Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Kentucky’s Teague Can ‘Shoot Up the Charts’ With Strong Postseason
LOUISVILLE — Perhaps no player competing in the NCAA Tournament stands more to gain in the next two weeks than Kentucky freshman point guard Marquis Teague.
Currently ranked No. 41 among the Top 100 Prospects by DraftExpress.com, Teague could really boost his draft stock if he continues playing like he did last weekend and helps lead the Wildcats to the Final Four and potentially an NCAA championship.
On Saturday in Louisville, Teague had his best game as a Wildcat, scoring 24 points on 10-for-14 shooting to go with seven assists and two turnovers.
“I think he has to [come out] if he keeps playing that,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv. “I mean, he’s going to shoot up the charts.”
On a team loaded with first-round picks, Teague was hardly the best freshman at Kentucky during the regular season. Instead, forwards Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are currently ranked 1-2 by Draft Express.
Teague is averaging 9.4 points and 4.8 assists and before Saturday’s performance the scout would have advised him to return to campus for his sophomore season.
“I would’ve said going into this thing he needed to stay in,” the scout said.
A second NBA scout still believes Teague should remain at Kentucky.
“Teague should definitely stay in school,” the second scout said.
Only two point guards are ranked ahead of Teague by Draft Express — Weber State’s Damian Lillard at No. 13 and North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall at No. 14.
Marshall has a fractured right wrist and may or may not play again in this NCAA Tournament, which could, in turn, cloud his NBA Draft prospects.
If there are concerns about Marshall, that would jump Teague to the No. 2 available point guard.
And if he has a few more outings like Saturday’s beginning with Friday’s Sweet 16 rematch with Indiana in Atlanta, who knows how far his stock could climb?
“I brought him here because, when I watched him play, I absolutely loved his game,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari. “He’s the kind of player I love to coach in this regard. He is tough — I call him a pitbull. He’s a pitbull.”
Calipari said Teague doesn’t generally have to score because Kentucky is so loaded with talent, but Iowa State pretty much dared him to in their game.
“They really left him,” he said. “They left him to trap in the post. They left him on the perimeter. And I told him, ‘Look, you’ve got to keep people honest. Score the ball. I know you can score. He scored 25 a game in high school. He can score, but he doesn’t have to on this team.”
The younger brother of Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, Marquis said his performance Saturday came as no great surprise to him.
“I expected that,” he said. “I’ve been playing like that my whole life. So I was confident coming in. I kind of struggled in the beginning. My teammates kept supporting me, and I was just trying to get better every day.”
If he continues to get better in the coming days, he could make himself a whole pile of money.
“He was great [Saturday],” the first NBA scout said. “I feel like a lot of times [this season] he played like a freshman, a talented freshman, but a freshman. And [Saturday] he played like an NBA player. He was making shots, making good decisions. He has the athleticism, he has the NBA physical tools, there’s no question about that.
“And [Saturday] it was altogether on display and the way he played [Saturday] is the way you want the guy to play, and you feel he can play that way when he puts it all together.
“Now when is going to be ready to do that? Can he play at a consistently high level? Time will tell.”
That time is right now, in the NCAA Tournament, on the biggest stage there is.
But while the NBA is waiting, Teague says he’s only concerned with Indiana right now.
“We’re ready to play IU,” he said. “They beat us last time [Dec. 10], but we’re just going to take it like another game and just come out and play hard.
“Do whatever it takes to win.”
And the NBA will still be there when he and Kentucky are done.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.