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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 team defense, has improving instincts and knows when to help. His overall impact at Ohio State has been undeniable, to such an extent that he may not be in Columbus for long.

Ohio State wing Brice Sensabaugh. Credit: Ohio State Athletics

Mike Sharavjamts

6’8” Wing | Dayton

2022 RSCI: #90

Mike Sharavjamts’ commitment to Dayton may have initially flown under the radar, but approximately one year later, ‘Mongolian Mike’ has scouts talking. His numbers do not scream “lottery pick!” but at 6'8” with a reported 8’8” standing reach and a versatile offensive bag, Sharavjamts has traits that NBA personnel look for in a prospect. He has done a great job playing off the ball, constantly moving and relocating while knocking down 36.7% in catch-and-shoot 3 situations. Although he has only converted 30% of his overall attempts from downtown, Sharavjamts has a good shooting motion and a quick release, never bringing the ball below his waist, allowing him to shoot over contests. Aside from his shooting, he is a great facilitator for his size, currently averaging about three assists per game. It doesn’t take many possessions to tell that he sees the floor well and is capable of executing tough reads — he’s much more than just a run-of-the-mill ball mover. Sharavjamts can initiate the offense, push the ball in transition and operate in the pick-and-roll with an impressive level of comfort for his size.

Defensively, Sharavjamts plays with great energy and a motor, consistently sprinting back to contest transition opportunities and diving for loose balls. While guarding off the ball, he sees both man and ball, understands when to help and rarely misses a box out. As the primary defender, Sharavjamts has proven his ability to defend multiple positions, switching down onto quicker/smaller guards or up onto bigs while holding opponents to just 25.8% from 3 and 40% on attempts at the rim. There’s no denying his major role in Dayton’s early season success and should he decide to return to school, Mongolian Mike will be primed to take on a larger role and would be considered one of the top returners in 2023-24.

Amaree Abram

6’4” Guard | Ole Miss

2022 RSCI: #92

Amaree Abram’s recruitment didn’t take off until he received his first high major offer in the summer of 2021 — he followed that up with a very strong senior season at Southern California Academy. Now at Ole Miss after initially committing to Texas A&M, Abram has shown flashes of what he is capable of while adjusting to the college game. A physical guard who embraces contact, Abram has thrived as the lead ball handler but can also play off the ball. Abram does a great job controlling the pace of the game and understands when to push and when to slow it down. His playmaking in particular gives him considerable upside and although he is only averaging 2.2apg for the time being, he has done a good job making pro-level reads for teammates when the ball is in his hands. Abram thrives in the pick-and-roll, getting downhill and to the rim — where he is finishing 52.9% of his attempts — or to his pull-up jumper, where he is shooting 36.7%. Shooting 33.8% from 3, Abram can also space the floor when playing off ball.

Abram has also made an immediate impact defensively, which is no surprise to anyone who watched even a single game of his in high school. He is a physical on-ball defender, holding opponents to 25.5% shooting from 3 and 26% on mid-range attempts. Abram is still finding his groove and adjusting to the collegiate game, but has the legitimate upside to wind up as one of the top two-way players in the country as a sophomore.

Ole Miss guard Amaree Abram. Credit: Ole Miss Athletics

Aidan Mahaney

6’3” Guard | Saint Mary’s

2022 RSCI: N/A (Not Ranked)

Ranked outside the RSCI top-100 in 2022, Mahaney chose to stay close to home and attend Saint Mary’s. That decision has worked out splendidly for both parties as he leads the team in points (15.1) and is second in assists (2.0) while shooting 40.8% from deep and 45.2% overall from the field. Mahaney began his college career scoring 25 against Oral Roberts and helped lead Saint Mary’s to a 7-0 start and they currently sit atop the WCC standings with a 22-5 record. Mahaney has thrived in his role for the Gaels, whether starting or coming off the bench, consistently providing productive minutes as a scorer and creator. Pick-and-roll offense accounts for 42% of Mahaney’s offensive output and he is converting 44.9% of his field goal attempts in these situations. He moves really well off the ball, plays with pace, gets to his spots and knocks down a stellar 46.8% of his catch-and-shoot attempts from 3. Mahaney gets others involved, too, as he sees the floor well, finds shooters on drives and gets his bigs involved. Among freshmen, Mahaney ranks ninth in points per game, and 11th in 3-point efficiency (87) (per Cerebro).

Defensively, Mahaney does a good job playing help defense and recovering to his man on closeouts. He has defended well and has improved since the season began but will need to be more consistent on this end of the floor. He’s not afraid to take big shots nor is he afraid of the moment, stepping his game up in crunch time and when the team needs him. This bodes well for his development and confidence as he will be the face of Saint Mary’s basketball for the foreseeable future.

Jordan Pope

6’2” Guard | Oregon State

2022 RSCI: N/A (Not Ranked)

Despite playing a national schedule with one of the nation’s best programs at Prolific Prep, Jordan Pope was shockingly under-recruited. All he’s done since is take the reins of Oregon State’s offense and quickly become one of the most valuable freshmen in the country. In addition to leading his team in points (12.9) and assists (2.5) per game, Pope is also first in scoring and second in assists among all Pac-12 freshmen. He plays with a noticeable (even on film) chip on his shoulder and has made the most of his opportunities thus far in Corvallis. Pope has a high BBIQ, plays hard and has embraced the physicality of the college level. He is a three-level scorer and very efficient as well, shooting 39.2% (41.4% on C&S) from 3, 41.8% on mid-range attempts and 53.4% in the paint. Pope does most of his work as the primary ball-handler, with the pick-and-roll accounting for 60% of his possessions. In off-the-dribble attempts, Jordan is shooting 46.3% from the field. He is a crafty and shifty ball-handler, does a great job getting downhill, changing speeds, creating space, and taking care of the ball while limiting turnovers (just 1.3 per game). Although a limited current sample size, Pope plays great off the ball, cutting and relocating to get to his spots.

