I had the pleasure of attending my first Portsmouth Invitational Tournament this past weekend. This was the 69th (nice) year in the tournaments history. I have always stated that I find a lot of value in in-person scouting. I don't take the opportunity lightly because there are things you can't see or might not notice on film when evaluating a prospect. A few things that pop more live are athleticism, communication and the form of a jump shot. I got a front row seat this weekend to see these factors at work from some of the nations top college seniors. When fifteen players impressed me, I figured it was only right to do an All-NBA style recognition format.
Each of these teams had 4 important criteria. That criteria is how impressed I was regardless of my prior opinion, productivity, does the team make sense and does the player fit into a role well. I see everyone of these guys getting some kind of NBA opportunity and have the potential or talent to make an impact at the NBA or G League level.
G: D’Moi Hodge
G: Sir’ Jabari Rice
F: Kevin Obanor
F: Toumani Camara
Big: Nathan Mensah
D'Moi Hodge (Missouri)
D’Moi Hodge was far and away the guy I left the most impressed with. His jump shot from a form and consistency standpoint is ready for the league. He is unbelievably light on his feet and is super quick. This helps him excel at cutting and getting to his spots off the ball. His role at Missouri involved utilizing that speed with their fast offense (9th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency per Kenpom) and blitz style press defense. His size measured a little smaller than I would like but there is a smaller guard that is a successful two way NBA player that he reminds me a lot of. He feels like a poor man's Marcus Smart (shout out to Nathan Grubel for that one). Hodge’s strengths are NBA skills that will translate very well.
Sir'Jabari Rice (Texas)
2023 Portsmouth MVP Sir’Jabari Rice showed his unbelievable pump fake multiple times. I caught myself multiple times looking at the referee in anticipation of an up and down call but no whistle was blown. The defender would go flying by or foul Rice. The pump fake in the lane drawing contact was a big reason he can get to the line where he made 86.3% of his free throws. Now, obviously his pump fake is not going to be his NBA skill that gets him minutes. It is his ability to create and attack on the dribble. He has a super tight handle and is shifty with the ball. A team should consider giving him a chance to showcase some of his unique abilities as a scorer.
Kevin Obanor (Texas Tech)
A guy that I believed was very strongly in the running for MVP was Texas Tech Forward Kevin Obanor. He plays with an intense passion and motor. He was without a doubt one of the most vocal players on the floor at any given time. He has great defensive awareness which pairs nicely with his ability as a defender on the ball and in the post. His 6’8", 233 lb frame offers a strong, physical base allowing him to absorb contact well. Offensively, he showed some promising tools such as his ability to post up and score or find his teammates if he commanded a double team. Obanor had one game in particular where he put up 29 points where he was 9-16 from the field, 3-8 from three point range and 8-11 from the free throw line. Based on defensive versatility alone, NBA teams should take him seriously.
Toumani Camara (Dayton)
There didn’t seem to be much debate on who the best player coming into the tournament was. Toumani Camara from Dayton University was pretty unanimously the guy everyone was there to see and after seeing him play some I can understand exactly why. At 6’8", 233 lbs, and a 7 foot wingspan, he moves with such fluidity and speed that is unique for a guy of his size. He appeared to me almost like he was a big guard based on his movement and quickness. He has a great understanding of defensive positioning specifically on the weak side. Even if the shooting percentages might be inconsistent, there's no doubt in my mind he has talent that can be tapped into with some NBA development and opportunity.
Nathan Mensah (San Diego State)
How happy would you be if your team drafted or signed a 6’11", 222 lb big man with a 9’2 standing reach and a 7’5 wingspan? If you answered yes, those measurable's describe San Diego State Aztec big man Nathan Mensah. Nathan has excellent footwork for a big man of his size and it comes from his background of playing soccer in Ghana. In a double overtime win Friday night, he showed off his ability to score using his face up game and also had some very strong dunks as well. The post defense is legit and his ability to switch in pick and roll is going to be a vital part of his success in the NBA. The best part about his game is that he has only been playing basketball since 2014 so he has plenty of room to learn and flourish regardless of his age.
G: Zyon Pullin
G: Taevion Kinsey
F: Timmy Allen
F: KJ Williams
Big: Jake Stephens
Zyon Pullin (UC Riverside)
Zyon Pullin was a name I knew coming into the weekend but I kept finding myself noticing him standing out when I was trying to watch other guys on the floor. His ability to get downhill and score on the dribble from different spots is impressive. His game as a true point guard leaves much to be desired but he is a capable playmaker and decision maker. He has quick feet on defense and can match the speed of most guys he is guarding. I think he has some potential as a ball handler for an NBA team and can be productive in any role.
