Observing Kevin McCullar, Tristen Newton, and Hunter Dickinson

December 2nd, 2023

By Alan Lu

Yesterday, I took the time to watch Kansas play a very competitive college basketball game against Connecticut at home, as this was supposed to feature two potential lottery picks in Stephon Castle and Donovan Clingan.  Unfortunately, Stephon Castle still did not play, so it was a game that featured Clingan and other various prospects.  Tristen Newton was the top performer for Connecticut’s team, as he really excelled as a shooter and scorer in this game, while Kansas was able to receive strong performances from most notably Kevin McCullar, Hunter Dickinson, and K.J. Adams.  It was a close game all the way through, but Kansas was able to hold on to get the win.  Here are my thoughts on how McCullar, Newton, and other various prospects fared in this game.

Kevin McCullar played very well, and he scored 21 points, made 3 threes, and grabbed 5 rebounds to help lead Kansas to a win over Connecticut.
(Photo: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

Kevin McCullar had a strong all-around showing to help lead Kansas to a win over Connecticut.  He is a skilled point forward that is having a very good season, and he showed off a very good outside shot late in the game to help his team secure the victory.

McCullar shot the ball very well, especially in the second half.  He showed a knack for making open, spot-up threes, especially late in the game to help his team down the stretch.  He also ran off a ball screen to make a corner three in crunch time.  He also made a pull-up mid-range jumper another time.

He also excelled at scoring out of the post.  McCullar was able to get deep position to score once, and he would consistently use his body to draw fouls in order to get to the free throw line.  He struggled at times to score off the dribble though, as his lack of elite foot speed would sometimes lead him to miss shots when he wouldn’t get foul calls.

McCullar is an unselfish player that would make the extra pass.  He did commit a charging foul once though, as he tried to drive hard to make a kick out pass but collided into a defender that time.

He also was able to get his fair share of boards in this game.  Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  McCullar was able to intercept a pass to get a steal.  He also would contest outside shots to force misses.  However, sometimes he would struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, and he would sometimes commit careless fouls when defending opponents out on the perimeter.  He especially had a tendency to foul three-point shooters due to overaggressiveness.

Overall, Kevin McCullar played well in his team’s win over Connecticut.  He is a skilled swingman that especially excelled as a shot maker and scorer down the stretch, and his solid offensive skills combined with having the size, strength, and skills to play multiple positions could enable him to be a late first round pick in the 2024 draft.

Tristen Newton was terrific in this game, and he scored 31 points in his team’s tough loss to Kansas.
(Photo: Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog)

Tristen Newton had a strong showing in his team’s loss to Kansas.  He did a fantastic job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and Newton is an agile, skilled playmaker that showed a knack for making shots on offense.

He did a great job of making shots in this game.  Newton would make an assortment of threes effortlessly, as he did so off the catch, dribble, and he also ran off screens to do so.  He showed a lot of range on his shot, and he also was able to make a stepback and a pull-up three in this game.  Plus, he did a good job of scoring on quick drives to the hoop, and he also scored on a put back later on.

Also, Newton displayed decent playmaking skills.  He was able to get a pair of assists by throwing accurate lobs to roll men to find them on the move.  He did get the ball ripped away when handling it once, but overall he did a solid job of passing and handling the basketball.

He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  Defensively, he was average at best in this game.  Newton was able to draw a charge when defending an opponent off the dribble once.  However, his lack of size would make it difficult for him to contest shots, as he allowed an opponent to score out of the post and on a corner three another time.

Overall, Newton played very well, and he especially excelled as a shooter and scorer in this game.  He could get any shot he wanted, and he did a great job of making them, as he scored 31 points in his team’s loss to Kansas.  He is an underrated prospect, and he could end up being a good find for an NBA team in the 2024 draft.

Hunter Dickinson had 15 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks, and he also made 3 three-pointers to help lead Kansas to defeat Connecticut yesterday.
(Photo: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press, via Yahoo Sports)

Hunter Dickinson played very well in his team’s win over Connecticut.  He had a strong all-around showing as he outplayed Clingan in this game, and Dickinson also showed an impressive outside shot to help his team get the victory.

