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Film Study: Overachieving Freshmen

Michigan wing Jett Howard. Credit: Michigan Athletics

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 2022-23 season:

Among our staff’s objectives when diving into film for a new 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 10 intriguing freshmen (along with a number of honorable mentions) who have substantially 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.

Jett Howard

6’7” Wing | Michigan

2022 RSCI: #34

Jett Howard has been a strong addition to the Michigan program, giving the Wolverines a talented scorer to pair with their star big man, Hunter Dickinson. Howard brings positional size and length to the perimeter and offers versatility on both ends of the floor. He is an extremely smart, skilled player who does a great job keeping defenses on their heels with his ability to play on and off the ball. Howard is an effective ball handler who can push the tempo in transition after a rebound or get to his spots in the half court. Currently shooting over 38% from 3, Howard is unafraid of taking tough shots and has become one of the Big Ten’s most consistent perimeter players. He has three-level scoring ability as well, connecting on 52% of his mid-range jumpers and 46% on attempts at the rim (per Synergy). Averaging over two assists per game, Howard has also shown an ability to create, finding his teammates off the dribble and making feeds into the post. Among freshmen, Howard ranks 11th in player scoring prowess (71), 10th in points (14.8), 10th in three-point efficiency (88) and 16th with a silver C-RAM rating of 8.6 (per Cerebro Sports).

On the defensive end, he has proven to be quite capable, using his length to bother opponents, holding them to 37% on 2PT field goal attempts and 30% from 3. Ultimately, Howard’s two-way versatility, off-ball prowess and floor spacing have catapulted him into the one-and-done discussion.

Judah Mintz

6’3” Guard | Syracuse

2022 RSCI: #42

The highest-ranked recruit in Syracuse's 2022 class, Mintz has left his imprint on plenty of games this season. He is averaging 15.4ppg, 4.5apg, 2.3rpg and 2.0spg through 25 games (#1 on the team in assists and steals; second in points and minutes per game). Among all freshmen, Mintz ranks fifth in steals, fourth in assists, seventh in points per game, 37th in Cerebro’s defensive statistical impact with 82, and 41st with a bronze C-RAM rating of 8.0. Standing 6’3'', Mintz brings functional athleticism, speed, vision and a really good understanding of the game. His elite ball-handling allows him to create space at will. He routinely uses his speed to get downhill, collapsing the defense in the process while kicking out or dumping off to teammates. Mintz’s ability to get to his spots when he wants makes him a tough cover and although he hasn't knocked down shots at a particularly high rate, this is an area of his game that can realistically improve with work. He does a great job getting into the paint and finishing through contact and length, converting 56.8% of his attempts at the rim.

Mintz plays with great defensive energy with active hands and applies plenty of ball pressure. His speed and instincts allow him to time passes and jump passing lanes, creating opportunities in transition for his team. Mintz’s play has NBA personnel discussing him as a potential one-and-done, with his outside shooting being a primary question mark.

Syracuse guard Judah Mintz. Credit: Syracuse Athletics

Taylor Hendricks

6’9” Forward | UCF

2022 RSCI: #46

One of the more intriguing freshman prospects in the country, Hendricks has been simply exceptional for UCF. Coming in as one of the highest-rated recruits in UCF history, Hendricks is currently leading the team in scoring (14.8), rebounding (6.9), blocks (1.8) and sits at third in 3PT percentage (39.3%). An athletic and versatile forward, Hendricks plays with a high motor and with great energy and pace on both ends of the floor. Although the box score numbers don’t necessarily show it on the surface, Hendricks has shown impressive glimpses of three-level scoring, knocking down mid-range jumpers and converting 57.9% of his attempts at the rim. His greatest strength on the offensive end has been his ability to play off the ball, consistently cutting, relocating and crashing the glass where he is averaging 2.5 OREB/game.

According to Cerebro, Hendricks ranks 12th among freshmen in defensive statistical impact (88). The film points to Hendricks being a versatile defender, as he has good defensive instincts and can defend multiple positions. He uses his length to disrupt passing lanes, close out on shooters and protect the rim where he is averaging 1.6bpg, good for sixth among freshmen (per Cerebro). Hendricks’ productivity has landed him on the NBA radar and with his growing skill set and versatility on both ends, he has a legitimate shot at earning guaranteed money as a first round pick.

Brice Sensabaugh

6’6” Wing | Ohio State

2022 RSCI: #49

In his first collegiate game, Sensabaugh produced 17 points, 9 rebounds, an assist, and a steal, impacting the game on both ends of the floor, setting a precedent for how his season would unfold. At 6’6”, Sensabaugh possesses great size (and plays even bigger), physical strength, versatility, and understands how to play within the flow of the game. He’s currently averaging 16.4ppg, 5.2rpg, 1apg, while shooting 43% from 3, 46.3% from mid-range and 53.5% at the rim. According to Cerebro, Brice ranks sixth among freshmen with a 79 player scoring prowess, third in points per game, 17th in 3-point efficiency with a 79, and ninth with a silver C-RAM rating of 8.8. Sensabaugh has three-level scoring potential, can get buckets in a variety of ways (spot-ups, transition, post, and in pick-and-roll both as the handler or the roller) and doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective.

Sensabaugh has his moments on the defensive end, as well — and even at 240 pounds, he moves well laterally. He's switchable, using his strong frame to keep opponents from finishing through him in the paint. Sensabaugh does not generate a ton of steals or blocks but plays sound tea