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The International Freshman
Tyrese Proctor, Youssef Khayat, Henri Veesaar & Baba Miller
The signs of the 2022-2023 season’s arrival are all around us- we are seeing film emerge of international tours, there are mixtapes of practices, documentation of off-season body transformations all over the place & before we react to rumors, speculation, conjecture, propaganda or things of that nature - I wanted to look at some under examined incoming freshman, the international freshman. INTL players have had an outsized impact in an ever-changing college basketball landscape & every year there are a handful of underexamined (often because INTLs don’t appear on RSCI until they commit, but hey) prospects who impact the game. Here are my bets for this year’s most important foreign freshman.
The Cerebro Glossary can be found here.
Tyrese Proctor - Duke (2004 gen), guard, measured 6’4.25 w/o shoes, +2.25 WS at Hoop Summit
What to know: Proctor is is a classic Australian guard - a creator with +size, multipostional defense & a team-first approach. Where Proctor’s a little different from the other Aussie prospects, is his ability and versatility when it comes to shooting the rock. Proctor has 31 games in the Cerebro platform and in those 31 games he is shooting 38.1% from 3, on 165 attempts. 38.1% is a pretty wild number, and it’s not just that much of this sample comes playing up multiple years/age groups, but also how much of it comes outside of simple catch and shoot situations. In the Asia Cup, Proctor hit in transition, off pindowns, flares, fades, relocations & most importantly, self-created pullup 3s off the dribble. Pullup shooting had long been considered the dominion of primary creator types, however the last decade of success with guys like CJ McCollum has given rise to a different archetype - a secondary creator who has the green light to pull the gamebreakers off the bounce, but isn’t asked to drive a whole offensive scheme with them, allowing for more optimal and efficient offensive usage. Proctor is of this camp, best in a 2 guard front, attacking tilted defenses as a second side threat, as capable shooting off movement as OTD. The challenge for Proctor is in his handle - a recurring theme is how often he uses north-south hard stops and stepbacks to create huge swathes of space, & how rare is it to see that same degree of advantage to create easy looks when he has to use his handle going east west.
The college fit: Duke brought in a mega-class along with Proctor, and that class does have the sort of creates who mesh well with this evaluation of Proctor’s strengths and weaknesses. Dariq Whitehead, Kyle Filipowski & (returner) Jeremy Roach have proven to be able to drive advantage and hold a large chunk of usage and decision making. These secondary role also suits the defensive end, where Proctor’s mix of size, length & technique allow him to hassle ballhandlers at the point of attack, regardless of size, and that’s a nice chip to have because it allows him to slot into lineups pretty easily as any mix of 1,2 or 3 without losing a defensive edge. In the last year, he has added substantial quickness and lower body strength, which is going to give Duke multiple options to create different POA looks for the playmaking wings of the ACC. The challenges arise if Proctor is played as a primary extensively or if the other freshman struggle to tilt a defense, he has really struggled to get to the rim for easy looks, does not have the foulcraft to get to the line & has struggles with finishing effectively. Broadly, there is a lack of improvisation in how Proctor creates. It’s not limiting, it’s just his approach - he gets to spots in PNR well enough & manipulates tags very well, passing with a variety of release angles and tempos. Proctor is an intentional and procedural reader of the floor, but his playstyles lacks that creativity to unlock a defense by himself. There are solid counters when driving downhill, like stride pivots to find a midrange jumper - but there is a lack of easy looks at the front of the rim for a player with the ball in hands so often (with FG% consistently in the lower 40s). Look for Duke to get Proctor on the move- actions like chicago, boomerang, and exit to consistently get Proctor’s gravity offset against a tilted defense.
