Every year, the SEC and Big 12 face off on the last Saturday of January for a day full of hoops. This year featured tons of prospects, and the only SEC teams not to participate (due to conference size difference) were Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Texas A&M. The SEC won this challenge 6 to 4, conceding losses to Texas Tech, Iowa State, Texas, and TCU.
Below is a game by game recap with key takeaways on draft prospects from these games, with some bigger picture takeaways as well:
LSU @ TCU:
This game tied the highest volume of prospects that I’ve heard of being scouted by NBA teams, a grand total of 10 by my count.
Starting with the visiting LSU Tigers, Tari Eason was the main player being scouted, including by DraftExpress’ Mike Schmitz. Eason yet again showed out, going for 16 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 steals on 7-12 shooting. Jump shooting will be the biggest swing factor for Eason’s success in the NBA, but he is a dominant slasher and a plus defender that he should still hold his own even if his jumper is inconsistent.
Eric Gaines also stood out, as he and Gaines were the anchors to LSU in this one. Gaines showed off great athleticism and playmaking, recording 14 points and 6 assists with 3 steals on 4-10 shooting. Gaines could be one of the best upside plays in this upcoming draft, as he already has good defensive skills, but needs to maximize his frame.
On the TCU side, I have heard of at least 4 players being scouted by NBA teams: Mike Miles, Micah Peavy, Chuck O’Bannon, and Damion Baugh.
Starting with Miles, he yet again had a good scoring outing in a big game, getting 19 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 block with only 1 turnover on 6/14 shooting. He continues to be the Horned Frogs’ best player and may drive TCU to the NCAA Tournament.
Chuck O’Bannon has become an athletic 3&D wing, albeit with awkward form. O’Bannon had a big game vs LSU, going for 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals on 6-9 shooting, raising his 3P% to 40% on the year, while also guarding the best opposing wing, which has attracted NBA scouts.
Damion Baugh is a glue guy as a combo guard with a high motor and potential as a slasher, and should safely be a pro somewhere, whether it be the NBA, G League, or in a high-level European league. He was big in this game as well, going 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists with 1 steal on 50% shooting. Micah Peavy struggles to shoot, but he is a great finisher, can see the floor, and defend & rebound. Look for him to be a summer league prospect down the road.
Iowa State @ Mizzou
Not much stood out from the Mizzou side, since they are at the bottom of the SEC, but Iowa State has 2 prospects in Izaiah Brockington and Tyrese Hunter. Brockington is a productive 5th year lefty senior that will likely latch on in Summer League. At 6’4 he gets his teammates involved well, scores well in 1-on-1 situations, and could use some added strength to help him defend at a higher level.
Tyrese Hunter stands out as a strong long-term prospect as opposed to a 2022 NBA Draft prospect. Hunter is quick, fearless slashing, a solid playmaker, and has excellent defensive footwork. Despite being undersized, Hunter’s footwork and motor make him a tough draw, even for stronger ball-handlers.
Oklahoma State @ Florida:
Not many prospects in this one, but two players I had my eyes on were freshman Koawcie Reeves of Florida and senior Isaac Likekele of Oklahoma State.
Likekele is a menace on defense, reminding me a ton of Patrick Beverley, but the obstacle for Likekele is scoring in the NBA, averaging under 10 points per game consistently throughout his collegiate career. Likekele hasn’t earned as many on-ball defensive plays since teams generally avoid him at all costs, but he remains a positive defender due to NBA strength, instincts, and footwork.
On the other hand, Colin Castleton was out for Florida, who is their lone draftable prospect for this year as a rim protector. Instead, we saw long-term prospect Kowacie Reeves, display shooting upside. Reeves could be a shooter or 3&D specialist in the NBA, depending on how his self-creation develops in his time at Florida.
Oklahoma State is banned from postseason contention, and Florida will be a bubble team to watch as March approaches.
West Virginia @ Arkansas
Taz Sherman was the main prospect to watch in this one, being one of the most electric scorers in the Big 12. Sherman had 15 points on 4-11 shooting with 3 steals, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. While Sherman has struggled in the first month of conference play, Sherman still hits tough shots consistently- just less efficiently.
