It’s rare for any sport to have “can’t miss” prospects heading into a draft. Whether it’s the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, or any other professional league, identifying players who are almost guaranteed to have success isn’t an easy process, and few prospects like that exist. No matter how good a player is, they tend to have at least one big question mark about how they’ll transition to the pros.
In this year’s NBA Draft class, Duke’s Zion Williamson and Murray State’s Ja Morant are typically viewed as two “can’t miss” prospects. Barring injury, those two appear to be set for long NBA careers. But what about beyond those two? Are there any players deeper in the draft class who seem set up for successful professional careers?
According to Chris Vernon of The Ringer, there are five such players in this year’s NBA draft class. And Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield is one of them.
Vernon hosts the NBA Show podcast for The Ringer, and every year he releases a list of players who “will not fail” at the next level. In this year’s addition, he added a little twist, looking beyond the projected lottery picks and delving deeper into the draft class to find some hidden gems.
“I threw out all the most highly regarded prospects in this year’s class. I wanted to find guys further down the mocks to spice things up,” Vernon writes. “In the face of such great adversity, I still found five players whom I would bank on outperforming many players chosen before them.”
Included in Vernon’s list are Kentucky’s PJ Washington, Virginia’s Ty Jerome, Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and St. John’s Shamorie Ponds. Also included: Admiral Schofield.
“There were more than a few talent evaluators whom I talked to who tried to talk me out of Admiral. No chance! I love him,” Vernon writes. “I love that he got better every year. I love that he was the heart and soul of an awesome Tennessee Volunteers team. I love that his dad was a naval officer, that he has a brother who won a Super Bowl, and that he has another brother named General. I love that he can dribble, pass, and shoot. I love that he went from doughy to all ripped up by changing his diet and working out like a mad man. I love that Rick Barnes said he works as hard as any player he has ever coached. I love that he attempted a guitar rendition of Adele’s “Someone Like You.”
“I never have to worry about Admiral Schofield. He will be a favorite teammate, a fan favorite, and any coach will love him. He went through the draft process last year, saw what he needed to improve, and went back and did it. You want guys who are willing to do anything to win when it matters most. You want guys who will do anything they can to improve. Those guys don’t fail.”
Schofield has almost exclusively been projected as a second-round pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, but Vernon believes he’ll end up out-performing his draft position and prove to be an asset to whichever team he’s a part of. Schofield is set up for success not only because of the skills he brings to the court in Vernon’s eyes, but also what he can do for a locker room.
Last year, Schofield put his name in the NBA Draft pool to get feedback from NBA scouts and analysts about what he needed to do in order to take his game to the next level. He ultimately came back to Tennessee for his senior season, and he improved in nearly every major statistical category in his final UT campaign.
Schofield averaged career-highs in points per game (16.5) and assists per game (2.0) while averaging over six rebounds a game for a second-straight season. He also set career-highs in overall field goal percentage (45.8 percent) and three-point shooting (41.8 percent).
Once his career came to a close, Schofield finished as one of only seven Vols ever to amass 1,500 points and 700 rebounds in a career. Not bad for a chubby kid out of Zion, Illinois who came to Tennessee ranked as the No. 251 overall prospect in the 2015 recruiting class on 247Sports.
And all of that doesn’t even cover things that can’t be measured, such as his role as a leader on the team, his presence in the locker room, and his character both on and off the court.
Only time will tell if Vernon’s assertion that Schofield “will not fail” in the NBA will come true. But that journey will start on Thursday in the draft, and Schofield will once again have the opportunity to prove himself on the court starting this winter.