College basketball: Underrated freshmen NBA Draft prospects for 2021-22

Potential college basketball breakout freshmen who could become intriguing NBA Draft prospects during the 2021-22 season.

Due to COVID-19 cancellations the past year, NBA front offices are consistent in saying the 2022 draft class — especially draft-eligible players from the 2021 high-school class — is more challenging to analyze than any prior draft.

But here at Heat Check CBB, we enjoy taking a look at trends and getting ahead of the up-and-comers. Let’s take a look through four college freshmen, who were not ranked as 5-stars, who may find themselves rising up draft boards.

Mid-major NBA Draft prospects for 2021-22
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Tamar Bates, Indiana 

Bates has what the NBA loves: wing shooting and perimeter defense. The 6-5 lefty shot over 40 percent from three during his high-school career, including exactly 40 percent during his senior season at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy. Bates chose to play for former NBA coach Mike Woodson at Indiana, which is worth taking this into account as well, as he fine tunes the nuances of being an eventual pro wing.

By all estimations, Bates is a grinder, hard-worker and someone who wants to continue getting better. Right now, Bates is slated to stay in college a couple of years, but if he can show what he did his senior season at IMG — pure shooting ability, high-level defensive chops, and some developed ability to create and get to his spots — he could be seen as a one-and-done prospect.

“(Tamar) brings it every day. He has energy in practice. He’s not afraid to call guys out if they’re not doing what they need to do,” said IMG Academy Head Coach Sean McAloon to The Daily Hoosier.

Bates’ head coach had more praise.

“(Tamar) is an outstanding defender who makes 3-pointers at a high percentage, can attack the rim, has great vision, and the awareness to make plays for others,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said on signing day.

Tamar Bates was ranked as the No. 30 player in the final 2021 Rivals150.

DaRon Holmes, Dayton

Holmes has a lengthy and mobile frame. He moves very well for a guy his size, and is very comfortable facing the basket. Holmes has range and touch out to three, but he also can put the ball on the floor, for a dribble or two, and get to the rim.

Reports have indicated that Holmes has already gained 30 pounds and two inches since being on campus. Of course, it’s worth noting that Obi Toppin was a lottery pick in 2020 out of Dayton. Now, we are not indicating Holmes will be a Top 10 pick, but being a 4-star recruit and having added size and weight with an impressive skill set, the intrigue is certainly there.

DaRon Holmes was ranked as the No. 42 player in the final 2021 Rivals150.

Kobe Bufkin, Michigan

There is a smooth nature to Bufkin’s game. He is one who never gets rushed but always seems to be able to get to the spots he wants on the floor. Bufkin is a competitor who has the ultimate level of confidence in his game.

A McDonald’s All American, his ability to handle and reinitiate an offense while displaying scoring acumen and a feel for the game are all readily apparent. The kicker is when you look and see that Bufkin entered college at 17 years old with a September 2003 birthday. Just like it did with Alabama’s Josh Primo in the 2021 draft, things can get very interesting with upside and youth.

“He can score in a variety of ways. However, it is his dedication to defense that makes him an all-around joy to want to coach,” said Michigan’s Juwan Howard after Bufkin signed.

“Kobe is really smooth,” added Michigan assistant Phil Martelli to MLive.com. “He has a nice bounce to his game. He has really bright eyes, which means he’s taking everything in, absorbing it.”

Bufkin was ranked as the No. 48 player in the final 2021 Rivals150.

Brandon Murray, LSU

The name of Murray’s game is getting buckets. The strong-bodied and straight-line explosive wing can flat out put the ball in the hole. He played last season at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy for its post-graduate team — which had ten Div. 1 players — and it was Murray who led in scoring. Murray is a knock-down, catch-and-shoot guy, moves well off the ball, and has great balance with range and confidence that extends out to the volleyball line. He cuts off the ball with a purpose, finding open looks throughout a game. He is more athletic than he looks and he gives great effort on defense. There is something about Murray’s game that just leaves you thinking the league is in his future.

“Brandon is a prolific scorer and shooter. He is one of the hardest workers that I have ever recruited. He is a rugged, tough player on both ends. His ability to score makes him an exciting addition for our 2021-22 season,” said LSU Head Coach Will Wade after Murray signed.

Murray was ranked as the No. 69 player in the final 2021 Rivals150.

Header image courtesy of InsideTheHall.



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