Kansas State point guard Markquis Nowell is now an NCAA Tournament legend.
In an overtime victory over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, the Harlem, N.Y. native finished with 20 points, a tournament-record 19 assists and five steals to lead the Wildcats to the Elite Eight. Among those to marvel at Nowell's performance was Kevin Durant, who called it "a legendary display of controlling a basketball game."
With performances like the one above, Nowell has led the Wildcats on an electrifying run in March. While Nowell is one of the shortest players in college basketball, he's averaging 21.3 points, 14.0 assists and 3.7 steals in the NCAA Tournament, filling up the stat sheet each time he takes the floor.
Without Nowell's contributions, K-State would not be where it is now.
As impactful as he's been in college, is there a place for Nowell at the NBA level? The Sporting News explores the draft profile of Kansas State's electrifying playmaker.
TSN's MARCH MADNESS HQ
Live NCAA bracket | TV schedule | Predictor tool
Markquis Nowell strengths
If you tune into any Kansas State game, it won't take long for you to see that one of Nowell's greatest strengths is his passing ability.
This season, Nowell's 8.1 assists per game rank second in all of Division 1 and is the highest single-season assists average in school history. His 285 assists entering the Elite Eight are 99 more than any other Wildcat has dished out in one season.
Nowell's playmaking is as flashy as it is practical, as he dishes out dazzling passes while maintaining an assist-to-turnover ratio that's higher than 2:1. Not only does his passing get his teammates involved, but it also infuses energy into the game and can sway momentum.
His lob in the Sweet 16 is just the latest example. In a high-pressure situation, Nowell's pass set up the finish that would put K-State up for good.
To be clear, Nowell has been doing this all year.
Come for the passing, stay for Nowell's heart.
Nowell is averaging a career-best 17.2 points per game this season and is by far one of the most fearless players in the nation. Take his game-winning lobs in the above clips as an example of how no moment is too big for the senior.
His two massive 3-pointers to help lead K-State past Kentucky serve as another reminder.
Over his five-year college career, Nowell is a 35.1 percent 3-point shooter. This past season has been par for the course as he's shot 35.1 percent on just under seven attempts per game.
NBA DRAFT SCOUTING REPORTS: Brandon Miller | Gradey Dick | Zach Edey | Drew Timme
Markquis Nowell weaknesses
With respect to his NBA prospectus, Nowell's greatest weakness lies in his 5-foot-8 frame and age. In a draft class headlined by 18- and 19-year-olds, Nowell will be 24 on Christmas.
While we're just six years removed from Isaiah Thomas' MVP-caliber season, the NBA has not been kind to most players under 6 feet in recent years. College stars like Chris Clemons (5-9), Carsen Edwards (5-11) and Tremont Waters (5-10) struggled to find a place in the league. Facundo Campazzo (5-10), the NBA's shortest player entering the 2022-23 season , was waived one month into the year.
Thomas' career is a reminder that heart is immeasurable, but Nowell's size hinders him in that it would make him a defensive liability and limit him offensively.
On defense, opposing teams would likely put Nowell in screen-and-roll situations to switch him on to larger players. On offense, Nowell's size will limit him from finishing among the trees.
In order to be a plus offensively, he would need to do more than just pass — shooting near or above 40 percent from 3-point range would be a start.
At times, there can also be a downside to Nowell's passing ability.
While true, it's easy to say that some flashy passes lead to turnovers. More concerning than the turnovers are the passes in which Nowell puts his teammates in a position where they may not be able to make a play.
This wouldn't be as big of a problem when surrounded by NBA talent, but the habit itself is one to break.
Markquis Nowell NBA Mock Draft projection
Mock Draft projection: Undrafted
Ultimately, the weaknesses tied to Nowell's size and age will negatively impact his draft stock. The league has shifted toward a larger point guard prototype and teams aren't likely to use a draft pick on a player of Nowell's stature.
That said, Nowell is a prime candidate to earn an invite to the NBA Summer League and from there, could make his presence felt and earn his way into a training camp by disproving that his limitations will be a factor.
In recent years, a number of undrafted players have earned two-way contracts and carved their own path to the league. New Orleans' Jose Alvarado is a great example.
Markquis Nowell NBA player comparison
Plays like: Tyler Ulis
Ulis' NBA career didn't quite pan out, but he was a problem as an undersized guard at Kentucky. Poetically, Nowell helped lead the Wildcats past Kentucky, with Ulis on the sideline as a graduate assistant.
Nowell is a much better playmaker but displays the same moxie that paved the way for Ulis to get selected 34th in the 2016 NBA Draft. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Nowell is on record saying he grew up idolizing Ulis and emulating his game.
Comments / 0