Ohio State defeated UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic, which gave several takeaways for the draft prospects in this game, including UCLA’s Aday Mara, Jan Vide, and Adem Bona, as well as Ohio State’s Roddy Gayle, Devin Royal, and Bruce Thornton. Here’s how the game shaped out:
Aday Mara, a freshman 7’3 center from Spain, finished this game with 2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks with 1 turnover on 1-6 shooting.
Mara had troubles in this game, particularly on the defensive end in making proper rotations and the right decisions in using his elite length. At this stage, Mara struggles to use his body properly and effectively, making him not only a project if he were to come out in 2024, but also a candidate to be a multi-year college player. The best thing Mara can do at this point is to stay more disciplined, especially against P&R sets, making himself a massive object the offense has to dance around, rather than being a physical intimidator. Instead, if he can rotate properly, he becomes hard to attack near the paint, with college rules allowing for bigs to camp in the paint indefinitely. Being a deterrent at this point is more effective for him than being a top shot-blocker, given his lack of footspeed that will expose him in space.
Offensively, Mara has struggled to finish well near the rim, settling for push shots and turnaround hook shots in an attempt to avoid contact far too often.
Jan Vide, a Slovenian guard who has made a name for himself in international youth tournaments, has had a slow adjustment period. However, this doesn’t mean he has struggled to succeed, but rather he still hasn’t gelled with the Bruins into a defined role. Defensively, Vide had a couple of plays with quick hands in the passing lanes, showcasing quick reflexes and a tough player to take out of plays. Offensively, he only had one made field goal, which was a tough runner through contact.
As Vide gets more comfortable in UCLA’s offense, look for him to showcase his combo guard skills at a higher level to make his teammates better, giving him a chance to boost his draft stock when scouts are watching the most closely.
Bona has solidified himself this season as UCLA’s best big-man prospect, and potentially the best prospect on UCLA at the moment. Bona finished this game with 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block on 50% shooting with 3 turnovers and 4 fouls.
Adem Bona is a low usage P&R big that can defend multiple positions, and can handle shooters, post players, and slashers. While foul trouble is an issue now, if this gets ironed out Bona becomes one of the most desirable pieces to a playoff team right away: an affordable depth piece that can defend multiple positions while thriving as a low usage P&R big. A bonus becomes if his jump shot can develop, even out to the mid range like in this game. An easy argument for Bona’s game translating smoothly is that he is playing with Mara, another non-spacing big, which will never be the case in the NBA for him. Thus, his game can open up with better spacing to thrive in more P&R and five-out based offenses, which allows him to attack the paint without as much congestion.
Roddy Gayle Jr
Gayle, my top ranked prospect in this game, showed promise even without contributing much in one of his best areas: 0 assists despite being a good playmaker. As I always preach, assists are a two-man stat that relies on a made shot, which Gayle had an unlucky number of misses off of his passes. However, when he had the ball in his hands most of the damage was done from scoring. This is not a concern, but the concern some scouts I have talked to have is with his passiveness in attacking the basket. He can shy away from contact and instead rely on his floater. While the floater is a legitimate weapon, that should be a more ‘in-between’ scoring mechanism instead of being the primary paint shot. However, a major positive about Gayle’s floater is that he is strong in using it off of screens, which is a dangerous play for NBA defenses to contain.
Two other things to note: Gayle’s recovery ability on defense is strong; he can make up ground quickly against players with above-average speed with athleticism and length, as well as an initial burst. Additionally, he also uses both hands well at the rim, which is why scouts want to see more finishing through traffic from him to see him take the next jump as a scoring prospect.
Thornton was intriguing as a freshman, playing as part of a logjam of guards in Columbus. Now, he and Roddy Gayle are 1A/1B, which allows for Thornton to showcase his scoring while Gayle does a mix of both scoring and passing. With a strong body and three level scoring, Thornton regularly gets to his spots with ease. One concern that I had with his scoring aesthetic is that he doesn’t get great lift or separation on his off the dribble jumper, which raises questions about how his three level scoring will truly translate. This was an underwhelming shooting performance for Thornton, going 4-15 from the field, but he added 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal with only 2 turnovers on high usage. How Thornton proves scoring efficiency and how he proves an all-around game will determine his draft stock.
A low usage bench player right now, Devin Royallooks like a player worth investing in for the long-run as an intelligent forward with versatility. His offensive role is unclear right now, but he makes plays happen on defense and showed traits coaches like to see from the end of their bench: motor, making others better where the other four players cannot, and impacting the game away from the ball on both ends. For now, Royal is purely a watch-list player for future drafts, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he has some big moments in Big 10 play in the coming months.