Evaluating Robbie Avila, Branden Carlson, and Deivon Smith in the Indiana State-Utah NIT Game

April 3rd, 2024

By Alan Lu

Yesterday, I took the time to watch Robbie Avila and Indiana State play against Branden Carlson and Utah in the semifinals of the 2024 NIT.  It was a very high-scoring game, and Indiana State did a great job of making shots and passing the basketball to get a hard-fought win over Utah.  Here are my thoughts on how Avila and other various prospects fared in this game.

Indiana State’s 6-10 center, Robbie Avila scored 26 points, made 3 threes, and had 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block to lead his team to a 100-90 win over Utah in the NIT yesterday. (Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images, via Fansided’s The J-Notes)

Indiana State’s center, Robbie Avila had a tremendous showing to help lead his team to a win over Utah.  He really excelled at making plays on offense, and he is a very skilled center that showed a knack for making shots and passes to help his team in this game. Avila did a great job of scoring on spot-up threes off the catch to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Avila would score on rolls to the rim and put backs, and he would find ways to slip past defenders to get open to receive the ball around the basket.  He also did a decent job of scoring in the post.  Avila was able to back his man down to score on a left-handed, running hook, but he also missed one another time.

He also showcased solid playmaking skills.  Avila is an unselfish player that passes well out of the post, and he would throw timely passes to find open shooters and cutters to set up numerous scoring chances for his teammates due to possessing good court vision.  He also was able to make a crafty, behind-the-back pass on a dribble handoff another time.  There was one play when he was doubled in the post and tried to pass out, but was called for traveling that time.

He also showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball.  Avila would crash the glass, and he was able to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor.  He also played adequate defense in this game.  Avila has very good strength, and he would hold his ground when defending in the post and contest shots to force misses.  He was able to stay with an opposing ball handler in the post to force a ball-handling turnover, and Avila was generally active in looking to contest shots in the paint to get stops.  However, he tended to sag too far off of shooters when his team would defend in pick and roll situations, and he would allow them to score on open jump shots from further out.

In general, Robbie Avila played very well to lead his team to a win over Utah in the NIT this year.  He is a smart, very skilled big man that that can score the basketball in a variety of ways, and he also passes the ball especially well for a player his size.  He’s only an average athlete and will need to improve his ability to defend out on the perimeter, but he is a cerebral player that could end up being a solid role player similar to former Miami Heat big man, Josh McRoberts in the NBA.

Utah’s 7-0 senior center, Branden Carlson had a fairly solid showing in his team’s loss to Indiana State.  He showed a satisfactory ability to score out of the post.  Carlson would back down his man in order to score on drop steps and jump hooks, and he also was able to score on smaller defenders.  Sometimes though, he would miss on contested, turnaround jumpers.  He also shot the three-ball well from downtown.  Carlson showed a knack for moving off the ball to make open, spot-up threes.

He also showed off decent playmaking skills.  Carlson did a good job of passing out of the post due to possessing the patience and court vision to do so, and he would make the extra pass to find the open man. On one play though, he threw a lazy pass that got intercepted. He didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, but Carlson was able to get his fair share of defensive boards. 

Defensively, he looked to be fairly average in this game.  In this game, he was able to rotate to poke a ball away in the post to help his team get a steal.  He almost was able to get a hard shot block, but was called for a goaltend.  On the downside, he would tend to be late on his rotations, and he also got beat off the dribble once to allow a score.  Overall, Carlson played fairly well, as he showed off versatile scoring skills in this game.  He’ll need to improve his rebounding and defense, but he is a second round prospect that could project to be a rotational big man similar to Oklahoma City Thunder’s center, Mike Muscala at the NBA level.

Deivon Smith had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Indiana State.  He is an athletic, skilled guard that especially shot the ball well late in the game to try to keep his team in it, but it was too late as his team ended up losing by double-digits. Smith did a great job of knocking down threes to space the floor for his team.  He showed a knack for making quick threes, both off the catch and dribble.  He was able to make a quick, dribble-handoff three, and he also excelled at making pull-up threes late in this game.    He also did a good job of knocking down pull-up, mid-range jumpers due to possessing good balance and scoring touch to do so.  He was able to score on a speedy drive in transition late in this game, but Smith generally struggled to score off the dribble when he would look to go all the way to the hoop.

He also displayed satisfactory playmaking skills in this game.  Smith showed a knack for making drive and kick passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates, and he also was able to get the ball on a cut and pass out to an open shooter to help set up a score another time.  On the downside, sometimes he would throw hasty passes that would get intercepted.

Also, Smith did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  On the defensive end, Smith was able to intercept an entry pass to get a steal.  Overall, Smith played well, as he especially excelled on offense and on the boards in this game.  He continually made plays down the stretch, and he could end up being a solid role player at the NBA level.

