Olivier-Maxence Prosper
(Emil Vajgrt)

Athletic Forward Prosper Prospering in Pre-Draft Setting

Every year in the lead-up to the NBA Draft, certain players rise up draft boards after impressing at the NBA Draft Combine and in pre-draft workouts.

One of those players this year is Olivier-Maxence Prosper, a 20-year-old forward out of Marquette. Prosper initially declared for the draft while maintaining his collegiate eligibility, but opted to remain in the draft because of how well he has performed in pre-draft settings.

The Montreal native tested off the charts at the combine last month in Chicago, where his wingspan measured at 7-1 and he finished third among all prospects in max vertical (40.5 inches), and the shuttle run (3.0 seconds), and fourth in the lane agility drill (10.59 seconds).

Prosper -- who goes by "O-Max" -- backed up those numbers by dominating in the first five-on-five scrimmage at the combine. He scored 21 points in 22 minutes, going 5-for-11 from the field and 10-for-12 from the free throw line to go along with seven rebounds, two assists, one block, and one steal.

Prosper began his career at Clemson, where he averaged under 10 minutes a game as a freshman in 2020-21. He transferred to Marquette and started 25 of 32 games as a sophomore, averaging 6.6 points on 46.1 percent shooting and 3.3 rebounds. Prosper's averages took a big jump last season to 12.5 points on 51.2 percent shooting and 4.7 assists and he played a key role on a deep Marquette team that captured the Big East regular-season and tournament titles.

But it's become clear to teams in the pre-draft process that Prosper is capable of even more than he displayed during his time with the Golden Eagles.

"I think the biggest thing is just the way I play the game," Prosper said following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers on Tuesday. "The way I compete, how hard I work out there, my energy on the floor, the way I play this game.

"And also I feel like I'm starting to show more how consistent of a shooter I am and also how improved my ball-handling is, something that I didn't really show in college. That's something that opened the eyes of a lot of NBA front offices."

With his size and athleticism, Prosper projects as a versatile, two-way wing, one of the most coveted roles in the increasingly position-less NBA game. He can guard multiple positions and switch onto smaller, quicker guards. And offensively, Prosper has demonstrated an ability to take on more responsibility, though teams will want to see him continue to develop his outside shot (he shot a career-best 33.9 percent from beyond the arc last season).

Prosper is full of potential and figures to keep developing (he won't turn 21 until July 3), but he also believes he can make an impact right away as a role player. Some of his best assets (defense, rebounding) are that things that can allow him to "come and bring a spark to a team" and “lift the energy on the floor up."

Indiana Pacers Pre-Draft Workouts: Olivier-Maxence Prosper One-on-One Interview (June 13, 2023)

The Pacers are looking for depth at the power forward position in particular and are also focused heavily on upgrading defensively after ranking 26th in the league in defensive rating in 2022-23. Prosper seemingly checks both boxes and could be available late in the first or early in the second rounds of the June 22 draft, where Indiana currently holds three picks in a seven-pick span (the 26th, 29th, and 32nd overall selections).

For his part, Prosper believes he could fit right in with the Pacers' young roster.

"Just the vibe from the get-go, I feel like it's a connected group coached by a great coach and just an organization that is destined to win a lot," he said. "Especially with a really good core of young players that want to play for each other, that's the type of organization that I want to play for."

Prosper has followed the Pacers closely over the past year. He knows both fellow Canadians Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard, who just completed their rookie seasons with the Blue & Gold, and is particularly close with Mathurin. The two Montreal natives started playing AAU basketball together as teenagers and both wound up attending the NBA Academy in Mexico City to finish high school.

"Me and Benn have a really good relationship," Prosper said. "It's just great to see what he's doing here and the season he had this past year and the trajectory he's on. I've always known that. We've always talked about the NBA stuff growing up, but now that we're here, it's just great to see. I'm proud of him and what he's doing."

Mathurin's NBA dreams came true when the Pacers took him with the sixth overall pick last season. Next week, some team -- whether it's Indiana or somewhere else -- will do the same for Prosper.

"It's going to mean the world," he said Tuesday. "You've worked so hard to get to this point. It's a dream of mine since I can remember. It's just about taking it all in and understanding what you've done. But it's only the start...Hearing my name called is something that (I've) always dreamed of.

"But after that it's what's next, what are you going to do next?"

