Note: This piece is part two of an ongoing series looking at mid-major prospects. Click this piece if you want to read part one and/or part two
Justinian Jessup - Boise State: 16 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 steals on 43% from the field and 40% from 3 on 7.7 attempts per game
In the last section of this series, we took a look at BYU standout Jake Toolson and UT-RGV wing Lesley Varner, who both excelled as perimeter shooters during the senior year of their college careers. That trend continues into this article as Jessup stood as an elite perimeter threat through shooting 41% from beyond the arc on 455 three-point attempts during his run with the team.
The climax of his offensive output came during the 2019-20 campaign where he put up the numbers that you see above you while maintaining a 58% True Shooting Percentage. His mix of good production and efficiency led to the 6’6 wing joining future NBA Draft pick Malachi Flynn on the Mountain West Media All-Conference First Team and Mountain West Coaches All-Conference Second Team.
Jessup’s excellence as a perimeter threat came no matter if he was working in catch-and-shoot or off-the-dribble. In catch-and-shoot, the Longmont, Colorado native looks like a well trained man with how smooth he is with maneuvering around screens, getting to his spot on the wing or corner, gathering a pass, and using his great stroke to put up a shot. The effortless nature continues when we transition into his work as an off-the-dribble shooter. From this perspective, he’s a joy to watch through his mix of range as a shooter and ability to use step-back moves before throwing up a shot.
While his excellent perimeter shooting was a key behind him being one of the best players in the Mountain West, that isn’t the only skill that he excels at. On the defensive end of the floor, the 6’6 wing was able to stand as a solid defender. His excellent work on defense was most evident when opposing players were driving to the rim as the 6’6 wing is able to stick to hem like velcro from the perimeter to paint, which leads to those players having a tough shot at the rim.
Jessup’s mix of excellent perimeter shooting and standing as a really solid defender stand as the two biggest reasons why he stands as one of the players on this list.
Anthony Lamb - Vermont: 16.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, a steal, and 1.2 blocks per game on 41% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc on 5.6 attempts per game
Sticking with wings that were solid on the defensive end during their college career, Lamb stood as a great two-way player for the Vermont Catamounts. His great work on both ends of the court helped him push the team to an America East-best 14-2 during conference play and was one game away from getting automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament before COVID-19 shut down college basketball. Although he wasn’t able to seal the deal, the conference still awarded him handsomely with being named as the America East Player of the Year and to their All-Conference First Team.
Starting with Lamb’s work on defense, he’s similar to Jessup with how he was able to do a good job of sticking onto his man. Unlike the aforementioned Boise State wing, who did his best at stopping drivers, the 6’6 wing was able to prevent his man from even getting that far by holding them on the perimeter or mid-range through being in a good defensive stance and using quick feet to keep himself onto his man. While that type of defensive pressure could lead to some getting in foul trouble, it wasn’t really an issue for Lamb as he only averaged 2.2 fouls per game as a senior.
Moving onto the offensive end, Lamb used the 2019-20 season to show himself as capable to drive to the rim with both his left and right hand, work the low-post, shoot from mid-range, and spread the court from beyond the arc. While he’s capable of hitting perimeter shots, as he made fifty four as a senior, the three-point percentage above proves shows you that he was very inconsistent. That was a theme during his career at Vermont as he shot 41% as a freshman, 32% as a sophomore, and 37% during his junior season. His inefficiency as a shooter were enough for him to maintain a career-worst 53% True Shooting Percentage.
Looking away from an inconsistent perimeter jumper that pushed down his True Shooting Percentage, Lamb still stands as a capable offensive player due to his versatility. For example, the wing stands as a capable post-up threat that’s capable of working on both the left and right block. On either end, the wing looks comfortable through how he’s able to work pivot moves and spins to get a good angle for a shot at the rim or space to put up a fadeaway jumper.
In addition to his confidence in the low-post, the young wing is comfortable with being able to drive to the rim with either his left or right hand. Although he’s not particularly explosive or really maintain a quick first step, he’s able to use fakes and screens to be able to get past his man and get an open driving lane. Following that, he stands as a threat due to being able to finish at the rim with either his left and right hand.
Despite his inconsistency as a perimeter shooter during his college career, Lamb’s versatility on offense combined with his great work as a defender allows the Vermont alum to be a candidate to receive a two-way deal during the off-season
Osasaumwen Osaghae- Florida International: 13 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks on 67% from the field
Back on April 1st when the pandemic was still young, this website did a piece entitled “Four Mid-Major Standouts That You Could Be Seeing In The G League In The 2020-21 Season”. One of the four prospects that was covered within that piece was the former Florida International big. Within that section, I pointed out that he’s one of those players that really pop off the screen through being a 6’9, 250 pounder that can snag a lot of offensive rebounds and be able to protect both the rim and perimeter. That knack as a rim protector was so well that his 3.7 blocks per game average was enough to lead the entire NCAA.
Unsurprisingly, that stance as a phenomenal rim protector allowed him to receive some personal accolades. The obvious award came when Conference USA named Osaghae as their Defensive Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season. In addition to that, they named him to their All-Conference Second Team.
