8 Mid-Major Prospects You Should Know
From Furman to Wyoming and everywhere in-between, we've found some intriguing prospects outside of the power conferences
The best prospects in college basketball don’t just reside in major conferences. Year after year, guys outside those leagues push their way into the first round and even the lottery. Ja Morant (Murray State), Damian Lillard (Weber State), CJ McCollum (Lehigh), Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga), and so many more have become stars from mid-major leagues; even popular sleepers like Bones Hyland (VCU), Quentin Grimes (Houston), and Pascal Siakam (New Mexico State) can be found at these levels. It’s important to go into each season with a watchlist of the players outside of major conferences that need to be watched.
It’s more likely than not that the names we bring forward today never rise to those levels, let alone get drafted at all. The top current mid-major prospects (DaRon Holmes of Dayton, anybody ever from Gonzaga) always will find their way into the mainstream. Guys in spots like Pepperdine (Max Lewis, Houston Mallette) or VCU (Jayden Nunn) are already getting some attention as potential sleepers for next year, so we decided to leave those guys alone.
This is meant to be a deep dive of prospects, guys who could come out of nowhere this year and force their way into the draft-worthy conversation. What we’re looking for isn’t necessarily the next first-round selection, but the next UDFA to become a career pro: the next Fred VanVleet (Wichita State), Robert Covington (Tennessee State), JJ Barea (Northeastern) or Bruce Bowen (Cal-State Fullerton).
Hunter Maldonado - W, Wyoming
In essence, Maldonado is a 6’7” lead guard. He has a pretty polished and impressive handle for his size, a great change-of-pace dribble, explosion when driving to his right hand and a tough, gritty frame built for physicality. Maldonado is going into his sixth year in college (he redshirted due to injury in 2018-19, which would have been his sophomore year). There are few college players with more experience; he’s logged over 4,000 minutes and been at over 35 minutes a game each of the last three years.
The Cowboys are a hidden gem in basketball, the best team in the Mountain West with a strong group of transfers and excellent returning cast. Maldonado needs to get his due as a unique and impactful piece. As a strong-bodied finishing guard, he’s increased his 2-point percentage every year in college, now up above 50%. His 6.3 assists per game last year are a product of having the ball in his hands a ton, as well as improved passing chops out of the pick-and-roll. He gets to the free throw line a ton (6.9 FTA per game) and converts at a respectable 70% clip.
Big guards with feel and physicality are tough to come by. Maldonado is old (he’ll be 24 this March) and likely not a draftable prospect as a result. He’s really impactful, has a great track record of success and is a pro somewhere, though. We love not just how he can knife to the basket but how he slows down and will mismatch post smaller point guards that are matched up onto him.
3-point shooting has been Maldonado’s Achilles heel through his career. A career 27% shooter, he was at 25% last year and only 20% the season before. Many teams will go under and dare him to shoot. He’s shown that he isn’t scared to shoot them, but a transition to a more off-ball role will be more difficult for him without the shot coming along. At this point, he’s a really good G-League mismatch piece in our eyes.