A few years from now, when the unofficial votes are tallied and everyone reflects back on Class of 2015 rankings, Brandon Sampson might look a little low. He’ll need to improve significantly to prove to everyone that he has been underrated, but he’s a natural scorer and a dynamic athlete capable of ascending to the sport’s highest level.
The slender wing forward hails from Louisiana and, like a lot of prospects who call the Deep South home, did not receive a tremendous early push in terms of exposure.
He attend the Pangos All-American Camp last June and stood out as one of the most gifted prospects at the event. He put on a show at times and forecast what should be an excellent college career.
Sampson was quieter at the NBPA Top 100 Camp later that month but once again impressed on the July travel circuit with Louisiana Elite.
His recruitment drove extensive speculation and, as he remained unsigned in the fall, included LSU, Cal, St. John’s, UCLA and USC. He pledged to the Red Storm in mid-January but backed off, and ultimately he'll represent his home state LSU Tigers.
Sampson boasts top-shelf athleticism. He’s a rangy 6-4, 175 pounds and a wing who possesses a quick first step and explosive hops. He excels in transition, where he utilizes his speed and slightly herky-jerky style to drive past defenders and finish above the rim.
At times, Sampson also moves very actively in the halfcourt. He has an instinctive knack for give-and-go plays and transitions from the catch to a dunk or layup in short order.
|Sampson possesses all-league potential as a wing scorer and defender|
Meanwhile, his jump shot stands out as a primary feature as well. Sampson wields a high-arching shot that frequently finds the net from long range, and he never loses confidence or hesitates to pull from 23 feet. His release is quick and, given the athletic threat he poses, should command plenty of respect of defenders who might otherwise jam him on the perimeter.
Sampson even possesses the hints of a post game. Very few high school wings grasp the significance of playing with their backs to the basket, and Sampson occasionally steps into the high post area and can knock in halfhooks from as far away as eight feet.
On defense, he possesses the talent to genuinely shine. Sampson has quick feet laterally, solid height for shooting guard and reasonably good length. As he becomes stronger, locking up opponents could become one of his primary duties.
Sampson’s offensive balance can become askew. He tends to hunt his jump shot at the expense of his potential for slashing, at times making him highly inefficient. He also needs to gain likely 25 or so pounds before he’s physically read for high-major college basketball, and frankly he may not get there prior to his sophomore season.
The other clear hole in his game is his ballhandling. Sampson dribbles fine in the open court, but he tends to have a higher dribble and one that’s out in front of him — too easy for top defenders to steal. Getting lower on drives and improving his left hand will be key.
Sampson's freshman year projection appears rosy at a now-loaded LSU, which landed one of the nation's best 2015 recruiting hauls. His rookie year could prove to be highly uneven and cause fans to wonder how long he’ll need to figure it out, followed by his return as a sophomore with guns blazing. But he may not even require that long to establish a rhythm, given that he'll bring such explosive scoring ability to the lineup.
The Tigers' style of play should benefit him handsomely. LSU ranked a lightning-fast No. 14 in adjusted tempo this past season, and thus Sampson should feel right at home in more ways than one.
If he remains dedicated and can address what’s missing, he could enjoy a long and lucrative professional career beyond his collegiate years as well.