Grading OSU’s Freshman Ballers: Predictions Based Entirely On YouTube Mixtapes

Incoming freshman are one of the most exciting parts of any college basketball team because they are complete question marks and any predictions on how they will perform at the college level is entirely speculation.

I’m a complete sucker for the hope of  an instantly improved team every freshman class brings so I spent all summer scouting the incoming freshman class the best way I know how – watching countless hours of YouTube mixtape videos.

Since this is clearly my best approach, I’m going to grade and make predictions for all of Ohio State’s incoming freshman ballers based entirely on YouTube mixtapes. Is this an effective way of predicting a freshman’s success in the NCAA? I’ll let you decide. (The answer is no. It’s not. Especially considering I would have graded Jae’Sean higher than D’Angelo based on mixtapes alone. Jae’Sean had one helluva a mixtape. Actually watch those and tell me you wouldn’t have done the same. That Jae’Sean mixtape is too hype.)

JaQuan Lyle

Grade: B

This mixtape starts with your standard dunk highlights that goes a little too long for my taste. We get it. He can dunk. Then we get into some more interesting footage of shots off the dribble, drives and finishes around the rim. This is the interesting stuff. I want to see how he actually looks when he doesn’t have an uncontested layup.


This is my favorite part. Lyle shows off a great hesitation dribble and then drives baseline. He keeps his head up and dishes to a cutting big man. you can start to see how he might be able to use tricky hesitations to get into valuable areas of the court and use his great passing and vision to find open teammates.

Next is a passing montage that also drags on a little bit. He has great vision and passing skills no doubt – especially on the break. I really hope this team runs the court so he gets to show off these skills.

A shooting montage and then the video finishes with some of his best highlights which are impressive and gets me pretty hyped for what he can do this season.

Ok here’s why he gets downgraded to a B+. Don’t these kids he’s playing look small? He’s bullying 5’8 kids in the post and finishing around the rim while contested by guys about his height. I’m not sure how often he’ll get to do that in college. Also, he looks a little slow, but that could be editing.

My main concern is that he doesn’t look like he is especially good handling the ball. He doesn’t get low enough and he leaves the ball exposed during his spin moves. It’s hard to create space and separation without great handles. Then again, I think Russell has a lot of room to improve handling the ball, but he was great at using his body to create space and manipulate defenders.

Prediction: This isn’t my favorite mixtape, but I still think Lyle will be our best freshman. The last 30 seconds are why.

JaQuan_Lyle_Junior_Season_Mixtape_Volume_2_Ohio_State_Buckeye_2015_commit splits defenders

Right here he’s coming off a pick-and-roll. The near side help defender comes way over to meet him, but Lyle splits him and his original defender with one, strong push dribble. Lyle finishes with a soft floater. Those are transferable skills. His strength, vision, and touch are qualities that can make him a successful Buckeye.

A.J. Harris

Grade: A+

I wanted to pick a senior year mixtape for everyone so it would be a level playing field, but I could only find single game or tournament footage for Harris. But since this one is against Tyler Ulis, who we know is a good college basketball player, I thought it was appropriate.

No matter what video you pick though, Harris gets an A+. He straight up clowns fools in every video I watched. His handles are Kyrie Irving nasty and he’s crafty at finishing around taller guys. He’s shows a soft stroke on his jumpshot and can pull the trigger fast off the dribble. He absolutely hounds ball handlers on D. There’s so much to love about his game which is why he gets the highest grade.

Ulis gets the better of him a few times in the video, but you can’t say Ulis looks like a far superior player. Harris coughs it up to Ulis one time and gets lost on a pick-and-roll in another highlight (still blocks the shot though). But Harris gets the upper hand here as he pops this shot right in Tyler’s cornea.

AJ Harris pull up 3 over Tyler Ulis

I literally don’t understand how he can stop on a dime mid-crossover like that. He gets so low the ball is a yo-yo in his hand. He also has a very quick and natural dribble-to-shot motion like Steph Curry that makes me believe he’ll be a successful shooter at the next level.

Prediction: I will love watching A.J. Harris. He’s small, slithery, has a smooth stroke, and makes kids look like fools. This is exactly how I tried to play in middle school CYO and I would have been the exact same kind of player if I had his quickness, athleticism, and skill (but I would talk way more shit). Plus, he’s a lefty like me. You can’t convince me he won’t be the second coming of Allen Iverson.

Realistically though, the Big Ten is known for physical play (it’s damn near football honestly) and I can image Harris taking some time getting used to the physicality. Hopefully, he’ll get used to it quick and puts some poor kids tripping over their own feet on some SportsCenter highlights.

Austin Grandstaff

Grade: A

I’ve seen a lot of Stauskas comparisons and even a “more athletic Deibler” comparison. C’mon guys. Two former Big Ten players who were white and could shoot? That’s just lazy. I’m going with either Jason Terry or Damian Lillard.

This dude can ball. The stroke is clean and he can obviously shoot, but you have to be impressed with his ball handling and athleticism too. Grandstaff seems to model his game after Steph Curry and I hope he reaches that elite level. Right now, he said he’s working on his efficiency after being a bit of a chucker in high school.

