SEC Conference: Top NBA Prospects
By Michael DeStefano
After two consecutive national championships for the Gators, the SEC continues its descent. Tennessee lost team leader Chris Lofton, but added one of the best freshman in the country to a team that returns several key players. Florida fell short in a late push to make the tournament and should be able to build on that momentum. After those two, this conference hasn’t much to offer in terms of quality teams. Kentucky seems to always find a way, but it will be tough this year. Mississippi State will seriously miss Jamont Gordon, and Alabama is a question mark. Despite the lack of quality teams, there are some intriguing players in this conference to keep an eye on.
Top 5 Prospects:
Patterson (Kentucky) – Kentucky surprised some people last year with their
success despite the loss of Patterson late in the season. This year, Patterson
is healthy, but Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford are gone. This beast of a sophomore
is going to need to put the Wildcats on his back if they’re going to
be successful; fortunately, Patterson has the strength and skill to do so.
He’s a great athlete who can finish extremely well around the basket.
Defensively, he is very aggressive attacking the glass and blocking shots,
and his quickness enables him to defend the perimeter as well as the paint.
He has a wide range of skills and will need all of them to help one of the
most prominent programs in the country remain successful. He’s a mid-first
round pick due to his label as an “undersized PF,” but could sneak
into the lottery with a good second season in Kentucky.
- Tyler Smith (Tennessee)
– Chris Lofton was the leader of a very talented Volunteers’ team last
year, but Tyler Smith was, and still is, the heart and soul. The versatile
SF (14 pts, 7 rebs, 3 asts per game last year) works hard, never takes a play
off, and will do whatever his team needs him to do in order to win. He’s
a gifted scorer who looks to make his teammates better and will thrive at
the next level. The knock on Smith is that he is old for his grade (scouts
see more upside in other small forwards), but any team that grabs Tyler in
the first round will get a hard worker and quality person that is ready to
play right away.
- AJ Ogilvy (Vanderbilt)
– With senior leaders Shan Foster and Alex Gordon gone, Ogilvy is thrust
into the forefront for Vanderbilt despite only being a sophomore. Then again,
17 points and 7 rebounds per game as a freshman shows that he is ready to
call this team his own. He is a talented big man who is efficient from the
field as well as the free throw line. He’s got good moves with his back
to the basket and is a very smart player who will be a Top 20 pick in the
upcoming NBA Draft but needs to get stronger and improve defensively.
- Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi
State) – Varnado made a name for himself last year by averaging
almost 5 blocks per game to go along with 8 points and 8 rebounds, including
a triple double against Kentucky in January (10, 12, and 10 blocks); a 13
point, 17 rebound, 7 block effort against LSU; and an 11 point, 5 block effort
against Memphis in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, he blocked ten shots on three
separate occasions last year. He improved significantly from his freshman
to sophomore year, so it’s reasonable to expect him to take another
big step forward during his junior campaign. He shoots a high percentage from
the field (64%); he just needs to improve on his free throw shooting and consistency.
Regardless, his ability to block shots will not go unnoticed by NBA scouts
as Varnado is expected to be a first round pick in 2010.
- Nick Calathes
(Florida) – He looks skinny and awkward, but Calathes has skills.
At 6’5, he’s got great size at the point to go along with his
gifted passing ability. A true point guard, he can also score when needed
thanks to a good outside shot and crafty ball-handling skills that enable
him to get into the lane against faster guards regularly. He needs to put
on weight and improve his athleticism, although his length helps to make up
for his lack of quickness. He’s not yet ready for the League, but is
considered a late-first round pick in 2010 and could rise if he improves physically.
Others receiving consideration: Alonzo
Gee (Alabama), Chandler Parsons (Florida),
Chris Johnson (LSU), Marcus
Thornton (LSU), Devan Downey (South Carolina),
Wayne Chism (Tennessee), JP
Top Newcomer: Scotty Hopson (Tennessee)/ JaMychal Green (Alabama)
Both Hopson and Green are two of the top NBA prospects in this conference but find themselves in the Top Newcomer sections because they come in without the one-and-done expectations like those of Derozan, Holiday, Mullens, and Aminu. Nevertheless, these All-Americans both possess the talent to excel right away at this level and become lottery picks down the road.
It was reported that when Hopson committed to Tennessee, Bruce Pearl started crying. That’s how good this kid is and shows how good they think he can be. He’s ranked 6th in his class on this website and with good reason. Hopson has a sick handle and a good outside shot. He’ll fill the void at the two left by Chris Lofton, helping Tennessee maintain its spot as the team to beat in the SEC. Not considered a one-and-done candidate, but look for Hopson to land in the lottery in 2010.
Green, on the other hand, is a beast down low. While his offense needs work, his defense and body has drawn comparisons to Ben Wallace. Athletically, he’s NBA ready, with quick feet, superb body strength, and great explosiveness. Most scouting reports say that he just needs a little coaching to help develop his back-to-the-basket skills, but he’ll score a lot of points this year on dunks and putbacks due to his relentlessness on the glass. With Green down low and a healthy Ronald Steele, Alabama can surprise some people.
How in the world do you leave Ole Miss point guard Chris Warren off this list??? I dont see how you can do that? Yes he is smaller for a point but he should have and would have been the SEC freshman of the year had Calathes and Patterson not been McDs All Americans. Warren would have been one had he played on the national AAU circuit---but he chose not too.
Both Calathes and Patterson are NBA caliber players no doubt and I am not arguing that he should be in the top 5....but how does the best player from a post season team last year as a freshman and the best player on Ole Miss not get an "others in consideration" credit?
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