For mid-major college basketball prospects, gaining recognition from NBA teams is tough, even during a normal season. With COVID-19 affecting the 2020 NBA pre-draft process this year, earning that recognition is nearly impossible.
“If COVID wasn’t a thing, there would have been tons of NBA workouts and camps that we could benefit out draft stock in. The fact that we couldn’t do so is totally unfair, but it’s out of our hands,” Northern Illinois point guard Eugene German said.
German was a star throughout his four years at NIU, becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer with over 2000 career points.
“I feel like I’ve gotten some notoriety, but it’s nothing compared to what someone who attended a Power 5 school would receive, so it’s tough in that regard,” Florida International big man Osasu Osaghae said.
Osaghae – like German – was a mid-major standout, leading the NCAA last season with averages of 3.7 blocks per game and an outstanding 13.8 percent block percentage. He also took home Conference-USA Defensive Player of the Year honors.
However, without certain camps and invitational events being hosted this year, guys like German and Osaghae had minimal opportunity to display their skillsets and their character in front of NBA teams.
“Losing the Portsmouth Invitational was a killer. It’s one of my favorite events every year, where small school guys have an opportunity to shine,” Babcock Hoops NBA Draft video scout Derek Murray said.
The Portsmouth Invitational is one of the oldest annual NBA Draft showcases. It’s an event where strictly under-the-radar and overlooked prospects are invited to face off against one another and have the spotlight in front of NBA teams and scouts.
“We benefit off those things like pre-draft workouts and the Portsmouth Invitational, and the fact that those things were canceled hurt us opportunity wise,” German said.
From last season alone, five players who participated in the Portsmouth Invitational earned NBA Draft selections. Of the 64 participants in the tournament, 55 played in the 2019 NBA Summer League.
The NCAA season came to an abrupt end in March with the development of COVID-19, canceling individual conference tournaments, March Madness, and the opportunity for many under-the-radar prospects to garner national attention. Thus also, making the 2020 NBA Draft one of the toughest classes to evaluate.
“Conference tournaments being canceled is extremely tough. That’s where a lot of these guys have their time to put on a show in front of scouts and executives,” Murray said.
So many prospects from mid-major schools have benefitted and upped their draft stock from the spectacle of March Madness in the past few years: Ja Morant, Kris Dunn and Pascal Siakam to name a few.
“Working out and preparing for my next chapter, I’ve had the luxury of going up against some of the best hoopers in the world. I know first-hand a couple of mid-major guys that can certainly matchup and be very competitive at that [NBA] level,” Osaghae said.
Osaghae has bounced around seemingly everywhere during the pre-draft period, taking any opportunity he can to showcase his skill set in front of scouts and NBA teams. He recently scrimmaged with other NBA Draft hopefuls in front of scouting agencies in Miami.
A former walk-on at FIU, Osaghae knows all about overcoming adversity and beating the odds. He took on basketball at a late age and has had to work extremely hard to even be in this position.
“I’ve had some gym access and made it work for the most part, but like anybody in the current circumstances it hasn’t been how I would have liked,” said Osaghae of this year’s pre-draft process.
Like Osaghae, Eugene German has blasted through adversity and labels of being ‘undersized’ throughout his playing career. German, a 6-foot, 185-pound point guard hailing from gritty Gary, Indiana, had only one collegiate scholarship offer – from Northern Illinois – coming out of high school.
For German, Osaghae and other small school prospects, their battle through adversity and through being under-looked hadn’t gone completely unnoticed.
“On each trip I’d taken for this draft, there have been at least a handful of small school, under the radar, or G-League targets that have been working out with the [eventual] first round picks,” Murray said. “I have six guys immediately off the top of my head, that because they seized the opportunity to remain in the gym, I was able to get eyes on them.”
With the NBA Draft gone and away, these Osaghae and German will begin their search for the next path of their basketball playing careers.