Big East Conference: Top NBA Prospects
By Michael DeStefano
The Big East is the best conference in college basketball. Some may disagree, but there’s no arguing the fact that they send seven or eight teams to the NCAA Tournament every year. They haven’t won a National Title since back-to-back championships in ’03 and’04 with Syracuse and UCONN, but a Big East team always seems to play deep into March. While the ACC has the top ranked team, the Big East has 4 potential Top 10 teams in Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Notre Dame. But in terms of individual talent, don’t expect many names from this conference being called with the early picks in either of the next two drafts. The Big East has a lot of good college players, but not many whose games will translate to the next level. Look at Luke Harangody. He led the league in scoring, finished second in rebounding, and was a 1st Team All-Big East selection, yet his name will not be found in any mock drafts. Here are the guys whose names you will find:
Top 5 Prospects:
- Hasheem Thabeet
(UConn) – You can’t teach 7’3. Though still raw, no player in this conference
has as much potential as the big man from Connecticut. His height and athleticism
are clear positives, but the most impressive thing about his body is his frame.
Where most college centers need to add muscle to fill out their thin upper
bodies, Thabeet has the look of a true center. At 260 pounds, he can get stronger,
but it’s not a huge concern for scouts. Physical gifts aside, he is a world-class
shot-blocker (4.5 per game) and a decent rebounder (8 per game), and these
numbers will go up as his feel for the game improves. He shoots a high percentage
from the field, and though most buckets come within three feet of the basket,
his decent free throw shooting suggests that he can develop into a mid-range
scoring threat. There are clearly shortcomings to his game (poor hands, lack
of post moves, weak man-to-man defense), but it’s important to remember that
he hasn’t been playing basketball for a long time. His upside is considerable,
and his decision to return to school and pass up millions as a first round
pick last year shows that he wants to get better. According to contacts close
to the team, UConn coaches are absolutely beaming about Thabeet's tremendous
summer and potential, saying he's got a real shot to be a top 3 pick in '09.
The extra year under Jim Calhoun will do wonders for him at the next level.
- Earl Clark (Louisville)
– Clark is the type of versatile small forward that makes NBA scouts drool.
He’s drawn comparisons to Danny Granger due to his versatility and fluid shooting
stroke (he does need to improve his range). He’s also got very good ball-handling
and passing skills for a small forward. He’s unselfish and
makes his teammates better, a rare skill in players Clark’s size. Another
player who would have been a first-rounder last year, Clark’s return will
secure him a spot in the latter half of the lottery. He needs to add range
to his jump shot to become a truly lethal player.
- Dajuan Summers
(Georgetown) – With the loss of Hibbert and Wallace, Summers needs to
become the leader of this team with rising sophomores Chris Wright and Austin
Freeman as well as high profile freshman Greg Monroe. Georgetown has the reputation
of playing through the post, but Summers should be the #1 option on offense
due to his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter. He’ll be one of the
more feared shooters in the Big East this year, but his body and ball-handling
skills will enable him to get to the basket and finish as well. By no means
just a scorer, Summers knows how to get others involved and plays defense
like we’ve come to expect from Georgetown players. The G'town system makes
it tougher to stand out, so that will make it a challenge for Summers to prove
that he's ready to be a first rounder, but the talent is obviously there.
While he lacks the lottery potential of Thabeet and Clark, he’s the next best
prospect in this conference and should be a solid contributor in the NBA for
a team drafting late in the first round.
- Sam Young (Pittsburgh)
– Levance Fields is the heart and soul, but Young is Pittsburgh’s most important
player. He led the team in scoring at over 18 per game last year while adding
six rebounds, a block, and a steal. At 6’6, he doesn’t have the ideal height
for an NBA small forward, but he makes up for it with his huge wingspan, strength
and determination. He uses his physicality to play bigger than he is, but
his perimeter skills need work. Last year, he averaged twice as many turnovers
as assists, which is not good for someone who will have to handle the ball
on the perimeter in the NBA. He plays more like a power forward than a small
forward, and at 23 years old, scouts might have reservations about his ability
to move to the outside full-time. Nevertheless, he’s an explosive athlete,
good shooter and a hard worker, so there is enough there for someone in need
of a talented wing to take a chance on him at the end of the first round.
- AJ Price (Connecticut)
– Jonny Flynn’s athleticism and explosiveness got him consideration here,
but Price is simply a better player, provided he makes a full recovery from
his latest (knee injury) setback. He was considered one of the best high school
guards in the country in ’03 for a reason, but after missing two full years,
people had forgotten about him. That is not a problem anymore after a season
in which Price averaged 15 points and 6 assists per game to earn 1st Team
All-Big East honors. While he knows how to run a team (2nd in the league in
assists), scoring is where he is at his best. He’s strong, quick, and crafty,
and his jump shot is good enough to command respect. He needs to improve his
range but could be a quality pick in the late 20s for a team in search of
a point guard.
Others receiving consideration: Jonny
Flynn (Syracuse), Austin
Freeman (Georgetown), Greg Monroe
(Georgetown), Chris Wright
(Georgetown), Terrence Jennings
(Louisville), Samardo Samuels
(Louisville), Deonta Vaughn (Cinncinatti), Kamba Walker (UConn), Ater Majok (UConn),
Dejuan Blair (Pitt)
Top Newcomer: Devin Ebanks (West Virginia) – In the Big East, it’s all about size. Look at Louisville prized recruit Samardo Samuels and Georgetown freshman Greg Monroe. These McDonald’s All-Americans draw the most attention, but it’s West Virginia stud frosh Devin Ebanks that is the best NBA prospect of them all. A 6’8 small forward with a smooth jump shot and good handle, Ebanks will be a focal point of the Mountaineers’ offense from the very beginning. He’ll have Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff to help him get his feet wet, but it’s only a matter of time before this becomes his team. Though not as athletic as other small forwards in his class (Derozan, Hopson), he’ll put up serious numbers at West Virginia. Samuels and Monroe should relish the attention now, because by the end of the year, Ebanks will be the main attraction when it comes to freshmen in the Big East. A great season could result in one-and-done, but he’d be better served sticking around for another year and becoming a top ten pick in 2010.
JONNY FLYNN WHO I'VE TALKED UP SINCE HIGH SCHOOL WILL BE AT THE END OF THE YEAR A TOP THREE POINT GUARD IN ALL OF COLLEGE HOOPS. STRENGTH, SPEED, HANDLE AND THE ABILITY TO FINISH AT THE RIM MAKES HIM ALMOST UNGUARDABLE. I ADMIT HE IS A LITTLE STREAKY FROM OUTSIDE BUT HE NAILS HIS FREE THROWS AT BETTER THAN 80 PCT. WHEN CUSE NEEDS A BUCKET HE IS THEIR GO TO GUY. THE BIG EAST ROCKSI
What about Jerel McNeal or Wesley Matthews they are better than half the players listed