Many of these prospects will face an uphill battle, but we will try to provide insight into what exactly separates those who make it and those who don't, while shedding light on some of the country's lesser-known players that could end up becoming second-round/training camp sleepers.
We'll look at both upperclassmen and underclassmen, analyzing players who are intriguing for the 2017 NBA Draft, as well as prospects who need more time to develop, but could be intriguing in the future. This week we break down Central Michigan junior Marcus Keene who plays in the Mid-American Conference.
DX Mid-Major Prospect Watch
-Missouri State's Alize Johnson
-Montana State's Tyler Hall
-Ohio University's Antonio Campbell
-Northern Iowa's Jeremy Morgan
-Southeast Missouri State's Antonius Cleveland
-Northeastern's T.J. Williams
Standing just 5' 9 Keene was an unheralded recruit out of Warren High School in San Antonio, Texas and accepted the only Division-I scholarship offer he had from Youngstown St. After two up and down seasons at Youngstown St. Keene opted to transfer to Central Michigan, where he joined Coach Keno Davis, and would be given the opportunity to lead the Chippewa's up-tempo, run and gun style offense.
Keene redshirted last season, but has exploded on to the national scene this year, leading the country in scoring at 30 points per game, totaling five 40+ point performances, including a 50-point outburst in a win versus Miami (Ohio). He recently broke Dan Majerle's single season scoring record at Central Michigan, and still has five games of conference play remaining.
Keene is a fearless scorer who has shown the ability to fill it up from all over the floor. He is a quick trigger shooter, hitting 38% from deep on 10.6 attempts per game. He has shown the ability to shoot from NBA range and is comfortable on the catch or off the dribble. He compliments his perimeter game with shifty ball handling skills which he uses to aggressively attack the basket in isolation situations or out of ball screens. Despite his lack of Size, Keene is fearless getting downhill and attacking the rim, and is averaging an impressive 8.1 free throw attempts per game. He is predominantly a score first point guard who is the engine to the Chippewa's high powered offense, but he has shown the ability to create for his teammates when the defense is keyed in on him (5.9 AST per 40).
While Keene's numbers are definitely eye popping he has a way to go before he works his name into the NBA Draft conversation. Like most guys his size he relies on contested difficult shots and can be a liability on the defensive end at times. His numbers are definitely inflated due to the system he plays in, and the ultimate green light that he is, but there is no denying the dynamic ability he has to put the ball in the basket.
Outside of an early pre-conference game vs. Illinois, Central Michigan has largely faced a relatively easy schedule so Keene has not had many opportunities to prove himself against top competition. Barring a championship in their post-season conference tournament, Central Michigan will miss the NCAA tournament and we will have to wait to see Keene up against any of the nation's top players.