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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tulsa World - NCAA rosters plundered by the NBA

NCAA rosters plundered by the NBA

Tulsa World Sports Columnist

The current status of the starting lineups in last month's Kansas-Memphis national championship game dramatically highlight the ever-changing world of college basketball.

As of now, none of the 10 players on the floor for the opening tip at the Alamodome in San Antonio on April 7 plan to return to college next season. Not one.

Only three of the 10 were seniors who have used up their eligibility — KU's Russell Robinson and Darnell Jackson, and Memphis' Joey Dorsey. The other seven are underclassmen who have entered their names in next month's NBA Draft.

Those seven were among a staggering 69 underclassmen at schools in the United States who notified the NBA they want to be included in the draft. There are also 22 international players on the early entry list.

The interest among American players skyrocketed this year because of a new NCAA rule, which allows underclassmen to have their workouts paid for by NBA teams without losing their college eligibility.

With only 60 spots available in the two-round draft, a lot of players are obviously going to go undrafted if they stick to their plan to turn professional. That's why the NBA gives underclassmen until 4 p.m. (CST) on June 16 to change their minds and return to school.

That means the 16th day of June is a date a whole lot of coaches will have circled on their calenders, including Oklahoma's Jeff Capel and Tulsa's Doug Wojcik.

The Sooners and Golden Hurricane could benefit big time in their respective conference races if KU and Memphis have to totally rebuild their starting lineups.

Coach John Calipari's legendary recruiting ability will always ensure Memphis is one of Conference USA's top preseason picks. But even Calipari would feel the hit if the Tigers lose the entire foursome of Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier.

Rose, who could be the draft's overall No. 1 selection, is definitely gone. And most figure that Douglas-Roberts, much like OU linebacker Curtis Lofton in last month's NFL Draft, will capitalize on an outstanding junior season and strike while his name is hot.

If Anderson and Dozier stay in school, Memphis will retain its status as a national power. That's because the Tigers return several solid backups like Shawn Taggart, Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack, and Calipari is busy putting together what could be the nation's No. 1-ranked recruiting class.

Still, next to the Tigers' runner-up finish in the national title chase, TU finished the season as the second-hottest C-USA team. And the Hurricane, winner of 25 games and the inaugural CBI Tournament, returns a deep and talented group that is led by the exciting trio of guard Ben Uzoh, forward Ray Reese and center Jerome Jordan.

KU, which defeated Memphis in overtime to give the Big 12 its first national hoops title, isn't the only conference school that Capel will be watching as June 16th approaches. In addition to the KU threesome of Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers, the Big 12 had eight more underclassmen declare for the draft.

The large number of Big 12 players testing the NBA waters makes OU power forward Blake Griffin's decision to play his sophomore season with the Sooners all the more significant. Had the 6-foot-10, 243-pound Griffin made the jump, he probably would have been the third Big 12 player drafted, behind Kansas State power forward Michael Beasley and Texas point guard D.J. Augustin.

Predicting the 2008-09 preseason Big 12 race is impossible until after June 16. But Griffin's decision, coupled with Capel signing McDonald's All-American guard Willie Warren, prompted the Web site to rank the Sooners No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 7 nationally.

That projection demonstrates the volatility of college basketball. Immediately after the Final Four, and before any of the Big 12 underclassmen had declared, ranked Texas No. 1 and KU No. 4 in its 2008-09 preseason poll.

Like Calipari, KU coach Bill Self is also a dynamite recruiter. And even if none of his underclassmen return, Self has predicted the Jayhawks will be fine next season.

"We've signed five really good players, better than anybody thinks they are," Self said after KU won the school's third national championship. "There's a chance all of the (underclassmen) will stay in the draft. We're preparing like we're not going to have those guys.

"But I think we'll be really good and competitive no matter what, but it'll be a different-looking team."

Come June 16, different-looking teams could be the norm in the Big 12 and C-USA.

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