Back in May 2022, Kenneth Lofton Jr. was considered one of 44 draft-eligible gamers invited to the G League Elite Camp, an annual showcase held in Chicago. Despite averaging a double-double as a sophomore at Louisiana Tech (16.5 factors, 10.5 rebounds), he wasn’t thought-about a high prospect. He hadn’t but signed with an agent, leaving the door open for a return to the Bulldogs. But since that camp, his inventory has solely risen. And risen. And risen.
Based on his efficiency over the three-day occasion, Lofton Jr. earned a late invitation to the NBA Draft Combine. On May 23, simply after the Combine ended, he introduced his resolution to stay within the 2022 Draft. “See y’all June 23,” he wrote on Twitter. “100% staying in the draft!” Though he wasn’t chosen, the 20-year-old ultimately signed a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies and continued to shine at NBA Summer League in July, posting 14.9 factors and 6.4 rebounds per recreation.
At 6-6, 275 kilos, Lofton Jr. is constructed extra like an NFL tight finish than an NBA ahead. His robust body, “bully ball” type and clean lefty jumper instantly reminded Grizzlies followers of Zach Randolph. The hype surrounding him grew much more throughout a matchup with No. 2 decide Chet Holmgren, through which Lofton Jr. overpowered the 7-1 Gonzaga star down low, notching 19 factors and 6 boards.
Some extent guard in highschool earlier than sprouting from 6-2 to 6-6 and shifting to the frontcourt at Louisiana Tech, Lofton Jr.’s recreation displays simply that—he’s as snug dealing with the ball up high as he’s working on the put up, the place he makes up for an absence of top with sheer muscle and wonderful footwork. Asked in regards to the growth of his distinctive ability set at Grizzlies media day, Lofton Jr. mentioned, “I just knew post moves. I just added everything I had and put it in one bag and used it.”
That bag features a gentle contact within the paint, a artful spin transfer and a formidable passing skill. And now, with the Memphis Hustle, the Grizzlies’ G League affiliate, Lofton Jr. is including to his arsenal. After taking simply 20 whole threes in faculty, the rookie is at present averaging just below 4 makes an attempt per contest. He shot 50 % from the sector and 36 % from behind the arc in December, averaging 21.2 factors, 8.9 rebounds and three.2 assists to guide his group to a 7-2 file.
Memphis went 2-0 on the latest AT&T Winter Showcase in Las Vegas, the occasion that each G Leaguer has circled on the calendar. Playing in entrance of scouts and executives from all 30 NBA groups, Lofton Jr. was dominant. He confirmed his expanded vary, flattening 5 three-pointers, and overwhelmed weaker defenders inside. He was unstoppable driving to his left, utilizing his physique to maintain shot blockers away and ending by way of contact on the rim. In the 2 most essential video games of the season to date, he averaged 27 factors, 11.5 rebounds and 5 assists. He was named to the All-Winter Showcase Team together with Brandon Boston Jr., Tre Mann, Isaiah Mobley and Terry Taylor.
Of course, Lofton Jr. nonetheless has lots to enhance—lowering his turnovers, upping his effectivity from deep, taking part in protection with out fouling. But because the Elite Camp seven months in the past, when he wasn’t even set on turning professional, the large man has already taken vital steps towards changing into an actual contributor on the NBA degree.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (DECEMBER STATS)
Mason Jones, Forward, Mexico City Capitanes: 24.9 factors, 5.9 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 63 FG%, 49 3P%
Isaiah Mobley, Forward, Cleveland Charge: 25.8 factors, 9.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, 65 FG%, 57 3P%
Mamadi Diakite, Forward, Cleveland Charge: 24 factors, 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 53 FG%
Orlando Robinson, Forward, Sioux Falls Skyforce: 25.5 factors, 15.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, 62 FG%
Vernon Carey Jr., Forward, Capital City Go-Go: 25.2 factors, 9.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 59 FG%
Carlik Jones, Guard, Windy City Bulls: 23 factors, 5.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 52 FG%, 37 3P%
Brandon Boston Jr., Guard, Ontario Clippers: 23.6 factors, 6.0 rebounds, 49 FG% (Winter Showcase MVP)
Brandon Williams, Guard, College Park Skyhawks: 23.4 factors, 4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 52 FG%, 49 3P%
Tyler Dorsey, Guard, Texas Legends: 27.3 factors, 4.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 51 FG%, 47 3P%
DECEMBER CALL-UP TRACKER
Louis King, Forward, Rio Grande Valley Vipers to Philadelphia 76ers
AJ Lawson, Forward, College Park Skyhawks to Dallas Mavericks
Jared Rhoden, Guard, College Park Skyhawks to Detroit Pistons
Carlik Jones, Guard, Windy City Bulls to Chicago Bulls
Stanley Johnson, Guard, Sioux Falls Skyforce to San Antonio Spurs
Orlando Robinson, Forward, Sioux Falls Skyforce to Miami Heat
Photos by way of Getty Images.
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