Dickinson shot the ball very well, especially from downtown.  He showed a knack for making open, spot-up threes off the catch to show his range and shooting prowess.  He also would score on hustle plays.  He also was able to score on a smooth jump hook out of the post, although he struggled more to score from the post in this game.

Also, Dickinson passed the ball well, and he would throw accurate passes to find open teammates to set up scoring opportunities for them.  He also did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He also played adequate defense.  Dickinson was able to block a shot in the post out of bounds, and he also contested a drive to force a miss.  Plus, he also deflected a pass out of bounds another time.  He is an active defender that would sometimes get his hands on balls to help make things difficult for his opponents.  On the other hand, he had some trouble defending in the post, and sometimes he would allow easy catches, which would lead him to commit reach-in fouls.  He also sometimes would struggle to move his feet when guarding quicker opponents, and he was called for fouling an opposing ball handler due to tripping him.

Overall, Hunter Dickinson had a strong showing to help Kansas get the win.  He is a very tall, strong skilled center that showed a very good outside shot, and he is a skilled big man that can shoot and score the basketball.  He’ll need to improve his defense, but his high skill level could enable him to be a solid role player at the NBA level.

K.J. Adams had a solid showing in his team’s win over Connecticut.  He is a very athletic, energetic combo forward that looked to be the best athlete in this game, and he made a lot of very solid hustle plays to help his team on both ends of the floor.    He would score on high-flying dunks off of cuts and rolls, and he also scored on a short roll, floater.  He also showed an improved ability to make pull-up, midrange jumpers.  On the other hand, he still was uncomfortable with taking threes, and he would sometimes miss on contested shots in the paint, but Adams usually excelled at attacking the basket to score on offense.  While he hasn’t been a very good free throw shooter this season, Adams did a better job of making free throws in this game.

He also passed the ball well out of the post, and Adams was able to quickly handle the ball up the court once.  Also, Adams was able to get his fair share of boards to help his team on the glass.  Plus, Adams defended very well.  He is a good shot blocker that would swat shots to help his team protect the paint, and he would consistently fight through screens to get back to his man.  He also would contest threes to force misses.

Overall, K.J. Adams played very well, and his blend of having great athleticism and strong defensive skills could enable him to be a defensive specialist at the NBA level.  He’ll need to be a more reliable outside shooter and he’ll have to improve his free throw shooting, but that he has the size, athleticism, and defensive prowess already could make him a good find for an NBA team in the second round of the 2024 draft.

Kansas’ freshman swingman, Johnny Furphy played very well in his team’s win over Connecticut.  Furphy shot the ball well in the brief time that he was in the game.  He especially showed a knack for running quickly off of ball screens to make corner threes.  Plus, he also defended well, as he would contest outside shots to force misses.

On the downside, there was one play where he threw an inaccurate entry pass that led to a turnover.  He also had a tendency to pick up quick fouls on the defensive end, and there was one play where he grabbed an opponent’s jersey to pick up a foul.  Overall, Furphy had a solid showing, and he is an agile, skilled swingman that could project into a 3 and D role at the NBA level.

Kansas’ freshman guard, Elmarko Jackson had a decent showing in this game.  He excelled at attacking the hoop to score the basketball, and he also defended well, but he did commit some turnovers on offense.

Jackson showed a knack for making pull-up, mid-range jumpers, as he was quite comfortable at making shots from that range.  He also ran the floor and drove hard to the hoop to draw free throws in transition.  On the downside, he missed both of the threes that he hoisted up from beyond the arc.

As a playmaker, he looked to be about average at best.  He is an unselfish player that will look to pass the basketball.  However, Jackson tended to throw inaccurate passes that would end up leading to turnovers.  He also was called for traveling when handling the ball amidst pressure once.

Also, Jackson did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  Jackson also defended well.  He was able to defend a much taller, bigger player in the post, and he held his ground and contested the shot to force a miss.  When defending a drive late in the game, he managed to poke a ball away from behind off of an opponent to help force a key turnover.

Overall, Jackson is an athletic, energetic combo guard that could be a prospect to watch in the future, and right now, his defense seems to be ahead of his offense right now.  He is a good defender that can lock down his opponents, but he will need to improve his three-point shot and show that he can reliably run the team at the point at higher levels.  Right now, he is a second round prospect for the 2024 draft.

