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Film Study: The SEC

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 SEC:

Top Returners

Trevon Brazile

6’10” Forward | Arkansas | Junior

Brazile started off the 2022-23 season strong before being sidelined with a knee injury after just 9 games. However, in those games, he demonstrated his skill and ability to impact games on both ends of the floor. On the offensive end, he displayed his talents as a floor spacer, shooting 37.9% from 3. In the paint, he was also highly effective, converting an impressive 66.7% of his attempts at the rim, showing off his bounce and ability to play above the cylinder.

Defensively, Brazile provides versatility, switching across multiple positions. As the primary defender, he held opponents to 28.8% FG and 16% 3FG, last season. His ability to leverage his length effectively allows him to play vertically at the rim, where he averaged 1.2 BPG in 2022-23.

Antonio Reeves

6’5” Guard | Kentucky | Senior

Reeves was named the SEC 6th Man of the Year a season ago, playing a pivotal role by providing the Wildcats with a player capable of racking up big scoring nights. Playing with a fairly young team, Reeves has the experience to help bring along Kentucky's top-ranked recruiting class.

Coming off the bench for a majority of the season in 2022-23, he produced 12 games in which he scored 20+ points, capping off the regular season with 37 points against Arkansas. Shooting a career high 39.8% 3FG last season, he spaced the floor and understood when to attack. In addition to his success on catch-and-shoot attempts from 3 (37.5% 3FG in 2022-2023), he also demonstrated an impressive ability to score off the dribble from 3-point range. On 30 OTD jumper attempts, he converted an impressive 50% of his shots. He forces defenders to close out hard and take away his three-ball, but in these situations, Reeves has an ability to attack poor closeouts and get to his effective mid-range jumper.

Reeves played well on the defensive end in 2022-23, showing an understanding of his role as a help defender, playing the gaps and stunting. In pick-and-roll coverage, he fights over screens to get back in front of his man and plays long while defending lob entries to bigs, allowing his teammates to recover.

Wade Taylor IV

6’0” Guard | Texas A&M | Junior

Taylor’s speed and pace are tantalizing, as he possesses the ability to stop-and-start with precision and burst. Combined with his quick handle, he is a handful in the half-court, where he ranked in the 92nd percentile in half-court production last season. Not only does he possess elite speed and a deceptive handle, but he can stretch the floor as well with his jumper (he experienced a nearly 10% jump in 3FG% as a sophomore from his freshman year, at just under 36% from deep).

Taylor can stop on a dime both from the mid-range or the three-point line to convert pull-up jumpers. He finished in the 90th percentile in off-the-dribble jumpers in 2022-23. His ability to handle and shoot make him a dynamic pick-and-roll threat, as well. Overall, the Aggies will go as far as Taylor can take them, as he is one of the most important returnees in the country this season, much less the SEC.

Santiago Vescovi

6’3” Guard | Tennessee | Senior

Vescovi has had a stellar career at Tennessee, having played a part in three NCAA Tournament teams and coming off a Sweet 16 in 2022-2023. On the offensive end of the floor, he has been the Volunteers’ best shooter since arriving on campus. He converted 37% of his three-point attempts last season, however his ability to knock down shots in a variety of ways makes him a threat both on and off the ball. Whether he is shooting off the dribble, off the catch or on the move, he gets to his spot and rises up to knock down shots with consistency.

He’s not the quickest or shiftiest athlete, but Vescovi’s use of shot and pass fakes allows him to get opponents out of position, helping him to get downhill where is calling his own number from mid-range or creating for others. An underrated playmaker, he makes live-dribble reads and engages the defense before dumping it off or kicking it out, routinely bending the defense to his team’s favor. After a freshman season in which he averaged 3.5 turnovers per outing, he has done a better job taking care of the ball as an upperclassman, significantly cutting down his turnovers since his sophomore season.

Vescovi is a committed defender who plays a physical brand of basketball and looks to make life as hard as he can for opponents. He’s a good lateral mover with an ability to cut off ball handlers, forcing deflections or steals in the process.

Zakai Zeigler

5’9” Guard | Tennessee | Junior

Zeigler’s 2022-23 season ended early due to an injury, forcing him to miss the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. He seems due for an uptick in scoring production this year and his feel for the game combined with his trademark toughness and physicality can help aid Tennessee in a deep tournament run.