Throughout his last season of high school, Pope was vocal about his need to step up on the defensive end and has shown encouraging improvement. As the primary defender, Pope is holding opponents to 29% on mid-range attempts, 45.5% in the paint and 33.7% on threes. He plays with a great motor and has been locked in defensively for the Beavers, staying in front of ball handlers, cutting off drives and fighting over screens. Pope should only continue to develop as the season progresses, which will give Oregon State an opportunity to play spoiler down the stretch.

Oregon State guard Jordan Pope. Credit: Oregon State Athletics

Andrew Rohde

6’6'' Wing | University of St. Thomas

2022 RSCI: N/A (Not Ranked)

By all accounts, Andrew Rohde’s impact at St. Thomas in his freshman season has been impressive. Rohde has done a little bit of everything for the program, averaging 15.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 3.7apg and 1.4spg in 32mpg. He leads the team in points, assists, and steals. Among all Summit League players, Rohde ranks eighth in scoring and fourth in assists. Although he has struggled to shoot from 3 (29.8%) consistently, this isn’t a major area of concern, based on his body of work in high school as well as the Nike EYBL circuit. Rohde has made up for his inconsistent shooting by getting to the rack, using his ball handling and ability to get downhill to break down defenses, where he is converting 58.1% of his attempts at the rim.

On the defensive end, Rohde plays long with active hands and does a great job contesting shots, holding opponents to 31.8% from 3 and 28% on mid-range attempts. He plays solid man defense, moving laterally to cut off drives — and he doesn't force plays. Rohde, who has elevated his play as the season has progressed, should eventually be named Summit League Freshman of the Year and will be a player to monitor closely in the conference, moving forward.

Reed Bailey

6’11” Forward | Davidson

2022 RSCI: N/A (Not Ranked)

Currently coming off the bench for the Wildcats, Bailey understands his role and plays well within it. At 6’11”, he has plus-length, provides versatility and plays with great energy. Currently averaging 6ppg, Bailey gets his opportunities to score by playing hard and doing the little things the team needs. He is consistently moving without the ball, converting 70% of his 2PT attempts off cuts. Bailey also crashes the glass with success on the offensive end, accounting for 13.2% of his possessions and converting 72.7% of put-backs. Although limited in his attempts in the post, he has displayed an ability to play with his back to the basket or face up. Overall, Bailey has converted 52.6% of his attempts at the rim, an area that will improve as he learns to finish through contact. Bailey has the potential to be a very lethal pick-and-pop threat — and on limited attempts he is currently shooting 40% from 3. He has also displayed an ability to create out of the post, finding teammates when the defense packs it in.

Defensively, Bailey plays with energy, communicates and talks through assignments. He has proven to be a versatile defender who is capable of sticking with guards when switched on ball screens and moves well enough to keep them in front. Bailey uses his length to close out and take away three-point attempts and understands his role as the help defender when trapping the post and recovering to his man. He is in a great situation getting valuable early reps which should help him to continue to develop all aspects of his game. Bailey has a ton of potential and making a jump off-season will be crucial to his success moving forward.

Davidson forward Reed Bailey. Credit: Davidson Athletics

Honorable Mentions

Nigel Burris

6’7” Forward | Idaho

RSCI: N/A (Not Ranked)

On a team full of upperclassmen, Burris is putting together an impressive freshman season averaging 8ppg and 5rpg on 40.8% shooting from 3. Burris is gaining valuable experience and contributing to a program that he will look to lead during the 2023-2024 season.

Desmond Claude

6’5” Guard | Xavier

2022 RSCI: #90

Claude is playing behind two of the top guards in the Big East, which has allowed him to learn and develop at his own pace. Offensively, he is still finding his rhythm, but on the defensive end he has held opponents to just 26% on mid-range attempts and 50% on attempts at the rim.

Micah Handlogten

7’1” Big | Marshall

2022 RSCI: N/A (Not Ranked)

At 19-6, Marshall is currently sitting in third place in the Sun Belt Conference. Handlogten has played a major role in his team’s success, leading all freshmen nationally in rebounds (10.2) and blocks (2.4) per game, while chipping in 7.9ppg and converting 73% of his attempts at the rim.

Richard “Pop” Isaacs

6’2” Guard | Texas Tech

2022 RSCI: #72

One of the bright spots for the Red Raiders are their two freshman guards, Richard Isaacs and Lamar Washington. Isaacs has started every game for Texas Tech, ranking third in points (11.6), second in assists (2.8) and third in steals (1.2).

Malik Reneau

6’9” Forward | Indiana

2022 RSCI: #26

Coming off the bench, Reneau has embraced and understands his role within the IU offense, predominantly scoring on cuts, put-backs and in transition. The Montverde Academy (FL) product and former Florida Gator commit has been a defensive presence for the Hoosiers, holding opponents to 20% from 3, 16% from mid-range and 47.5% on attempts in the paint.

AJ Storr

6’6” Guard | St. John’s

2022 RSCI: #89

After playing sporadically throughout the first half of the season, Storr has seen his playing time increase over the last several weeks. The Illinois native is averaging 10ppg (on 43% shooting from 3) and 2rpg since Dec 21st.

Lamar Washington

6’4” Guard | Texas Tech

2022 RSCI: N/A (Not Ranked)

The second of the aforementioned Texas Tech freshman guards, Washington has embraced the defensive role assigned to him. At 6’4” and 205 pounds, the Portland, OR native is a physical on-ball defender who does a great job forcing his man into tough contested shots. His opponents are currently shooting 22% from 3 and 25% from mid-range.


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