With the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament starting this week – First Four games already underway and the First Round set to tip off early Thursday – I wanted to bring some names to the forefront for possible risers in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Each year when the Tournament rolls around, there are guys that raise their stock thanks to a good tournament, and look no further than Davion Mitchell in Baylor’s championship run or Jason Preston from Ohio as examples from a year ago.
So I’ll include five guys who are not currently considered first rounders by consensus who could insert themselves into that conversation with a good tournament, and include some honorable mentions on the back end.
Adama Sanogo — UConn C (5-seed in West)
Just outside my first round with centers like Mark Williams (Duke) and Walker Kessler (Auburn) standing between him and the top 30, the 6-foot-9 240-pound Sanogo is one of the biggest reasons why UConn has been so successful this season. He’s had a very productive sophomore season on about 15 points (51% FG), 9 rebounds, one assist, and 2 blocks per game in his 29 minutes, and his improved defense has made a massive difference, like shown here when he covers a lot of ground on a single possession:
WHAT A BLOCK! 🤯
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 13, 2022
Depending on how deep of a run UConn makes, Sanogo could matchup against as many as three of Jaylin Williams (Arkansas), Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga), Jalen Duren (Memphis), and Mark Williams (Duke) just in his own region. Strong showings against strong prospects could be a catalyst in his stock shooting up the board.
Hyungjung Lee — Davidson W (10-seed in West)
At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds, Lee’s prototypical wing size coupled with a truly elite three-point shooting resume – career 39.5% on 5.2 attempts (430 total attempts over 83 games) – makes him a perfect fit for just about every team picking late in the first round. A solid tournament could endear Lee to teams in that group.
ESPN currently has Hyungjung Lee in the 90s of their Top 100 prospects & that seems like a major mistake. He should probably be 50 spots higher. You don’t think an NBA team wouldn’t a 6-7 wing that can do this on both ends? pic.twitter.com/5pahmFeQJi
— Shervon Fakhimi (@ShervonFakhimi) March 4, 2022
Davidson’s first opponent – Michigan State – doesn’t make anything easy for teams on the perimeter with the lowest 3P% allowed (32.0%) in the Big 10, so Lee will have his work cut out for him right off the bat. If they get past that game, things don’t get any easier. Duke and Texas Tech would be the “chalk” second and third rounds for Davidson, so if they make a run and Lee is a big reason why, it’s impressively so.
Kellan Grady — Kentucky W (2-seed in East)
From a current Davidson sharpshooting wing to a former Davidson sharpshooting wing, the 6-foot-5 205-pound Grady has been even better in that department in his fifth season, and his first at Kentucky. He shot 36.6% on 5.7 attempts per game over four seasons at Davidson, but is up to 42.4% on 6.2 attempts over 33 games at Kentucky. Along with his age, NBA teams’ biggest concern about Grady is a lack of diversity in his game, but when you can show up in big moments and shoot at an elite level like he does here, diversity isn’t always imperative:
KELLAN. GRADY. AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/uj4twxxBsi
— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 26, 2022
Thanks to being part of a 2-seed, Grady’s outlook of opponents doesn’t look as tough as someone like Lee’s path does; the toughest for Grady early on in the tournament is likely Murray State, a 7-seed that Kentucky could face in the second round. Thanks to advantageous guards like Tevin Brown, the Racers are extremely disruptive in passing lanes, and that could make things much harder on Grady who relies heavily on off-ball movement.
Jordan Walker — UAB G (12-seed in Midwest)
If there was ever a parallel to last year’s Max Abmas (Oral Roberts) and his rise out of essentially nowhere, Walker is it. In his fifth-year season, he’s averaged 20.4 points, 4.8 assists (to 3.5 turnovers), and 1.5 steals on 40.6 3P% on 8.6 attempts.
JORDAN WALKER IS HIM 🧅🧅🧅 pic.twitter.com/peJxtjVZgg
— Liam (@Blutman27) March 11, 2022
Everybody knows the time-old tale of the 12-5 upset, and if UAB can topple their 5-seed, Houston, Walker’s fingerprints will be all over it. Many have already picked Chatanooga to beat Illinois, in which case that becomes a much more manageable second round for UAB than their first round was.
Tyrese Hunter — Iowa State G (11-seed in South)
The 6-foot freshman Hunter is likely a 2023 prospect, but a solid tournament could launch him into one-and-done conversations. Averaging 10.8 points and 3.4 rebounds, Hunter has already shown big time point guard promise, with 4.9 assists (3rd in Big 12) to 3.3 turnovers and 1.9 steals (also 3rd in Big 12). The shot has struggled to come along so far (24.8% on 3.7 attempts), but it projects well over time; he had a few games in which he made three in one game.
In any case, Hunter led the Cyclones to one of the bigger bounce back seasons in recent memory, going from 2-22 a season ago to 20-12 in his freshman season, including a 12-0 showing during the non-conference portion of the schedule.
First viewing of Tyrese Hunter, and yeah this is impressive. pic.twitter.com/dDUWqmnOmO
— Will Morris (@w_a_morris) November 26, 2021
Iowa State got a bit of a lucky draw in the first round, depending on how you view the LSU program and their dealing with the recent departure of head coach Will Wade due to some NCAA violations. In addition to the limbo going on at LSU, they’re much less equipped to deal with someone like Hunter rather than dealing with a wing initiator thanks to their strength at forward.
- David Roddy – Colorado State W (6-seed in South) – Read Will Morris’s scouting report on Roddy here.
- Baylor Scheierman – South Dakota State W (13-seed in Midwest)