Jones Showing Value as Connector on Both Ends of the Floor

The other potential first-round pick in Tuesday's workout group was Xavier guard Colby Jones. The 6-6 wing turned pro after a strong junior season, where he averaged 15 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.3 steals and was named second team All-Big East.

Jones is one of the most well-rounded players in this year's draft class. He may not have one skill that jumps off the page, but he does everything well.

The Birmingham, Ala. native shot 37.8 percent from 3-point range last year and 50.9 percent from the field. He can get to the rim but also has a robust midrange game. He led the Musketeers in assists and is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions.

Jones' versatility was on full display during Xavier's run to the Sweet Sixteen this March, as he stuffed the stat sheet in all three tournament games. He tallied 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists in an opening-round win over Kennesaw State, followed that up with 10 points, 14 boards, and seven assists two days later against Pitt, and had 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and two blocks in a season-ending loss to Texas.

Because of his diverse skillset, Jones could fit any number of roles initially for an NBA team. He hopes to make an early impact on the defensive end.

"I can guard multiple positions," he said on Tuesday. "I can lock down multiple positions. And just my motor on defense, that never stops. That's something I take pride in."

Indiana Pacers Pre-Draft Workouts: Colby Jones One-on-One Interview (June 13, 2023)

Jones turned 21 on May 28. He has been frequently linked to the Pacers in various mock drafts, for whatever that's worth. CBS Sports' Kyle Boone has Indiana taking Jones with the 26th pick in his latest mock, while ESPN's Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo have the Pacers picking him with the 29th selection.

For his part, Jones wouldn't mind being drafted by a team just a two-hour drive from Cincinnati, where he played in college. He has some ties to the current Pacers roster in T.J. McConnell and Mathurin, who both played for current Xavier head coach Sean Miller when he was at Arizona.

Miller took over the Xavier program this year and guided them back to the tournament and Jones credited him a lot with his development.

"I loved playing for him," Jones said. "Just the passion he has for the game, the love he has for the game, and the standard he held our team (to), it was great overall and I feel like I grew a lot under him."

Much like Prosper, it's starting to hit Jones that the draft is quickly approaching. It's been a long past few months, but in a little over a week, his dream will become reality.

"All this is surreal," he said. "This is a dream I had since I was a little kid. Just to be going through workouts, it's a blessing. It's a grind, but it's what I asked for."

Shooting and Defense Trademarks of Wing-Heavy Workout

The final four players at Thursday's workout were Missouri guard D'Moi Hodge, San Jose State guard Omari Moore, Texas Tech forward Kevin Obanor, and Gonzaga guard Malachi Smith.

The 6-4 Hodge is known first and foremost as a tenacious defender. He was the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year in 2022 at Cleveland State, where he ranked in the top 20 in the country in steals, averaging 2.2 per game. He transferred to Missouri for a grad year and was even more impactful on the defensive end, leading the SEC and ranking sixth in the nation with 2.6 steals per game.

On the offensive side, Hodge was a high-volume 3-point shooter who actually was more efficient against bigger competition. He averaged 15.4 points per game but shot just 33.7 percent from beyond the arc on nearly six attempts per game in his last season at Cleveland State, but averaged 14.7 points per night at Missouri and converted 40 percent of his 3-point attempts (taking over seven per contest).

"Playing at Cleveland State, I knew I could have played on another level," Hodge said. "The Horizon League, mid-major was good, but I knew I had more to give. I feel like going to the SEC really showed what I can do. I feel like I did the exact same thing I did at Cleveland State at the SEC, but it's just a higher level."

The 24-year-old Hodge (he'll turn 25 in December) is one of the oldest prospects in this year's draft, but his defensive abilities combined with his shooting are the type of combination that could help him earn a roster spot.

Making the NBA would be a historic occasion for Hodge, who is from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

"I would be the first ever in the history of the B.V.I. to make it," he said. "Just that alone, it carries a lot of weight. The draft is just nine days (away). It's just showing that it's not impossible. Coming from a small island that's 22 square miles, everybody feels like it's not possible to make it that far. So I feel like just showing them it's possible is the biggest thing."

Indiana Pacers Pre-Draft Workouts: D'Moi Hodge One-on-One Interview (June 13, 2023)

Moore, a 6-6 guard, spent four years at San Jose State. He was named Mountain West Player of the Year last season as a senior, when he averaged 17.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.8 assists.

