The Philadelphia 76ers held workouts earlier this week with free agent veterans Arron Afflalo, Sean Kilpatrick and Brandon Rush. They also allowed Haywood Highsmith to audition, who plays for the Sixers’ G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. The 6’7”, 220 lbs forward went undrafted in the 2018 NBA draft, and he will be 22 years old in just two days.
Highsmith played college ball at Wheeling Jesuit University, a small, Catholic, Division II college situated in the mountains of West Virginia. How obscure of a basketball institution is Wheeling Jesuit? Well, they don’t even have a webpage where you can find all of Highsmith’s stats in one place. Good thing we have Real GM, though. According to Real GM, Highsmith averaged 15.4 ppg (55.1% from the field, 37.7% from 3PT, 68.4% from the line), 9.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.3 spg and 1.4 bpg over a four-year career at Wheeling Jesuit. He showed progress throughout his university days, with each of those traditional stats improving year-to-year every single year (except for the shooting percentages, which still generally increased overall from his freshman season).
By the time his senior year was all said and done, he had been named the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association National Player of the Year, the Mountain East Conference Player of the Year and the MEC Tournament MVP, and he was selected to the National Basketball Coaches Association All-America First Team.
Back in April, as Haywood was preparing for NBA workouts, his college coach Danny Sancomb said the following of Highsmith:
“When we brought him in I knew he was going to be good, but I thought about redshirting him as a freshman. But once I saw him here with our guys I knew he had to play and he was going to be an important part of our team right away. You hear guys telling people all the time how good they are, but I never once heard that from Haywood. In my 21 years of coaching, I have never had a player who is more low-maintenance.”
After going undrafted, Highsmith was unable to latch on with any NBA teams for Summer League play. But when October rolled around, the Delaware Blue Coats snatched him up. Through the first 12 games of his rookie year, Highsmith has been a solid all-around player for the Blue Coats. He’s fourth on the team in minutes per game at 31.9, with the only three players ahead of him being borderline NBA players in Demetrius Jackson, Shake Milton and Jonah Bolden. Highsmith’s not a volume scorer, dropping only 12.4 ppg on 11.1 FGA. He’s shooting a putrid 39.1% from the floor. He has, however, shown a dependable three-point stroke at a 37.3% clip (4.3 attempts a game), and his free throw shooting exceeds his college numbers, converting on those at a rate of 78.8%. For a 6’7” forward, Highsmith is active on the boards, gobbling up 7.5 rebounds a night.
Haywood Highsmith has grown leaps and bounds as a basketball player since first enrolling at Wheeling Jesuit. The Delaware Blue Coats’ coaching staff and organization seem to really like the kid, and believe he can succeed. But I can’t imagine the Sixers are seriously considering bringing him aboard, at least not yet. Highsmith still has a long way to go to become an effective NBA player. Even in the G-League, his production isn’t eye-popping and as we already saw, he’s not the most efficient player on the offensive end, to say the least. I hope someday he blossoms into a real NBA piece — it would be a travesty for a stellar name like Haywood Highsmith to not make the league. And really, who doesn’t love the story of a G-Leaguer getting his NBA shot? But his time has not yet come.