San Antonio Spurs Draft Prospect 4: Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky)
Even though the Hilltoppers didn’t make an NCAA Tournament appearance, I am totally convinced that the San Antonio Spurs and Charles Bassey would be a match made in heaven. This 20-year-old big man is tremendously underrated as many mock drafts have him going well into the second round for reasons that are entirely bewildering to me.
Bassey stands at 6-11, weighs in at 235 pounds, and averaged 17.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game in his 28 games with the Hilltoppers this season. For more traditional big men, his motor, speed, and mobility went unmatched in the NCAA this past season, to the point that he may be the most athletic center coming into the 2021 draft.
What solidifies him as a first-round pick in my mind, though, is his shooting potential. He shoots nearly 76 percent from the free-throw line and gradually improved his 3-point shooting over the course of the regular season to 30 percent. These are indicators that he could potentially develop a reliable jump shot to help space the floor.
Generally speaking, I don’t have many negative things to say about Bassey. He can run the court with ease, he’s a defensive-minded player with offensive upside, and he gives off shades of Keldon Johnson in terms of his effort at the glass.
If I had to nitpick any part of his game, it would be his footwork. At times in the post, he would force awkward shots because of how he was moving his feet, and he tended to travel on attempted dribble drives. He is not the highest IQ player either but usually seemed very comfortable on the court despite missing the majority of the prior season. I don’t see this as a huge issue, though, especially if he were to work out those kinks with Tim Duncan.
The most significant concern about Bassey among NBA circles that’s preventing him from being a consensus first-round pick is his proneness to injury. He suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his leg that ended his sophomore season in Western Kentucky that also supposedly caused some damage to the cartilage in his knee.
While this understandably may have some teams worried, this should be far from being a dealbreaker for Bassey. Western Kentucky provided some insight into his recovery, with his head coach noting, “not many people would have worked as hard as Charles worked to get himself back.”
This, along with the fact that he intentionally chose a program like Western Kentucky over some Power Five schools in favor of development over media attention, has me very high on Bassey’s intangibles.
This is also not to mention that Bassey improved virtually every major statistical aspect of his game even after coming off such an awful injury. I do not have a shred of doubt in my mind that if Bassey had not been injured, and if he had chosen a school with a more recognized basketball program, he would have been a lottery pick in whichever draft he chose to enter. If he falls to the second round, let alone the late first round, he will be an automatic steal for whoever lands him.
Next: Player #3