NBA Draft

3 Prospects Who Have Benefited From Staying in School

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In the current day and age of college basketball, a majority of prospects are going to college for one year, then jumping ship and entering the NBA Draft. But while most players leave to play in the league after their freshman season, there are a few who stay in school. For some, it benefits their stock. For others, they end up sliding farther than expected. With the current class drawing ire for not living up to scout’s expectations, there have been a few prospects who have benefited from returning to school and thus boosting their draft stock.

1. Nickeil Alexander-Walker

With Buzz Williams coaching the Virginia Tech Hokies to a 14-2 record this season, Alexander-Walker has been the beneficiary of the great start. He has shown tremendous development in the transition of his freshman to sophomore year. NAW has averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Another positive from Alexander-Walker’s sophomore season has been his shooting percentages from the field. Compared to the 45% clip from the field and the 39% from three, he has upped those to 55% and 44% respectively.

These improvements in his game have led to his draft stock rising. NAW is being billed as a lottery pick, and with upcoming games against North Carolina and North Carolina State, he could even continue his rise. After being viewed as a late first/early second round pick this past draft, Walker decided to return to school and bet on himself. So far, it looks like that his bet paid off.

2. Jarrett Culver

After last season’s Elite Eight tournament run, many scouts were wondering who would make up for Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith’s production. Then, Jarrett Culver broke out onto the college scene. As a freshman, he averaged 11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. This season has been completely different, however. Culver has been putting up 18.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per contest for the Red Raiders of the Big 12. He has also improved his field goal percentage from 46% as a freshman, to 56% this season. A crucial development in Jarrett’s game is his true shooting percentage, which is at 64% compared to 56% last year.

Coming into the season, Culver did not seem to be a top draft pick. However, he now looks the part of one. Culver is ranked in the top 10 on some draft boards, though he could be ranked even higher. If he works on his free throw (71%) and three-point shooting (38%), he could possibly be a top five pick.

3. Rui Hachimura

At the beginning of the current college season, Gonzaga was viewed as a Top 5 team. While they currently rank fifth in the nation, Rui Hachimura has been a key cog in Gonzaga’s offense. When the Toyoma, Japan native first joined Mark Few and the Bulldogs, he was given little playing time. In his freshman season, he played in only 28 games, averaging only 4.6 minutes per game. As a sophomore, he saw an increase in playing time, jumping to 20.7 minutes while appearing in 37 games. Now, Hachimura is experiencing a breakout season. He is currently averaging 20.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Hachimura is also shooting the three ball at a 44% clip. Being able to receive a lot of minutes in Few’s rotation helped tremendously, and Rui took advantage of it.

Despite the positives, he still has a long way to go defensively, and there are lingering questions about his transition to the NBA. However, Hachimura has been the leader that Gonzaga was looking for. He started off his junior campaign dropping 33 points in a win against Idaho State. In the Maui Invitational, Hachimura squared off in the championship game against star-studded Duke. Rui didn’t disappoint, recording 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists on national television, which resulted in a Gonzaga victory. He has sky rocketed up draft boards since then and has the possibility of being a lottery pick if he can continue to will the Bulldogs.

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