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September 25, 2022

Is Kyle Filipowski the best player in college basketball?

By CHRISTOPHER XIAO | September 2, 2022

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Xiao argues why Duke’s Kyle Filipowski is the best prospect in college basketball.

The 2022–23 men’s college basketball season is soon approaching and NBA scouts will be closely watching future draft prospects. I believe Kyle Filipowski, a freshman center from Duke University, is the most exciting prospect in all of college basketball and should be the first overall pick in the NBA draft. 

For those unfamiliar with Filipowski’s illustrious high school career here is some context. Filipowski is legitimately the best New England high school prospect since Donovan Mitchell. Filipowski was a five-star recruit in high school. He was ranked fourth in his class by 247 sports

During his high school career at Wilbraham and Monson Academy, which competes in the highly competitive New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) league, he was named Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year in 2021. As a junior, Filipowski averaged 21.0 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.0 steals.

Filipowksi proved himself as a winner. In the 2019–20 season, he led Wilbraham to a comeback win over Worcester Academy in the NEPSAC Class AA championship game. Facing a Worcester team loaded with stars such as Dasonte Bowen (University of Iowa point guard), Josh Ogundele (University of Iowa center) and Michael Rabinovich (College of the Holy Cross forward), Filipowski scored 31 points to win the title for Wilbraham. He also led Wilbraham to an elite eight appearance in the National Prep Championships.

Filipowski also possesses an intriguing set of tools for an NBA prospect. At 6’11” and 220 pounds, his frame is already NBA-ready. He is very strong, allowing him to score at will in the paint and often finishes above the rim. He is a great passer and ball-handler for a big man, can be relied on to run the offense and has a great jump shot which allows him to space the floor for his teammates. 

These sets of skills are very rare to find in big men. Filipowski is already an NBA-ready stretch four or stretch five. His shooting combined with his passing and ball-handling skills makes him a player that any NBA team should covet in the draft. Looking at the projected 2023 draft class I fail to see any prospect better than Filipowski. He projects to be a a modern unicorn like Kristaps Porziņģis or Karl-Anthony Towns. He is able to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting and as a lob threat. He can bring the ball up the floor and find open teammates with ease. 

However, the 2023 draft class is only focused on one prospect: French center Victor Wembanyama. It is easy to see why Wembanyama has received so much hype. Wembanyama is 7’3” with a 7’9 wingspan. His ability as a shot blocker has been compared to Minnesota Timberwolves’ center Rudy Gobert and he has shown flashes of scoring ability utilizing his ability to shoot off the dribble.

I understand the fascination with Wembanyama as his physical tools are undeniable and if he can continue to work on his offensive game to be a true scoring threat he can be a perennial all-star. However, Wembanyama is not there yet. He is skinny and weak for his position. Additionally, his shooting is highly suspect. He shot 35% from the field in the 2021-2022 Euroleague season and an abysmal 27.5% from three. He does have good mechanics but the stats do not support the eye test. 

NBA fans are always obsessed with potential and development. Athletic tools are highly sought after in the draft, but basketball skills like shooting are considered skills that can be learned and developed. While it is highly possible that Wembanyama develops into an efficient offensive force, it is not a guarantee – look at prospects such as Ben Simmons who has never developed a jump shot. 

Filipowski can already shoot, score from the post, dribble and pass. Why gamble that someone can develop those skills when Filipowski already has them? Filipowski is the clear best prospect in the 2023 class and will make Duke a force to be reckoned with.

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