Zeigler is an exceptional creator, having averaged 5.4 APG last season, which doubled his freshman output. As the primary ball handler he possesses speed, craftiness and the ability to change direction as he attacks the defense, consistently putting his teammates in positions to be successful. A threat to shoot from three but also an area of improvement, he’s a career mid-30s shooter from deep through two years in Knoxville.

Even at 5’9”, Zeigler is one of the best defenders in the nation. His ability to hound opponents and force them into turnovers was missed during last year’s postseason. He is an excellent point of attack defender who doesn't back down from matchups as he applies ball pressure and cuts off driving opportunities, making the opposition earn every bucket. With his elite instincts and awareness, he was able to generate 2.0 SPG last season, while also getting his hands on countless deflections.

Top Transfers

Khalif Battle

6’5” Guard | Arkansas | Senior

Despite being in his fifth year, Battle in a way has been an under the radar prospect throughout the course of his college career. After getting off to a strong start during the 2021-2022 season, he suffered a foot injury 7 games in. The 2022-2023 season was oddly his first time playing more than 12 games in a season since his freshman season at Butler.

For three years, he averaged 13 FGA/game — this will most likely change at Arkansas, where the ball will move more, allowing Battle to be more efficient. He can create offense on or off the ball and is coming off a season where he shot 35% from 3. In Battle, the Razorbacks are getting a player with multi-level scoring potential who can be a productive starter or a spark off the bench.

Walter Clayton

6’2” Guard | Florida | Junior

Walter Clayton is a great addition to Coach Golden's program and gives the Gators a potent scorer to pair alongside Riley Kugel. He is a strong guard who embraces physicality on both ends of the floor and has the ability to dictate the pace and style of play on the floor.

A career 40% three-point shooter at Iona, he jumps to 49% on catch-and-shoot attempts (ranking in the 98th percentile, per Synergy) and 56.7% FG on no-dribble jumpers. He’s a multi-level scoring threat, too, as he shot 40% on mid-range attempts and 58.4% on possessions at the rim in 2022-23. Clayton is just as good playing off the ball, where he can come off handoffs or screens, but where he really thrives is as a cutter, having averaged 1.26 PPP in 2022-23, converting 68.8% of his attempts at the rim. As a creator, he averaged 3.2 APG last season, doubling his average from his freshman year. His ability to beat his opponents off the dribble with his speed puts pressure on the defense, creating cutting lanes and uncontested catch-and-shoot attempts for teammates.

On the defensive end, Clayton makes it hard for opponents on a nightly basis. His physicality on this end stands out the most, and he plays in a stance, moves laterally, cuts off drives and applies ball pressure while getting into his opponents.

Jalen DeLoach

6’9” Forward | Georgia | Junior

In DeLoach’s second season at VCU, he averaged 9.7p-6.9r-1.0a-1.4b-1.1s on 56.2% shooting from the field. He does not need the ball in hands to be effective or produce, as he scores on put-backs, dump-offs, as the roll man, via cuts and by running the floor hard in transition. He is active on the offensive boards, averaging 2.6 offensive RPG a year ago while converting 70% of his put-back attempts. Throughout college, he’s displayed an ability to score out of the post and create offense for himself, though this area of his game is still a work in progress.

DeLoach has the ability to defend in the post and on the perimeter — as the primary defender in 2022-23, he held opponents to 23.4% 3FG, just 18% FG on mid-range attempts and 45.2% FG in the paint. He uses his athleticism to play vertically at the rim and his length to generate deflections and steals. At 6’9”, DeLoach is an athletic and versatile defender who will provide Georgia with immediate rim protection and shot blocking ability. He is a great glue guy who is willing to do all the little things required to win.

Aaron Estrada

6’3” Guard | Alabama | Senior

Over the course of two seasons at Hofstra, the two-time CAA Player of the Year averaged 20.2p-5.5r-4.3a-1.5s while shooting 36.8% 3FG and 47.8% FG. Estrada impacts the game with his shooting, creating, off-ball movement, and his ability to break down defenses off the bounce.

A multi-level scorer, Estrada is coming off a season in which he converted 57.2% of his field goals at the rim, consistently embracing and finishing through contact. He also shot 47.4% from mid-range, and 36.8% from 3. Pick-and-roll situations made up almost one-third of his offensive production in 2022-23 and Estrada displayed his ability to get downhill while remaining patient as plays developed. He possesses good feel, vision and a high BBIQ, evidenced by his smart decision making and passing ability.

