Former School: Akron
New School: Butler
Years Remaining: Two
Recruiting Ranking: Unranked
2021-22 Stats: 13.9 ppg/2.9 rpg/2.5 apg/34.2 mpg; 46.0%/40.7%/72.2%
Ali Ali didn’t get much attention coming out of high school. It was easy not to notice him through two years at Akron, too. As a freshman, Ali made 11 starts but managed just 35 total points. He took a step forward as a sophomore, starting all 23 games, but finished fourth on the Zips in scoring. It wasn’t until his junior year that Ali gained the attention of the power conferences.
As a junior, Ali untapped his ability as a scorer, finishing the year averaging 13.9 points per game. Not only did Ali emerge as Akron’s leading scorer, but he also became their most efficient 3-point shooter, hitting over 40 percent of his looks. He was named to the All-MAC Second team and the All-MAC Tourney team, averaging 15.9 points while leading the Zips to a MAC Tournament championship.
Ali opted to transfer from Akron back to his home state of Indiana, joining the Butler Bulldogs and new coach Thad Matta.
What’s His Game?
Ali possesses a rare blend of size and skill. Whether you want to call him a wing forward or a stretch four, Ali has guard skill at forward size and is most comfortable playing away from the rim.
He scored at all three levels last year, but 3-point shooting is where he stood out. Ali knocked down 40.7 percent of his deep shots on 118 attempts, impressive results for any player.
Ali (No. 24) is a lengthy athlete with guard skills. Most 6-8 guys, let alone 6-8 guys with his wingspan, can't do this. pic.twitter.com/RUV1g9kfaf— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) August 4, 2022
Ali has great feel on offense. He moves well off the ball and spaces the floor well, creating open looks for himself and others.
Ali has great awareness to move off the ball and was one of the best shooters in the MAC last season. He hit 40.4% of his 3s on 118 attempts last year. pic.twitter.com/cvbfWPeUG3— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) August 4, 2022
That feel helps him as a passer as well, where he led the Zips in assists last year.
Not many bigs have this kind of feel as a passer. Ali led the Zips with 2.5 assists per game last year. pic.twitter.com/WoHgfJYvGt— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) August 4, 2022
Ali has a rare blend of size, vision, and scoring that make him a weapon on the offensive end. pic.twitter.com/hZP2tdCF4J— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) August 4, 2022
Ali uses his size well at the basket, where he hit nearly 60 percent of his shots last season. The length shows up in his finishing ability, and his dribbling skill is apparent when he works downhill.
He also isn't afraid to take it to the basket. He took 87 shots at the rim last year. pic.twitter.com/Ap6Jfsl0f3— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) August 4, 2022
Defensively, Ali is on the thinner side, and it showed up at times. How he handles Big East sized forwards will be something to watch. He has also never been a particularly strong rebounder. Development of his skill and size down low will be crucial for his success at Butler on the defensive end.
What’s His Role?
Ali should be a starter in the 4 slot for Butler. With Manny Bates and Jalen Thomas manning the center spot, Ali will be protected a bit on the defensive end. Offensively, he’ll be able to contribute both as a playmaker and a scorer. Ali should lift the burden on Butler’s guards and allow them to run a diverse offense with multiple initiators. He and Hunter should also be effective at finding space off the ball and hitting shots from deep.
With two years of eligibility remaining, Ali could be a two-year starter for Thad Matta. He should at least be able to replace the departing Bryce Golden, with athletic upside to become a Big East star.