Looks Like University Of Illinois - Brandin Podziemski

Apr 13, 2021

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I looked for a while to find a mask picture of Podziemski. Wanted it for posterity. In 20 years, when you're looking up the IlliniBoard archive on your iPhone Hologram 7s Plus, I wanted a mask photo that would remind us all what it was like back in 2020. "Wait, high school basketball players played while wearing masks?"

You probably already know where this post is going, but if you don't, I am a HUGE fan of late bloomers. I just got new license plates for the car and I should have gotten LTE BLMR. I just feel like guys who don't show up in the rankings until their senior season and then burst on the scene have a higher probability of college greatness.

I guess that's not exactly what happened here. Brandin Podziemski was slated to play in the EYBL last summer but everything was canceled. Had he played in front of scouts (and coaches), it's likely his blowup would have happened in July, not October. Instead, he had to wait until his senior season of high school to really explode on the scene.

I should probably just go through my mental list of senior season blowups.

Patrick Beverly is the first name that comes to mind. He was class of 2006, I believe. Unknown (and not on anyone's radar) before his senior season and then he scores 37 points per game as a senior at Marshall HS in Chicago. From unknown in November to high major recruit in April. He signed with Arkansas, played there three years, declared for the draft as a junior, was picked by the Lakers, didn't make the team, played in Europe for four years, and then catches on with the Houston Rockets. He's now on year 9 in the NBA (currently with the Clippers) with three appearances on the All Defensive Team.

This is not "all senior breakouts will eventually be named to the NBA All Defensive Team three times". I'm just saying that there's this long list of "unknown until his senior year and then wow" players in my head. Some examples:

  • Otto Porter is the best example I can remember from when I was in Missouri. Mostly unknown until his senior year, then gets Missouri-Kansas-Georgetown offers, then commits to Georgetown in the spring (and ends up in the 30's in the rankings).
  • Charlie Moore is another name that comes to mind. His college career has been a bit of a journey (Cal to Kansas to DePaul and now another year somewhere else), but he's a mostly unknown guy who came out of nowhere to score 28 ppg as a high school senior and then blow up on the recruiting scene.
  • Xavier Pinson is an excellent recent example. He was at Simeon, but he wasn't on anyone's list (like, at all). His very first offer was January 20th of his senior high school season. Very quickly he got offers from Missouri, Wisconsin, Georgetown, and Memphis and picked Missouri. He was a thorn in our side during this three-game Braggin' Rights losing streak and now he's off to LSU.
  • Another one that sticks out in my Metro East brain: Roosevelt Jones from O'Fallon. He leads O'Fallon to a Final Four and gets a very late offer from Butler where he goes on to have a great college career.
  • And if we're talking late bloomers and Metro East, we probably should also mention Mark Smith. But he left for that black and gold team and I don't discuss the black and gold team.

I should just make my point: I'm a big fan of the late bloomer. Which means I'm a big fan of Brandin Podziemski. When Kansas and Kentucky offer in October of your senior year, I pay attention.

Quick nickname note here. From an email I received from a subscriber today...

Big signing today in hoops Brandon "Air Podz" Podziemski.

I will now pretty much exclusively use Air Podz for the next five years. When he drains a three from Andy Kaufmann range? Air Podz Max. When he declares for the NBA after his junior year? Air Podz Pro.

Let's go through his blowup. Again, no EYBL last summer so no real opportunity to showcase his game in front of the world. But his offers did start rolling in. Starting in May, he got offers from UW-Milwaukee (the local school, basically), Sister Jean (I'm not writing the L-word), Rice, Arizona State, Marquette, and old friend Bruce Weber at Kansas State. Then, in October, the blowup. Offers from Kentucky and Kansas on back-to-back days.

I did some digging, and the source of that appears to be a "combine" put together by his AAU team. There weren't really AAU Tournaments going on, but AAU teams could put on combines (live-streamed, I'm assuming) so that colleges could get a look at their players. His AAU program has the #4 player in the country (Patrick Baldwin Jr., still undecided), so I'm guessing lots of coaches were "attending" this event. Here's one evaluation I found of Air Podz from that event:

Despite the fact that he already owns nearly a dozen D-1 offers, Brandin Podziemski is still a bit under the radar. That is no longer the case after his showing at the Phenom Universe Combine. The lefty literally put up video game numbers, averaging 23.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game with a 64% field goal percentage and 57% 3 point percentage. While shooting is his strong suit, he's definitely able to turn the corner on you coming off a pin-down and can finish through contact. Given the priority that's being placed on shooting, expect Brandin to be a hot commodity.

The week after that event, Kentucky and Kansas offer. So I'm guessing the film went around (and the stats - the combines were logged by Synergy which most all teams subscribe to), teams went scrambling to find out about this kid, and in came the offers. His high school season began and there were more offers: Illinois, Nebraska, Wake Forest, Miami, and Vanderbilt. He named five finalists (Illinois, Kentucky, Vandy, Miami, and Wake) and picked Illinois today.

Oh, I forgot. I looked for an interview to find out how he pronounces his name. Found this report from a Milwaukee TV station where they use his name several times. The pronunciation (at least how I hear it on that video). puh-DJIM-skee. There's also film of his high school games and that's what the PA announcer says so that's what I'm going with.

