Stock watch for 2009-10 draft crop
NEW YORK -- College basketball kept a significant number of its stars for the 2009-10 season when a slew of them passed on the NBA draft to return to school.
Next year, the new NCAA rule mandating withdrawal from the draft by May 8 if a player plans to return to school will lessen the angst for college coaches sweating out the deadline. The NBA still has its own collectively bargained deadline of 10 days before the June draft. How the two dates will coincide has yet to be determined, but the NCAA players will have to prove they withdrew from the draft in some fashion.
There's a chance that by 2011, under a new collective bargaining agreement, there could be some uniformity. The NBA might push for a rule to have players wait until they are 20 years old and two years out of high school before they enter the draft. It's hard to see how the NBA Player's Association will go for that, but stay tuned.
The NCAA could do its own thing again, just like in baseball, and say that if a player matriculates at a college, he can't declare for the draft for two or three years. The National Association of Basketball Coaches is pushing this idea. It also is telling the NBA to let high school seniors go directly to the draft. The NABC has no say on the NBA's side of the rule.
The one certainty is that the 2009-10 season will offer plenty of tantalizing stars for the 2010 draft. The tag "weak" won't apply to this crop. Let's look alphabetically at some of the top talents and the expectations of them and their teams next season, using ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford's Top 100 prospect list.
• Solomon Alabi, Florida State: With Toney Douglas gone, Alabi will be counted on to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA tournament. He's a talent up front, one Ford projects for the lottery. But he doesn't have the same makeup as Douglas. He hasn't proved himself a leader like Douglas yet. The Seminoles are more likely an NIT team.
• Cole Aldrich, Kansas: He easily could have gone in the lottery of Thursday's draft had he bolted after this past season. But he stayed and is on a team that will be rated No. 1 to start the 2009-10 season. Aldrich continues to be one of the most improved players in the game. His stock will continue to soar if he leads the Jayhawks to their planned destination.
• Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest: This will be an interesting test case. Aminu was billed as a lottery talent for this year's draft, and that shouldn't change. But he shone at times as a complementary player. What will happen when he's the only go-to guy on the team? Without Jeff Teague and James Johnson, the pressure will be on Aminu to deliver every night, and that might be difficult.
• James Anderson, Oklahoma State: He's a first-round talent, but there were times during the World University Games tryouts in Colorado Springs when you forgot he was on the floor. Without Byron Eaton, the pressure is all on Anderson to be the Cowboys' stud. Oklahoma State has a chance to be a bubble team, but a lot of that will depend on Anderson. How he performs as a leader might affect where he is selected.
• Luke Babbitt, Nevada: Ford has him as a possible late-first-round pick. I don't disagree. But Babbitt will have even more eyes on him as he plays for a new coach, former assistant David Carter. Babbitt must be a double-double performer and a standout player in the WAC to raise his profile. He wasn't able to do that in his first year.
• Trevor Booker, Clemson: He said he returned to school because he wasn't ready. He should lead the World University Games team in rebounding and might be one of its top scorers in Serbia. Booker's Clemson team got better with the pickup of former USC signee Noel Johnson. Booker has a chance to be a first-team All-ACC player, and his profile will increase dramatically over the next year.
• Craig Brackins, Iowa State: He was a stud toward the latter part of this past season and was a standout for the WUG team during trials in Colorado Springs. If he can get the Cyclones to climb out of the abyss next season, his stock will rise dramatically. No one questions his face-up talent. But if he can be a difference-maker consistently and change the fortunes of the Cyclones, the perception of him will be altered, too.
• Patrick Christopher, Cal: Christopher nearly declared for this draft. He would have been an intriguing pick because he can score. It will be a more crowded field next year, but he has a chance with Cal's projected success to change his fortunes. He might be a bubble first-round guy, but if he can be a consistent scorer and lead the Bears deep into March, he will score well on draft cards.
• Sherron Collins, Kansas: Collins probably is one of those players you either like or don't like because of his stocky build. He won't wow you. But he's a winner. He will be the unquestioned leader of the national championship favorites. If Collins can deliver and lead Kansas to the Final Four, he will create plenty of buzz for his candidacy. The onus is on him to make sure KU is a title contender.
• DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky: Cousins comes to a team expected to compete for the national title with plenty of hype. But how John Calipari uses him and how he meshes with Patrick Patterson are questions still unanswered. He's not ready for the NBA, but if Kentucky has a banner season and he flourishes, he could be tempted for a short stay with the Wildcats.
