Markquis Nowell Mar 23, 2023; New York, NY, USA; Kansas State Wildcats guard Markquis Nowell (1) yells as he reacts in the game against the Michigan State Spartans in the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As basketball fans watched Markquis Nowell have one of the greatest performances in NCAA Tournament history Thursday, former NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas had a unique perspective.

Nowell dished out a tourney-record 19 assists and added 20 points to key the Kansas State Wildcats’ overtime win over the Michigan State Spartans. His incredible game sparked plenty of speculation about the senior guard’s future in the NBA.

Yet Nowell stands just 5-foot-8, putting him at a disadvantage against taller NBA players. Given that, teams may be reluctant to take a chance on the college star.

Thomas knows the challenges Nowell faces better than anyone. The 5-foot-9 guard played 11 seasons in the league, earning two All-Star nods. He tweeted a message to Nowell Thursday night.

“They gon be mad that they have to give em a chance at the next level,” Thomas tweeted. “You know the small guards they try not and give ‘em a fair shake. Keep doing your thing killa.”

Nowell earned Third Team All-American and First Team All-Big 12 honors this season, averaging 17.1 points and ranking second in the NCAA with 7.8 assists per game. His ball-handling and passing are good and he’s an adequate 3-point shooter. But his size makes him a huge defensive liability. That’s a reason smaller players face a big hurdle in not only making the NBA but sticking around.

Most NBA draft analysts predict Nowell will go undrafted, although his performance against Michigan State alone could convince a team to take a chance. As Thomas and other past stars such as Muggsy Bogues and Nate Robinson showed, smaller players can make it in the NBA.

[Isaiah Thomas]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.