Newcastle, United Kingdom / D.O.B: 02.16.2001 / 6-foot-8, 219 pounds
2022-23 stat line: 15.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.9 apg / 51.5% FG, 32.4% 3P, 65.5% FT, 1.68 A-TO ratio / 31.4 min in 32 GP
Bankable skills: versatile tweener, playmaking
Defensive matchup versatility: 2 to 4 spots
Swing factor: 3pt-ball + jump shot
They say March is Madness, and we couldn’t agree more watching Princeton going to the Sweet 16 in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017. Great news for the Ivy League champions and for Tosan Evbuomwan, the senior from Newcastle, England, who just declared for the NBA Draft after powering the Tigers’ Sweet 16 and Ivy Madness runs.
Evbuomwan has deservedly gained the national attention amid that run, but his performances in the spotlight shouldn’t have been a surprise given that the wing/forward has been a genuine offensive motor for the last couple of seasons and earned almost every award available in the Ivy League in the process.
What’s to like about Evbuomwan? Everything, starting with his physical profile.
At 6-foot-8, Evbuomwan combines positional size, length and an athletic package that allows him to stay in front of his man, cover ground in a hurry, execute defensive rotations and fight on the boards with a reliable second jump. The British youth international is a natural in the open floor and fits the description of (small) ‘rim-runner’ with a knack for the grab-and-go, too. Evbuomwan is extremely productive in half-court offense, especially in isolation plays (3.97 points a night, per InStat) when he challenges his defender with his handle, fluidity and body control.
Evbuomwan can also turn his dribble into a post up, or simply go to work on the low block after an entry pass (1.11 points per possession in the paint). He’s dangerous as well in the catch-and-drive, with a head of steam, beating bigger guys in space and overpowering smaller ones at the rim. Evbuomwan gets to his spots on the back of his high-level tools. Hesitation and light feet to take advantage of angles, crafty back-to-the basket moves to recognize how his man is guarding him, strength to draw and absorb contact, and touch with either hand stand out as the keystones of his game.
— MaceoBaller (@MaceoBaller16) March 12, 2023
Evbuomwan’s offensive talent goes beyond those keystones, though, since the most distinctive weapon in his skill set is the ability to bring others into play. Being the best passer in the Ivy League at 6’8 in back-to-back seasons means something.
With the rock in his hands, Evbuomwan is a reliable advantage-creator for his teammates. He can tear apart mid-major defenses (Princeton has had a No. 183 strength of schedule and 2-3 record in quadrants one and two) with ease. Whether he’s at the nail or establishes position down low, Evbuomwan’s playmaking can go from the ‘wow’ factor with some unexpected kickout or incredible jump pass to more simple but effective reads off the dribble or with his feet set. On the whole, Evbuomwan is an instinctive all-around facilitator who exploits his gravity in the lane, and he has earned the freedom to call plays on the fly.
Tosan’s usage and assist-to-turnover ratio have slightly dipped this year as a direct consequence of spending the bulk of his minutes alongside 6-foot-8, 240-pound Keeshawn Kellman.
Kellman is a classic play-finisher that stays on the dunker spot and crashes the glass, providing a bulky presence inside.
But Princeton’s spacing is not the same it was in 2021-22, when the Tigers used to go for 5-0 sets with Evbuomwan feasting on mismatches. Nevertheless, this present role bodes well with Evbuomwan’s future expectations. The Ivy League is a unique brand of hoops in which he’s thrived running offense as small-five under the guidance of coach Mitch Henderson, but that archetype is unlikely to fully translate to the pros without the necessary adjustments in order to fit in a more balanced professional scheme.
#CollegeHoops An impressive career-high 9asts for Tosan Evbuomwan 🇬🇧 (01) at Cornell last weekend (to go w/ 15pts+7rbs+1blk)
— MaceoBaller (@MaceoBaller16) January 11, 2023
Being a point-forward with the athleticism, vision and two-way upside already on his backpack, it’s kind of easy to guess Evbuomwan’s new horizon in terms of player development: shooting the three. Prior to the NCAA Tournament, he made nine of 29 triples (31%) for the year, a rather improvable clip and volume. If he can just get the corner three falling around 35%, that unlocks a whole new level for his offense. He could frighten defenses and draw hard closeouts, opening even more the lane for his bounce.
On the same note, he could fit as second-side initiator in almost any roster with a fully functional jump-shot, being able to share the spotlight with more dominant ball guards. Less touches and reps on the ball are not a bad thing, since they are meant to increase Evbuomwan’s production on off-motion plays and his overall impact as dribble-hand-off operator, ball screener and roller.
The wild nature of the NCAA Tournament comes to mind when you look at Princeton’s run in March. The Tigers were definitely underseeded by the committee at No. 15, and it was hard to imagine a more difficult rival to start the Big Dance with than Arizona.
The Wildcats boasted a frontcourt line with the likes of Azuolas Tubelis, Oumar Ballo and Henri Veesaar. Seemingly too much size, muscle, post options, defensive chops and even some range to deal with. They could even throw Pelle Larsson into the mix to avoid Evbuomwan hurting their big boys when facing up.
It didn’t matter.
With Evbuomwan leading the charge, Princeton was gritty on both ends, packed the paint and competed on the boards, and it didn’t need a magical night from deep to beat the No. 2 seed. The Tigers reached new heights against Missouri. They were always in control and won the physical battles, with Evbuomwan’s defensive shift, energy and motor holding things together. The Sweet 16 matchup versus Creighton wasn’t meant to be, though, but Princeton went down with a fight.
The British senior put up a superb display that included a couple of threes and tied his career assist high with nine. On the whole, Evbuomwan’s performances were not just impressive but first-rate efficient: 16 points, seven rebounds, 6.3 assists and just one turnover averaged in three NCAA Tournament games. The numbers speak for themselves and reflect his dynamic repertoire. You can be sure NBA scouts and front offices were watching closely.
#CollegeHoops Solid half of hoops from Princeton against Missouri w/ Tosan Evbuomwan doing Tosan Evbuomwan’s things…
— MaceoBaller (@MaceoBaller16) March 18, 2023
The NCAA Tournament was a worthy reward for Princeton in the year the legend Pete Carril passed away, and a great way for Tosan Evbuomwan to end this college chapter. His growth and evolution each year has been nothing short of terrific, and just imagine where he could be if the Ivy League hadn’t cancelled the 2020-21 season. Never mind.
Evbuomwan has passed on the opportunity to play somewhere else as a graduate student as one of the most coveted names in the transfer portal. A former Ivy League Player of the Year with a high IQ, skill on the ball, defensive value and glue guy approach? Too good to be true. Instead, Evbuomwan has chosen the professional path and to embrace the process of workouts, interviews, draft mocks and showcases in the coming weeks. Chances are he’ll be the next to follow in the footsteps of Miye Oni, Jeremy Lin or Princeton’s own Devin Cannady, just to mention the most recent Ivy standouts to make the NBA. In any case, you can be sure he’ll make the most of any pro setup to keep learning and getting better.
As a Tosan fan from his early days balling in the British Elite Academy Basketball League and with the British youth teams, I’m excited to see what’s next for him and where his combination of hard work, feel for the game and talent takes him in the long run. Until then, we can always look back to this March and what his career meant for Princeton and Ivy hoops as a whole.
Henderson called Evbuomwan a “brilliant blinding light from heaven.” Not much we can add to that. Looking forward to seeing him among the stars.