JaKeenan Gant is a 6’8” senior forward for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. Gant, a former consensus top 50 high school recruit and Mizzou commit, has grown into one of the most dynamic forwards in the country. He possesses a unique combination of shooting range, rim protection, and explosive athleticism. Gant’s performance, to date, as a senior has landed him on the Lou Henson National Mid-Major Player of the Year mid-season watch list, and his dynamic skill set fits the mold of a modern NBA rim-protecting stretch four.
Tale of the Tape
Gant’s explosiveness in the paint pops on tape, and he projects as plus vertical athlete at the next level. Gant’s defensive tenacity and quick-twitch vertical athleticism make him a perpetual restricted area hindrance to the opposition. Gant is currently fourth in the country in blocks per game, primarily thriving at utilizing his length and bounce to eat up drive attempts as a help-side rim protector. He has also proven capable of recovering as an on-ball defender on drives, showing impressive reactionary athleticism and quick-twitch vertical pop to rise and pin shots off the glass.
Gant has notched 3+ blocks in 12 of 21 games this season, highlighted by a 10 block effort in a victory over Southern on December 1st. Gant has blocked 60 shots thus far this season, the only Ragin’ Cajun to have accumulated double digit blocks. He truly functions as their primary rim protector, and has shown great instinctual and athletic flashes in doing so. The dependability of Gant’s help-side rim protecting prowess gives his teammates more leeway as perimeter defenders to take risks, pressure ball-handlers, and force turnovers because they can rest assured that if they get beat to the paint, they will be funneled to and met by Gant at the rim.
Gant’s vertical bounce also functionally manifests itself offensively. He gets up for lobs, is a high effort out-of-area offensive rebounder, and gets off the ground quickly to finish over taller rim protectors. His second jump explosiveness pops as a tenacious putback threat.
Below, we will highlight Gant’s vertical explosiveness and shot-blocking prowess as both a weak side and primary defender.
Offensively, Gant could benefit from supplementing his explosive finishing with more consistent touch. He seems to have solid natural touch, but tends to rush a fair amount of his attempts.
Defensively, improvement on attention to detail as an off-ball team defender beyond his proven acumen as an athletic help-side rim protector would help Gant’s overall impact and contribution to winning as a defensive prospect.
Grant projects primarily as a stretch four on the offensive end. In order to ensure optimal spacing as a role player alongside NBA stars who need room to create, he will need to be able to knock down outside shots and have the gravity to pull rim protectors away from the paint. Gant has greatly extended his range as a shooter to become a lethal weapon from beyond the arc. Gant has improved his three-point efficiency each consecutive season on continually higher volume, currently shooting at a 37.5% clip on 3.8 three-point attempts per game as a senior.
Gant’s long arms and quick, smooth release make him a very capable shooter over high-hand contests. Gant ranks as a 89th percentile shooter in guarded catch-and-shoot situations, converting at a rate of 1.31 PPP.
In the clip below, we highlight Gant’s quick release and ability to knock down threes while guarded closely by opposing players.
Gant’s quick release from deep will create the opportunities for him to blow by aggressive close-outs. If Gant can polish his handle as a driver and craft as a finisher, it will go a long way in helping him carve out a well-rounded scoring package at the next level.
Dependent on the context of Gant’s eventual professional team’s offensive scheme, philosophy, and personnel fit, he will need to pick-and-choose his spots as a shooter and find the right balance of functioning as a floor spacer and an energy offensive rebounder.
Gant has yet to pick up much buzz within the NBA draft analysis community (he has yet to appear on any of our consensus big boards), but we believe this is likely to change. Gant possesses an intriguing blend of skill, size, and athleticism that make him a theoretically translatable professional prospect. Although he may not necessarily be on NBA radars as a potential draft pick, Gant seems like a prime candidate to be considered for an Exhibit 10 contract, which provides a player with a bonus up to $50,000 if he signs with the team's G League affiliate (and can be converted to a two-way contract by the first day of the regular season).