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"He should be in the NBL!" 9 college returnees who should be on team radars
Australia has plenty of burgeoning talent on the horizon developing in the NCAA, and every year we see returning seniors as well as players level programs early to pursue professional opportunities. Here are some names that definitely deserve attention.
1. Dejan Vasiljevic
The number one senior that should be on NBL team shortlists? Dejan Vasiljevic. The shooting guard is a quality shot maker who can put points on the board in a hurry. This season, playing on a talented Miami team, DJ's averaging 14.6 points a game, and shooting the ball at by far the best rate of his career - 46.2% from 3 over his first 13 games.
NBL teams already tried to lure Vasiljevic home after his junior season, with several teams willing to make room for him on their rosters, but the guard decided to return for his final year of college.
While perhaps lacking the same overall impact, Vasiljevic is the most likely Aussie to replicate the same immediate impact current rookie Kouat Noi has provided for the Cairns Taipans this season, given his production at the Division I level throughout his college career. His elite outside stroke and overall scoring game should provide him with a long and fruitful NBL career going forward, and it should be a safe bet to see the guard in the league next year.
2. Kyrin Galloway
Kyrin Galloway is another name that has a lot of potential to develop into a solid NBL player. At a lanky 6'8, Galloway has plenty of size and athleticism for the four spot, and over his last two college seasons, developed into a dependable stretch threat. Over this season and last, the forward is averaging 36.9% from three on 6.7 attempts per game.
While his outside shot has developed, his role for UNC Greensboro has changed considerably. A 52.3% FG scorer over his first three seasons on 5.4 two point field goal attempts and 3.9 three point field goal attempts, Galloway has been kept out on the perimeter this season. He's taking 84% of his field goal attempts from behind the arc, resulting in an overall regression to 38.6% from the field.
While he can now shoot the three, a more balanced floor game might best indicate his potential, and the NBL is a great spot for him to realise the extent of his skillset. Beyond his shooting capabilities, Galloway has good mobility and can play above the rim in the paint, as well as some basic, functional post finishes including a solid right hand hook. Defensively, Galloway's mobility, length and athleticism make him a toolsy defender, and should the matchup not overmatch him physically, he could feasibly play some small-ball 5 minutes to good effect.
3. Jack White
Over 4 years at Duke, Jack White has turned heads with his defence, rebounding and IQ playing alongside some of college basketball's best prospects year after year. While his scoring, particularly his shooting, requires development, White is a winning player with plenty of pedigree who should gain attention from NBL teams, once he returns home after this season.
White makes a living beyond the box score. Per 40 minutes, White picks up 9.1 boards a contest despite his 6'7 frame, and is a mobile but well built combo forward that is versatile in matching up with a variety of talented wings and forwards. As a Blue Devil, White has frequently been tasked with matching up with some of the best college scorers in the country, with great success.
Despite an underwhelming 27.3% mark over his 4 years in college, White's shooting leaves room for hope with what is a fundamentally pretty sound stroke. It may take a while, but if White can develop his outside shot, he has all the makings of an impact role player.
While his numbers are pedestrian, there's not many players that could captain a NCAA powerhouse of Duke's caliber and play a pivotal part in the rotation year after year. White is a winner and a leader and NBL teams will surely pursue his signature.
4. Tanner Krebs
At 6'6, Tanner Krebs is a sharpshooter who has the size to shoot over opposing wings. Over his four seasons with the Gaels, he's shot the three at over 40%, including a career high 43.6% this season on route to 10.6 points per contest.
Krebs has the size to play the 3 at the NBL level, and given his skill-set, projects similarly to Kendall Stephens as a shooter at the position. While Stephens probably has the edge in terms of scoring volume, shot versatility and a quicker release, Krebs has a bit more versatility scoring inside the arc, and provides a bit more size of frame to combat physicality.
There should be plenty of interest as the next pro to come off the dependable Gael's Aussie pipeline, and would provide an always useful shooting speciality off the bench.
5. Mason Peatling
In contrast to Peatling's recent 52 point outburst of outstanding anomaly, Peatling's career at Eastern Washington has been one defined by consistently dependable, if unremarkable, production. At 6'8, Peatling is a valuable rebounder, picking up 7.4 boards a contest including an impressive 2.8 offensive, and an impressive interior finisher with a career field goal percentage of 55.4% despite a large volume of offense, being his teams 3rd leading scorer at 15.4 points a game.
His 3 assists per 40 rate indicates a willingness to make the right pass, also.
As an undersized four, Peatling will be best served refining his perimeter shot - he has shot 24.1% from three so far this season. He has a certain fluidity to his movement, but is a largely below the rim athlete, so maximizing his floor game and skill-set is his best route to significant NBL opportunity.
6. Mayan Kiir
Kiir, a 4 star recruit according to ESPN in 2018, is a powerful, long, 6'9 athlete with plenty of upside and potential.
After a season at LSU where the freshman only appeared in 8 games, Kiir joined the University of South Florida, where he averaged 12.5 minutes a game over 38 appearances. While his minutes were sparse, Kiir was productive in his time - extrapolating his production per 40 minutes, Kiir averaged 14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks.