As a defender, Estrada is just as impressive, playing with good energy and intensity. He moves well laterally while cutting off opponents, plays with active hands and applies ball pressure (he generated 1.5 SPG last season). As the primary defender, he held opponents to 30.2% shooting from 3 and 37% on mid-range attempts in 2022-23.

Micah Handlogten

7’1” Big | Florida | Sophomore

Handlogten’s commitment to Florida immediately bolstered their front court after losing Colin Castleton. The Sun Belt Freshman of the Year at Marshall impacts the game on both ends of the floor, leading his team in FG% (66.2), RPG (9.8) and BPG (2.3) in 2022-23.

Offensively, Handlogten’s game is still growing which makes his potential intriguing. As he continues to develop, he will lean on the things he does well as more of an opportunistic scorer. Per Synergy, offensive rebounds account for over one quarter (26.3%) of his offensive output last season and he converted 57.5% of his put-back attempts. Outside of put-backs, Handlogten primarily scores on lobs and dump-offs. In pick-and-roll situations as a freshman, he did a good job screening and rolling to the rim and has the ability to develop into a pick-and-pop threat.

At 7’1”, Handlogten ranked #12 in the country with 2.3 BPG in his season at Marshall. His presence, use of his length in the paint and shot blocking ability deterred opponents from attacking the rim where they converted 45% of their attempts in 2022-23. He understood his role within Marshall's defense, helping over as a weak-side defender to cut off the paint or baseline drives, while using his length to take away opponents' options. An area of his game that could see some improvement is his ability and willingness to step out and defend in space on switches — if he can do that, he could present even more challenges for SEC opponents.

Dalton Knecht

6’6” Guard | Tennessee | Senior

After leading his team in scoring (20.2 PPG) and earning All-Big Sky Second Team at Northern Colorado in 2022-23, Knecht entered the portal and will now make an impact for the Vols. His shooting alone strengthens Tennessee's roster. A team that already shoots it well from deep, now picks up one of the more polished scorers/shooters in the country.

Knecht has three-level scoring capability, with 2022-23 shooting splits of 38% 3FG, 40% from mid-range and 58% in the paint. A capable ball handler, he also does a good job creating for teammates, constantly looking to make the right play or extra pass, coming off a season where he averaged nearly 2 APG. Playing alongside a high-level creator in Zakai Zeigler and secondary playmaker in Santiago Vescovi, an area of his game that we should see more of in Knoxville is his ability to play off the ball. This is good news for the Volunteers because on catch-and-shoot attempts from 3, his 3FG increased to 44.2% in 2022-23.

While Knecht has shown potential as a defender, his ability to do so consistently is still an area for improvement. That said, he is an active gap and weak-side defender, using his length to deter drivers and shooters on closeouts while defending the drive.

Tramon Mark

6’6” Guard | Arkansas | Junior

Houston transfer Tramon Mark gives Arkansas a player that has the ability to change the outcome of the game on the defensive end. He is a competitor and winner who makes hustle plays and embraces his role.

Offensively, Mark can make plays as a ball handler but doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective and will do what the team needs of him at any moment. While playing on the ball, he has shown he can make the right plays on drives-and-kicks, adjusting to what the defense throws at him. The lefty has not connected from three consistently throughout college, but has proven to be a capable stationary shooter from the corner, connecting on 41.6% of his threes last season.

An elite defender, he provides versatility with his length and ability to defend multiple positions. On and off the ball, Mark stays solid, doesn't gamble and plays with active hands, using his length to disrupt passing lanes. He is a game-changer on this end and as the primary defender a season ago, he held opponents to just 26.7% from the field, 23.8% on 2s and 27.8% from 3. Off the ball, he drops into coverage as a help defender, tags rollers and, contests jumpers, defends the drive, and generally forces opponents into taking tough, contested shots.

Tre Mitchell

6’9” Forward | Kentucky | Senior

Mitchell brings experience, floor spacing and of course his ability to score, having averaged 13.7 PPG for his career and 18.8 in 2020-2021 as a sophomore at UMass. At 6’9”, he is a mobile, skilled forward with good size who will provide versatility for the Cats. Mitchell has been a productive player throughout his college career — primarily on the offensive end, where he can score in a variety of ways.

He ranked in the 90th percentile of points per shot on post-up attempts in 2022-23, which accounts for 20% of his offensive production. He can score from either block, converting 55.6% FG of his post-up attempts, last season. He also converted 87.5% face-up attempts, showing he can certainly knock down a 12-15 footer. A career 34.7% shooter from 3, Mitchell can space the floor, too, as he connected on 36.4% of his attempts and 45.8% of his catch and shoot attempts last season at West Virginia.