Ryan Conwell also had a solid showing to help lead Indiana State to a win over Utah.  He is an athletic, skilled point guard that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he excelled at making plays on offense to help his team get the victory. Conwell did a good job of knocking down threes in this game.  He showed a knack for making quick, open spot-up threes off the catch.  He also really excelled at scoring off the dribble, and he would use an assortment of moves and score on turnaround jumpers due to possessing good balance, shooting touch, and body control.  He also showed that he can take on the contact to draw fouls while scoring off the dribble.

Plus, he also showcased satisfactory playmaking skills.  Conwell showed that he can make an assortment of passes to set up scores for his teammates.  On one play though, he threw an inaccurate outlet pass that sailed out of bounds. He also showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball.  He also played adequate defense in this game.  He was able to jump a pass to get a steal, and he also contested a shot off of a drive to force a miss.  However, he would tend to give up too much space to shooters, which would lead his team to give up three-point baskets.  Overall, Conwell played well in this game, and he is an athletic, skilled point guard that could end up being a reliable role player in the NBA.

Julian Larry played fairly well to help lead his team to a win over Utah.  He is an athletic, skilled point guard that showed off versatile scoring skills, and was able to make plays on both ends of the floor to help his team get the victory. Larry showed off a satisfactory ability to score off the dribble.  He was able to quickly split a double team to score once, and he also would draw fouls to get to the free throw line.  He would sometimes miss on tough shots in traffic, though.  He struggled to make threes consistently, but Larry was able to make an open corner three once.  He also showed a knack for scoring on fast breaks.

He also showed off good playmaking skills.  He did a good job of throwing interior passes and passes off the dribble to set up numerous scoring chances for his teammates.  He also would look to set screens, as he was able to set a hard screen to make it difficult for a defender to get to his man once.  On one play though, he was called for setting a moving screen on offense that led to an offensive foul and a turnover.

In the game, Larry did not get a single rebound against Utah.  He played decent defense in this game.  Larry did a good job of jumping passes to get steals.  On the downside, he would sometimes give up too much space to shooters and not close out on time, which would lead his team to give up three-point baskets.  Overall, Larry had a good showing in his team’s win over Utah.  He is a skilled, playmaking point guard that could end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

Ben Carlson had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Indiana State.  He showed a knack for making open, spot-up threes off the catch to show his shooting prowess.  He also used a spin move to score on a smooth drive to the hoop while getting fouled.  He also would make the extra pass to set up scores for his teammates.  He also was able to get his fair share of boards to chip in on the glass.  On the defensive end, he got beat off the dribble and committed a foul and allowed a score once.  Overall, Carlson played fairly well, and he is a skilled, scoring forward whose jump shot and mobility could enable him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA.

Utah’s Hunter Erickson also played well off the bench in his team’s loss to Indiana State.  He is an agile, skilled combo guard that excelled at shooting and scoring the basketball.  He was able to make threes both off the catch and dribble, and he showed a knack for making pull-up jumpers.  While he was a bit inconsistent as a scorer off the dribble, he was able to score on an aggressive drive in transition late in this game.  He also was able to push the pace and make a speedy drive and kick pass to notch an assist.  Overall, he is a skilled playmaker that can shoot and pass the ball, and he could end up competing for a roster spot in the NBA someday.

Indiana State’s Xavier Bledson also played fairly well in his team’s win over Utah.  He is a strong, mobile swingman that showed off versatile scoring skills in this game.  He was bale to use a drop step and a pump fake move to score out of the post.  He also scored on a strong put back while getting fouled.  Bledson also pulled up to make a three-pointer to show his range another time.  

He also showed off satisfactory playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that would throw crisp, touch passes to find teammates on the move to notch assists.  There was one play though where he attempted to find a cutter out of the post, but his teammate dropped the pass out of bounds.  He also was able to get multiple boards to get his fair share of rebounds.  Defensively, he was fairly foul prone in this game.  Overall, Bledson is a skilled swingman that played well on offense, and his ability to make shots and pass the ball could enable him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA someday.

Indiana State’s Jayson Kent also had a decent showing in his team’s win over Utah.  He showed a fairly solid ability to finish plays around the basket, and he also managed to score on a dunk off of a backdoor cut.  He also was able to make an open spot-up three, although he wasn’t quite as consistent at making shots from the outside.  On the other hand, he dropped a pass off of a cut that went out of bounds once.  He also threw a hasty pass that got intercepted.

He did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  On one play though, he committed a foul when going for a defensive board.  He also played adequate defense.  Kent was able to rotate to block a shot hard to prevent an opponent from scoring out of the post.  Another time though, he sagged too far off his man, which led his team to give up a three-point basket.  Overall, Kent is an athletic, skilled forward that played fairly well, and he could project into a 3 and D role in the NBA.

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

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