Top 5 (And 1) Under The Radar Guys
- By Lex Gartman, Day 1, 2024
We are all familiar with the Josiahs, the Benjamins, the Greelys, and the rest of the blue chip lot slated to go in the early rounds of the 2024 JBL Draft. But what about the guys that weren't on ESPN every other night? Not every kid out of high school can lace 'em up at a Duke, Carolina, or Kentucky. That's part of what makes the college game so great - athletes at "smaller" schools can still showcase their abilities. It's up to us to find them.
Montreal Cleveland (6'11", Fr, C, Texas)
Despite Cleveland being very familiar to the scouting experts, I feel the big man is flying under the radar a bit. Playing in the rough and tumble Big 12, the Texas Longhorn freshman had a fabulous rookie year for the Horns, averaging 17.4 PPG at a 58% clip from the field (excluding 3PA), while pulling down a very respectable 7.3 boards per game. At 6'11" and 244, he has the size to succeed at the next level. His scoring ability definitely rates at the next level and he projects to be both a a solid defender and rebounder in the low blocks. While there are concerns about his quickness and his horrid FT shooting, I'm guessing he is being somewhat penalized for being on an underachieving Texas team that was obliterated by Illinois in Round 1 of the CJBL Tournament. Admittedly, Cleveland wilted under that intense spotlight against the Illini, but had his team been able to make a deeper run, his draft stock would likely be higher. You also have to wonder if Cleveland had been better served with staying another year in Austin to improve his flaws.
Karson Bray (6'7", Sr, PF, William & Mary)
Bray is an extremely intriguing prospect that dominated the CAA conference (his 21.7 PER his senior season was his lowest) but was never able to lift his team past perennial champs Northeastern and into the CJBL Tourney. Playing as a 4 for the Tribe, Bray excels around the basket but also has proven he can hit the mid-range jumper as well. Complimenting his ability to score, one of Bray's strength in college was his ability to contol the glass on both ends of the court. And while his PPG declined in each of his 4 years at W&M, his shot efficiency did increase. The main concerns here center around his ability to develop a long-range shot. He'll likely be too small to play the 4 with his current skill set at the next level, so for him to succeed that outside jumper becomes key. It's a shame because if he were just a couple of inches taller, Bray could arguably be a fringe 1st round pick.
Bryce Randolph (6'4", Sr, PG, Harvard)
Randolph led Harvard to the CJBL Tournament last season after the Crimson nipped Brown for the Ivy title. That exposure led DraftExpress to rank Randolph as their 99th overall pro prospect and it is definitely not unwarranted. A deadly sharpshooter, Harding made an eye-popping 49.7% of his 3-point attempts his senior season on his way to averaging 18.2 PPG (9th best in the CJBL). An outstanding free throw shooter to boot, Harding excels on the perimeter and can score from distance with ease. He will have to transition to the 2 in the JBL, but he just may be an option for a team looking for someone to provide instant offense.
Blake Howard (6'6", Sr, PF, Loyola, (MD))
4-year starter for a subpar Greyhounds team. In retrospect, Howard does a great job of filling up the stat sheet: he's averaged at least 14 PPG each year at Loyola; his DRB% is in the 20's; and his career FG% is well over 50%. With this kind of dominance, you have to wonder why his team never finished above .500 in any of the past 3 seasons. is it the supporting cast alone? Did Howard not take a more leadership role as the team's best player? He played the 4 in college, but at 6'6" will likely have to transition to the 3 at the JBL. Blake's physicality at both ends of the glass will definitely translate well at the next level. Yet, while his mid-range game is solid, there are questions about his ability to extend defenses. If he is able to show he can shoot from outside and put the ball on the floor, Howard could open some eyes.
Markus Harding (6'3" Sr, SG, Sacred Heart)
The 6th leading scorer in the JBL last season at 19.5 PPG, Harding averaged at least 16 PPG each season at Sacred Heart, while leading the Pioneers in scoring each of his 4 years at the NEC school. Harding led Sacred Heart into the CJBL Tournament in 2021, where they lost in the first round to future 1st rounder Jerrell Newman and North Carolina, 76-62. Despite going head-to-head against Portland's 17th overall pick, Harding put up 22 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in his only tournament game. A volume shooter, Harding played out of position his senior year at the point, which no doubt contributed to his high turnover rates. There are definite concerns on whether or not he'll be able to command the same number of FG attempts he was afforded in school, but his ability to score may get him an opportunity to play at the next level.
Keshon Smith (5'10", Jr, PG, UC-Davis)
Yeah, I know he's a midget, but this dude is a baller who was invaluable to his team. When he missed the 2022 season while training to become a Buddhist monk, his Aggies went from a 19-win mark in 2021 to just 10 wins. Upon his return this past season (shaved head and all), the Aggies rebounded for a 3rd place finish in the Big West. Smith shoots at near a 50% clip from the field, both 2's and 3's. While he prefers to do the shooting himself, he still dished out 258 assists in 2 years, while also averaging almost a steal per game last year. I know he is a long shot to make it in the JBL (he definitely should have stuck around for his senior year), he may get a look somewhere before he starts his new life in the mountains.