Kaleb Joseph didn't make himself known to us until the spring of his sophomore year. Along with that, during the time we've tracked him, his game has evolved significantly.
Upon first evaluating him in the spring of 2012, we observed that Joseph played a distributor's role for the Mass Rivals. Much of the reason for that was the presence of teammate Noah Vonleh, who would go on to reclassify to the 2013 crop and sign with Indiana.
But Joseph began to adopt more of a scoring sheen as a high school junior. He entered that season with a top-50 national ranking and a collection of high-major scholarship offers, many from the (now defunct) Big East. For Cushing Academy, he was his squad's primary scorer and took that role to heart while producing big numbers along the way.
His early recruiting interests included personal attention from Ed Cooley, Steve Donahue, Bruce Weber and Mike Brey, among others. His scoring exploits attracted an even wider audience over time, and by the end of his junior campaign he claimed offers from Pittsburgh, Providence, Syracuse, Maryland, Boston College, Tennessee, Kansas State, Seton Hall, West Virginia and others.
He told CuseNation.com's Mike McCallister that Syracuse was his "dream school" and many believed that the Orange led.
Joseph had some good moments in the spotlight at the Super 64 in Las Vegas this past July. His list has congealed into a set of three finalists: Syracuse, Providence and West Virginia. As just one piece of evidence of how strange conference realignment has been, consider that those three former Big East clubs now reside in entirely different situations. (PC will play in the new Big East, but obviously the league has changed dramatically.)
Scoring. That's where the Joseph evaluation must begin. He's more comfortable creating shots for himself than he is for others, and his game should translate well to the collegiate level.
He's a fine mid-range jump shooter who would thrive in high pick and roll, thanks to fundamentally sound mechanics, good elevation and a high comfort level from the elbows and baselines.
Joseph is strong and aggressive off the dribble as well, typically driving right (strong hand) but occasionally mixing in drives to his left. He's also a fine three-point shooter, though we prefer him from the middle areas. Because he can pull up or drive when granted a high screen, he plays a style that aligns with what many major college programs currently run in the halfcourt game.
His defensive potential also is outstanding. Joseph possesses good length and quick feet to accompany his height and strength, which could make him an eventual weapon at the point of attack.
The game has moved in the direction of scoring guards and that's where Joseph shines, yet he hasn't abandon all semblance of a passing game. He's a talented drive-and-dish manufacturer because defenses must respect his offense at the rim, and he also spots open shooters well on the perimeter.
He also has become accustomed to playing with (e.g., Vonleh) and against top talent on the travel circuit, and coaches can feel secure knowing they'll get a fully vetted athlete.
Joseph at times does resemble a combo playing at point guard. He's a good, not great ball-handler and doesn't operate the machinery as well as some of his more "pure" peers. He must be careful not to default to shooting when the offense bogs down, and wherever he lands that will be a lesson his coaches emphasize.
Beyond that, his limitations are a relative thing. Some schools don't mind having a hybrid point guard at the floor general spot, while others value a crisper passing game. Joseph doesn't move the ball as quickly as some, always keeping an eye out for scoring opportunities. No one wants to squelch him, either, and there are trade-offs to every style.
Joseph should step in to the program of his choice and compete for early playing time. He's ready from a physical standpoint, so the question primarily will be whether he's a full-time point guard, combo guard or full-time wing.
He possesses the natural tools to play either position defensively, and obviously scorers are welcome at either backcourt spot, so from there system and his fellow personnel will dictate where he fits best. At this point it's safe to say he's being recruited as a point guard, however, and as such he slots as a talented, productive floor leader.