• Ed Davis, North Carolina: Davis had buzz after his Final Four performance this spring. In this draft, he would have gone in the top five, but how will he handle being the go-to guy in the post? Will he even get that tag with Deon Thompson? Davis needs to show he can deliver for the Tar Heels on a consistent basis. He didn't have the chance this past season because of Tyler Hansbrough. Now he does. Let's see how he handles the pressure.
• Devin Ebanks, West Virginia: Ebanks was expected to be a one-and-done player, but he didn't have that type of freshman season. And he was smart enough to realize he didn't show that much yet. The expectations now are on Ebanks and West Virginia to deliver a deep run. He doesn't have to do it alone with Da'Sean Butler as his compadre on the roster. But Ebanks will be marketable as a pick if he shows he can lead the Mountaineers.
• Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech: Favors might leave even if the Yellow Jackets aren't a success. But there certainly is an expectation that he's going to help turn this program around. If he doesn't, maybe he doesn't deserve the hype. Favors has a chance to make his mark, even in one season, if he can help make Georgia Tech relevant again.
• Luke Harangody, Notre Dame: Harangody made a wise decision to return for his senior season. He can go down as one of the Irish's all-time great players. Teams liked his work ethic and skill level during the spring workouts. His draft position might not change as a bubble first-rounder. But he won't regret the decision of finishing his college career at Notre Dame, especially if he can lead the Irish to the NCAA tournament after a disappointing NIT finish this past season.
• Xavier Henry, Kansas: Henry could be the classic case of a freshman on a title team deciding to leave, even if he's not the star. He won't be the man at Kansas with Collins and Aldrich. While we're projecting here, Henry should be the complementary player in Year 1 and then the star in Year 2. If he does that, he'll be much more ready to handle the NBA by showing that he has done something on his own.
• Damion James, Texas: James wasn't able to convince anyone he was a first-round lock this year. He'll get his chance now, as Texas is being projected as a Final Four contender. James needs to work on his face-up game a bit more, and if he can be a true scoring star, he certainly will get a longer look in the first round. Texas will count on him to deliver even more next season.
• Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech: Lawal made an informed decision to return to Georgia Tech. He realized he wasn't a polished product. Good for him. Now he has the chance to show he can help lead a program back from its downturn. Do that, and he will receive high marks.
• Tasmin Mitchell, LSU: Ford has him as potentially going undrafted, but Mitchell can change that. He's a scorer, and the onus will be on him to lead the Tigers back to a competitive spot near the top of the SEC West, despite the attrition on the roster. Mitchell has a demonstrative personality and should flourish playing a second year for Trent Johnson. Don't sleep on him yet.
• Greg Monroe, Georgetown: Monroe would have been a top-10 draftee had he decided to declare. He didn't, and he's going through a rigorous offseason workout plan. Monroe has a chance to prove he can be even more of a demonstrative player on a Hoyas team that faded this past season. Playing well consistently and leading Georgetown to the NCAA tournament will only increase his chances of competing for a top-five selection if he chooses to leave after next season.
• A.J. Ogilvy, Vanderbilt: He didn't think about leaving after this past season. That's good. He wasn't ready. But he has a chance to take Vandy back to the NCAAs as the focal point of a solid team. He's a skilled center. He's from Australia, and that usually means there will be interest. His profile is far from complete because of what he could do for the Commodores.
• Patrick Patterson, Kentucky: Patterson returned to school because he didn't think he was ready for the NBA. Great call. He clearly knows his game. He should flourish playing for Calipari, and there's no doubt the interest in him will only increase, as he likely will lead Kentucky to great things. Without Jodie Meeks, Patterson will be counted on to be more vocal. If he stays healthy, proves he's a leader and continues to be productive, his evaluation likely will be extremely positive.
• Stanley Robinson, Connecticut: Robinson was a complementary player on a Final Four team. Next season, he will be the focal point inside with strong guards Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson on the wing. If Robinson can handle that responsibility and avoid drifting during games, he should be given a strong look for a decent selection. It's on Robinson to be consistent and help lead the Huskies back to the NCAAs.
• Larry Sanders, VCU: Sanders has talent as a shot-blocker, and his disruptive nature will draw plenty of scouts to Richmond. But how he plays for new coach Shaka Smart -- and more importantly, without guard Eric Maynor -- will determine plenty. If he can star despite the absence of Maynor, perception of him will soar.
