Jake LaRavia could be a great rookie for a challenger

Before the 2022 NBA draft, there were many contenders.

However, few have climbed the draft boards faster than Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia. The player who moved from Indiana State to the smallest school in the ACC went relatively unnoticed throughout the college basketball season.

Now the 6ft 9in, 228lb player has caught everyone’s attention.

LaRavia averaged 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game on 55.9% shooting, helping the Demon Deacons to a 25-10 record. Combine LaRavia’s frame with a 38.6% three-point percentage and suddenly he’s an intriguing NBA prospect that would fit almost any team in the league.

The general consensus is that LaRavia will be selected somewhere between the 20th and 35th picks in the draft. Rookie Wire spoke to Demon Deacon Insider Les Jones from 247Sport to discuss what exactly is ahead of this highly recruiting offices.

It was LaRavia’s decision to move to Wake Forest and team up with new head coach Steve Forbes that ignited the spark of his brilliant youth campaign.

Jones pointed to three factors that likely influenced this decision.

First of all, there was a coaching change at Indiana State as the Sycamores left Greg Lansing, who was coach there for 11 seasons. When LaRavia explored the transfer portal, he quickly became aware of the opportunity to contribute at the ACC level with Wake Forest, and it certainly helped that Lansing and Demon Deacon Year 2 head coach Steve Forbes had a great relationship with Lansing. LaRavia leaned on Lansing during Portal’s hiring period, and Lansing helped him direct him to Wake Forest and a coach he affectionately calls “Forbsey”.

The Forbes coach, with the help of LaRavia and ACC Player of the Year Alondes Williams, helped Wake Forest have its best season in years, narrowly missing out on the NCAA Tournament.

Although somewhat overshadowed by Williams’ dominance and extreme use of the ball, LaRavia found ways to shine. In fact, Jones noted that LaRavia may have had more responsibilities than anyone else on the team in 2021.

He started 33 games for the Demon Deacons last season, finishing second on the team in scoring, rebounding and assists; behind only Alondes Williams. He started in fourth place but was able to create problems due to his size, strength and skill. At 6ft 9in, LaRavia can handle the ball around the perimeter but is strong enough to hit the paint.

On offense he was difficult to counter, but on defense he was versatile enough at the college level to defend anyone from second to fifth place. Especially when Williams wasn’t on the court, LaRavia could take turns as the main ball carrier and facilitator.

An all-around defender and an oversized perimeter forward, this skill set is very well suited to today’s NBA. As teams crave players who can fill the court and score at all three levels, LaRavia could play many roles on his future NBA team.

Now it is difficult to predict what kind of role teams may want. Jones is personally convinced that LaRavia may need more time in the league before he eventually finds the perfect court role for his talents.

When LaRavia announced his move to Wake Forest, Indy Star columnist Gregg Doyel told me he was confident he would become an NBA player and compared his game to that of Luka Doncic. A growth spurt in high school meant LaRavia moved from playing defensive end to playing closer to the basket as early as high school, but he retained those defensive skills as he got bigger and taller. He went from junior rookie to middleweight at Indiana State and eventually made it to the ACC for his final season of collegiate play. He will likely follow the same path as a pro and find his role as he gains more experience in the NBA.

This uncertainty in predictions is part of why teams are unlikely to take notice of LaRavia before the 20s. Ideally, he could enter a situation with a great infrastructure and a coach who has a niche role reserved for a rookie as he adjusts to the level of the NBA.

Jones believes that the perception of LaRavia’s value as a draft pick will largely depend on where and when he is selected. A later spot can signal not only more realistic expectations, but also a better environment.

If LaRavia shows up at the end of the first round, he will become a steal for whoever picks him. He is versatile, selfless and experienced – and, frankly, no one can top him. He was always the first to enter the court before the start of the game.

LaRavia is still far from a finished product, despite three years of college basketball. While he represents the perfect piece of clay for the coaching staff to work with and shape, there is room for hesitation with every prospect entering the league.

As for LaRavia, Jones said he would have to learn to be more aggressive in order to really take his game to NBA level.

As for indecisiveness, I will have to agree with his tendency to give in to others. He’s number one on the team, which is great; but often tries to find his teammates before taking charge, even when matches succumb to LaRavia’s takeover. Forbes had to push him from time to time to be more aggressive in person.

If the coaching staff rid LaRavia of this aggression, it could pay huge dividends at the next level.

In general, the NBA team on Thursday is waiting for a very interesting prospect. Someone who has consistently improved at the college level and has the potential to become one of the most valuable commodities in basketball today: the throwing big man.

This post originally appeared on Newbie Wire! Follow us at facebook!

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