As the NCAA Transfer Portal grows ever bigger and more talented, teams like Washington State have to succeed at bringing in talent year in and year out. The portal hits hard and heavy this time of year, but it can absolutely swing both ways. It takes away build-around stars like TJ Bamba, but it can also bring players that swing March Madness runs- as evidenced by this year’s Final 4. The key is player and talent evaluation, and finding diamonds in the rough that can propel this team forward is absolutely possible- even with the limited NIL resources. As the Cougs look to break the seal and get back to the NCAA Tournament, the Portal will need to be a resource that they take advantage of to foster competitive teams.
As the WSU staff scours the portal for interesting names, so will I. This is the first of many Spotlights on portal guys who I think could make a huge impact in Crimson and Grey.
Today’s Subject: Amaree Abram
Profile: 6’4 Guard, Ole Miss, 3 Years of Eligibility Remaining
Freshman Year Stats: 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists. 40.3% Field Goal percentage, 36.4% 3 point percentage, 66.7% free throw rate, 1.9% steals, 20.6% assists, 17.9% turn over rate, and 24.5% usage rate percentage.
Abram is a guard that is young for his class, he doesn’t turn 19 until the end of May, and he brings a lot of upside as a scorer and playmaker at the guard position. 6’4 might be a bit of an overlisting, but he is a big PG, which fits WSU’s recruiting strategy. Abram was a 4-star recruit just a year ago and a lot of his up-and-down play as a freshman came from the weird context he was put in. WSU is one of many teams to reach out to him and his game would be an interesting fit in Pullman.
Ole Miss transfer Amaree Abram has heard from the following schools since entering the portal, a source tells @On3sports:— Joe Tipton (@TiptonEdits) March 19, 2023
+ others https://t.co/rvGKsR1Sw5
While the number isn’t incredible, the biggest part of Amaree Abram’s game is his jumper. The lefty is comfortable taking and making shots all over the court. He is almost better off-the-dribble, but he also excels in catch-and-shoot situations and he would do well with the superior passing skill in Pullman.
Abram really hunts shots and he has upside to be a high-volume, high-efficiency shooter in every way. He was not bombing away off movement much for Ole Miss, but he proved capable when sprinting into jumpers or hunting shots in transition and that would transition nicely to a more structured offense.
Abram has all the traits you’d look for in a top notch shooter, especially as an off-the-dribble scorer. He can go right or left to get to his shot, and his ability to self-organize is particularly impressive. He is great at getting his feet under him in a hurry and he can get shots up in a heartbeat.
Abram is already the type of guard that can punish teams that go under on screens because his trigger is so quick and his range is elite. He is comfortable walking into jumpers from 30-feet, and he’s definitely not lacking in confidence.
Abram also has the ability to create a lot of space for his jumpers consistently. The handle is a bit up and down, but there is a lot to like with how he leverages his burst and balance to create room to get jumpers off. Some of his change-of-pace moves look absolutely dirty and it is easy to get enticed with plays like this.
He’s a really strong touch guy, and he can hit shots in the mid-range at all kinds of weird angles. Notice the footwork on this play, as he hops into the shot with a wide base and his feet facing toward the baseline. It simply doesn’t matter because his touch and ability to organize makes the shot seem easy.
Abram can get to shots in the mid-range area consistently and that part of his game will only be more potent playing with better spacing. Mid-range shots are not always the most efficient, but having a real threat from there opens up a lot for an offense.
The real question for Abram is how much of a point guard he really is. The handle has some real issues- and it shows up a lot when he’s facing hard hedges or aggressive on-ball defenders. The dribble is a bit loose and too high, which combines with a limited move set to make him an all-around mediocre ball-handler.
He will try to make up for this inconsistent handle by putting players in jail out of pick-and-roll, and his screen usage. His jumper forces teams to go over screens and this allows him to get a step, keep the defender on his back, and try to hunt his shot in the mid-range area. However, he is rarely getting all the way to the rim and good defenders can still prevent him come getting good looks a bit too easily.
The best part of Abram’s handle is his athleticism, and his ability to leverage that athleticism. This shows up the most in transition, as his top-end speed combines with his ability to chop steps and break down into quick moves to allow him to get advantages. He blows by guards in transition consistently and this helps him to get into the paint with ease.
Despite not having a deep bag of moves, Abram does have the ability to change speed and direction at a high-level and that allows him to abuse some defenders with quick-moves and explosions. Rejecting a screen like this allows him to completely dust the defender and get all the way to the rim for the finish.
Abram has a reputation as a bucket-getter, but his passing consistently impresses on tape. He reads the floor well and he makes incredibly quick reads consistently. Ole Miss rarely ran a straight, well-spaced pick-and-roll. That made Abram’s reads a lot more difficult, which makes the consistency of his high-level passes all the more impressive.
Abram is most comfortable finding cutters and bigs on the interior, but he also flashes the ability to leverage his drives to find shooters on the perimeter. He is not great at shifting from a scoring mindset to a passing mindset on the fly, but there are some solid flashes there.
Some of Abram’s reads in static situations are just really impressive and it points to some intriguing upside given his youth. Again, he is not elite at shifting from scoring mode to passing mode, but he is good at making reads when looking to pass, and that could project to a more well-rounded game as a playmaker in time.
Defense is a bit of a worry for Abram as well, especially given Kyle Smith’s usual standards on that end. Abram is not horrible defensively, but he is incredibly undisciplined and this gets him out of position on the ball consistently. He reaches a lot, gambles with his footwork, and gives up a lot of easy shots and drives because good guards abuse that.
Despite his issues on-ball, Abram is an active and engaged rotational defender who is usually in the right spot away from the ball. He tags the roll, plugs driving lanes, and stunts to non-elite shooters well. He is not much of a playmaker on defense and his digs leave a lot to be desired, but there is some solid stuff with his off-ball defense.
Abram does at least have a lot of energy on defense and his passion is clear. It’s easier to rein in a high-motor player than it is to inspire a low-motor one. Abram’s hustle to stick with plays makes up for him being out of position and it could point to some potential for him to be a good defender on the perimeter.
Overall, Abram should absolutely be a priority for the Cougs. He might be a bit above their pay grade, and it’s tough to convince a Texas kid to move to Pullman, but the fit is obvious and Abram doesn’t seem to be getting recruited by the top schools. If Abram does end up a Coug, he is a likely starter who would bring incredible shot-making from the guard spot, and he could also be a true playmaker long-term. It’s hard not to be reminded of Michael Flowers when watching Abram, and every Coug fan would love another version of Flowers in the Palouse.