What should I cover next? Yes, let's go watch some film. I believe the AAU film here (when he's wearing the Phenom U jersey playing against guys in Phenom U jerseys) is the "combine" referenced above. If he has a mask on, it's from his senior season.

Hey, let's go look at that buzzer beater from a different angle:

I let the gif run a little bit there at the end to show the wave to the opposing fans. Hate it when it's Paul Mulcahy. Love it when it's Lucas Johnson.

His numbers are pretty stunning. Didn't play varsity as a freshman so he transferred to a private school. In his three years at the private school, he became the only player in Wisconsin history to score 2,000 points in only three seasons. Was named Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin, had Marquette, Kansas, Kentucky, and Illinois offers but not Wisconsin, and that means I am SO ready for him to Frank Kaminsky the Badgers the next 3-4 years.

With a late bloomer like this, I don't think we can pay attention to his rankings just yet. 247 has updated their rankings and they have him at #72 nationally. The brand new "SI99" from Sports Illustrated released their first-ever rankings and they have him at #86 (with Ramses Melendez at #87 and Luke Goode at #77). Rivals has not rated him yet, and ESPN has him as the #29 shooting guard, so not in the top-100 (not sure if those rankings are recent or from last fall). Once Rivals rates him (and once the final ESPN ratings are released) we can get a decent idea of where he'll end up in the final rankings. The best we have right now: 72 on 247, 86 on SI.

What else... oh, he's another lefty shooter for our stable of lefty shooters. Let's maybe just go through the recent left-handed Illini real quick (players plus recruits):

  • Giorgi Bezhanishvili
  • Trent Frazier
  • Adam Miller
  • Luke Goode
  • Brandin Podziemski
  • Reggie Bass

Lefty U, I guess.

Perhaps the ranking that has me most excited? Sam Vecinie's list from The Athletic which I've referenced several times. He's their NBA Draft guy, but he's also been ranking the top-50 "available" college players, both high school recruits and transfers (which, as I've said, will really be the only list that matters in a few years). He currently has Air Podz #13 on his list. For context, here's some other rankings on that list:

4. TyTy Washington (HS senior, Composite #30)
6. Adam Miller (sad face emoji)
12. Mac McClung (Texas Tech transfer)
13. Brandin Podziemski
20. Myles Johnson (Rutgers transfer)
23. Jacob Young (Rutgers transfer)
24. Wesley Cardet (HS senior, Composite #98)
28. Rocket Watts (Michigan State transfer)

That's something that would suggest Air Podz might be closer to a top 50 player. Jacob Young was really good at Rutgers last year (he has both declared for the draft and put his name in the portal), and if he's #23 while Podziemski is #13, that's some high praise. Mac McClung scored 15.5 at Texas Tech and is now transferring because Chris Beard left, and this list has McClung 12 and Podziemski 13. This right here is a significant data point for me.

(Worth noting: they're constantly updating that list to have a current list of "best available", so by the time you click on that link above, Podz will already be moved down to the list below and a new guy will slot into #13 on the list. But when I looked this morning, the numbers above were the current numbers.)

This means we should get right to the Cruises before I talk myself out of going as high as I think I'm going. I'm just really excited about this kid. Seems to be a scorer. I watched all these interviews and read all these articles and his coaches (AAU and high school) were consistently "no one works harder, no one plays with more of a chip on his shoulder" and I'm a huge fan of chips.

I gave Goode 3.5 Cruises and Melendez 3.25, but I feel like I should go higher for Air Podz (yeah, I hear it - it's already getting old). I really do think I need to push this ranking up to four.

Brandin Podziemski - Four Tom Cruises


Nick-Chainsaw-Smith on April 14, 2021 @ 03:03 AM


CharlestonIllini on April 14, 2021 @ 01:45 PM

You mentioned that Black and Gold team.......

JimmyTheLayup on April 14, 2021 @ 02:53 PM

Is Luke Goode a lefty?

Giovantischixstripz on April 14, 2021 @ 04:23 PM

He is not

orangejulius on April 14, 2021 @ 06:11 PM

I'm not sure I can recall a year when we stole a top 3 player out of both Wisconsin and Indiana. Kind of surprised, but not that surprised, to see that Luke Goode is not among the 6 finalists for Mr. Basketball in his State.

thegoah on April 14, 2021 @ 07:47 PM

Who is the comp here? (The illini comp?) Lefty Richard Keene?

Duce20 on April 14, 2021 @ 10:45 PM

Andy Kaufman

Giovantischixstripz on April 14, 2021 @ 10:53 PM

I'm seeing some lefty Franz Wagner to his game. Franz is taller, longer and I think a little more athletic so his ceiling is higher, but I see a lot of the same vision and using guile over athleticism to get to his spots.

Eagle on April 15, 2021 @ 01:30 AM

I'm right there with you Robert. I watch a lot of AAU ball and saw some good guards last year. There's plenty of speed and shooting on the market, but Podz adds muscle and competitiveness. So much of the highly rated talent is skinny like Emoni Bates. I like Air Podz.

IlliniJedi on April 16, 2021 @ 01:04 AM

His IG handle is iab-podz, so your nickname is not far off

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