Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. The fab five of this year’s freshman class.
For NBA diehards of lottery teams like the Sacramento Kings, those were the guys to watch and pay close attention to during this past season of college basketball. However, their combined star-power allowed another top recruit to fly under the radar.
Noah Vonleh was one of the top-rated high school players coming out of the class of 2013. The 18-year-old power forward ranked eighth overall by Rivals.com, seventh by Scout.com and No. 13 in the ESPN100 list. However, a so-so year at Indiana kept his profile low. Despite his less-than-stellar performance, he opted to enter this year’s NBA Draft.
“If you watch him just in the games and on tape, you don’t see all the skill that he has,” Kings assistant general manager Mike Bratz said of the 18-year-old prospect. “He’s got a lot more than he showed in Indiana.”
As the draft creeps closer and closer, Vonleh is rising. After his lone season in Bloomington, the 18-year-old big man helped his stock by measuring well at the NBA’s annual draft combine in Chicago. He stood at 6-foot-8 without shoes and weighed in 247 pounds to go along with a roughly 7-4 wingspan. He also measured in with the largest hands at the combine in terms of length (9 ¾ inches) and width (11 ¾ inches), per Draft Express.
Vonleh has the makings of a high boom or bust player, maybe with no in-between. He has the physical tools, athleticism, work ethic and upside (he turns 19 in August) to make him a tantalizing prospect. However, he’s still incredibly raw and could have probably used another year of seasoning at the college level. With plenty of development still ahead of him, the situation Vonleh is drafted into will likely determine whether he sticks as an NBA player.
“He’s got things to learn,” Bratz said of Vonleh. “But for an 18-year-old kid, he’s pretty good.”
Vonleh’s potential is helping his cause in this year’s draft. He has a unique set of skills for a big man that fit in line with today’s game. Vonleh has a nice-looking shooting stroke for a player his size. He fits the mold of today’s quintessential stretch four.
Spacing the floor from the power forward position is something Bratz thinks Vonleh can do at the next level. It’s also a role that the 18-year-old big man is willing to accept at this point in his career.
“I see myself as a stretch four,” Vonleh said. “And then hopefully one day, try to work my way more out to the perimeter and be a three man. Just gotta keep working.”
In his workout with the Kings on Monday, Vonleh was able to show off his handle, as well. It’s an aspect of his game that he’s spent plenty of time working on dating back to his days before he was a Hoosier. Vonleh credits his AAU coach Vin Pastore, as well as Scott Hazelton, Director of Basketball Operations at the Rockingham Athletic Club in Plaistow, NH, for helping him develop his handles through countless hours of skill work.
“We did a lot of ball handling drills,” Vonleh said. “I’d get in the gym with him, do some stuff with him and Scott Hazelton, do some one-on-one stuff. (I want to) keep working on my handle to separate myself from guys at my position that can’t handle the ball and do things like that.”
Vonleh may have flown under the radar during his single season at Indiana. However, the Havervill, Mass. native is certainly turning heads now as he readies for the next phase of his basketball life in the NBA.