The 2018-19 basketball season is inching closer to beginning. While Dallas isn’t known for being a basketball powerhouse, this season is a chance for Dallas to showcase many NBA prospects, whether it be from college basketball, the G-League, or high school basketball. College basketball teams are announcing their schedules almost daily, and with there being several avenues for basketball to be played in Dallas, the matchups are highly intriguing.
First, college basketball in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is home to four major Division I basketball teams in TCU, UT-Arlington, North Texas, and SMU. DFW is also just 2 hours away from Baylor and 3-4 hours from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Houston, Texas, and Texas A&M. The geography is perfect for catching an NBA prospect in action any given weekend. That’s five conferences, 10 universities, and at least a couple dozen prospects within a day-drive’s distance.
Starting with the local schools then branching out, here’s what DFW offers in terms of seeing NBA talent in the 2018-19 college basketball season:
UT-Arlington/Sun Belt Conference
UT-Arlington had their first drafted prospect since 1982 (when the Mavericks took two UT-Arlington players in Ralph McPherson and Albert Culton in the ninth and tenth rounds, respectively) in 2018 in Kevin Hervey. However, there isn’t a strong NBA prospect on the team currently.
The Sun Belt Conference is home to two NBA prospects though — one of which comes to Arlington in conference play. Jordan Varnado of Troy is not making an appearance in Arlington, but D’Marcus Simonds of Georgia State will be playing in Arlington on January 3. Simonds is a good scorer with some average playmaking, but has excellent speed and has been a passable defender despite short arms. Simonds projects as a late second rounder in the same way that Kevin Hervey did in 2018.
North Texas/Conference USA
While UNT doesn’t have any NBA prospects at the moment, they will be facing a few during the season.
The must-watch Conference USA player is top 20 recruit Charles Bassey of Western Kentucky. Unlike 2017, Western Kentucky’s top recruit will not be withdrawing from the team and sitting out in preparation for the draft. Bassey is a long and very quick center that should be able to protect the rim at the NBA level. Bassey will very likely get looks in the first or early second round after reclassifying into the 2018 high school recruiting class. The other Conference USA prospect to watch is UTSA sophomore PG Jhivvan Jackson — a sharpshooter with limitless range, but lacks much size. Jackson projects as a summer league prospect that may be able to latch on with his shooting.
Big 12 non-conference schedules have been released, and the full regular season schedules should be released by Labor Day. The Big 12 has many prospects that should fill boards in the 30-60 range come June, and the Big 12 is also home to many non-conference opponents with top draft prospects.
For example, Oregon, home to Bol Bol, Louis King, and Kenny Wooten- all 3 first round prospects on my board — visits Baylor on December 21. TCU will be hosting Eastern Michigan in November, home of second round prospect Elijah Minnie — a stretch 4 with good shot blocking instincts.
TCU also hosts Florida as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, where Jalen Hudson stars. Hudson climbed many boards in the 2018 draft process before returning to school for his senior season. Lastly, Oklahoma will host Vanderbilt in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, which is a great opportunity for draft junkies in DFW to make the drive to see Simi Shittu and Darius Garland, both players I expect to be drafted in 2019. This rundown doesn’t include the many prospects that Big 12 teams possess, but almost all of the prospects will run through Fort Worth or any other nearby Big 12 city.
Next, the SEC is home to likely the largest pool of draft talent of any conference. Just about every team has at least one NBA prospect that will get a hard look at getting drafted. With an SEC team nearby in College Station, home games at Texas A&M include Arkansas, Missouri, LSU, and Vanderbilt — all teams with first round talents. Arkansas’ Dan Gafford was considered one of the best centers in the 2018 draft before announcing his return to school for his sophomore year. Missouri’s Jontay Porter will be tasked to repeat his strong freshman year as a 3&D PF and the star prospect of the team. LSU has Tremont Waters returning from a star freshman season, and also adds three top 50 recruits in Naz Reid, Emmit Williams, and Javonte Smart.
SMU/Ivy League/High School
Lastly, Houston and SMU don’t have any NBA prospects for the 2019 draft class, but SMU hosts Matt Morgan of Cornell, the best prospect of the Ivy League. Houston will be hosting Oregon December 1, LSU December 12, and Saint Louis December 16. Saint Louis has a top 100 high school recruit in Carte’are Gordon, an explosive athlete and high effort rebounder. I anticipate Gordon to be a sleeper on many draft boards in the future.
In high school, the must see players include: RJ Hampton (Little Elm), Tyrese Maxey (South Garland), and Denton Guyer teammates De’Vion Harmon and Jalen Wilson.
I scouted RJ Hampton in the spring, and his top skill is slashing and playmaking as a tall point guard that may continue growing past his current 6’4 frame. Hampton already possesses an advanced Eurostep and hop step when attacking the basket. RJ Hampton is currently ranked in the top 5 of the 2020 recruiting class. Another player I saw in the spring was Tyrese Maxey, and his game was almost identical to Collin Sexton. Maxey is explosive getting to the basket and is a high effort defender, but lacks a strong jump shot.
While the 2019 draft process is still in its earliest stage, the growth throughout the season should be expected. The DFW Metroplex has not seen a talent pool this deep in recent history, and that fact should be taken advantage of by any and every NBA Draft fan in the Metroplex. Who knows, one of these teams may be housing the next Dallas Maverick draft pick.