Taevion Kinsey (Marshall)
When you score over 20 points per game at any level in college, you should be taken seriously. Kinsey did just that for Marshall. He is a super athletic wing who has long arms and can jump out of the gym. He showed his ability to get to his spots at the elbow and knock shots down. He has a good form on his jump shot but he will need use the minutes he is given at the next level to be more efficient. As a defender, Taevion can use his athleticism to keep him with and in front of guys however he is a very skinny body type and that worries me from a physicality standpoint. NBA teams like athletic wings so he is worth a flyer.
Timmy Allen (Texas)
My first game when I arrived Friday, Timmy Allen was the star of the show. He was hitting mid range jumpers all around the court and showing off athletic finishes at the rim. He measured out shorter than 6'5" without shoes which is concerning from a positional fit standpoint since he is not an efficient shooter (24.8% from three in his college career). Allen is athletic and can be dangerous in transition. He showed some playmaking flashes specifically out of the post over the weekend which will help him fill a role at the NBA level.
KJ Williams (LSU)
KJ has a unique blend of brute physicality with a very smooth jumper that he can knock down at a good rate (41% on 4.3 attempts per game from three this year). I expected him to post up guys and be physical down low and he did exactly that. KJ showed great awareness as a passer. Once the double team came or he was in a position where he couldn’t make a move, he knew where the ball needed to go. The ability to stretch out and hit a 3 makes his two way ability at 6'9" even more exciting to think about as a professional.
Jake Stephens (Chattanooga)
Jake provides a unique skillset as a stretch big. He is very versatile as a pick and roll and pick and pop threat. He showed significant improvements over his 5 years in college on his shoot efficiency numbers. At a very strong 6’10", his presence in the post offensively leaves something to be desired but I think the threat as a shooter can mask some of that. Defensively, he is very active and demonstrates very good communication on switches and through screens especially when his teammates may not see what is coming. The way the modern NBA is with its need for bigs that can shoot the ball, why not give a guy who shot 55% from the field and 40% from three this year on career high attempts a shot at contributing for an NBA team.
G: Tajion Jones
G: Kendric Davis
F: Justyn Mutts
F: DeAndre Williams
Big: Trey Jemison
Tajion Jones (UNC Asheville)
When I think of a consistent, productive college player this year at the mid major level, Tajion Jones is one of the first players to come to mind. He played a lot off the ball this year playing off teammate Drew Pember who was one of the best players in the country for the Bulldogs. This benefited him greatly as he was a seamless fit on his team in Asheville and at Portsmouth.
He was able to provide scoring attacking the rim when he had the ball and then as a shooting threat. When he did not have the ball, he showed his ability to move well without the ball and be a connecting piece in his team's offense. One move in particular that was able to help him score was how tight his spin move is going from his right and spinning to his left. On the defensive end, Jones is no slouch specifically fighting through screens. He has a high motor and is very fast so he is able to hold his own on that end. I, along with every scout and NBA person needs to be taking a second look at Tajion Jones and how his skill set can translate to the NBA very well.
Kendric Davis (Memphis)
Kendric showed his poise and ability to score and create with the ball in his hands. After an awesome season for the Memphis Tigers this year, he was looking to show up to Portsmouth and back that play up. I believe he did just that. Kendric is super strong for his small frame and can get to the basket and take contact at the rim very well. He showed an ability to finish through the contact as well. On the defensive side of the ball, he was able to be competitive using his strength fighting through screens and on some switches on to taller offensive players. With his proven track record combined with a strong motor, I think he can fight his way to an opportunity for a team who wants an experienced ball handler.
Justyn Mutts (Virginia Tech)
Despite some of the counting stats for Justyn Mutts, he still showed some of the physical tools and playmaking ability that can provide value. He measured in at 6’6” without shoes and a ridiculous 7'3” wingspan! He is very quick on his feet and has the ability to defend a couple of positions well. I am looking for him to be more aggressive with the ball in attempting to attack the basket and use his physical tools to score. I think in the right context he can use the G League to hone in on some of those abilities to prove he can be valuable for an NBA rotation.
DeAndre Williams (Memphis)
At 26 years old, DeAndre is obviously going to be an experienced player out there and use it to his advantage. He displayed his basketball IQ in one case in particular I witnessed. Heading into halftime, he shared some information with his Portsmouth teammate Darius McGee about how their opponent Kendric Davis likes to do on drives and what to look for. This is important because Williams played this past season at Memphis with Davis. DeAndre also showed some playmaking flashes specifically out of the post that were promising. He can use his strong, physical frame and experience to immediately be able to provide some two way ability that is valuable to NBA teams.
Trey Jemison (UAB)
I throw around the term motor sometimes more than I should. Ultimately, what I mean is do you give a crap and play hard? Trey Jemison does those two things extremely well. He used that to his advantage on the glass and on put-backs. He filled the role of a guy that uses his strength to screen hard (even if some of them he was called for illegally doing) and know where to be once the ball handler goes. Trey can fill an important role for an NBA team as a backup big and will know how to utilize his strengths properly in those minutes just like he did at Portsmouth.