2024 Future Watch: Thoughts on Aday Mara in a Spanish League Game

August 21st, 2023

By Alan Lu

Aday Mara is a very tall, 7-3 center that played in one of the toughest leagues around the world in the Spanish ACB League for Zaragoza. He played well in limited minutes last year, and he decided to enroll at UCLA to play for them for the 2023-24 college basketball season. He is also a candidate to go in the lottery for the 2024 draft, so I felt that I needed to watch him play to assess his skills.

Recently, I decided to watch UCLA’s 7-3 incoming freshman center, Aday Mara play for Zaragoza in a November 6th, 2022 basketball game against Real Madrid, with thanks to YouTube via BASKONIA Games. Here are my thoughts on how he fared, as well as how his game may translate to the NBA.

7-3 center Aday Mara from Spain is a talented prospect that will play at UCLA for the upcoming season, and he could be a lottery pick in the 2024 draft.
(Photo: E. Casas/Europa Press/ACB, via Sports Finding)

Aday Mara is an agile, high-motor center that thrives at making hustle plays on the court. He is a solid finisher around the basket, and he can throw down authoritative jams in traffic. Mara was able to get the ball on a short roll and dribbled in to score on a powerful slam while getting the extra free throw. He also ran the floor and caught a lob pass to score on a high-flying, alley-oop dunk. He also will crash the offensive glass to get rebounds, which can get him additional scoring opportunities. He did miss a put back due to not getting enough lift that time, but he was able to draw free throws on a tip-in another time.

He also has good shooting touch that allows him to score on offense. Mara was able to make a smooth, long two-pointer from the baseline to showcase his shooting touch. On the other hand, when posting up another time, Mara missed on a tough, contested turnaround jumper from the baseline.

Also, Mara showcased satisfactory playmaking skills in this game. He is a good passing big man that has solid court vision, and he will make the extra pass to get the ball to his teammates. Mara was able to throw a sharp pass to a cutter out of the high post to notch an assist, and he generally throws solid touch passes. On the downside, he is a very skinny big man, and he would rarely set a firm screen on offense. He would tend to slip screens, which would at times allow him to get open on rolls to the rim, but his thin frame would make it fairly easy for defenders to quickly get around him to get back to defending their man. He also threw a pass to a teammate once, but his teammate ran before catching the ball and dropped it, which led to a turnover that time.

Mara did a great job of rebounding the basketball. He is a very active big man that will consistently crash the glass, and he was able to pull down a handful of boards when he was on the floor. He also played adequate defense in this game. Mara was able to rotate to block a shot in the post due to possessing good length and instincts, even though the ball seemed to be on its way down, so he may have arguably gotten away with goaltending that time. He also was able to recover and close out on a three-point shooter to force a miss. He also was able to use his length to force opponent to take a tougher shot than anticipated when defending in the paint to help his team get another stop. On the other hand, he would tend to hang back in drop coverages, and it also didn’t help that his teammates tended to not fight through picks very hard, which would usually lead his team to give up three-point baskets to the opposition. Another time, he rotated but got beat off the dribble, which led him to commit the foul and give up a score at the rim on that possession.

Overall, Aday Mara is a mobile, very energetic big man that excels at making hustle plays to help his team on both ends of the floor. He will still need to improve his ability to defend out on the perimeter and in space. That said, he’s a skilled big man that can shore up a team’s interior, and could be an impact player immediately at UCLA, and he was a fantastic acquisition for them. Right now, Mara could be a good value pick in the mid to late first round range, and he could end up being a solid role player similar to Los Angeles Clippers’ center, Mason Plumlee in the NBA.

It also was an opportunity to watch Real Madrid’s athletic, 6-8 forward Eli John N’Diaye, even though he played sparingly. He played hard, but unfortunately, he did not play very well in this game. He was held scoreless in very limited playing time, but he did give good effort defensively.

On offense, he was pretty much a non-factor. He missed a deep three-pointer off the catch. He also was able to make a cut to the hoop, but then dribbled and used a pump fake after seeing a defender rotate to him, and he then missed a contested shot off of a short area drive that time.

N’Diaye was able to chase down an offensive rebound due to possessing a solid motor. He was generally active defensively. He was able to alter an opponent’s put back attempt to force a miss, and he showed good footwork to stay in front of his man and defend off the dribble, but he would sometimes play too aggressively, which would lead him to commit touch fouls. Another time, he was too late in trying to get back on defense, which led his team to give up an alley-oop dunk on the break.

Overall, N’Diaye didn’t have a great game, but he also didn’t get much of an opportunity to showcase his skills, as he received very limited playing time in this match, as he played basically just in the back half of the second quarter. He’ll need to continue to refine his skills, but he could be a prospect to watch in the future.

Zaragoza’s 6-4 guard, Lucas Langarita also was able to get some playing time in this game. He didn’t play much, but he was able to get some run in the first half against Real Madrid. He is an agile playmaker that showcased above average foot speed, but he didn’t take a single shot on offense. He did move the ball well, and he would throw solid, timely touch passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates. He also defended well when he was out there, as he was able to recover to contest a mid-range jumper to force a miss. Overall, he didn’t get much of a chance to showcase his skills, but he seems to be a team-oriented player that could end up being a solid role player in the Spanish ACB League, and could be a prospect to keep tabs on sometime down the road.

All in all, those are my thoughts on how various prospects fared in this game. Thanks for reading.

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