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.
Bennie Boatwright is a 6’9 ½” senior forward for the USC Trojans. Though USC has had an up and down season, Boatwright has shined in his final collegiate campaign in Los Angeles. His sharp shooting from deep has landed him in the school and conference record books, and helped solidify his professional archetype as a stretch forward. Fresh off a record setting 10 3PM performance against conference rival Cal, Boatwright will look to provide leadership, stability, and volume scoring for the Trojans throughout their last five games of the season to build some momentum going into a seemingly unpredictable PAC-12 tournament. Boatwright has been on the radar of NBA scouts since his strong sophomore campaign, and is making his final push to prove that he has what it takes to make it at the next level.
Phil Booth is a 6’3” senior combo guard for the Villanova Wildcats. Booth, a fifth year senior, has provided a calming leadership presence throughout his collegiate career. Through his junior season, Booth was featured in a more complementary, low usage, off-ball offensive role while surrounded by NBA talent (Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman, Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono, etc.). This year, Booth has been thrust into a more prominent role, and has handled the uptick in offensive responsibility quite effectively. After a slow start, the Wildcats are right back in the thick of things, leading the Big East and aspiring to make yet another deep NCAA tournament run. As a result of his team’s title runs and waves of NBA talent, Booth has had NBA scouts’ eyes on him for a while now. Booth will look to continue his strong individual play through the remainder of conference play and into the tournament, and has a legitimate chance to turn that former peripheral NBA talent evaluator attention into serious NBA consideration.
Marial Shayok is a 6’6” senior wing for the Iowa State Cyclones. After spending three seasons constrained by the context of a poor player-team fit within Virginia’s slow, methodical, grind-it-out style of play, Shayok sat out the 2017-18 season to facilitate his transfer to Iowa State. Shayok worked relentlessly on his game throughout his year off, and has taken his game to the next level. The Cyclones’ free flowing offense and a perpetual green light from Coach Steve Prohm, in conjunction with Shayok’s natural ability, hard work, and confidence, have catalyzed Shayok’s evolution into one of the Big 12’s top scoring threats.
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