As for Arkansas, Jaylin Williams is an intriguing prospect with a long-term outlook instead of a short term impact. The long big struggled in this game, but still had 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 15 rebounds to go with 12 points and 4 turnovers on 3-13 shooting. Williams is an intriguing upside play as a likely 2nd rounder with size and modern forward traits.
Mississippi State @ Texas Tech:
The lone player to watch in this game was Bulldog Iverson Molinar, but unfortunately we only saw 30 minutes of this game due to overlap from Oklahoma State @ Florida. Since Texas Tech’s Terrence Shannon Jr was out, Molinar was the lone prospect playing in this game.
Molinar struggled in this, but still met expectations. He had a season high 5 turnovers, an issue that had been plaguing him for his first 2 seasons at Mississippi State. Despite a mediocre game from him at 5-10 shooting for 12 points and just 2 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal, Molinar has been on a tear for the last 45 days. In that span he has played 11 games, averaging 19 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 2.5 TOPG on shooting splits of 57/33/83.
Molinar’s shot has a minor hitch, somewhat due in part to his shot being closer to the side of his head than the center, which makes his shot a clear swing factor in the NBA. His production as a 3 level scorer, however, makes it easy to look past that and see him as a top 45 prospect.
Kansas State @ Ole Miss
This matchup featured two of the most fun undersized guards in the country, both with good chances to go pro: Daeshun Ruffin of Ole Miss, and Nijel Pack of Kansas State.
Daeshun Ruffin is one of the most fun freshmen guards in the country, but it comes with the caveat of him being just 5’9. Elite quickness and a killer crossover made him still a top 50 recruit, and he has no fear in getting to the rim or pulling up over defenders. On defense, he has a high motor and doesn’t give up on plays. While he is not a 2022 pro prospect, he is a collegiate guard to watch in the future.
Teammate Matthew Murrell was someone else I had an eye on, a 6’4 guard with good athleticism and a projectable jumper. However, he struggled to shoot in this game, hitting only a wide open 3 and missing three other 3 point attempts. There weren’t a ton of opportunity to see him stand out in this much, but he is still a long-term project to keep an eye on at Ole Miss.
On the other end of this matchup, Nijel Pack of Kansas State has grown on me as one of my favorite off-ball undersized guards. With a lightning quick release and deep range, his 42% shooting from 3 and 89% from the line are no fluke. Pack does not turn the ball over often, and combines a rare high shot volume number with low turnover percentage. Look for Pack to rise as he progresses in college, and to be a fringe NBA prospect when he likely declares for the NBA Draft in 2023 or 2024.
Oklahoma at Auburn:
Jordan Goldwire stood out again, scoring 19 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals on 6-10 shooting. He is a low-volume swingman as a jack of all trades, master of none. Lacking great athleticism, Goldwire has some guard skills in a wing’s body. Look for him to get a summer league invite, and maybe a training camp invite if he can become a consistent shooter.
As for Auburn, the game tape always starts by focusing on Jabari Smith. Smith continued to showcase his scoring ability, especially against tight defense. His ability to shoot over defenses is what separates him for many as their number one prospect, combined with his ability to defend at a high level. Smith checks just about every box for a defensive prospect: length, effort, quick hands, and quick feet/hips. On the night, Jabari recorded 23 points, 12 rebounds, 1 block, and 2 steals. Look for Jabari Smith to stay at the top of mock drafts.
Walker Kessler also stood out for Auburn, going 9 of 11 from the field for 21 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, and 4 blocks. While he has been a dominant collegiate defender this season after transferring from North Carolina, I am still lightly skeptical in how his game translates to the NBA. Kessler is long, but slow, and can recover well on drives; however, being able to show the same recovery ability in the NBA against quicker players will be a swing factor for Kessler.
Texas @ Tennessee
Courtney Ramey finished a hot 7 days of basketball, showing off his solid jump shooting ability. He scored 18 points with 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block. In order to fully break out and maximize his once top 50 recruit upside, Ramey will need to be more confident as a slasher with more consistency, both as a scorer and playmaker at the rim.