He also said he’s been hitting the weights which is a good sign because the Big Ten is physical and if you get knocked around easily, you have no chance. He’ll also need to be able to finish around the rim. This was Curry’s biggest leap into becoming a superstar. He could always shoot, but he struggled around the rim. He greatly improved his efficiency near the hoop and now guys have to guard him everywhere on the floor. That’ll be one of Grandstaff’s biggest challenges.

He also said his biggest point of emphasis is getting better on defense. This will ultimately determine his success. If you can’t guard anyone, good luck getting any playing time. Guys at his size and weight are definitely at a disadvantage on defense and have to overcome that by being smarter and working harder than the other guys. Curry doesn’t have the size to be great on D, but if you watch him he’s always attentive and in the right position. That’s what Grandstaff needs to learn to do.

Prediction: I’m excited for Grandstaff’s future because the combination of his ballhandling and shooting means he can potentially become a superstar. I don’t think he’ll be quite ready this year though. He’ll have a hard time staying with guys on defense and he doesn’t have the strength right now to get around defenders who get in his face.

Let’s give Grandstaff a year to learn the defensive system and work on his strength. I think he’ll be big in year 2, but I don’t expect too much from him this year.

Mickey Mitchell

Grade: A+

First of all, shouts out to Ballislife for making this mixtape – it’s dope. This A+ goes out to them. That beat is actually kinda tight. Also, the highlights aren’t too shabby either. Crazy dunks, alley-oops, crossovers, no-look passes. Damn! Mickey can ball.

6_7_Mickey_Mitchell_Is_The_NEW_White_Chocolate_Official_Ballislife_Mix 180 put back dunk

He does a fucking 180 tip slam right there! I thought that was only possible in NBA Live 2005. That’s elite athleticism. He also shows great ballhandling and vision. Really unique skills for someone who is 6’7. What you don’t see in the video is any outside shots. I worry that he won’t be able to shoot and it will cramp our spacing and make it difficult for him to make plays.

The best NBA comparison I can think of is Rajon Rondo. Rondo can’t shoot, but he strong and athletic enough to create enough space for tricky passes that somehow find their way to his teammates. Rondo was also a very good defender in his prime which Mitchell will have to develop. He definitely has the athleticism to do it.

Another concern is his health. Mitchell has a pretty extensive injury history already. He’s had some bad luck, but staying healthy is partly a skill and I’m worried that injuries will slow down his career as a Buckeye.

There’s still a ton of potential for Mickey. If he can shoot and defend it’s possible for him to become a bona fide superstar. A lot will depend on his health, but you can understand why they call  him a “mixtape god”.

Prediction: Umm… About that… We now know he’s going to miss some time because of an eligibility issue, but Matta is hopeful he won’t miss the whole season. It sucks because I think a lot of people were excited to see what he could do. I think he’s perfectly suited for the run-and-gun style I predict Matta will want to play. If he does get on the court this season, I worry a little about how he’ll perform in the halfcourt. If he plays in lineups with Tate and a center, there might not be any space to do anything productive. Let’s hope he gets the chance to prove me wrong this year.

Daniel Giddens

Grade: B-

From this video, I learned 3 things about Daniel Giddens: he can jump, he’s jacked, and he will scream in your face to let you know about the first 2 things. Here’s what I like about Giddens: he clearly has the strength and tenacity to play at the college level. Those who are still haunted by the corpse of Amir Williams lazily waving his hands at ball handlers fly by him for layups will appreciate the intensity Giddens brings. The athleticism and strength is there as well.  

Here’s why he gets a B-: I think the way he jumps is really clumsy. He doesn’t gather himself well, his legs splay out in crazy directions, and he is extremely inefficient in his movements. It’s like he’s trying to dunk it so hard down some kids throat that the adrenaline sends his body parts shooting out in every direction. I’m all in favor of trying to break a person’s will to live by dunking it so hard on them that they have a crazy fucked up dream like the Pagemaster (5.9/10 on IMBD? Really? That’s a great film), but it’s still only worth 2 points. Sometimes it’s best to just dunk and be satisfied with 2 points.

On defense, it’s a similar story. His blocks are so vicious that other, more aware players will use it against him to draw fouls. Finally, there are only 2 shots he makes that aren’t dunks. That’s fine. DeAndre Jordan can’t shoot. Tristan Thompson can’t shoot. But those guys do other things really well and I’m not sure Giddens can do any of those things yet (based on the one 3 minute video I watched – again, this is not an accurate form of evaluation).

Prediction: I think Giddens will need some time to harness his energy and athleticism. I predict he’ll get playing time when Thompson sits, but I see him struggling with foul trouble. I pray that he shatters the backboard and the souls of anyone who tries to stop one of his thunderous dunks, but I think we’ll have to wait a year.

I’m excited about the energy he brings and his potential. I can’t wait to watch this kid. But I think it’ll take some time for him to develop. He’ll be entertaining as hell, especially compared to Amir, but I expect bigger contributions from some of the other freshman.

Which freshman are you most excited for? Let me know in the comments.



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