On Saturday I attended an American Athletic in-conference game, featuring the Bearcats of Cincinnati and the Mustangs of SMU. In this game were five prospects I was excited to see. The media sheet said there were no NBA teams in attendance, which is unfortunate because I think several, if not all, of these players should be in the NBA system in the future.
First was David DeJulius, a fifth year senior that has used his scoring ability to catch eyes on a good Cincinnati team. He is undersized at just six feet flat, but his fearlessness as a three level scorer is of the mold that the G League operates with in many of its guards. DeJulius likely projects best as an overseas scorer, who can lead a team as both a floor general and a scorer. His efficiency and three point percentage prior to this year have been red flags, so he will need to prove to teams that this fifth year is not a fluke.
Jeremiah Davenport may benefit from using his extra Covid year of eligibility, since his volume and efficiency have declined, and he has been coming over the last couple of weeks. With shooters, rhythm is key; if he finds his rhythm as the season winds down, he should be able to steal his starting spot back and get back onto draft radars. His efficiency heavily relies on jump shooting, so if he cannot get rhythm with his shots, his numbers are only going to keep falling or staying around the same spot they’re in right now.
Lastly for Cincinnati is Landers Nolley, who showcased his improved jump shot. He has a patented pump fake that he uses to get defenders flying in the air, creating an open off the dribble shot. With a largely increased percentage both at the free throw line and from three, Nolley has revived his stock he once had at Virginia Tech in 2019-20. Being 23 years old, he will have an uphill battle against other upperclassmen, but if his jumper is truly improved, he can stick towards the end of the bench in the NBA. At a minimum, Nolley should be able to play at a high level in Europe, potentially with a Euroleague team.
Zach Nutall projects as a combo guard at the next level, likely in an overseas role. Given his size, he must add reliable consistency to his playmaking ability each night, as well as his ball-handling. He also needs to end the season as a strong shooter, since jump shooting is his most important trait, but his three point percentage remains below 33% for the second consecutive year since transferring up from Sam Houston State.
Phelps looks more and more like an upperclassman prospect than a 2023 prospect; stats look good but impact is far away. If he declared and left SMU today he’d be stashed in the G League. With NIL factoring into players’ decisions to stay or leave more and more, Phelps has a tough decision to make after his breakout sophomore season. The best thing Phelps can do, as the Mavs continue to scout him most nights, is brush up his overall consistency next year in leading SMU to a winning record. With Rob Lanier only in his first year of the rebuild at SMU, and the transfer portal always being hectic, a change of tune for SMU is entirely possible along with Phelps becoming more consistent as a first option.
If I were advising Phelps, I would tell him to test the draft waters to get NBA Draft feedback from NBA teams, giving instructions of what they want to see in the future from him before making it to the NBA. Ultimately, after receiving enough feedback and going through some workouts, he should come back and work on repetition through simulation of tough situations he is likely to face as much as possible. This will help him improve his field goal percentage, which will ultimately become more attractive to NBA scouts. Look for Phelps to be a 2024+ prospect.