Michigan basketball guard Kobe Bufkin one year ago was an unproven commodity still looking to carve out a consistent role at the college level.
Now, the Grand Rapids native is an NBA basketball player — and a first round selection at that.
Bufkin on the heels of a standout sophomore campaign completed his ascent up draft boards when he was taken No. 15 overall by the Atlanta Hawks in Thursday night’s 2023 NBA draft. He was the second Wolverine selected, after teammate Jett Howard went No. 11 to Orlando. Both attended the draft in Brooklyn, New York after being invited to the NBA’s Green Room.
“It’s a dream come true,” Bufkin said afterwards in his ESPN interview. “I’m just looking forward to getting to ATL and being competitive and going hard.”
Bufkin — despite being a McDonalds All-American as a senior at Grand Rapids Christian — wasn’t even on the NBA radar prior to his second season in Ann Arbor.
The combo guard played 28 games, all off the bench, as a freshman in the 2021-22 season. He averaged three points and just more than 10 minutes per game as he struggled from the floor, shooting 38% from the field and 22.2% from long range.
But with a full offseason of health and a year of collegiate experience under his belt, Bufkin made notable strides as a shooter, scorer and perimeter defender.
The 6-foot-4, 187-pounder averaged 14 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 2022-23 and shot 48.2% from the floor, 35.5% on 3-pointers and 84.9% on free throws. He was named third-team All-Big Ten by coaches.
Early in his sophomore campaign, it didn’t appear as if Bufkin had quite taken the next step. He was improved, averaging 9.9 points through eight games, but only marginally. That became even more evident when fellow starting guard Jaelin Llewellyn suffered a torn ACL and U-M needed to replace his scoring punch.
Bufkin embraced his new role and averaged 15.4 points the rest of the way, shooting a team-best 40.7% on 3-pointers over the final 25 games of the season.
What also helped his draft stock was his ability to play point guard — he had five assists or more in seven of his final 19 games after having no games with more than four helpers in the first 41 of his career.
Among his best performances on the season were a 20-point night on a 9-for-11 shooting in a home game against Northwestern, his first-career double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds at Northwestern and a career-high 28-point, eight-rebound night in an overtime win against Wisconsin to keep the NCAA tournament hopes alive in late February.
Bufkin was often at his best getting to the basket; he was one of the leaders in the Big Ten among finishers at the rim at a 71.1% rate while is improved outside shooting was perhaps the most notable development in his ascent as a top-flight NBA prospect.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan’s Kobe Bufkin picked by Atlanta Hawks in NBA draft 2023
Source: Yahoo Sports