Draft Buzz 11/22/03
Draft Buzz 11/22/03
By Aran Smith
Everyone has Emeka Okafor as a consensus All American and leading pre-season POY candidate. However it could be his teammate Ben Gordon that walks away with the Wooden award. His 37 point performance against Nevada included a play (which may become symbolic of their seasons) in which Gordon seemingly took an allyoop (intended for Gordon) out of Okafor's hands and converted the basket.
Gordon may not see much time at PG with senior Taliek Brown and freshman Marcus Williams there. However due to the time he spent there last year and in high school, scouts are convinced of his point guard abilities. Gordon is a solid top 10 pick and could go as high as top 4 or 5. He is similar to Dwyane Wade, an extremely explosive athlete with great heart and savvy. Though it's probably unlikely, it's not out of the realm of possibility for Gordon to surpass Okafor on draft day.
Okafor is on pace to graduate after his junior year. Look for both UConn Juniors to be among the best players in all of college basketball and leave after their junior years to become lottery picks.
[img_assist|nid=4513|title=Rudy Gay|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=167]With Okafor and Gordon most likely gone next year, Jim Calhoun will look for maturity from his strong current freshman class, assuming they all stick around (Charlie Villanueva, Josh Boone and Marcus Williams). Villanueva might be tempted to leave after his freshman year, but he would be wise to let the juniors leave and try to shine as a sophomore to insure a place in the first round.
UConn will also have Georgia Tech transfer PF Ed Nelson, plus a top 5 recruit and future lottery pick Rudy Gay.
Gay is a legit skywalker, as witnessed in the photo (right). With great versatility, he has great all around and the potential to be one of the best players ever from UConn. Gay currently plays for Bishop Spalding in Maryland. Most recruiting gurus consider him a top 10 player nationally, however when speaking in terms of NBA potential, he maybe after only Josh Smith and Dwight Howard.
Alright Roko![img_assist|nid=4514|title=Roko Leni Ukic|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=358]
No not (Rocky Balboa) the "Italian Stallion", but the "Croatian sensation", PG Roko-Leni Ukic who most scouts feel is the top PG prospect from Europe since Tony Parker. He has been considered among the elite PG's for the past couple years while accumulating a hefty resume of hardware from International competitions. All this while at 6-2 to 6-3. He has also grown 4 inches over the past two years to his current 6-6.
He is born in Split, the most famous basketball center of Croatia, a team with great tradition. Split was the training ground for famous players Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja, Zan Tabak, Bruno Sundov, Andrija Zizic, Nikola Vujcic and younger prospects like Kresimir Loncar, Drago Pasalic, Mateo Kedzo and many others. Which is surprising for such a small town of just 180,000 citizens. Ukic first began playing for Split's senior team in the 2000/2001 season. Split had a strong team and Ukic received only junk time.
The following season (2001/2002) Split's team decresed in talent so Ukic received more playing time. In the summer that year he won European U-18 championship with teammates Pasalic, Kedzo and Tomas. He was leader of that team.
Last year he was projected as Split's starting PG with Subotic coming of bench on a team where the oldest player was 22. They played well at the beginning of league competitions so Ukic got an invitation to play with the Senior National team and played with them for three games.
Ukic won the U-18 European championship in 2002 with the Croatian national team. He was voted one of the five best players of the tournament. This year Croatia won fourth place with the same team in the U-19 World championship. Last year Split won the Croatian championship but he didn’t play much.
Split is using him at shooting guard this year with McCants playing point guard. This is not helping to develop Ukic's PG skills, but he still finds time at the point.
Ukic still has to work on becoming more under control, but he has the scoring ability and quickness to make it as an NBA player. Unlike combo guards Jiri Welsch, Zoran Planinic and Marko Jaric, Ukic has better natural point guard skills and quickness. He has proven to be a leader and taken teams to win gold in European competitions. If he can add some strength, and cut down the turnovers, he can be a mid-first rounder.
One interesting note, his father plays in a famous Croatian rock band. Rock on Roko!
"Aussie Ute"[img_assist|nid=4515|title=Andrew Bogut|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=222|height=308]
Andrew Bogut's first televised game showed scouts and fans his vast offensive abilities. Most notably his face the basket and post skills. Plus his competitiveness and tenacity. He's got skills that allowed him to dominate the Junior World Championships in Greece during the summer, where Australia won the gold medal. And he will likely be one of the best freshmen, not to mention most valuable players in the Nation.
However, scouts feel his legs and feet are poor by NBA standards, and it will likely keep him from being a high first round pick. Defensively he will have trouble guarding quick forwards, and his lack of a first step will hinder his real strength, his face the basket game. Even with a huge college season, he would probably fall to the late (20-29) first round area. He'll need to further develop his agility at Utah, get stronger and develop better post skills if he wants to be a lottery pick.
His comments after the Minnesota game are an indication that his mind is focused on the NBA: "I don't know how long I will stay there," Bogut said. "I could stay for one year, I could stay for four years. It's entirely up to me".
Said Bogut, "If I have an excellent year I might throw my name in the NBA draft, and see how the media gives attention to my name. I can pull out three days before the draft and still be at college, or I could declare fully, stay in, and get drafted. And I could always go to Europe. But the NBA, that's the main goal for my career and that's why I'm going to college in America, because you're there, right there, under the noses of the scouts."
Lock For First?[img_assist|nid=4516|title=Dwight Howard|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=175|height=291]
Scouts that had the chance to see Dwight Howard on Thursday came away raving about him. The competition was not great, but Howard showed that he is attempting to develop skills that he can apply against much better players. He finds an inevitable comparison to Kwame Brown as they both are from Georgia, both started out as guards and had late growth spurts which made them power forwards, and both players may wind up being #1 picks.
Both players are also "nice guys", neither having the perceived mean streak of someone such as Amare Stoudemire. However unlike Kwame who seemed to become too enamored with the 3 pointer, Howard prefers to go to his strengths and looks to beat players in the post. Howard has great elevation but seems to explode to the basket faster than Brown. His basketball understanding appears to be a little better, and whichever team winds up with him, will hope he doesn't have Kwame's stubborn nature.
In a tournament that began Thursday and ends Tuesday, Dwight performed in front of scouts from a number of NBA teams including the Spurs, Knicks, Nets, Bobcats and Bulls. He did not disappoint racking up a flashy stat-line with 26 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 7 blocks.
Some NBA scouts have already called him a lock for the top spot. "If he isn't the top pick, it will take someone improving considerably", claimed one source. Or Howard slipping up. As of now Howard has a pretty solid foothold on the top position.
Look for an update on the rest of Howard's tournament in the next draft buzz.
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