• Kyle Singler, Duke: Singler has a special talent. He can score in a variety of ways and is a tough matchup. If he chooses to leave Duke after his junior season, it will be a year later than most projected. He will be the leading scorer on the Blue Devils and, with Jon Scheyer, the leading voice on the team. He continues to refine his game and likely will be an All-American and player of the year candidate.
• Tyler Smith, Tennessee: Smith surprised everyone when he opted to return for his senior season. He wasn't a lock and might have gone undrafted, but he made it clear he wasn't ready. Smith has a chance to improve his position by leading the talented Volunteers to the NCAA tournament. He is an SEC player of the year candidate.
• Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas: Taylor will be the third and at times (depending on how Henry progresses) fourth option on the Jayhawks. He didn't dominate the ball at the Under-19 trials in Colorado Springs, but he was a solid player. Ford has him as a possible first-round pick, but Taylor has to do more to prove he's worthy of that tag. He could be a classic case of someone who rides a title to the draft.
• Evan Turner, Ohio State: Turner said at the WUG trials that he wanted to be a Big Ten champ. He said he enjoyed school. He should be a big-time scorer on a possible Big Ten top-three team. He will create plenty of buzz throughout the season and will be a lock to be selected at a solid spot in the first round whenever he chooses. But how he leads the Buckeyes certainly will be worth examining.
• Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State: He's the best shot-blocker in the country. He has a talent that will make him a unique selection. He returned to school to work on his overall offensive game. Like Thabeet, the longer he stays in school, the better chance he has to be productive in the NBA. He made the right choice to go back to Starkville. And now he can increase his profile even more since the Bulldogs should be an SEC title contender and a squad that could go deep into March.
• Greivis Vasquez, Maryland: Terps coach Gary Williams is convinced Vasquez will be a top-10 pick in 2010, especially if he leads the Terps back to the NCAA tournament. Vasquez was a late decision to declare for the draft and did mull staying in after positive workouts. The Terps lost only one key contributor in Dave Neal, so they should be a top-five ACC team. Vasquez's leadership isn't in question, but he needs to prove he can be more explosive next season.
• Kemba Walker, Connecticut: Walker has the end-to-end speed to warrant a serious look. He still needs to work on his shooting and decision-making. And how well he leads the Huskies during a possible transitional season will determine where he stands. He's still a smaller point guard. So, too, was Jonny Flynn, but he had a "transformational" (good Minnesota GM David Kahn word here, used for Ricky Rubio) game for Syracuse in the Big East tournament. Walker might need something like that.
• John Wall, Kentucky: Wall will be the projected No. 1 pick throughout the season. He has game-changing ability on every possession. He can fly as a lead guard and will be extremely tough to stay in front of on a possession. He could, and should, be Calipari's second No. 1 pick in three seasons after coaching Derrick Rose at Memphis in 2008. Of course, it helped Rose's candidacy for the top spot when he led the Tigers to the national title game. Wall could do the same at Kentucky.
• Willie Warren, Oklahoma: Warren could have gone in the lottery had he declared this year. But he wasn't prepared to be a contributor next season in the NBA. He still has plenty to work on. If he can lead the Griffin-less Sooners back to the NCAAs and show that he can be a lead guard, not just a scoring guard, he will enhance the perception of his lottery candidacy.
• Michael Washington, Arkansas: Washington declared and quickly went back to school. The Razorbacks were a disappointment last season after beating Oklahoma and Texas at home and then floundering in the SEC. Washington has a chance, with the help of point guard Courtney Fortson, to change the image of his game. If he scores, defends and lead the Hogs, he will be a much more palatable pick.
• Terrico White, Ole Miss: White was the star athlete at the U-19 trials in Colorado Springs. He said he was close to declaring for this draft. He can fly on the break, and he's improving as a playmaker. He was thrust into the role when Chris Warren tore his ACL. He will play with Warren next season. If White does well in New Zealand and then has a solid season with the Rebels, expect him to soar on draft boards.
• Chris Wright, Dayton: Wright has a chance to be a player of the year candidate for the A-10 favorites. How well he leads the Flyers should determine how he is viewed on draft boards. It's on Wright to lead Brian Gregory's crew. The departures at Xavier have opened up a world of opportunity for this program and its best player.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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