The Next NBA Star You Have Never Heard Of

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Written by Ben Pfeifer

Who was the best scorer in college basketball. A couple names come to mind, starting with Lonzo Ball, UCLA sensation who changed the culture of the program and put on a show his freshman season. How about Washington star Markelle Fultz who carried his team, sniper Malik Monk who can score at will, or player of the year Frank Mason of Kansas? None of those are correct. This player averaged 30 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. Over the last fifteen seasons, only two other players have averaged 28.5 points or above, Stephen Curry and Jimmer Fredette and is one of 31 players since 1947 to average 30 points in a single season. This includes players such as Pete Maravich, Rick Barry, Oscar Robertson, and 5-9 point guard out of Central Michigan, Marcus Keene.

If you have never heard of Marcus Keene before this, or even if you did not know much about him, you would be shocked to hear that he compares to players like these. Despite his incredible season, he is touted as a late second round draft prospect. His height is a major concern to most scouts, which could limit him at the next level. But Keene was a monster this year, ignoring his height and fearlessly attacking the rim, using a variety of creative floaters and layups to finish from touch. He was potent from deep, shooting 37% on high volume, and had the ultimate green light; he could shoot at any time, from anywhere. And he would hit those crazy, highlight reel pull up deep threes in transition, like Curry and Fredette would. Keene has the scoring potential to be a difference maker on the next level. He is most likely going to be a liability on defense due to his size, and will have to make up for that with being pesky; harassing ball handlers.

The comparison most people are going to make for Keene is to Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is also 5–9, and has been written off his entire life, bouncing around between teams until finally reaching stardom in B0ston this season. He averaged 29 points this season, scoring in a similar volume to Keene. The difference is that Thomas has much more talent around him. Continuing the trend of similarities, Thomas is downright awful on defense. I will be using TPA(total points added)in my analysis, which is a stat that describes how much a player helps or hurts their team when he is on the floor. TPA is split into OPA and DPS. Isaiah Thomas is the worst defender in the league according to DPS(defensive points saved). It is not that Thomas is awful mechanically, or does not give effort, but simply does not have the frame like Keene. Thomas, though, according to OPA(offensive points added), is incredibly offensively, ranking at third in the NBA.

A more apt and realistic comparison may be Kay Felder, Cavaliers point guard. He was drafted by the Hawks in the second round of the 2016 draft. Felder is also an undersized potent scorer, who was compared by his college coach at Oakland to a “5–9 Dominique Wilkins”. In 2016, Felder was 4th in points per game at 24, and led the nation in assists at 9. Felder did not have much of a role this season, averaging 9 minutes per game. Keene is a bit less athletic than Felder, but still has the athleticism to compete at the next level. Keene is a much better shooter, and has tight handles.

Overall, Keene is a long shot to make an NBA roster. Keene will get a chance in the summer league, and in training camp. Keene will most likely float around from team to team, barely scraping by, but if Keene can get a chance in the right situation with the right team, Keene could ascend to stardom.


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