Caleb Houstan is a highly polished shooting prospect with the size, agility, and coordination to provide a positive impact defensively.
Having just turned 17 earlier this year, Houstan is arguably one of the best pure jump shooters at his size in the last decade of high school basketball. One would probably need to go through the archives of European prospects to find 6’8”+ teenagers who have been as capable as Caleb at getting up shots with an extremely fluid release and strong efficiency. Houstan already has some of the most textbook shot mechanics of any player his size in the entire world in any age group. He is particularly reliable on 1-2 step-in catch and shoot shots but is also a capable shot maker either off the dribble or coming off pin downs and other off-ball screens.
Between the Canadian FIBA youth teams, Montverde and EYBL Houstan has made 40.3 percent of his 77 three-point attempts and 73.2 percent of his 82 free throw attempts. Specifically, he excelled during the high school season with Montverde where he shot an incredible 53.1 percent on 32 attempts compared to a more pedestrian 31.1 percent on his 45 attempts at all other events. Taking nearly 8 three-point attempts per 100 possessions played, his volume already stands out and forces opponents to guard him as soon as he passes half-court even if his shot is not falling. The overall accuracy, especially when paired with his stellar free throw percent, huge volume, and great mechanics, show how elite his shooting touch is for a player his size.
While he played more of an off-ball role for a Montverde team overflowing with talent, Houstan showed himself capable of taking on a larger scoring load with the Canadian u16 team in 2019 where he used 38.1 percent of possessions when on the court compared to just 20.1 percent of possessions with Montverde. He is comfortable pulling up in the midrange after a pump fake and one or two dribbles or using his gravity as a shooter to rip through and straight-line drive into the lane using his size to finish. He also increased his assist rate per 100 possessions from 2.4 at Montverde to 3.3 with Canada while his turnover rate stayed below 10 percent of his possessions. He consistently rates among the top quartile of all players in his assist rate, a very impressive mark for a wing.
His ability to get to the line is also fairly under appreciated because of his off-ball role at Montverde. While he took 4.0 free throw attempts per 100 possessions in high school, his stint with the Canadian u16 national team saw him more than triple that getting to 14.6 free throw attempts per 100 possessions – a mark in the 99th percentile of the tournament’s history. Already a great shooter, his ability to get to the paint adds another dimension to his offensive versatility.
Houstan has a high basketball IQ. He moves well without the ball, relocating around the arch to provide passing angles for teammates and does a solid job using his size to come up with offensive rebounds and putbacks.
Relative to many other pure shooters, Houstan has a strong defensive skill set. He is more than capable of executing away from the ball, making few mistakes, and staying engaged in the correct position. He does an impressive job containing smaller, quicker guards and wings, using his length to bother their shots and passes.
He has a good understanding of rotations and uses his size to pressure passing lanes or contest shots in the paint on help assignments. He rarely gets caught ball watching or stuck in no man’s land. Houstan is always focused and highly perceptive of the action around him on the defensive end, contrary to an overwhelming majority of high school players.
In the clip above, Cade Cunningham is still wiping a wet spot as the official inbounds the ball for Montverde’s opponent. Houstan is the only one on the team to realize this and to try to contest the shot. While this is obviously an unusual play that’s not likely to repeat itself in the future, it’s a good microcosm of the impressive focus and engagement Houstan consistently displays on the defensive end. This shows up in his statistical profile where he forced 2.3 steals per 100 possessions played while maintaining a very low foul rate.
Houstan’s strength still needs work to help him be more capable of holding his own against NBA big men, blocking just 0.5 shots per 100 possessions played. If Houstan grows another 1 or 2 inches over the next few years he could add an interior defensive ability to his game that would make him a truly elite prospect. Even now he is a very good defensive player whose shooting is so impressive that it, unfortunately, overshadows the impact he makes on that end.
Areas of Improvement
Houstan does have some issues dealing with physical contact. He is well built in his lower body and has shown the willingness to be physical; however, he will need to continue to fill out his arms and chest as he is often knocked off balance in the air or unable to carve out space to get his shots off against larger defenders. He is a fluid and smooth straight-line attacker but he does have the tendency to play upright which limits his ability to change direction and find creases in between defenders. He is under control and well balanced when going up for his shots but lacks vertical pop and the ability to contort his body while in air. Additional flexibility and development of more flexible body movements could help Houstan develop his ability to create for himself and his teammates.
His ball-handling is solid but not advanced and leads to some missed passing opportunities. He isn’t a selfish player and will generally move the ball to a teammate with a better scoring opportunity but lacks some of the skills necessary to execute more complex passing reads on the move. Houstan has flashed the recognition of advanced passing angles but is simply too inaccurate in his placement of the ball to be able to properly execute them, throwing the ball at his teammates’ ankles or opting to throw a bullet pass to a teammate only a few feet away.
Houstan is extremely advanced as a jump shooter in almost any situation: with body momentum forward, backward or sideways, off the dribble, or running off-screen. He is pretty much automatic with his feet set on the catch leading to expert body control and balance. However, despite having the polish of a prospect a decade older in the aforementioned parts of his game, there is certainly much development to be had still in other aspects to fully realize his potential.
As a tall, fluid forward with incredibly positive shooting abilities and two-way upside, it’s easy to see why Houstan is seen among the top prospects in his high school class. He will need to work on his handle, passing, strength, and body mechanics to reach the upper bounds of his potential. Even if he is unable to do so though he seems like a relatively safe bet to be successful due to the coveted baseline of skills and measurements he already possesses. Houstan will likely be no worse than a top 20 pick with an NBA career during which he signs multiple contacts. His ceiling is even higher and improving on his strength, flexibility, and ball handling will only move him up the draft boards over upcoming seasons.