his speeds as he cuts to get open or coming off screens ready to shoot or get downhill to his pull-up jumper, where he knocked in 47% of his mid-range attempts, last season. Averaging a career-high 2 APG for Baylor in 2022-23, he showed his improvement as a creator using his ability to navigate ball-screens to get down hill, often shifting gears before finding a teammate.

Cryer is a good defender who plays with a high motor and looks to play physically, whether he’s on or off the ball. He moves well laterally, demonstrating an ability to fight over screens. Despite his lack of elite perimeter size, he plays long and with active hands, hounding the ball handler and making it difficult for them to operate. As a weak-side defender, he tags and bumps the roller and closes out to contest shooters while also defending the drive. Cryer's understanding and awareness of rotations make him a valuable asset to his team.

RayJ Dennis

6’2” Guard | Baylor | Senior

Last season, Dennis had a major role in Toledo's success, as he led the Rockets in points, assists and steals, while ranking #3 in rebounds and was instrumental in their 17-game winning streak. With Dennis committing to Baylor, he will give Coach Drew a lead guard with some exciting playmaking ability.

Dennis is a three-level scorer who has improved in almost every statistical category throughout his college career, which began at Boise State back in 2019. He has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor and in a variety of ways. At 6'2”, Dennis is known as a crafty and elite finisher at the rim, converting 61% of such attempts for his career (57.3% FG during 2022-2023). He does a commendable job embracing and finishing through contact and over length. In the pick-and-roll, he’s a threat to get to the rim for a layup, pull-up for a mid-range jumper, or attack the big, collapse the defense and make a play for a teammate. He has great court vision and awareness and is coming off a season in which he averaged 5.8 APG.

Although Dennis may not generate many steals, he plays with active hands and is able to get numerous deflections. As a help defender, he sees man and ball, plays the gaps, knows when to drop in coverage and does a good job closing out on the shooter and taking away the drive.

Hunter Dickinson

7’2” Big | Kansas | Senior

Dickinson is expected to play a major role for Kansas this season, and has the potential to improve his NBA draft stock with his performance. The former Michigan Man has outlier size, a strong frame and embraces physicality — traits that Bill Self will surely maximize.

As a lefty, Dickinson scores in a variety of ways, at a high level, scoring in transition on rim runs, with his back to the basket, facing up, and off put-backs, dump-offs, cuts and pick-and-pops. Through three seasons in Ann Arbor, he averaged 17p-8.4r(2.3OREB)-1.6a-1.6b while shooting 36% from 3 (42.1% in 2022-2023) and 75% from the free throw line. According to Synergy, Dickinson ranked #5 in the country among players with at least 100 possessions last season in FGM out of the post. He uses his body to carve out space, gets position and seals his man, keeping the ball high and away from defenders. Dickinson is a dominant force in the paint, converting 62.7% of his attempts, displaying good footwork in the post, whether he’s drop-stepping or using his up-and-under to finish with both hands around the rim.

One area of his game that has especially developed is his ability to create out of the post. When the defense doubles him, he does an excellent job of finding cutting teammates or shooters on the perimeter. His passes often lead to a hockey assist because the defense is left scrambling to recover. Dickinson has also made significant strides in his three-point shooting. Over the last two seasons, he has taken close to 2 per game and has shot a respectable 37% from range, making him a legitimate threat from beyond the arc.

Defensively, he does a great job protecting the paint. Throughout his time at Michigan, Dickinson has maintained an average of 1.6 BPG. However, he alters many more than 1.6 attempts/game as his presence in the paint serves as a deterrent for opponents looking to score at the rim. As a help defender, Hunter puts himself in position to make plays using his size and length to discourage drivers.

Arthur Kaluma

6’7” Forward | Kansas State | Junior

A great athlete with a strong frame, Kaluma will look to position himself to move up the 2024 draft boards and get back to the tournament with his new team. He thrived in his do-everything role at Creighton, averaging 11.8p-6r-1.6a last season. He does a good job running the floor in transition and knocking down shots behind the arc, shooting 36.7% from 3 in transition. His ability to play off the ball as a cutter over the last two seasons has been key to his success as a player as he converted 67.5% of those attempts. Kaluma is a hungry rebounder, averaging 1.6 offensive rebounds per game — he actively crashes the glass for put-backs and helps his team get extra possessions.

Kaluma has shown flashes of his versatility as a defender throughout his collegiate career, switching and defending multiple positions but will need to be a better on-ball defender for Coach Jerome Tang. Off the ball, he plays the gaps and stunts at drivers, using his length to disrupt plays. Kaluma has also displayed good awareness as a weak-side defender, playing vertical and contesting attempts at the rim.

Jameer Nelson Jr.