This was not a particularly good game for Connecticut’s 7-2 sophomore center, Donovan Clingan.  While he had turned in a solid early season showing against Kel’el Ware and Indiana, Clingan struggled more when matched up against a tall, strong center that was about equal to him in size and strength levels, and he also missed his fair share of easy shots in this game.

Clingan did an adequate job of scoring out of the post.  When he establishes deep position, he can elevate to score on a jump hook, and he also can use a drop step to score around the basket.  He also would sometimes use his body to draw fouls in order to get to the free throw line.  But sometimes, he would miss on awkward turnaround jump hooks, and he even missed when shooting over the much shorter Elmarko Jackson in this game.

Clingan’s best score of the game was when he caught a lob pass off of a roll to score on a nice alley-oop dunk.  However, he had some bad moments, too, as he missed an open three-pointer very awkwardly, and the ball did not seem to come out well out of his hands at all.  He also got blocked hard on a put back later on.

He also showcased adequate playmaking skills.  He was able to find a cutter to notch an assist.  He also set a solid, hard on-ball screen for a teammate to help him get open another time.

While Clingan was able to get a handful of boards, and multiple boards on both ends of the floor, he did not grab as many rebounds as a 7-2 center should have obtained when he was on the floor.  He also struggled defensively.  For the positives, he would use his size to block shots to help make it difficult for opponents to get easy shots in the lane.  He was at his best when contesting shots in the paint, as he would force some misses, and he also contested a baseline mid-range jumper to get a stop another time.

However, Clingan really struggled to defend out on the perimeter in this game.  He would often be late to get out to defend opponents out on the perimeter, as he would either sag too far off his man or be too slow to make his rotations, which would lead him to allow opponents to score on outside shots often.  Another time, he committed a reach-in foul when defending in the high post.  Clingan didn’t show very quick feet, and his lack of mobility when defending out on the perimeter could be a significant concern at the NBA level.

Overall, Donovan Clingan didn’t have a very good game in his team’s loss to Kansas.  He did make some good plays at times, and he was at his most comfortable when operating in the interior, but it was clear that operating out on the perimeter seemed to take him out of his comfort zone, aside from the one time where he passed to a cutter to notch an assist.  His shooting form needs improvement, and so does his perimeter defense.  Right now, he may be very overrated as a prospect for his year’s draft, but his size and interior skills could enable him to be a rotational big man in the NBA.

Connecticut’s sophomore forward, Alex Karaban had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Kansas.  He was streaky as a shooter in this game.  He was able to make a couple of open, spot-up threes off the catch, and he was best when making outside shots in rhythm.  However, he missed too many makable standstill threes, and he also had his shot blocked when posting up another time.

Karaban did manage to score a couple of times inside the arc.  He was able to score off of a cut, as well as on a left-handed drive another time. He also did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  However, he struggled defensively.  On one good play, he was able to block a shot.  He had trouble defending quicker players in the paint, which would often lead him to commit fouls.   Overall, Karaban is a skilled forward that projects into a shooting specialist role at the NBA level, but he’ll need to be more consistent as an outside shooter and he’ll need to improve his defense moving forward.

Connecticut’s junior big man, Samson Johnson had a fairly solid showing despite getting only limited playing time. He didn’t play much, but he was able to make a couple of good plays in this game.  He caught a lob pass after rolling hard to the hoop, which enabled him to score on a high-flying dunk.  Johnson also was able to pass the ball to a cutter to notch an assist.  

Johnson was able to get a pair of boards, but he didn’t grab enough rebounds when he was on the floor.  Defensively, there was one play where he hedged too hard onto a pick and roll ball handler out on the perimeter, which led him to pick up a foul.  Overall, Johnson is a very athletic big man, but he will need to involve himself more on offense and assert himself, but he shows promise as a roll man and secondary facilitator on offense.  He’ll need to continue to improve and hone his game and he still has ways to go as an overall player, but his solid blend of size, athleticism, and upside could enable him to end up being a mid to late second round pick if he ends up being in the 2024 draft.

Unfortunately, Stephon Castle did not play in this game, and so the only time I’ve seen him play is in a high school All-Star game setting, which is nowhere close to the NBA level.  So, it looks like I’ll have to wait to see Castle play in order to get a better feel for his overall skill set.

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

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