JaQuori McLaughlin - UC Santa Barbara
On a random blistering cool night in Wisconsin, yours truly bundled up under some blankets to watch film of a recent game between Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara. Now at the start, my eyes were glued to the talented Waves duo of Kessler Edwards and Colbey Ross with some additional attention dedicated to intriguing sophomore Andre Ball. However, it only took a few seconds for that attention to a 6’4 point guard with a last name that should be familiar to G League fans. That concentration on McLaughlin started after this play, where he just throws a beautiful over-the-head dish to the corner shooter while driving to the paint.
That tremendous and entertaining play continued throughout the remainder of the game. In 36 minutes, he put up 23 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds on 7-11 from the field, 1-3 from beyond the arc, and 8-9 from the free throw line. His tremendous performance in the team’s victory has been a high point in what has been a great game. After the first five games, the senior guard is putting up 18.8 points, 4.8 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.2 steals on 49% from the field, 35% from beyond the arc, and 91% from the free throw line. That success at the charity stripe has allowed his True Shooting Percentage to currently sit at 66%, seven percentage points higher than what it was during his junior year.
Although his knack as a scorer has been a big key behind him standing as one of the best mid-major guards, the 6’4 guard’s passing ability is what has allowed him to be a must watch. Once you watch him play in just one game, his knack as a facilitator becomes clear as it seems like he can make any pass that comes in his mind no matter his positioning on the court during that time. That knack is evident in the clips that you see both above and below while in the fact that he’s currently maintaining a solid 2.67 assist to turnover ratio.
McLaughlin’s knack of using screens to get open lanes to drive or shoot combined with his fantastic work as a facilitator allows the UC-Santa Barbara standout to be a prospect to keep an eye on during the remainder of the college season.
Tre Mitchell - University of Massachusetts
Sticking with prospects that immediately caught my eye when I turned on one of their games, it didn’t take long before I became a fan of the 6’9, 240 pound sophomore from Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. Despite that bigger frame, Mitchell impresses through his mobility in both the half-court and transition. In transition, he can book it to the other side of the court and be there to receive a pass and then finish around the rim.
That’s also seen in half-court sets as he’s used his first two years at UMass to show that he’s a threat with both rolling and driving to the rim. Among those two skills, his work as an on-ball driver is definitely the most appealing as the 6’9 forward shows a real knack through attacking closeouts and making strong drives to the rim with his right-hand. While he isn’t the most explosive player in the world, he’s able to make it work through his control of the ball and even occasionally change speeds on the path, which puts defenders on their toes.
In addition to his knack as a roll man and on-ball driver, Mitchell shows a real upside as a perimeter shooter. In 124 career three-point attempts, the young forward is shooting 35% from beyond the arc. That percentage has risen risen in the early weeks of the season, where he’s hit 6 out of the 12 three-point attempts, with all of them coming in pick-and-pop situations.
With his combined knack as a perimeter shooter and on-ball threat, you’d imagine that the UMass big would work the majority of his time working on the perimeter or pinch post. However, the team’s offensive scheme has led to him spending most of his time in the low-post. While he’s solid in that area, through having a nice touch and good footwork, I still feel like head coach Matt McCall should use Mitchell more in the high post and pick-and-roll to show more of his perimeter shooting and on-ball driving skills while also using his size to survey the court and dish it out to open cutters or shooters.
Bryson Williams - UTEP
Sticking with talented offensive front-court prospects, UTEP’s Bryson Williams has been of the mid-major prospects that have stood out during the first month of the season. After the first six games of the season, the 6’8, 228 pound forward is averaging 16.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1 assist on 52% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 3.3 attempts per game. Those shooting numbers have allowed him to currently maintain a very solid 58% True Shooting Percentage.
In a similar vein to Mitchell, Bryson’s success on the offensive end has come through the low-post and perimeter. As a post-up threat, the forward actually does more damage as a passer than with touch as he does a really nice job of keeping his head up and finding open shooters or cutters. A phenomenal example of that is seen in the clip below where he spot the big before they even start to move to the rim and throws a beautiful bullet pass.
In terms of his potential to get a two-way or exhibit 10 after the close of this season, the biggest skill to watch would be perimeter shooting. As you can see in the above statistics, he’s currently acing that test through being an efficient deep threat that has done most of his damage in catch-and-shoots. The young man’s long-range rampage through Conference USA as Williams is fluid in this area through quickly being able to get his feet set before receiving a pass and then using a quick release once the reception occurs.