Grant Nelson

6’11” Forward | Alabama | Senior

At 6'11”, Nelson is a prized addition to a program looking to build off their recent postseason success. Nelson is a skilled frontcourt piece with positional size and legitimate upside to play at the next level. In his last season at NDSU, Nelson averaged 17.9p-9.3r-2.1a-1.7b-0.8s while shooting 52.1% from the field. He makes his living in the post, scoring from either block, finishing with both hands in the paint. He also has the ability to face-up and beat slower opponents off the dribble to get to the rack.

A great pick-and-pop threat, Nelson converted 41.7% of his PnP opportunities in 2022-23. He’s a solid athlete, takes long strides and is capable of beating his opponent up the floor for easy offense, having converted 62.5% of his transition attempts at the rim, last season. He has improved as a creator every season in college, engaging the defense in the post by forcing help and as the defense collapses, finding cutters or making skip passes. He averaged close to 2 offensive RPG in 2022-23, earning his team plenty of second-chance opportunities.

Defensively, he provides instant rim protection and shot blocking, coming off a season where he held opponents to 43.1% FG at the rim. Nelson does a great job playing in a help/weak-side defender role, protecting the paint from drivers and helping up when needed.

Connor Vanover

7’5” Big | Missouri | Senior

Vanover possesses outlandish sheer size, but it's his versatility on both ends that will allow him to make an impact for the Tigers. He can space the floor, as he shot 32.4% 3FG (50% in transition), 42% FG on mid-range attempts and 73% FG from attempts in the paint in 2022-23. Vanover only averaged 1.6 offensive RPG last season, but he did a great job going right back up with rebounds for easy bunnies as he averaged 1.57 PPP.

Defensively, his length makes it hard for opponents to score over him in iso situations and at the rim. During the 2022-2023 season at Oral Roberts, he ranked #2 in the country at 3.2 BPG, holding opponents to 42% FG on attempts at the rim by consistently playing with verticality or closing out to take away shots from behind the arc, where opponents shot 32.6% 3FG.

Latrell Wrightsell, Jr.

6’3” Guard | Alabama | Senior

After posting career-highs in PPG, APG and 3FG% in 2022-23, Wrightsell is taking his talents to the SEC level. The transfer from Cal State Fullerton is a perfect fit in Alabama’s system, which is predicated on guards having freedom.

Wrightsell offers versatility as a shooter, both off the bounce and on the catch. Last season, he ranked in the 87th percentile in catch-and-shoot scenarios, while also ranking in the 80th percentile in dribble jumpers, per Synergy. He has the ability to play with pace and load comfortably in pull-up scenarios, hence his success with this shot type. With Wrightsell making the move to the high major level and looking at less usage, being able to play on and off the ball will be helpful in his transition.

On the defensive end, he is engaged, using his lateral quickness and motor to contribute as a point-of-attack defender. He slides his feet well and takes pride in defending, contributing to the 35% field goal percentage that opponents shot while he was the on-ball defender in 2022-23.

Primed to Breakout

Riley Kugel

6’5” Guard | Florida | Sophomore

If Riley Kugel's freshman season is an indication of how good he can be as a go-to option in Coach Golden's offense, then the Gators are in good hands. Earning SEC All-Freshman honors, he averaged 9.9p-2.8r-1.0a-0.8s on 37.6% shooting from 3 and 45.6% from the field. In the final 10 games of 2022-23, he ended the season on a high note, averaging 17.3p-3.9r-1.3a on 39.5% 3FG and 49.3% FG. Named to the 2023-24 All-SEC Preseason Second Team, he will look to build off the momentum he created heading into the off-season.

A crafty and shifty ball handler, he does a great job playing at different speeds and changing direction. He has a good first step off the bounce, utilizing a jab to get separation from defenders as he picks up steam getting downhill. On pick-and-roll attempts in 2022-23, he came off screens ready to shoot, knocking down 37.5% 3FG. On catch-and-shoot attempts from 3, he shot 39.5%, displaying his ability to get shots off with his quick release as he was ready to shoot promptly upon receiving the pass. Looking ahead, he will need to improve as a finisher at the rim, playing more controlled and off of two feet, which will also help him increase his efficiency as well as his production as a facilitator and finisher.


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