By Aran Smith
Chinese Star's Career Likely Over
Reports out of China say that 19-year-old Xu Yong, the top NBA prospect since Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian has been diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that is extremely dangerous and if confirmed will likely end his basketball career and even worse could potentially end his life.
Xu's left leg was checked in April of 2008 and the diagnosis was made that he likely had the disease. Most alarming is that a percentage of those diagnosed with the disease do not live past 5 years.
The news has yet to be confirmed by Xu or his team, but numerous reports including this one have been published in China and the Chinese basketball community at large is already mourning the loss of their next top prospect.
In a scouting trip to Shanghai in 2005, the athletic 6-7 small forward from Shanghai showed NBA potential, with a Grant Hill type of game, winning MVP of the adidas superstar camp.
The news has sent shockwaves through the Chinese basketball community as Xu was seen as the next potential NBA talent out of China. And while there's a chance that he can play the game again, the disease is expected to diminish his abilities.
As tragic as losing a basketball career might be, news like this puts everything in perspective that a sports career only means so much when an individual's life is at stake.
Omri Casspi Remains a Hot Name
Although Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Omri Casspi didn't wow scouts in last week's European Final Four, he is a player that a number of scouts feel will find a spot in the late first round area in this year's draft.
In Madrid during the final four he was, to borrow an Italian expression used by Tim Shea "ne pesce ne carne" (neither fish nor meat) meaning not bad and not great, a little of both. He played in limited time in Maccabi's semifinal win over Sienna, but had a nice start to the championship game reeling off a quick 7 points early, fighting for some scores around the basket.
Late in the Final his weakness, a lack of an outside shot, was exposed as he passed up an open jumper in a crucial situation, but in fairness shooting is not his role with the team. Maccabi lost the game as Casspi finished the game with 9 points on a solid 3-6 from the field.
Shea said he likes Casspi's potential saying, "He is an excellent transition and in the mix player. He's a quick jumper and has a little Matrix in him and plays with cojones".
A number of teams in the late first round are high on the fiery young Israeli player as he is thought to be a perfect candidate to draft and leave over in Europe for a few seasons to "marinate". Casspi has until
June 16th to pull his name out of the draft.
Darren Collison's Return a Mistake?
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Prior to the NCAA tournament, UCLA junior guard Darren Collison was all but set to turn pro, following in the footsteps of LA Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar who left after just two seasons in Westwood to become a first round pick.
But after a dreadful NCAA tournament in which he was thoroughly dominated by Derrick Rose (2 pts), and fouled out against Texas A&M (4 pts) Collison pulled a 180, apparently swayed by advice he received from the UCLA coaching staff.
Collison was seen by scouts as a likely first rounder with a shot to go 20th to the Denver Nuggets, a team in need of a point guard, and though he wasn't a lock to get into the first round, his chances were very good.
After an excellent junior year in which he benefited from a quality supporting cast, Collison averaged 14.5 ppg on 48% from the floor, 87% from the line and 53% from 3.
Most surprising was his decision not to at least extend his decision and work out for teams to see where he stood. As a junior he could test the draft process and see where he stood before making a final decision whether to withdraw his name. The process can be a positive, especially for a junior to hear what scouts think they need to work on.
Returning to school can be just as big of a gamble as he will be submitted to yet another year of scrutiny and nitpicking by NBA scouts, and if his game levels off, the intrigue around him is sure to subside.
UCLA also has three NBA level point guard prospects coming into Westwood, (Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson) and while Collison will be given seniority, there's no question the freshmen will push him for playing time.
With a slight frame, Collison will focus on adding weight and staying healthy in his senior season, but could struggle to do both. There's something to be said for striking while the iron is hot. Was retuning to school a mistake? Only time will tell.