Justin James is a 6’6 ½” wing for Wyoming Cowboys. James tested the 2018 NBA Draft waters and earned the chance to work out with the Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets. Constructive feedback from NBA decision-makers included packing some weight onto his frame and becoming a more viable playmaker for others by reading defensive rotations when he draws help defenders. James opted to return to Laramie for his senior season and, with the departure of multiple key seniors and 65% of the team’s prior year scoring, faced a difficult contextual battle throughout the course of the season. Despite team struggles and some shooting/turnover inefficiencies, James handled the situation quite well and certainly has his share of believers within the NBA prospect scouting community.
Cameron Young is a 6’6” wing for the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Young took a nontraditional path by beginning his career at Arizona Western. After excelling at the JuCo level, Young transferred to Quinnipiac, playing only sparingly in the 2016-17 season. He finally got his breakthrough last season, scoring 622 points and setting a new Quinnipiac single-season record at the DI level. After receiving Second-Team All-MAAC and MAAC All-Tournament Team honors, Young was granted another year of collegiate eligibility. He has taken full advantage of the opportunity by becoming one of the most prolific heat-check volume scorers and three-point threats in college basketball, earning the MAAC Player of the Year award, and gaining some buzz amongst professional scouts.
Barry Brown is a 6’3” combo guard for the Kansas State Wildcats and is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. After testing the 2018 NBA Draft waters and working out with the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, Brown opted to return to Manhattan for his senior season. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Conference Selection is a defensive advanced-metric stud, posting career-bests in DBPM, Defensive Rating, and Defensive Win Shares. After leading the Wildcats to a share of the Big 12 regular season conference title, Brown will look to build upon his rock-solid defensive foundation and prove to NBA evaluators that he can bring value on both sides of the ball throughout his final NCAA Tournament run.
Max Strus is a 6’6” wing for the DePaul Blue Demons. The former DII standout at Lewis University has been DePaul’s go-to scorer the past two seasons following his transfer, and was recently named to the All-Big East Conference Second Team. Strus has grinded to make the climb from a formerly underrecruited prep to being on the doorstep of getting a legitimate shot at the NBA.
Terance Mann is a 6’6 ½” wing for the Florida State Seminoles. Mann has made his name as a multi-faceted, highly impactful wing that is willing to do whatever it takes to lead his team to victory. As both an athletically and intellectually gifted wing, Mann is an appealing theoretical fit in a modern NBA that values versatility and basketball IQ more than ever. Showing tangible improvement as a shooter this season has helped build his prospect profile by tightening up one of his biggest holes as a prospect. Mann will look to put the finishing touches on his prospect profile by leading the ‘Noles to another deep NCAA Tournament run.
John Konchar is a 6’5 ½” wing for Fort Wayne Mastodons. The four-time First Team All-Summit League selection and all-time leading scorer in school history came from humble beginnings a skinny, under recruited high school stat-stuffer with only one Division I offer. Konchar relayed his intent to pursue a walk-on opportunity at Notre Dame. Konchar showed out in several performances at which Notre Dame associate head coach, Rod Balanis, was in attendance, but Notre Dame was tight on roster spots it wasn’t in the cards to bring him on board at that time.
Coach Balanis connected John with and provided a recommendation to recently hired Fort Wayne head coach, Jon Coffman. The rest is history.
Josh Perkins is a 6’3” redshirt senior lead guard for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The school’s all-time leader in assists was recently named one of five finalists (along with Markus Howard, Ja Morant, Tremont Waters, and Cassius Winston) for the Bob Cousy Award, which honors the nation’s top point guard. Perkins, a former top sixty high school recruit out of national powerhouse Huntington Prep, has been a full-time starter in all four of his post-redshirt seasons, logging 139 starts and accumulating nearly 4,500 minutes of playing time. He has been a consistent force in leading Gonzaga to its winningest four year stretch in school history. Though he hasn’t gotten the same NBA Draft buzz as some of his teammates, Perkins is an interesting prospect in his own right, and will look to prove himself to NBA decision-makers as he leads the Bulldogs in his final crack at a potential NCAA championship.
Throughout NBA history, the overwhelming majority of prospect talent has been fielded from NCAA Division I schools. There has also been a recent influx of international talent over the past 15-20 years. Sub-DI prospects may be few and far between, but there have certainly been some diamonds in the rough that have emerged over the years. The likes of George Gervin, Earl Monroe, Ben Wallace, Charles Oakley, Manute Bol, Darrell Armstrong, Phil Jackson, Rick Mahorn, Dick Barnett, Jerry Sloan, Walt Frazier, Nate Archibald, Willis Reed, Terry Porter, Dennis Rodman, and Scottie Pippen and more spent their college years at small Division II, Division III, or NAIA programs before eventually carving out long, successful NBA careers.
In recent years, there has been a lull in sub-DI alumni evolving into NBA All-Star or starter caliber players like those listed above (partially driven by the increase of sub-DI standouts transferring to the DI level after early success at their initial school, partially driven by historical DII powerhouses transitioning to DI over the years), but NBA front offices have certainly been doing their due diligence on the fringes to identify under the radar DII players with a chance to contribute as back end rotation pieces, two-way contract recipients, and G League developmental swings.
Mike Daum is a 6’9” forward/big for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. The Nebraska farm-raised bucket-getter has athletic genes. As the son of two former professional athletes, Daum is equipped with NBA size/length and impressive coordination for his size. Daum has built upon this baseline size with hard work and countless shooting reps and evolved into one of the most accomplished scorers in the history of college basketball. Daum recently followed in the footsteps of fellow senior scoring sensation, Chris Clemons, by eclipsing the 3,000 career point mark and breaking into the top ten NCAA D1 all-time scoring list.
Daum has the Jackrabbits on the precipice of earning their fourth straight Summit League championship and NCAA tournament berth, with the hopes of pulling off a first round upset to earn the program’s first ever NCAA tournament win. If the Jackrabbits do make the big dance, NBA scouts and decision-makers will be looking for Daum to prove himself against high-major competition and help show that he has what it takes to compete against the longer, stronger, quicker athletes that await at the professional level.
Markus Howard is a 5’11” junior lead guard for the Marquette Golden Eagles. Howard is one of the most explosive scorers in the nation, routinely scoring in the 30’s and 40’s. He is one of the most dynamic off-the-dribble shooting threats among 2019 draft eligible prospects, and despite being the focal point of the opposition’s scouting and defensive schematics, continues to torch team after team. The Howard-led Golden Eagles find themselves just outside the top ten in the most recent AP Poll, and are very much in contention for a top 3 NCAA tournament seed. If Howard can continue his scoring run and carry his team to wins throughout postseason play, he has a chance to be a viable 2019 NBA Draft candidate as a potential early entrant.
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