Thursday, March 16, 2023

Limited Draft Buzz for Big East POY Tyler Kolek? It's A Crying Shame (That's pronounced Ko-lek, not Colic)

The 2023 Big East Tournament was one of the more exciting in recent memory, featuring a resurgent UConn team, who brought fan support. Despite the fanfare, the favorites (Marquette) ultimately defended their top seed, playing with tremendous energy and connectedness. Tyler Kolek, Marquette’s fearless leader and Big East Player of the Year, could not be rattled all tournament long and came through when his team needed him the most. Despite his leadership and tremendous play all season, Kolek remains a name that is not mentioned in NBA draft conversations. While his physical tools are not overwhelming, Kolek possesses the ball skills and toughness to compete at the next level. In this expose of the Big East Tournament, I discuss the top ‘Trending Prospects’ who improved their pro stocks.

Tyler Kolek, Marquette – The Big East POY did not disappoint when the lights were brightest (at MSG), and these three performances not only solidified what he had done all season, but likely vaulted him into NBA draft conversations. The 6’3 lead guard does it all for his squad. First and foremost, he functions as a floor general, dictating the pace, settling his team down, and initiating offense. Kolek possesses unique vision, and frequently passes his teammates open, setting them up for easy looks at the rim or out on the perimeter. He possesses really good spatial awareness and is able to anticipate his teammates movements off ball, finding cutters for easy looks. This advanced peripheral perception also enables him to properly space the floor and win in the two-man game out of P&R sets. Kolek does a great job of utilizing the threat of his drive to look opposite to the roll man for a pick and pop jumper. His vision in the P&R is NBA ready, and he should thrive with even better floor spacing. To quantify his impact setting up his teammates, Kolek’s 40.2 Assist Rate was the 4th best figure in the nation and he led the Big East conference in this statistic.  

Not only is Tyler Kolek an excellent facilitator, but he has also made significant strides shooting the basketball. Kolek has proven to be a veritable threat from 3pt range, connecting on 39.4% of his attempts from beyond the arc so far this season. This is a marked improvement from a year ago, when he shot a paltry 28.1% from distance. Kolek often wins by utilizing screens to free himself, and he only requires a little bit of daylight to release his shot. The lefty is highly capable shooting both off the bounce and off the catch.

Importantly, the threat of Kolek’s shot opens up the rest of the game for him, as it enables him to drive the lane and either dish the ball inside in a P&R scenario, find perimeter scorers opposite, or attack the lane himself. Replete with an advanced handle and excellent hesitation moves, Kolek is dynamic driving to the basket, sporting some nifty moves finishing inside through contact. He has a quick enough first step to either streak past his man or fade away and connect on some difficult shots moving away from the basket. In this Tournament, Kolek also proved to be adept utilizing the rim to shield the ball from shot blockers. When he had given up his dribble and was caught under the basket, Kolek flashed exceptional footwork, and was able to get his shot off. 

Most often, though, Kolek turned to his patented floaters and push shots, which he has perfected almost as far out as the free throw line. Overall, Kolek was one of the most efficient weapons in the Big East, posting the 2nd best Offensive Rating in conference with the 4th best True Shooting %.  Clearly, Tyler is a versatile offensive threat, but it is his uncanny knack for taking over games and connecting on shots right when his team needs them that is not highlighted enough.  

Further, Tyler Kolek demonstrated that he can mix it up with the trees and rebound the ball with some consistency, averaging 7 rebounds per contest over the course of the Big East Tournament. He flashed good timing on his jumps and possessed a good nose for the ball, tracking down loose rebounds. Importantly, Kolek was fundamentally sound boxing out and was physical in the paint. He was quite simply all over the court throughout this Tournament, and he was often able to push the pace after corralling the basketball.  

On the other side of the ball, the first words that come to mind when characterizing Kolek’s defensive intensity are “scrappy” and “tenacious”. Not only did he exert a maximum amount of effort on this side of the ball, but he was quite productive on this end as well. Kolek plays sound positional defense, but also possesses the quick hands to take the ball away from his opponents. Kolek is capable of getting in passing lanes. 

