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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sit Down, Young Men by Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News

Sit down, young men

Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News

May 10, 2006

It's not exactly like waiting for the next Harry Potter novel, but the arrival of the official NBA early-entry list each year does create anticipation among those who follow this game.
And, as with young Harry's various adventures, there are stock characters in every sequel, including the 2006 edition:

The Studs

Qualifications: Talent that indicates likely selection in the NBA's lottery phase; significant accomplishments; sufficient positive buzz.

Examples: SF Adam Morrison, Gonzaga; PF Tyrus Thomas, LSU; F/C LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas.

You know they'll be lottery picks. They know they'll be lottery picks.

The Realists

Qualifications: Borderline first-round ability that could blossom with the right NBA team; curiosity about draft prospects and how to improve; wisdom to protect NCAA eligibility.
Examples: C Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh; PG Mustafa Shakur, Arizona; PG Jordan Farmar, UCLA; SG Shannon Brown, Michigan State.

Those who enter the draft as juniors -- or, in Farmar's case, as a sophomore likely to play only one more college season -- are risking little to gain a lot. It's possible one or two could surge into an advantageous first-round position. From the 2004 draft, Nevada's Kirk Snyder and Saint Joseph's Delonte West are excellent examples.

But most guys in this category are likely to wind up back in college in 2006-07, and they'll probably be better for having tested their worth. The draft process can be educational -- it demonstrates to players some flaws in their games and possibly ways to address them. It also can be humbling.

Carl Krauser was a better teammate and leader at Pittsburgh as a senior after a tough run through the draft entry process last spring. It could work that way for Shakur next season.

The Fools

Qualifications: Sufficient talent to become a top NBA prospect eventually; significant flaws that need to be overcome; plenty of remaining eligibility during which those flaws can be overcome.
Examples: PG Darius Washington, Memphis; PG Daniel Gibson, Texas; PG Kyle Lowry, Villanova.

It's impossible to rule out the chance that any or all of these players could be first-rounders this year. But it's unlikely. All have high-level ability -- they're just in too big of a hurry.

None of them has run a college team full time. Washington needed too much help from backup Andre Allen. Gibson had to change positions. Lowry was the point guard of record, but his team featured four attacking perimeter players.

Washington still needs to understand how the game works and how a point guard can affect it. Gibson is two years away. Lowry needs to run the Wildcats as next year's singular point -- and, most important, must become a more proficient shooter. He is as devastating off the pick-and-roll as any college player since Duke's Jay Williams, but if he makes only one 3-pointer every four games, pro defenders will go under the screen every time.

The Dreamers

Qualifications: None.

Examples: PG Akbar Abdul-Ahad, Idaho State; PG LeShawn Hammett, St. Francis (Pa.); PG Japhet McNeil, East Carolina.

What would history be without footnotes?

Senior writer Mike DeCourcy covers college basketball for Sporting News. E-mail him at decourcy@sportingnews.com.

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