On November 14, it was announced Kiir was leaving USF's program, following some "private, personal issues", with coach Brian Gregory noting that "he's going to look at some different options [...] Either go play professionally or possibly going to another school."
Whilst Kiir's current situation and next move is yet to be known, it would make sense for Kiir to come back home if he decides to pursue professional opportunities. While his youth and inability to prove himself at the college level may inhibit his ability to gain an outright NBL roster spot, Kiir's tools and talent provide him with ample ability to play at the NBL level, and teams would be wise to keep tabs on the explosive four-man and see they can develop him into a productive piece.
7. Lat Mayen
Lat Mayen is another promising prospect that has had a tumultuous NCAA career to date. Also a former 4 star recruit, the forward started off his career at TCU. Mayen's injury woes started before even getting game time, as he tore his meniscus leading up to his redshirt freshman season in December 2017. After returning from injury and appearing in 17 games alongside his cousin Kouat Noi the following year, serious issues stemming from the prior knee surgery ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
In July 2019, shortly after his season-ending knee issues, Mayen announced he was leaving TCU's program, at which point it was speculated that he "could pursue the transfer route, or turn professional."
In August, it appeared Mayen explored his NBL opportunities, with Liam Santamaria noting that Mayen was considered by the Sydney Kings as a potential signing, though he ultimately went without an NBL deal, after which point he joined fellow Australian prospect Marial Mading at Chipola Junior College.
Now, Mayen has announced his commitment to Nebraska, as he seeks to reignite his college career. Set to join the team after his time with Chipola ends (their final conference game is on February 19), Mayen should finish the season back in the NCAA system, but perhaps professional opportunities may again appeal come the off-season.
Mayen has plenty of pedigree, being the number one ranked Australian recruit of his class. At 6'9 with long arms and a strong lateral movement, Mayen has a high level of defensive potential, and in his time at Chipola College, is developing into a promising shooter, knocking down 40% of his shots from behind the arc en route to 10.4 points and 7.8 rebounds a game so far this season.
8. Chier Maker
You can never have too many Makers when it comes to the Australian basketball scene, and Thon's cousin Chier is no exception. The 6'7 forward is having a great senior season for Idaho State, contributing 12.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Maker can play inside and out, shooting the 3 ball at a career best 33.3% so far this season on 6.5 attempts a game, and his size and length allows him to finish around the rim and hit the boards on both ends of the court.
With his defensive tools and outside shot, 24 year old Maker has the makings of a handy NBL role player, though he will need to continue to refine his outside shot to a more consistent level to maximize his potential.
9. Myles Cherry
6'8 power forward Myles Cherry has been one of Australia's most productive seniors this season, contributing 10.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in only 23.8 minutes of play, on a whopping 64.4% from the field.
Cherry has a really solid frame and gets a range of things done on the floor at a high level. His efficient interior game, passing ability, and high level rebounding gives him plenty of appeal, and just this season he has started expanding his jumper out to 3 point range, connecting on 6 of 10 attempts over 13 games this season.
Cherry has had a very productive college career and can hopefully translate that into some success at the NBL level.
We also often see college players get lured away from the college system. Guys like Makuach Maluach, Isaac White and Cam Healy are having extremely productive college seasons and would be hot with NBL interest.
There's also a number of injury-riddled big men that may prefer to continue their careers back home.
Jacob Epperson, Deng Gak and brother Gorjok Gak are guys with plenty of pedigree that got brought in to high-major programs, but injury woes have stopped them from reaching their potential in the NCAA system. Gorjok Gak has currently decided to leave Florida for personal reasons, and is said to be currently pursuing grad transfer options. If rehabilitated and back in Australia, all three have potential to be solid NBL pieces down the line.
Flynn Cameron is also a promising New Zealand talent getting very limited minutes on at DePaul, and would be on the tabs of not just the Breakers but many other NBL clubs if available. The 6'3 point guard has been one of New Zealand's best recent performers in junior FIBA competition, averaging 11.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
One last, out of the box target for NBL clubs to lure away from current college commitments is Hyungjung Lee. Lee, as part of the NBA Academy, was based in Australia last year, playing NBL1 last season with the Centre of Excellence (CoE), dominated the U18 Asian Championships to the tune of 26 points, 10.3 rebounds and 6 assists a contest, and is having an outstanding freshman season for Davidson, averaging 8.3 points on a TS% of .667.
At 6'7, with his combination of prolific shooting, rebounding, passing acumen, I would consider Lee to be a legitimate chance to be considered at the NBA level. If not, the South Korean Lee would figure to to fall under the Asian Player exception and could have an exceptional NBL career as a local. It may be a long shot to hope to lure Lee away from what has been an extremely promising start to his NCAA career, but what may provide some promise this past offseason, his Chinese CoE teammate, Terry Li, was lured away from college with the opportunity of a development spot with the New Zealand Breakers, setting a precedent for such a move. Lee, through his connections and familiarity to Australia, may be more open to the possibility than most, and may also be closer to NBL teams radars.
A savvy NBL team may look at Lee as a potential investment worth throwing a lucrative offer at, if nothing other than to kick the tires. If not, teams should have him shortlisted as a guy to pursue post-college career, because this kid can play.