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Monday, June 19, 2006

Sporting News Mike DeCourcy - Coping with Losing Players to the NBA Draft (Pittsburgh, Texas, UCLA & Memphis)

Mike DeCourcy's SportingBlog
Coping with losing players to the NBA draft
June 15, 2006

For all the pressure they deal with from October to April, the one item that really seems to unnerve most college basketball coaches is NBA draft early entry.

Some of them handle it just fine -- usually those with plenty of capable players on their rosters. A lot come pretty close to desperation.

But however they deal with it, ultimately they must deal with the repercussions if those players are gone for good. So as coaches wait for Sunday's withdrawal deadline, they can consider how well positioned they are to cope with potential losses.

Pittsburgh: If 7-0 Aaron Gray were to remain in the draft, the Panthers would lack a true center for the first time since they reemerged as a power.

They've had Toree Morris, Chris Taft and Gray available to man the middle, but during Morris' time, they relied even more on 6-6 Ontario Lett. So this stuff can work just as well with a talented, undersized player.

If Gray were gone, the Panthers could turn to 6-8, 260-pound Tyrell Biggs. They also could use athletic forward Sam Young to defend opposing post players and have 6-9 power forward Levon Kendall as a help defender. The Panthers would not be as good or as deep, but still would be an NCAA Tournament contender.

Texas: Point guard Daniel Gibson's return appears highly unlikely, which means the Longhorns are looking at an entirely new backcourt.

Losing Gibson would mean not having a player who can provide 30 points on occasion, 20 when necessary and 15 most every night of the week. It also means no more worrying about what position he should be playing.

Texas is happy to move on to freshman D.J. Augustin at the point. As for locating an elite scorer, you only have to scroll down to "D" on the alphabetical roster, where you will find 6-11 small forward Kevin Durant. The Longhorns will be one of the youngest teams, but they're pretty much starting over whether they have Gibson or not.

UCLA: The consensus is that shooting guard Arron Afflalo will return, though the Bruins certainly will feel better when it's official. The guy they'll probably need to replace is point guard Jordan Farmar. Darren Collison, who was terrific as a freshman, is an obvious choice.
Collison is quicker than Farmar, which could make him more disruptive defensively, although Farmar embraced Ben Howland's emphasis on guarding and became quite good at it. Collison has not established himself yet as a reliable 3-point shooter, but as a sub, that could be a function of his playing time being sporadic.

The problem for the Bruins is who would back up Collison. There is no other natural point. They could get by for stretches with Afflalo. Freshman Russell Westbrook is an option, but just making the jump to Division I will be enough of a challenge. Collison will have to be in shape to average 35-plus minutes.

Memphis: If the Tigers don't get back guard Darius Washington, they're more than set at his position. Freshman Willie Kemp probably will take over the point, anyway, with Washington playing more often as a shooting guard. Kemp will not provide the same level of danger as an offensive player, but he will not need to be reminded to play solid defense. Andre Allen will push Kemp for time, and otherwise will be as solid a backup point as anyone can claim.

What the Tigers will lose without Washington and forward Shawne Williams is the impact that a first-option scorer can have. Memphis has a rotation full of fine players, but none is a proven scorer, and it's possible none is equipped to be that type of player.

Wing Chris Douglas-Roberts is the leading candidate. He averaged 8.3 points last year, but shot better than 50 percent from the field. Wing Antonio Anderson also has qualities that suggest he could be a regular double-figure scorer, but he has to play with greater confidence.

Unless someone shows he can be a significant post threat, whether it's veteran Joey Dorsey, big Kareem Cooper or freshman Pierre Niles, it'll be harder for the wings to get the freedom necessary to develop as offensive players.

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