When he arrived at UConn in 2011, Ryan Boatright was known as an undersized guard with an inconsistent jump shot. By the conclusion of his senior season, he built a reputation for himself as an aggressive playmaker and tenacious individual defender.
The undersized component is a big reason his NBA Draft status is a question mark right now.
Boatright's physical stature is extremely deceiving. During the NBA draft combine in Chicago, he measured 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, among the smallest prospects on hand. More telling, however, was his vertical leap of 41.0 inches - outdone by just three of the 61 participants.
Of course all of this is unsurprising for those who followed the Huskies closely the last four years. Boatright has thrived in Coach Kevin Ollie's system, infusing the team countless times with hustle, energy, and timely defensive plays. He carried an immense burden as the team's only consistent scoring option.
"Quickness, a lot of heart, a lot of passion... I do whatever it takes, whatever it takes to win a basketball game," Boatright said when asked about his strengths following his combine workout.
Scouts and coaches left the combine impressed with Boatright's end-to-end floor game, suppressing at least temporarily the notion of his lack of size as a hindrance. In 25 minutes, he finished 5-for-8 from the field, including a sequence where he nailed a three-pointer, then created a steal on the other end and drove in for a reverse layup.
Nevertheless, most consider Boatright a long shot to be selected on Thursday night at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. Most mock drafts don't have him listed, although a few do have him going late in the second round.
Draft Express currently has Boatright as the 84th-ranked prospect in this year's draft class, well outside of drafting range. Described as being at his best "attacking a defense off pick and rolls, his ability in catch and shoot situations allows him to remain effective while [Shabazz] Napier ran the offense."
Boatright said just as much in his combine interview when questioned on what area he would like to continue his improvement. "I feel like if you can master the pick-and-roll in today's game you'll be a good player in the NBA."
Most organizations have their own unique philosophy when it comes to the draft. The late round picks are often made according to team need, as hitting on players that stick becomes more challenging.
Despite all of this, there is still reason for optimism. Boatright's athleticism, competitiveness and ability to score are pivotal factors that could convince a team to nab him late in the draft. One Eastern Conference scout recently told the New Haven Register:
"I think he's gonna be taken in the second round. He's a tough guy. His size is against him, but he's got plenty of fight and aggressiveness."
The San Antonio Spurs, a team with an extensive history of scouting and player development, have historically chosen players overlooked by many other organizations. The depth of their scouting is virtually unparalleled. They also happen to hold the 55th pick in this year's draft, which could be an ideal spot for Boatright, considering the murky point guard situation behind Tony Parker.
In order to eradicate concerns about his size, Boatright will need to follow the blueprint of players before him such as Aaron Brooks of the Houston Rockets, or Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics. All were undersized point guards who thrived because of timely shooting and aggressive play making.
Regardless of whether Boatright hears his name called Thursday night, he will see plenty of opportunities to make his mark via summer league and training camp invitations. From there, the D-League and international leagues are both solid options.
Boatright has the athleticism and shooting ability to thrive in a small ball system, particularly helpful as the pro game continues to evolve. Hopefully Boatright can convince one NBA GM that he's worth the investment of a draft pick. If not, a benefit of going undrafted is the leverage and flexibility to weigh those offers. He could select the best opportunity to shine in camp and on the court.