6’2” Guard | TCU | Senior

Nelson consistently turned in impressive performances throughout the 2022-2023 season. He had 16 games in which he scored at least 20 points and four in which he went for 30 and came close to eclipsing 40 points in a win over UNC-Wilmington where he scored 39 points and shot 62% from 3. A career 31% shooter from deep, his best season came during the 2021-2022 season where he shot 36.4%. He possesses speed and crafty ball handling which makes him hard to contain. His ability to get to the rim is a differentiator, as more than half of his points came in the paint where he converted 59.4% of the time.

Nelson plays with defensive energy, showing good instincts, awareness and an ability to create turnovers. He does a great job playing off the ball as an active weak-side and help defender, generating 2 SPG for his career. At 6’2”, he is a plus-rebounder for his size, having averaged close to 4 defensive rebounds per game while at Delaware.

Jackson Paveletzke

6’2” Guard | Iowa State | Sophomore

Paveletzke's commitment to Iowa State gives Coach Otzelberger a reliable shooter who will help space the floor and another creator to pair with returning guard Tamin Lipsey. Per Synergy, Paveletzke posted a TS% of 61.7 as a freshman, a strong indicator of his efficiency as a scorer. His comfort level on or off-ball and multi-level scoring ability will be key to Iowa State's success this season. At Wofford, he shot 41.8% on catch-and-shoot 3 attempts and a respectable 34.6% off-the-dribble.

Paveletzke plays with pace, understands how to get open by running his opponents through screens and is always ready to let it fly. On possessions where he came off a screen or handoff last year, he converted 58% of those three-point attempts. He can also act as a playmaker and initiate the offense, as well, as he led the Terriers in assists at 3.7 APG in 2022-23, regularly finding his teammates on drive-and-kick situations and dump-offs.

Tylor Perry

5’11” Guard | Kansas State | Senior

Even though the C-USA POY will be playing on a much bigger stage at Kansas State, competing in one of the toughest conferences in the country, Perry’s numbers and consistency suggest his high level of play will continue.

As a career 41% three-point shooter, Perry’s ability to score from behind the arc is his greatest asset and unlocks every other aspect of his offensive game. In pick-and-roll situations, his shooting creates problems for defenses: if you go under and give him space, he is going to knock down the jumper; if you step up and hedge he can beat the big off the dribble getting to a mid-range pull-up as he converted 50% of those attempts, last season. Perry is a capable multi-level scorer who uses his speed and shiftiness to get to the rim (46.1% conversion) or to a mid-range jumper (48%). He is also a capable playmaker, averaging 2.3 APG during his time at North Texas. Perry finds different ways to impact the game, whether it's with his ability to score or create for others.

Perry is a scrappy defender who embraces and plays with physicality, moving laterally and making opponents uncomfortable with his ball pressure. As a weak-side defender, he does a great job rotating and closing out hard to contest the shot. As the primary defender, Perry held opponents to just 29% 2FG and 31% 3FG.

Primed to Breakout

Fousseyni Traore

6’6” Forward | BYU | Junior

Traore had a strong year in the WCC in which he dominated the paint for the Cougars as a sophomore. His play will be even more important as BYU moves into the Big 12 and looks to remain competitive with their experienced core.

At 6’6”, Traore plays much bigger than his listed height, has great length and is a strong physical presence on the floor who understands how to throw his weight around. Traore is productive in the post, in pick-and-roll offense and with his off-ball movement, understanding the need to relocate and keep driving lanes open. Converting 52.3% of his attempts in the post a year ago, he does a nice job using his body to carve out space and bully opponents for buckets.

Defensively, he has shown he can defend multiple positions using his length, lateral movement and frame to keep ball handlers in front while remaining physical. He does a good job protecting the paint as a help defender, coming off a season where he held opponents to a measly 30% shooting on their post-up attempts.

Milos Uzan

6’4” Guard | Oklahoma | Sophomore

Uzan is coming off a freshman season in which he was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. He gained valuable experience by starting 24 of his team's 32 games, playing alongside Grant Sherfield in the backcourt.

Uzan plays really well with the ball in his hands, using jabs, hesitations, and more, flexing his ability to create separation. He can attack going left or right when he decides he wants to get to the paint, using his shiftiness, speed and strength to get paint touches. He has shown an ability to finish with both hands and is a crafty finisher around the rim, converting 53.2% of his attempts. Ranking #12 in the conference at 3 APG as a freshman, he put his passing abilities on full display, showing court vision, high BBIQ and an ability to make tough passes. He can pass it with his left or right hand off a live dribble, and does a great job finding spot-up shooters with skip passes, pin-pointing cutters as well as dumping off to his bigs as he manipulates the defense. He also spaces the floor with his shooting, and converted 40% from 3 as a freshman. On catch-and-shoot three-point attempts, he shot 43.8%. The next step will be proving he can maintain his success on a higher volume.

Defensively, he has improved over time, consistently playing in a stance and getting into his defenders. He is an active on-ball defender who turns ball handlers and stays in front. With his positional size, he can defend multiple positions and remain effective, playing just as physical with smaller guards as he is on the wing.


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