ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla breaks down Baylor’s Walter, Missi ahead of NBA Draft

Fran Fraschilla joined ESPN as a college basketball game and studio analyst in 2003, and he serves as a color analyst primarily for Big 12 men's basketball contests. Lariat file photo

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

Baylor men’s basketball is no stranger to developing NBA talent.

The Bears have had 11 picks in the last 11 drafts, which is the most in the state of Texas and second most in the Big 12 since 2012. Head coach Scott Drew has built a program in which it’s no longer a surprise to see Baylor athletes walk across the stage in the summer.

Drew is going to add to that tally, as two more Bears are expected to hear their name called in the 2024 Draft, with Ja’Kobe Walter and Yves Missi both projected to be first-round picks. Walter, ESPN’s No. 17 overall prospect in the 2023 class, has been mocked as a lottery pick since he arrived on campus in the fall.

It was Missi who came into his own throughout his one-and-done season, which surprised people, including ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla.

“I think by the middle of his freshman year, I said, ‘Uh oh, he’s going to have to go to the NBA because his stock is rising,’” Fraschilla said. “I didn’t think it would happen this quick, but give him credit for putting the hard work in, because clearly he made it happen for himself.”

Missi was tabbed as the 22nd overall pick in ESPN’s Mock Draft on April 17, while Walter was projected in the lottery at No. 12. Fraschilla said they’re both “prototype NBA players once they physically mature in the next two, three, four [or] five years.”

“Ja’Kobe’s one of the best prospects in this draft at the shooting guard spot because he has what we call ‘NBA positional size,’” said Fraschilla, who has been with ESPN since 2003. “He is athletic. He has a very good IQ for the game. He has a great work ethic.

“Yves is very similar, but at a different position. [He] has all the requisite physical ability and size and character and work ethic. He probably has to get a little bit stronger to be able to handle the banging that goes on in an NBA game in the low post, but that will happen with time as he grows into his body.”

Walter, the sixth McDonald’s All-American in program history, finished his one-and-done season with 508 points, which ranks as the second most by a freshman in program history. The former McDonald’s All-American led Baylor in scoring at 14.7 points per game, and his 69 made 3-pointers also ranked tops on the team.

The 6-foot-5 guard out of McKinney became the second straight Bear to win both preseason and postseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

Missi, meanwhile, led Baylor with five double-doubles in 2023-24, the most by a Bear since Freddie Gillespie had 10 in 2019-20. The 7-footer from Yaounde, Cameroon, also led the Big 12 with 63 dunks, and he was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman and All-Defensive Teams.

The product of Prolific Prep averaged 10.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in 23 minutes per outing. Missi was originally part of Drew’s 2024 class, but he reclassified to 2023 and started at center in 32 of 35 contests.

Missi has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and is the No. 20 ranked prospect in ESPN’s draft projections.

Both Walter and Missi helped Baylor secure a top-nine seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“They’ve been great all year,” guard RayJ Dennis said after the Bears’ second-round loss to Clemson on March 24. “They’re the reason we were in the position like we were today, that we were able to make it to the second round and we had a three-seed.

“They were huge all year. They didn’t play like freshmen. And they’ll have great careers for 10, 15 years, 20 years.”

Drew said Missi was someone who accelerated in his role quickly.

“One thing about Yves, you look at him only playing basketball for like three years — and in high school at Prolific Prep, they had a great program, but he was their second best big as far as scoring options,” Drew said in Memphis. “And where he’s come now, he has a great capacity to learn and learn quickly. And that’s something that as a coach, you’re just blessed.

“I think as parents, we all want to have kids, when we say it one time, they do it, and we’re blessed when they listen. He’s one of those guys that really learns quickly.”

Drew added that he loved Walter for always playing his heart out, despite being a sure-fire one-and-done who could’ve coasted.

Missi and Walter will look to hear their names called in the 2024 NBA Draft, which is set for June 27 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Forward Jalen Bridges is also a projected second-rounder, and forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua entered his name in the draft pool too. Dennis joins the bunch as someone in the mix aiming to be drafted.

Fraschilla said Baylor’s NBA-caliber talent is a testament to Drew’s “incredible program” that develops players at the highest level.

“Baylor’s player development program is second to none nationally,” the former New Mexico and St. John’s head coach said. “I don’t care if it’s Duke, Kansas, Kentucky — Baylor’s development of young players is on par with anybody.”

Baylor is the only school with three straight top-16 draft picks, and one of two schools (Duke) to have three straight top-20 picks in the NBA Draft. Walter and Missi could extend that streak this year, and Drew has another blue-chip recruit in VJ Edgecombe joining the Bears next season.

Drew keeps reeling in one-and-dones, and Fraschilla said that won’t slow down as long as Drew is at the helm.

“There’s a reason Coach Drew could stay at Baylor and feel like he’s very fulfilled at one of the top programs in the country, and that is, his recipe for success at Baylor for young student-athletes is proven,” Fraschilla said. “If you have a chance to be an NBA player and you go to Baylor, there’s a good chance that they’re going to get the most out of you.

“So, this is sustainable. It’s been sustainable for a long time now.”

Michael Haag is a third year Journalism student from Floresville, a small town about 30 miles south of San Antonio. Haag is entering his third year at the Lariat and is hoping to continue developing his sports reporting skill set. After graduation, he plans to work on a Master’s degree in Journalism in order to one day teach at the college level. He does, however, plan on becoming a sports reporter for a publication after grad school.