He also has a tendency of harassing ball handlers, sitting on their dominant hands, hoping to deflect the ball away and key a fast break for his team. Quantifying this impact, his 3.6% steals % in conference was the 4th best in the Big East according to Despite this, he is fundamentally sound on the defensive end, only committing 2.23 fouls per 40 minutes, which is intriguing considering his usage. 

With all that said, he is not the most physically imposing prospect on the defensive end and could struggle to contain stronger guards attacking the rim. That remains speculation at this point, however, as he more than held his own covering St. John’s 6’8 O’Mar Stanley.  

As of March 13th, Kolek was unrated on ESPN’s, The Athletic’s,’s, and Bleacher Report’s Draft Boards. It is high time that every NBA scout and draft outlet start re-evaluating Tyler’s game, as his basketball IQ, poise, and savvy should firmly place him in 2023 NBA draft conversations.    

Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Marquette – Maxence Prosper, or “OMax”, as they call him, had an outstanding Big East Tournament, where his strengths and potential growth areas were on full display. At this stage, OMax is an energy big with quick feet and excellent potential in the P&R game. In the first contest against St. John’s, in particular, OMax was able to leak ahead of the defense and make some high flying plays at the rim. He possesses excellent long speed and is able to change directions relatively quickly on both ends. This makes him a viable threat in the P&R, where he can turn and rim run for easy layups or leak out on the perimeter. He is a plus athlete with a really intriguing physical profile for the next level.

Despite his strengths attacking in the P&R, he must continue to improve his pick and pop game if he hopes to play in an NBA rotation. While OMax does a great job of flaring out on the perimeter for an easy shot after setting an initial screen, he does not capitalize on these opportunities as often as he should. At the moment, he is connecting on 33.3% of his 3pt attempts so far this season. But, at the Big East Tournament, he struggled, shooting just 25.0% from beyond the arc. If OMax can improve his 3pt shooting, he should receive playing time at the next level.

In terms of his slashing ability, OMax flashed his ability to handle and attack the rim all the way out to the 3pt line. While he could still stand to improve his handle, he is quick with the ball and is shifty enough to change direction on a dime, in what appears to be a very herky jerky style. At this stage, he is still a straight line driver, but his quickness and decent first step enable him to beat most bigs off the bounce. As a result, he is drawing 4.4 fouls per 40 minutes of action, resulting in many trips to the line, as he currently holds the 7th best FT rate in the Big East conference according to

On the defensive side of the ball, OMax displayed active hands and was able to make some key deflections. He covers a lot of ground in a short period of time, and thus is a considerable threat in passing lanes. OMax is also a very dynamic help defender and is able to make some key blocks out in transition or helping down. Importantly, OMax possesses the lateral agility to switch onto guards out on the perimeter, and the strength to force them off their driving lanes. With all that said, he must cut down on his aggressiveness a bit, as he commits 3.29 fouls per 40 minutes (44th out of the 65 players that qualified in conference).

While OMax is still probably a year away from NBA draft conversations, he had a breakout Big East Tournament and provided the energy on both sides of the ball to make an impact at the next level. Keep an eye on him moving forward.


David Joplin, Marquette – The 3rd Golden Eagle on this list, David Joplin is a breakout sophomore whose Big East Tournament solidified his status as a future draft prospect. Standing at 6’7 220lbs, Joplin is a viable pick and pop threat, whose 39.8% 3pt% this year could actually improve if he tweaks his lower body mechanics and stops flaring out his legs. Joplin possesses a high and quick release. He does an excellent job of putting himself in position to get an open shot, either by quickly rolling opposite in a pick and pop scenario, or by sneaking to the corner and properly spacing the floor. Most of Joplin’s makes came off of the catch. Pro teams are looking for shooters, and David Joplin has the size and potential to space the floor down the road.

While he is mostly limited to shooting and cleaning up baskets inside, Joplin flashed good lower body strength and body control on the interior, scoring inside over bigger players. He is a capable finisher and makes nice cuts to the basket. On the glass, Joplin was able to weed out much bigger players, and this was demonstrated by his 16.8% defensive rebounding rate in conference play, 15th best in the Big East.

On the defensive side of the ball, Joplin’s lower body strength also comes to play, as he fights for post leverage. Joplin is a switchable option who possesses the strength to defend inside, but is also capable of defending out on the perimeter. He proved to be productive help option for Marquette at times, and his quick hands led to several deflections. Joplin’s 2.0% block rate and 2.5% steals rate in conference play underscore this rapidly improving defensive profile. He must cut down on his fouling, as he committed 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes in Big East play, one of the worst in the conference.