In addition to the phenomenal rim protection and offensive rebounding that was discussed in that April piece, other ways that he was able to shine was through being a roll man and working on both the left and right block. As a low-post threat, he doesn’t have a complex arsenal of moves in his back pocket but is able to use pivot move to get a better angle and turn his left or right shoulder. Once he does that, the Miami-born prospect was able to use a soft touch to hit 53% on his shots.
While Osaghae might be one of the more unknown players that will be in this ongoing series, his work as a rim protector and ability to score in the paint allows him to be an under-the-radar prospect and someone that could really shine at the G League level.
Eli Pemberton -Hofstra: 17.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 steals on 45% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 4.6 attempts per game
In the same piece that broke down Osaghae’s game, we took the trek to Long Island to give props to former Hofstra point guard Desure Buie, who stood as an electrifying scoring threat that was named to the All-CAA First Team despite only standing at 5’11. Although feelings haven’t changed since that piece, it would be ignorant to overlook the backcourt mate that allowed Hofstra to finish the 2019-20 season with the best record in the Coloniel Athletic Association, Eli Pemberton.
Like Buie, Pemberton stood out as a solid offensive weapon that maintained the scoring averages that you see on top while also maintaining a really solid 58% True Shooting Percentage. That mix of good scoring volume and solid efficiency allowed him to be named to the All-CAA Second team for second straight season. His status as one of the best scorers in the conference came through him being a well-rounded offensive weapon that was able to shine as a mid-range and perimeter shooter while also being able to drive to the rim with both his left and right hand.
While he stands as a standout perimeter shooter, Pemberton’s best skill on this end of the floor would definitely be as an on-ball driver. The 6’5 guard’s path towards succeeding at the rim begins on the perimeter by doing a great job of using dribble moves or fakes to lull his opponent to sleep before starting to go in for the kill. Although he isn’t the most explosive player, that initial victory is enough to give him the necessary edge on the defender. Even if he doesn’t blow by the defender, the guard is able to use his strong 195 pound frame to finish through contract while having the touch and wherewithal to use the backboard.
Now moving back to his work as a perimeter threat, the young guard seemed to be most comfortable when he’s working as a catch-and-shoot threat. From this perspective, the Middletown, Connecticut native looks at ease as his process of getting to his spot, gathering the ball, and throwing up the shot all look as smooth as butter that’s been out of the fridge for a few hours.
Although it wasn’t a huge part of his game during his college career, as he only averaged 2.1 assists per game during his college career, Pemberton shows stronger upside as a facilitator than you might think. That thought comes from how he has great vision that allows him to find cutters or men that are maneuvering their way to a spot on the perimeter. Also, the guard does a great job of being able to maintaining his composure to find a teammate.
Although he needs to continue to develop on the defensive end, this stance as a strong 6’6 guard that can utilize his versatility to shine as a scorer allows him to be a dark horse option to get a two-way deal.
Nate Darling - Delaware: 21 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on 45% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 8.4 attempts per game
Sticking in the CAA, we move from Long Island, New York to Newark, Delaware to talk about a player that became a star once he first put on a Blue Hens jersey. During his lone season with the team, the 6’5 guard was able to stand as one of the best scorers in the conference while having shooting percentages that allowed him to maintain a 60% True Shooting Percentage, which is really solid considering his 28% Usage Percentage. Those great numbers allowed him to join Nathan Knight, Desure Buie, and likely NBA Draft pick Grant Riller on the All-CAA First Team.
As is likely evident from those numbers, a lot of Darling’s offensive production comes from his work from beyond the arc. From the moment you watch him play, it quickly becomes clear that the guard has the utmost confidence with his jumper by having absolutely no fear with launching up off-the-dribble jumpers from well beyond the NCAA three-point line. While that willingness to spot up and launch shots from very deep with a lot of time left on the shot clock might upset a lot of coaches, the Darling man was able to make it work. In addition to squaring up from deep, the young guard is also fantastic at being able to utilizing off-ball screens to create separation before launching up a shot.
In addition to being able to create his own shot, the Delaware alum stands as a huge threat in catch-and-shoot. In a similar vein to the aforementioned Justinian Jessup, the 21-year-old product from Halifax looks effortless with his approach to this whole process from working around screens to get to his area and getting situated, retrieving a pass, and throwing up a smooth jumper.
Although three-pointers represent 48% of his offense, the junior has shown himself to be capable of utilizing off-ball screens to allow him to maneuver around his man and drive to the rim with either his left and right hand. Although he’s most comfortable with utilizing screens, he’s also occasionally showed an ability to use a slow crossover to get by his man and then drive to the hole. Even when he doesn’t have an open lane to the rim, the young baller is still able to accomplish that task through either finishing through contact or going through lean gaps between two opponents, which you can see in the play below.
That mix of offensive skills combined with being an unselfish player that does a great job of finding his teammates allows Darling to be the type of player that could potentially be part of an NBA team’s 2nd unit. However, that journey will likely start with him receiving an exhibit 10 or two-way deal whenever the next season begins.