College basketball is a game of prospects, and the 2018-19 season has not been one to disappoint. The headlines have been dominated by Dukes big three, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett, and the generational talent that is Zion Williamson. Other names have shot up draft boards on the back of exceptional play, such as Ja Morant and Jarrett Culver. However, as we approach the tail end of the college season and the all-important March Madness, there is one name which has been notably absent, Nassir Little. He began this season as one of the most talked about players in college basketball. 28 games in, he looks to be a shell of himself. Coming off the bench for 18 minutes, contributing ten points, four rebounds and one assist per game. So what is behind the fall of one of the countries most exciting prospects? And where in the world is Nassir Little?
Nassir Little, Missing In Action
Tried And Tested
The University of North Carolina (UNC) is one of the most storied and successful college basketball programs ever. A large reason for this is the system and coaching of Roy Williams. Famously, Williams is a coach who will favor his multi-year guys, playing freshman sparingly. Little was always going to have to earn his minutes, playing behind seniors Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye, both trusted pieces of the Tar-Heels squad. These are players who provide leadership and a winning mentality. More importantly, they’re players who understand the offensive schemes and systems in place, an area where Nassir Little has been somewhat lacking.
Unsure or Unwilling
One of the biggest criticisms of Nassir Little’s play this season has been his inability to properly engage on offense. He is often caught out of position, stagnating the team and generally looking lost and confused. There are some who argue that this is due to a lack of engagement. In a system that prioritizes ball movement and equal scoring, it is expected that a ball dominant player such as Little maybe has trouble adjusting.
However, it is also possible that his struggles come less from an attitude, but more an unawareness of the systems. Little has always been scouted as a freak athlete and lockdown defender, who has begun to expand his offensive repertoire. Though not highly refined, he is an enticing prospect. Playing in the role that he has, he may have simply not had the opportunity to both refine his game, and to then settle into the system laid down by Williams.
Impact on Draft Stock
Similar to most facets in college basketball, this issue links back to the NBA Draft. The question this time is how much will Nassir Littles draft stock be impacted by his disappointing season. Lets put it this way: before the start of the season, there was a legitimate discussion as to who out of Nassir Little, RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson would be the top pick. Current draft boards have him falling as far as 18th. The season is not yet over. However, it would appear that Littles inability to find his form may have greatly impacted his chances in the NBA. With the NCAA Tournament still to come, hopefully, he can regain the form that made him such a lethal force.
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