All in all, David Joplin’s intrigue stems from his ability to consistently knock down 3pt shots, coupled with his portability in defensive schemes. As he continues to develop, it will be intriguing to see how he adjusts to handling the ball for longer stretches. Down the road, I would not be surprised to see him take on a Jae Crowder/PJ Tucker sort of role.


Baylor Scheierman, Creighton – Transferring to Creighton this year after a nice run with South Dakota State, Baylor Scheierman is one of the more intriguing pro prospects in the Big East. While his 3pt shooting numbers dipped from 46.2% a year ago to 36.2% now, he continues to represent a prolific threat from beyond the arc. Given the fact that Creighton’s offense is run through Ryan Kalkbrenner,  Scheierman does not have the same kind of volume as he did a year ago with the Jackrabbits. With that said, Baylor still poses a significant threat from 3pt range, and he is incredibly balanced coming off of curl screens, shooting on the move. He is capable shooting off the bounce or off the catch, and has very deep range, though he did not flash this skillset as much at the Big East Tournament. Instead, he exhibited good shot selection and played within himself. Scheierman did a nice job moving into open shooting gaps on the floor.  When he was overplayed, Scheierman took a couple of dribbles and pulled up for a balanced midrange shot.

Not only was Scheierman a capable perimeter threat at the Big East Tournament, but he also showcased his ability to facilitate for others. Besides his penchant for shooting, this is his most intriguing quality. While Baylor’s first step would not be anything to write home about at a pro level, his compact handle (with little wasted motion) and play strength help him to get to his spots with little difficulty. When he does drive, he can either attack the basket on a straight line drive, using his size to shield the ball and score at the basket, or dish it to a teammate. At the Big East Tournament, he made several touch passes to reverse the ball to the corner. Additionally, Scheierman reacted extremely quickly with the ball in his hands, dumping down several pinpointed touch passes to Ryan Kalkbrenner inside. Though he does not have the ball in his hands all the time, Scheierman is an effective facilitator, posting the 14th best Assist Rate in the Big East this year in a more limited role (and was 1st in the Summit last year in Assist Rate). Scheierman makes the proper reads and spaces the floor with his shot.

In terms of his intangibles, Baylor Scheierman proved his merit on the defensive glass at the Big East Tournament. He fought hard to secure loose rebounds, either bringing the ball up the court, or pushing the tempo. Baylor has a good nose for the ball and is able to anticipate where it will carrom to. He boxes out and fights hard after a shot goes up. Importantly, he has really good timing as well, and was able to draw several fouls attacking the glass. Despite all of the top big men in the Big East, Scheierman posted the 3rd best defensive rebounding % in the conference.  While he is not as effective on the offensive glass, he does compete on this end as well. Scheierman could certainly fit the billing of a solid role player at the next level.  

On the defensive end, Scheierman does not possess the requisite athleticism to lock down elite athletes at the next level or come from the weak side and erase a shot at the basket. However, he is surprisingly underrated on this side of the ball. At the Big East Tournament, he exerted good effort defensively, flashing good enough lateral quickness to stay in front of some of the opposition’s top opposing wings. When met at the rim, Scheierman proved to be fundamentally sound, contesting with textbook verticality. He was also relatively productive on this end, stripping the ball away and creating several turnovers. These performances were in keeping with his top 20 Big East finish in steals % (2.3%). Ultimately, Scheierman is not going to wow anyone with his defensive potential at the next level, but he is competitive enough to hold his own.

All in all, Scheierman is a versatile offensive weapon with a good enough basketball IQ to compensate for his average athleticism. His penchant for dialing it up from distance, coupled with his unique floor vision and defensive rebounding, should enable him to carve out a role at the next level.  


Nick Ongenda, Depaul – After missing most of the season with a wrist injury, Ongenda was the difference maker for Depaul at the Big East Tournament. His presence breathed new life into this team, and had them playing really good basketball, leading to a victory against Seton Hall and a near win against Xavier. Though he has some limitations at the college level, Nick Ongenda is the type of big man who should thrive in the NBA if he can continue to work on his ball skills. In particular, Ongenda predominantly functions as a roll man, utilizing his good footwork, hip flexibility, and quickness to dart to the basket after setting a screen. At the Big East Tournament, the threat of his roll to the rim opened up the outside shooting game for Depaul’s guards.