Henri Veesaar - Arizona (2004 gen), F/C, listed 6’11
What to know: Veesaar, an Estonian who’s been playing for Real Madrid’s stacked B team in the EBA for the last couple of seasons, is a fast developing big man with an interesting skillset & impressive mobility. The near 7 footer (I haven’t seen official measurements yet, so take that with a grain of salt) is the most known commodity of this bunch; having put up what is best described as Rui Hachimura-esque youth performances with Estonia and playing for the most well known international youth club. Year over year improvement in shooting, in touch, in percentages & most importantly, in attempt volume - culminating in 67.3/35.2/68.6 in 21-22 EBA. Attempt rates of 34.1 3Pr & 44.3 FTr are a good baseline to understanding the inside-outside approach that Veesaar brings - a PNR threat that brings real vertical gravity as a lob threat & proven to bring a different type of gravity as a PNP option. When spaced out on the perimeter as a 5, Veesaar is not a 1 dimensional shooting threat, he puts the ball on the floor well to attack space & can find cutting options fairly well on the move. That mobility is the differentiator for Veesaar, he is on the lighter side for a 5 & often uses his short area recovery speed & sense of timing to erase mistakes. With time and a college weight room, Veesaar may become a more functional mover who isn’t as dependant on quick-twitch reaction and can dictate angles better.
The college fit: Veesaar joins Arizona as the 8th player with international ties on the 2022-2023 roster, so he fits in that sense - he also fits the broad forward template that Lloyd has looked for thus far; tall, versatile, able to play uptempo & able to make reads in a reads based motion offense. The Wildcats will be without Christian Koloko, now a Toronto Raptor, and Veesaar does have the ability to fill in parts of Koloko’s absence - both move well, both are talented shotblockers (Veesar averaged 1.8 blocks in 20.7 mpg in ANGT), both can be buried in the post by burly centers, allowing for deep catches on hard seals. But that’s where the similarities end, Koloko was at his best as a high energy, hyper-efficient playfinisher & Veesaar is capable of higher usages on offensive, with less tools defensively. Veesaar isn’t bad in the tools department, with a reported 7’2 wingspan and a quick 2nd jump, he just isn’t as uniquely suited to dominating in drop coverage like Koloko was. The success that 22-23 Arizona may find is likely to look different, in scheme & in approach, than what was 21-22 Arizona did. I do like the tape that I saw from Veesaar as a 4 or as a switchy 5 (a benefit of playing on a team with as many bigs as Real) - he showcased good fluid hips, changing direction well and may be able to offer a different, more mobile look as a forward next to Ballo or fellow freshman Dylan Anderson.
Youssef Khayat - Michigan (2003 gen), W/F, listed at 6’9
What to know: Youssef Khayat, a Lebanese swingman who has been playing for the last 3 seasons in France’s LNB Espoirs with CSP Limoges, committed to Michigan only recently after a whirlwind recruitment - he’s the mystery man of the group, totally off the college recruiting radar until very recently. At 6’9, Khayat is a very big wing for the league, allowing for mismatch hunting on the perimeter, shooting over bigger defenders (35.2% on 159 3pa in 21-22) & attacking downhill past wings that lack his physicality (26.2 FTr, a high rate for wings in a league with a loose whistle). Reminiscent of other Michigan wings, Khayat has aesthetically pleasing jumper mechanics - a 1.5 motion form with a high release and a ton of lower body power generation. There are little things to iron out, like the stability in air & on landings, but he has one of those soft jumpers that always looks like it's going in. Defensively, what makes Khayat so appealing is his ability to slither around screens in big space paired with very good reactive athleticism. His defensive approach is a bit gambling prone, but long arms and good ground coverage can wipe away any advantage created by a ballhandler, be it for a stonewalled drive or a steal/block. In his time as a primary shot creator with Limoges, Youssef performed well (28 usage, 52.1 TS%, 7.8 C-RAM for the 21-22 season), but he will act as more of a scaled down dribble/pass/shoot wing, similar to his role with Lebanon’s National Team this summer 18 usage at a much higher 44 3Pr)
