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Three Mid-Major Prospects That Have Caught My Eye During The Opening Week Of The College Season

Dakota Schmidt writes about three mid-major prospects that really caught his eye over the first week of the NCAA season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 27 Ohio at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After spending five months working on a project to break down twenty mid-major and twenty high-major players ahead of this year’s NBA Draft, you’d think that I would be tired of college basketball. Honestly, you’d be mostly right. However, the current questionable status of the G League season combined with the recent college tip-off has led me back to the old mistress.

As was the case for the aforementioned series, this trip to college will be dedicated to figuring out which prospects that you could be seeing in the G League in 2021-22 and beyond. While there’s definitely a lot of intriguing prospects in high-major men’s basketball that might get overlooked in next year’s draft, I thought it was the better idea to highlight some athletes that aren’t on the highest stage of college basketball.

Jason Preston- Ohio University

In the days leading up to the start of the men’s college basketball season, this junior guard caught my eye while doing some research for a scouting database that I was working on. The biggest reason behind why I was impressed was due to his sophomore numbers where Preston put up 16.8 points, 7.4 assists, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.4 steals on 52% from the field and 41% from 3 on 2.8 attempts per game. Those great numbers combined with his eye-popping film where he looked like a mid-major LaMelo Ball made me an instant fan.

Around two weeks later, the young man’s fan base has grown tremendously. A lot of that happened on November 27th, where he almost pushed the mid-major school over an Illinois team that entered the day as the 8th seed. In a matchup where Ohio lost 77-75, he put up a career-high 31 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and a steal on 13-23 from the field, 3-4 from 3 and 2-4 from the free throw line.

From the opening tip off to the closing moments, he shined as the best player on the court through being an incredibly craft guard that did a brilliant job of controlling the pace of the game. That crafty nature was evident when there were opponents matched up against him by being able to use slick change of speed moves to get around his opponent and get a clear path towards the rim. In addition, the 21-year-old guard showed the patience of a veteran guard with how he was able to direct pick-and-rolls in the waning moments of the biggest game of his young career.

Although that fantastic game and the inspiring story that was told during the telecast has vaulted him towards being a more notable name in basketball circles, there’s still a chance that we could be seeing this young man in the G League or NBA soon if he continues to produce at this level through the rest of his junior season.

JaVonte Perkins - Saint Louis

Sticking with players that I feel like should be on the national radar this year, Perkins is the exact type of prospect that NBA teams desire. Standing at 6’6, 210 pounds with a strong build, Perkins was able to shine during his debut season with the team during the 2019-20 season, where he put up good enough numbers to be named as the Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year.

One year later, the senior guard has burst out of the gate in the first two games of the 2020-21 campaign. The biggest example of that came in the team’s recent matchup against LSU. In a matchup where they were underdogs against the LSU squad, Perkins helped push the team to an upset victory by putting up 32 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists on 10-18 from the field, 4-8 from 3, and 8-8 from the free throw line.

Against a team that featured multiple NBA Draft prospects, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that he looked like the best player on the court. That was especially evident during the 2nd half as he was just able to find different ways to score. Whether that was nailing catch-and-shoot jumpers, making off-ball cuts, or driving past his man to finish in traffic, the 6’6 guard was just outstanding.

While the G League season is still very young, as we’re still a month away from conference play, Perkins has already showed the tools and ability of a player that could be picked in the 2nd round or receive a two-way deal during the upcoming off-season.

Taevion Kinsey - Marshall

In the section on Jason Preston, I noted that he was a prospect that really popped when you watched his film. Another guy that would fall into that category would be the 6’5 junior wing from Columbus, Ohio, as he might honestly stand as one of the most athletic players in college basketball. That athleticism isn’t just seen from his ability to leap out of the arena, as he’s also quick, has great acceleration and can change both speed and directions in a blink of an eye. As a 20-year-old, he already knows how to utilize those abilities to score, which you can see from this clip from a recent game against Wright State.

In that game, which ended with an 80-64 win, our subject excelled by putting up 31 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 assist on 9-14 from the field and 13-15 from the free throw line. That high amount of trips to the free throw line actually stands as the career-high during his time at Marshall.

While he’s definitely an impressive prospect that has shown an ability to regularly get to the rim, Kinsey is definitely still a work in progress. On the defensive end, there were multiple times during that game where Wright State guards were able to work around the standout prospect due to the 6’5 wing being a little too stiff in the defensive stance that he gets into.

In addition to his possible issues with defensive fundamentals, there’s a lot of uncertainty about how he is as a shooter. During his first two years, he shot 31% on 142 three-point attempts. That inefficiency combined with him shooting less than 70% from the free-throw line leads a lot of doubt about how he can develop.

However, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel as that free-throw percentage is currently at 84% after the first two games. Although it’s definitely a small sample size, as he’s only shot 19 free-throw attempts this season, it’s definitely a number to keep an eye on. Because if he’s able to keep that percentage to at least 70-75%, there’s reason for optimism that he has upside as a shooter. If that shooting potential is evident, there could be a legitimate chance that an NBA team takes a chance on him with a two-way deal if he decides to leave school after his junior season.