On the other side, Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler went 4-11 from the field for 8 points, 0 assists, 2 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 turnovers. Chandler, a 6’0 guard with great quickness, needs to show more scoring ability against good defense to fully hit his upside. The Texas defense gave Chandler trouble, including Marcus Carr, who is one of the Big 12’s best guard defenders, especially off-ball. Chandler may become one of the first round prospects with the widest ranges on draft boards.
Kentucky @ Kansas
This was Kansas’ worst game of the season, not getting assists and turning the ball over, which is a recipe for losing in most games. Kansas’ major prospect Ochai Agbaji forced several plays, and had one of his worst games of his senior year: 13 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal with 2 turnovers on 4-14 shooting. Fellow prospect Christian Braun had a similar game statistically, recording 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal with 2 turnovers on 5-11 shooting. However, Braun was more efficient in his shots, and continued to thrive as a potential bench scorer at the rim, off the dribble, and as an off-ball scorer/play finisher. Look for Braun to be an early second round pick that can help a team get out of cold spells quickly in the NBA.
As for Kentucky, they forced a lot of pressure unto Kansas early and often, which helped them maintain a quick early leads for the whole game. When talking about Kentucky for the draft, every conversation begins with top-10 prospect guard TyTy Washington.Washington had a poor shooting night, but still was one of the best players on the floor due to his playmaking and mistake-free basketball, going for just 2 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and only 1 turnover on 1/9 shooting.
Washington’s counterpart in the P&R, Oscar Tshiebwe, had another strong game as he continues his quest for National Player of the Year. Tshiebwe went for 17 points on 8-13 shooting, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals, and 3 turnovers. While Tshiebwe is used as an old school big a lot of times still, his size and ability to run the floor have translatable value. Tshiebwe won’t post up often in the half court in the NBA, but since he runs the floor so well, he will likely be able to do quick post-ups in transition, especially against mismatches, and use his good touch to generate automatic points. On top of that, in the half court Tshiebwe offers P&R roll man value, as well as being an incredible rebounder that can save possessions. Defensively, Tshiebwe could go either way as a perimeter defender, which will ultimately spell his NBA success.
Baylor @ Alabama:
This game had the most NBA prospects in one game from the Big 12/SEC Challenge at 10 prospects. First up is Baylor, who lost the game, with Jeremy Sochan, Kendall Brown, James Akinjo, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and Matthew Mayer.
Starting with Sochan, he looked confident offensively both inside and outside, shooting three 3s in this game, the most he has taken in a game in January. Sochan’s spin move was hard for defenders to counter, and his touch at the rim helped him finish through contact. Improving shooting touch and confidence will be key for Sochan’s offensive development- the form isn’t broken, but it’s not smooth enough to work consistently in game yet. On the defensive end, Sochan’s recovery ability makes him a constant threat. He must get better at finishing plays on the defensive end without fouling, since he does a great job against dribble penetration.
Kendall Brown played a low-usage role yet again, but still managed to make a good impact on both ends. His playmaking continues to impress at 6’8, and only takes good shots while also being a plus defender. Brown is safely a lottery prospect going forward.
Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua had a good game, showing yet again that he can be a switchable, floor-stretching energy big. He had just 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 block, but he made an impact defensively in his limited minutes.
Matthew Mayer had a good game as well, providing a strong off-ball threat offensively, and recording yet another game with a steal. Mayer has a knack for intercepting the ball and creating his own shot off the dribble, but must be a more consistent and efficient scorer to be drafted as a senior.
For Alabama, this one starts with JD Davison. He was the cog that led Alabama to a victory, showing even more of the high peaks and low valleys that Davison brings as a prospect. There are very few guards more explosive than Davison, which was a big part of his 14 points 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and 3 turnovers game on 6-9 shooting game. Davison’s stock depends on how teams judge his frame, shooting, and defense.
Keon Ellis is the 2nd ranked Alabama prospect on my board, as a skinny defender with athleticism and upside as a shooter. He had 11 points in this one, but did most of his damage away from scoring. Look for Ellis to rise as a second rounder.
Lastly, Jahvon Quinerly, a long guard that transferred a couple years ago from Villanova, had a big game going for 20 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals on 6-10 shooting. His ability to comfortably score anywhere on the floor is impressive, but at times his shot selection and decision making can burn him. At 6’1, he will need to be a sharper decision maker to stick in the NBA.