Across NCAA Division I college basketball, there are handfuls of New York City kids ready for a shot in the NBA. New York is still a hotbed for basketball talent, and as the New York Knicks show more grit, adding a local prospect has its benefits.
Tom Thibodeau has placed a gritty identity on this Knicks team, but some basketball players are born with that instinct. That’s what New York is all about.
As an editor’s note, not all of these players will enter their names in the 2022 NBA Draft. They all have NBA talent, but some are a year away from seriously being considered for the NBA. But hey, that’s what scouting is for, isn’t it?
5 NYC metro area college basketball players the Knicks should scout
5. Zakai Zeigler (Tennessee)
Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
Tennessee’s backup point guard had quite the first-year season. Zakai Zeigler gave the Volunteers a solid punch off the bench, shining on defense. On offense, Zeigler’s quick pace and craftiness allowed him to average 8.8 points per game, the fourth-highest on the team.
Right now, he isn’t a strong candidate to be picked in the 2022 NBA Draft. Tennessee isn’t too senior-heavy, but Kennedy Chandler is expected to drive some more professional looks.
If Chandler leaves and Zeigler takes over as the starting point guard, expect his name to be thrown around for a late pick for the Knicks in the 2023 NBA Draft.
4. Julian Champagnie (St. John’s)
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
The best scorer on this list, Julian Champagnie’s brother, Justin, is already in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors. Justin got to the league with his scoring ability and Julian arguably has even more of a gift for putting the ball in the bucket.
Champagnie averaged just under 20 points per game for the second straight season with the Johnnies. His collegiate eligibility isn’t done yet, but when you have the chance to leave for the check, it’s hard to give it up.
Champagnie would give New York a scorer. He needs to become a bit more efficient from deep, but he certainly has the range to hit and develop more consistency down the line.
3. Kadary Richmond (Seton Hall)
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
After playing at Syracuse for his freshman season, Kadary Richmond transferred to South Orange, New Jersey. He began the season in the starting rotation for Seton Hall, as he was brought off the bench in favor of Bryce Aiken. When Aiken went down for the season, Richmond took over.
That second wave proved to be helpful for Richmond. The sophomore earned increased confidence, scoring ten points or more in nine of his last 14 games.
In a home game against UConn, Richmond really showed why he’s an NBA prospect. The 6-foot-6 guard posted 27 points, largely by backing and breaking down smaller opponents near the rim. He lacks a 3-point shot, or a jump shot for that matter, but did still connect on 19 of them during the season for 34.5%.
2. Posh Alexander (St. John’s)
Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
Posh Alexander fits the Knicks’ style and needs more than any other player on this list. He’s a defensive first, tough-nosed point guard who can bully his way inside. The best part about Alexander’s game is his court vision. He plays how you’d expect an NYC guard to play.
The one downside about his game is his height. While Alexander weighs 205 pounds, he’s only six-foot tall. In the NBA, that’s not ideal, and I wouldn’t bet on his game translating right away to the Association.
However, if New York used a second-round pick on Alexander, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. Sometimes you have to take risks and since he provides so much, he’s worth a chance. Granted, that likely won’t be for another year or two.
1. R.J. Davis (North Carolina)
Hometown: White Plains, N.Y.
R.J. Davis is at the end of his second season with North Carolina, staying to play under Hubert Davis after the Roy Williams retirement. He’s a knock-down 3-point shooter, hitting 37.4% of his shots from deep this season. He also gives a lot as a point guard.
The main benefactor of drafting Davis is his upside. Like Alexander, he lacks height but plays an entirely different game of basketball. Davis is 45 pounds lighter, meaning in the NBA, he could be used as a pick-and-pop type player who can use quickness to create plays all over the court.
Davis also plays on a star-studded Tar Heels team, so his full potential likely isn’t even being maximized. However, March Madness games speak volumes, and a 30-point outing to help knock off No. 1 seed Baylor raised a few eyebrows.
He wouldn’t be the answer in New York, but also is the least of a work in progress as the others above him.