Offensively, Moore is at his best attacking the paint, something he thinks will continue to translate at the next level.

"It's so much more space in the NBA," Moore said. "In college they have (no defensive) three seconds and everybody can kind of pack in. So I think at the next level, I should be able to get downhill -- it obviously won't be easy -- but be able to get downhill and create for others, for sure."

Moore is a strong playmaker who led the Spartans in assists each of the last three seasons. He also could prove to be a versatile defender at the next level with his speed and nearly 6-10 wingspan.

Though he shot 42.9 percent from 3-point range on 77 attempts as a junior, Moore's 3-point percentage dipped to 33.8 percent on a much higher volume (nearly 200 attempts) as a senior. He has focused a lot on refining his stroke and adjusting to the longer NBA 3-point line during the pre-draft process.

At the next level, Moore hopes his versatility and work ethic can get him on the floor.

"Just doing whatever the coach needs me to do," Moore said. "Play defense, create for others, make open shots, all those kind of things. I feel like that's something that I can kind of control -- my effort. That's something you can control as a rookie. So just coming in with a good attitude and giving 110 percent every day."

Indiana Pacers Pre-Draft Workouts: Omari Moore One-on-One Interview (June 13, 2023)

Obanor is a familiar name for many college basketball fans in Indianapolis thanks to his standout performance in the 2021 NCAA Tournament held entirely in central Indiana.

Then in his third season at Oral Roberts, Obanor played a starring role in helping the Golden Eagles become just the second 15-seed in NCAA history to reach the Sweet Sixteen, recording three straight double-doubles.

The 6-8 forward went 5-for-12 from 3-point range and 7-for-7 from the free throw line on his way to a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds in an overtime upset of second-seeded Ohio State. He then tallied 28 points, 11 boards, and four steals in the next round against Florida and had another double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in a two-point loss to Arkansas in the Sweet Sixteen.

"It was a good experience, especially being at a mid-major to get that spotlight, especially in the tournament," Obanor said of the magical run. "We're the biggest sport in the world at the time (during) March Madness. To be able to play to the best of my abilities, it was a blessing."

Obanor tested the draft waters after that year, but ultimately elected to return to school and transfer to Texas Tech. He spent the final two years of his college career in Lubbock, averaging 12 points and 5.9 rebounds over 69 games in the Big 12.

Obanor was an outstanding shooter at Oral Roberts, shooting 42.5 percent from beyond the arc over his three seasons there. His 3-point percentage dipped to .333 over his two seasons at Texas Tech, but his shooting and rebounding from a wing position still would be his most desirable skills for NBA teams.

He turned 24 on Monday, but believes his wealth of experience in college -- from his tournament run at Oral Roberts to two years competing in the Big 12 -- should allow him to contribute at the next level.

"They're getting a good leader that brings good energy on and off the court," Obanor said of the team that picks him.

Indiana Pacers Pre-Draft Workouts: Kevin Obanor One-on-One Interview (June 13, 2023)

Smith, a 6-4 guard, had a well-traveled college career. He was a role player as a freshman at Wright State in 2018-19 before transferring to Chattanooga. After sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer rules at the time, Smith blossomed in two seasons with the Mocs, averaging 18.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.6 steals over 60 games

Smith was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year in 2021-22, when he averaged just under 20 points per game to lead the league. He entered his name in the draft last year but withdrew before the deadline and ultimately transferred to Gonzaga.

He said on Monday that he believes spending the last year playing for one of the nation's top programs made him better prepared for the draft this time around.

"I competed against a lot of great guys every day in practice," Smith said. "Every day in practice is a battle, it's a fight. And then obviously, playing (against) top competition every night, it kind of helped me get ready for this process now."

After being the go-to option at Chattanooga, Smith willingly embraced a different role at Gonzaga. He came off the bench for all but one of his 37 games with the Bulldogs, averaging 8.7 points and 3.6 rebounds and shot 50 percent from 3-point range.

"I think I showed previously that I can score the ball at a high level, the ball (can) be in my hands," Smith said. "But this year I showed that I can play a role and I can excel in that role. Being able to do both I think is a positive."

Smith was a standout shooter throughout his college career, making 146 threes over four seasons at a 41-percent clip.

Indiana Pacers Pre-Draft Workouts: Malachi Smith One-on-One Interview (June 13, 2023)