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Scouting With the Mavs: Memphis at SMU

A senior night, spoiled

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Memphis Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Kendric Davis spoiled SMU’s senior night, playing for an in-conference rival after being the star at SMU for the last couple of years. Memphis continues to cruise on the edge of the bubble, defeating SMU 81-62. In this game, Kendric Davis of Memphis and Zhuric Phelps of SMU were the two prospects being monitored.

Kendric Davis, a likely candidate for back-to-back AAC Player of the Year honors, had a fantastic homecoming game, recording 23 points, 10 assists, three rebounds, and four steals on 39% shooting.

Despite Kendric Davis being below six feet tall, his incredible quickness, deceptive eye manipulation as a ball-handler, outstanding top-end speed, and capable shooting ability make him a candidate for at least a two-way contract. Something that stood out against SMU, as this was my first time seeing Davis in person, was how strong his eye manipulation is as a ball-handler. Eye manipulation is the ability to trick defenders, both on-ball and off-ball, with the eyes to confuse the defense and become unpredictable. If you watch closely, almost every NBA point guard has this skill down, rarely having a tell of their next move. With Davis’ speed, his eye manipulation adds another layer to his first step and downhill acceleration.

On top of speed and slashing, Davis has good shooting upside despite a slumping fifth year senior season from three, shooting just 32% from deep. Beyond his consistently promising free throw percentage, always above 80%, he is shooting 38% from three on spot-up jump shots, compared to his low 23.8% from three off the dribble. While point guards should be able to consistently shoot off the dribble, this year appears to be an anomaly given his off the dribble three point percentage being 37.6% last year and 36.4% in his junior year.

As Memphis rides the bubble, look for Kendric Davis to potentially make a name for himself as one of the premier undersized guards in the draft class. As of now, after a heartbreaking loss to number one ranked Houston this weekend after facing SMU, Memphis likely has secured a spot in the Big Dance.

For SMU, Zhuric Phelps remains the lone top prospect for the Mustangs in a down year. However, he finished the game with just 10 points, two rebounds, and two assists with four turnovers on 42% shooting. While some of these turnovers and mistakes were set up by teammates, Phelps was a bit overwhelmed by Memphis’ defense, unable to get his teammates going. However, he was able to find holes as a slasher, which extended his double digit scoring streak to seven games and was extended to eight on Sunday against Cincinatti in SMU’s season finale.

SMU finished the season with a 10-21 record, their worst since 2008. Look for Zhuric Phelps to declare for the draft to at least test the waters and get feedback, and maybe even transfer away from the SMU program. As for Kendric Davis, he is auto eligible for the 2023 NBA Draft, and is likely heading to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, an event held for the country’s best senior NBA Draft prospects in April.