Previewing college basketball’s mid-major NBA Draft prospects to monitor for the 2021-22 season.
Every college basketball season, players come from off the radar and firmly plant their names on the cusp of NBA Draft talk. Just this past season, players such as Bones Hyland (VCU), Corey Kispert (Gonzaga), and Santi Aldama (Loyola MD) played their way into first-round selections as notable mid-major NBA Draft prospects.
Here is a look at five mid-major NBA Draft prospects who could play their way into the conversation with continued growth this year.
Taevion Kinsey, Marshall
- 19.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.0 apg | 6-5, 185 | Sr.
The physical makeup of Kinsey stands out. He is an above-the-rim athlete and that really shows in transition as he aggressively attacks the rim. He improved his shooting metrics substantially last season, jumping to 41.4 percent from three and 81.8 percent from the free throw line — an improvement of more than 10 percentage points for both.
Kinsey is also intriguing as a secondary ball handler, as he has averaged 3.7 assists over his last two seasons as a full-time starter. Kinsey tested the draft waters last year and ended up coming back. If he shows last season’s shooting and playmaking is real, and he continues to improve his finishing at the rim and shot selection, he could work his way into some first-round buzz.
Hyunjung Lee, Davidson
- 13.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, .442 3P% | 6-7, 210 | Jr.
Lee is a special shooter, one of the premier marksmen in all of college basketball. As the rapid ascent of Corey Kispert and Trey Murphy in this year’s draft showed, the NBA is craving shooters with size. He is the only player returning to college basketball who played in 20 games last season and shot 44-percent from three on five or more attempts per game and averaged 10 or more points.
Lee, whose mother won a silver medal with Korea in the 1984 Olympics, moves very well off the ball, has excellent foot work, and his balance is always set. The defensive end of the floor is where Lee will need to continue to improve, especially on the ball. If Lee can become a good team defender, the NBA has shown that shooters get paid.
Lee was unranked in the final 2019 Rivals150. Originally from South Korea, Lee played his final year of high school at the NBA Academy in Australia.
Grant Sherfield, Nevada
- 18.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.6 spg | 6-2, 189 | Jr.
The season Sherfield had last year was certainly a memorable one as he played almost 35 minutes per game and led the Wolf Pack in scoring, assists, steals, made field goals, and made free throws. In fact, the 6-2 point guard was the only player in Division-I who played in at least 20 games last season and averaged 18 points, 6 assists, and shot over 36 percent from three. His toughness, IQ and shooting ability will not be questioned.
Sherfield will have to answer questions about his size and then there is the solid — yet not explosive — athleticism. The NBA has shown over the last couple of years there is a place in their league for gritty, productive, winning point guards, and Sherfield fits firmly in that category. Watch out for him to be one of the premier point guards in all of college basketball this season.
Sherfield was the No. 118 ranked player in the 2019 Rivals150. Out of Bel Aire (Kan.) Sunrise Christian, he originally committed to Wichita State, where he played his freshman season prior to transferring to Nevada.
C.J. Walker, UCF
- 7.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg | 6-8, 200 | Jr.
Walker’s athleticism and fluidity pop immediately. He is very agile as he runs the floor and gets off the floor well with a quick second jump. Walker has excellent timing, both in the passing lanes and by blocking shots. He is a good rebounder as well.
Standing at 6-8 with a 6-11 wing span, Walker can also face up some and take his man off the bounce. His instincts are through the roof, however he is still getting things under control and tightening up his skill set. Now in his third year, he will need to shore up the jump shot and the shot selection, developing a go-to move from 10 feet and closer will be nice, and tightening the handle will only expand his game. Walker’s physical profile is simply too much to ignore.
Walker was the No. 32 ranked player in the 2019 Rivals150. Out of Sanford (Fla.) Oak Ridge, he originally committed to Oregon, where he played his freshman season prior to transferring to UCF.
Osun Osunniyi, St. Bonaventure
- 10.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.9 bpg, .571 FG% | 6-10, 220 | Sr.
Defensive presence is very real here. Standing 6-10 with a 7-8 wingspan, Osunniyi has excellent timing as a rim protector. He won the Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year award after being one of only six players nationally who played in 20 or more games and had a Defensive Rating under 90 and a Defensive Box/Minus above 5.4.
Osunniyi is very raw offensively. However, in his only NCAA Tournament appearance he had 15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks against LSU. He needs to develop his touch and range and may lack real feel on the offensive end, but he did have a .596 True Shooting Percentage while averaging 10.7 points with a 16.2 Usage Rate. In a league where one of the most valued player traits is rim protection, Osunniyi is one of the best college basketball will have to offer this year in that category.
Osunniyi was unranked in the final 2018 Rivals150. The Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy chose St. Joseph’s over La Salle.