While Ongenda must continue to add lower body strength in order to secure post position at the next level, his post game has improved. At the Big East Tournament, he demonstrated really shifty footwork inside, which portends considerable upside at the next level. He was able to stop on a dime, reverse pivot and score on a reverse, utilizing the rim to shield him from a potential shot blocker. Especially late in the game against Seton Hall, Ongenda really made his impact felt. He did a nice job facing up and driving through the lane. Ongenda was especially versatile when he got the ball in close, and this ability to finish off plays separates him from many of the other big man prospects.

Additionally, Ongenda is able to utilize his quickness in the open floor to pressure defenses, opening up shooters on the perimeter. Against Xavier, Ongenda finished off a lob play in transition. At the pro level, his ability to run the floor will pressure defenses and open up the corner 3 or a ball reversal 3, two potential open shots before the opposing defense can get set.

On the glass, Ongenda is a good offensive rebounder and makes his presence felt. While he only had a limited sample size this year, Ongenda is active, with a good wingspan, and is often able to tip and deflect balls to his teammates, even when he does not secure it himself. This aspect of his game is fairly understated by traditional statistics.

Defensively, Ongenda is a good shot blocker, who possesses the length and athleticism to challenge players at the rim. While he does have decent lateral agility and probably can hold his own on switches, Ongenda must do a better job closing out on perimeter shooters. He struggled immensely to stay up on Jack Nunge, appearing a bit out of place defending all the way out to the 3pt line. Ongenda was also late to a closeout. He also tends to struggle against stronger post players, conceding deep post position, so a pro weight room should do wonders for his game. With all that said, Ongenda has massive potential on the defensive end, and could be a significant presence at the pro level, due to his quickness, timing, length, and athleticism.

Overall, Nick Ongenda is a player that still possesses considerable upset. Though he did not play most of the year with a wrist injury, his impact in the Big East Tournament should be enough to merit an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT) this year, unless he opts to take his Covid year.


Desmond Claude, Xavier – Claude is an intriguing young Xavier player who is still years away from pro basketball. However, at the Big East Tournament he flashed his intriguing skillset on the biggest stage, helping take Xavier to the title game. Importantly, Claude is a versatile 6’5 guard who has the handle to play multiple positions on the offensive side of the ball. He is mainly a crafty straight line slasher at the moment, who is able to employ shifty crossovers to draw his man off balance, before beating him to the basket. Importantly, Claude has the strength to finish through contact. 

Claude does not possess the most explosive first step, but he is respectably quick driving in the lane. He is extremely good at avoiding defenders en route to the basket, and only rarely looks out of control when he gets in the lane. He often played without the ball in his hands and made timely basket cuts.

In terms of his ability to space the floor, Claude is capable from the 3pt range or stepping into the midrange. While his long distance shooting is still a work in progress – as evinced by his 1-6 shooting at the Big East Tournament – he did make notable strides in conference play, converting on 42.1% of his 3pt attempts, which compares to his 32.4% 3pt % overall. Importantly, he can shoot on the move or off the catch and has good balance on his shot. Look for this area of his game to improve significantly moving forward.

As a decision maker, Claude is still a work in progress. Though he is a willing passer and set up teammates along the perimeter at the Big East Tournament, he tends to drive into traffic and make risky plays trying to split the D. He must work on playing stronger with the ball at times, but many of his mistakes are characteristic of freshmen.

On the defensive side of the ball, Claude is very underrated and has the strength and lateral footspeed to defend multiple positions. While he is usually able to steer his man off his driving lane, Claude also is fairly productive on the defensive end, and generated several turnovers in his second matchup with Creighton. He continues to make strides in this area, as he posted the 24th best steals % in conference.

Overall, Claude is an emerging prospect who flashed a crafty ability to get to the rim and a versatility on the defensive side of the ball. As he becomes more comfortable, he will likely look to take on more of a lead guard role within Xavier’s offense.


 Image Courtesy of Associated Press via Yahoo Sports

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