The college fit: If this description sounds familiar, that’s because Khayat is a hand in glove fit for what Michigan has asked its’ 3/4 wings to do under Juwan Howard. That isn’t to lay on the heavy expectations, but to note how quickly Khayat could integrate into a team that is looking for what he brings to the table. This archetype offers lineup flexibility on both ends- Khayat will be able to chase smalls around multiple consecutive actions to run them off the line, or slide down the positional spectrum and use his reactive athleticism to cover ground on closeouts or provide weakside rim protection. There is a good understanding of how to read the floor when defending, balancing the assignments of scheme with individual playmaking & this is where laying against grown men in the Asia Cup, is such a useful data point - Khayat averaged 1.2 steals & .5 blocks per game in only 14.7 minutes per game (84 DSI). In the 23rd hour of the 2022 recruiting cycle, Michigan added an additional wing that heightens their offensive dynamic: a good-very good shooter that can capitalize on their gravity, with quick decisions, has the shot versatility to expand the playbook & can be played alongside the other wing shooters due to defensive malleability. I’m especially interested in 3 wing lineups with Joey Baker, Jett Howard & Khayat on the floor, to maximize as much shooting around Hunter Dickinson as possible - with Khayat using his POA chops to handle the primary offensive threat. I thought the tape that he showcased against smalls, especially in screen navigation, was the most encouraging/surprising element of the Asia Cup.
Baba Miller - Florida State (2004 gen) W/F, listed at 6’10 (?)
What to know: Baba Miller has the highest ceiling of the group, not just literally, but also probably that - there is just a different sort of wow factor involved when a near 7’ has the perimeter movement skills and versatile flashes of creation. To be clear, they are very much still flashes - Miller is currently a bit undefined as a prospect, more an interesting assemblage of possible pathways than a clearly defined archetype, but we are talking about a jumbo wing who can be molded into a variety of potential usages and archetypes. A large part of the Baba appeal is the undeniable What If factor - if he the EBA shooting development holds as true (41.5/35.2/65.1 in 26 EBA games in 21-22, 47.6/25.3/59.1 in 41 additional games in the platform), if he uses his height to score more consistently & efficiently over guards and wings in the halfcourt, if he isn’t done growing (Baba was 6’2 just a few short years ago), if the perimeter skills continue to develop, etc. This is the allure, Miller has these flashes of shot creation, defensive ground coverage & OTD juice that demand further study. The defensive element is a bit less developed than the offensive skills, Miller falls asleep in off-ball coverages and uses his tools to bail him out more than I would have thought & a rise in activity level, to match his fluidity/tools, will be very welcome. The reactive sensibility is very strong, quickly getting to loose balls and altering jumpers after long closeouts, but the concern is the proactive phase - establishing helpside angles, getting set in coverages, enforcing foot angles at POA. It’s the sort of thing that allows lesser players to score on Miller & creates the minutes without a flash play from Miller, but when he does do the prescriptive side of defense, those are some of his best plays.
The college fit: Florida State has been an assembly line, a premier manufacturer of high feel 2 way playmaking wings - a description seems destined to include Miller if he continues to develop. Consistency and identity are themes that have popped up both in Miller’s tape I’ve watched as well as conversations with fellow scouts - which is par the course for young, rapidly growing wings who have gained tools at a rate faster than their ability to master them. That’s where FSU comes as a development guideline, a force that can simplify his role down to his core competencies, hone his feel on the defensive end & build his frame to handle bigger wings/4s at the next level. Where Miller is most different from the Isaac-Barnes-PatWill-Vassell lineage is the amount of OTD self created 3s that he took pre-college. Each of those guys had varying amounts of shooting volume, but none had the consistently showcased shooting versatility in the way that Miller has, and I’m excited to see if that pullup 3 freedom is catered to in the same way that Scottie’s unique initiation was in his lone season at FSU. The jumper looks really good out of his hand, and I attribute the broad 3P% variability to the lack of lower body stability, something that the FSU staff has had success with previous wings.