By Aran Smith
Jordan Hill 6-10 226 PF Arizona Jr.
Hill's game has made a huge transformation from last year, with added strength which has given him the confidence to play stronger inside and finish plays at the rim. He has become a dominant force on the college level, and has developed the tools to make an impact at the next level.
One of the most athletic and agile power forward prospects in the nation, Hill is showing vast improvement in a number of aspects of his game.
He has become a threat from both inside and out as his 18 foot jumpshot has become highly consistent. He also shows the ability to put the ball on the deck to get around defenders both facing the basket and in the post.
His post game is showing more polish as he's able to use hook shots, drop steps and good footwork, plus using both hands to finish.
His defensive game has also shown excellent progress as he has learned to use his great leaping ability and length to be a force as a shot rejecter, and improving his team defensive understanding. He's matured tremendously by limiting the unnecessary fouls and staying out of foul trouble, something that plagued him during his first two seasons.
While Hill got a late start on the game, having picked up competitive basketball halfway through high school, he has been a quick study showing supreme "coachability" and improvement.
Hill stepped up big in Arizona's 69-64 upset win over Gonzaga scoring a game high 22 points (on 9-14 shooting) with 6 boards while holding Gonzaga 's inside presence Josh Heytvelt to 6 points on 1-for-6 shooting. He was also impressive against UNLV despite Arizona's loss going for 16 and 13 despite constant double and triple teams.
Long criticized for losing his focus at times, Hill's bouts of inconsistency are becoming far less frequent. Hill is currently averaging 18.5 ppg, 11.9 rpg and 2.8 blocks per game. Numbers that are sure to continue to impress as his competition in the Pac-Ten is unlikely put up much resistance.
His vast array of skills and wiry, strong frame are similar to Toronto Raptor forward Chris Bosh, and like Bosh, Hill could see his name called in the top 5 picks on draft night if he continues to play at his current level.
His 23 and 11 to Cole Aldrich's 10 and 4 in Arizona's Tuesday night win confirmed his potential top 5 draft status... Fear the Dreads!
Possibly the most impressive small forward prospect in the country, Earl Clark's versatility gives him a great deal of potential for the next level.
His body has gotten stronger, and he appears to be a guy who can continue to put on weight without losing any athleticism or mobility.
Clark has started off the year showing newfound confidence in his outside shot. While it's still an area of concern, Clark has hit 6-for-16 on shots from 3 (37.5%) through the first third of the season.
Against Ole Miss, Clark had a career best performance going for 25 and 16 with 4 ast, and 5 blocks. His first half outburst showed the type of talent he possesses.
Clark doesn't appear to be a guy who will average 20 ppg on the NBA level, unless his jumpshot vastly improves, but he can possibly be an excellent third of fourth fiddle type with his tremendous all around skills.
With the ability to handle and pass like a player much smaller, plus the size and athleticism to be a force on the boards as well as an excellent defender, Clark's package of skills and versatility is mouth watering.
Clark is an extremely unselfish player who will need to become more aggressive offensively in order to maximize his potential.
The key variable for his draft position will be his shooting numbers. If he can show consistency shooting from mid-long range, Clark has the potential to go in the top half of the 2009 lottery.
Although he's still severely underweight to bang inside at the NBA level, Varnado shows the necessary heart and passion to battle players much bigger and stronger than himself.
Over his past three games, Varnado has exploded for 21, 24 and 24 points on a combined 82% from the field (9-11, 10-13 and 8-9). His 67% from the floor on the season shows just how effective he is.
While many of his shots come on dunks and lay ins, he has shown an expanding repertoire of offensive moves.
In a recent game against Cincinnati, he scored on a number of hook shots and nifty turnarounds.
Varnado's greatest asset is his shot blocking ability. At 6-foot-9, he combines cat quick reflexes, and great explosiveness with a huge wingspan making him a terror in the paint.
Although it's unusual for power forwards to be consistent shot blockers on the NBA level, Varnado appears to be an exception.
He currently leads the nation with 6 blocks per game, coming off his sophomore season in which he averaged 4.6 blocks per game.
His all around skills and feel for game have shown solid improvement over the course of his college career.
He would be wise to return to school for one more season and really concentrate on improving his body. If his game continues to improve we could be looking at a lottery selection by 2010.
In the first CBS Nationally televised broadcast of the year, DaJuan Summers was the best player on the court helping Georgetown defeat Memphis with 21 points (7-12 fg) and 7 boards plus 3 blocks.
While freshman Greg Monroe has gotten off to a quick start and received a lot of hype, his junior teammate Summers shows more potential for the next level.
Summers ability to attack the rim with strength and explosiveness, plus his perimeter shooting makes him an enticing talent. He's shooting 55% from the floor and 41% from 3 while leading the Hoyas team in scoring at 14.4 ppg.
He still needs to tighten his handle in order to improve his ability to create offense for himself, but has shown improvement over the course of his career.
He also shows the knack for raising his level of play in big games. Should Georgetown finish the year strong and make a solid push in the postseason, Summers stands a good chance to find a spot in the late lottery to mid first round area.
AJ Price 6-2 180 PG UConn Sr.
After starting the first month of the season getting upstaged by freshman Kemba Walker, AJ Price has officially retained control of the Huskies and his place as a potential first round pick.
Price stepped up huge knocking down a game tying three against Gonzaga in the "Battle of Seattle" on Saturday to send the game into overtime. He was the best player in the biggest game of the season so far pitting two final four contenders against each other. He made all the plays and would not let the Huskies lose.
Price has shot the ball well this year (46% from 3), but has been slow to gain playing time, but finally appears to be playing back close to 100% after the knee injury from last season.
Despite being a senior, Price has a lot of upside and is easily one of the most efficient point guards on the college level when his game is on.
He appears to be back on track and barring any meteors falling on his head, he should have an excellent shot of landing in the first round, despite all the setbacks.
Stephen Curry 6-1 180 PG Davidson Jr.
He has shown some point guard skills, in particular the ability to make good decisions with the ball. However his physical limitations are evident and will likely keep him from being more than a specialty player at the next level.
Curry has struggled recently with teams keying on him defensively. Against West Virginia at Madison Square Garden, Curry struggled mightily with 8 turnovers and just 4-16 shooting from 3 (9-27 overall), however he did hit the big shots at the end to win the game.
Against Purdue, Curry had his worst outing of the season shooting just 5-26 (2-12 from 3) for 13 points with 6 turnovers in the loss.
While Curry is a phenomenal individual talent with a great feel for the game, a lot of his future success could depend on the situation he lands in at the next level.
Curry will get looks in the late lottery area but would fit in best with a playoff level team in need of outside shooting, as opposed to a struggling team in search of a "savior".
Jeremy Pargo 6-2 208 PG Gonzaga Sr.
While Pargo's assist to turnover numbers have shown vast improvement this season: 2.88 to 1, his play in big games has not been great. The team has now lost 3 of 4 and in those games Pargo has turned the ball over a total of 17 times.
Pargo's decision making during the closing minutes of the UConn game was costly. He made 3 bad passes which helped UConn get back in the game and was thoroughly outplayed by AJ Price. While his scoring and athleticism was on display, his point guard skills remain raw and unpolished.
His great strength and ability to overpower opposing point guards can be a detriment as frequently he will try to bulldoze his way to the basket and pick up fouls. Too often he gets caught up in attacking the rim, instead of getting everyone involved in the offense.
Pargo's outside shooting is another weakness, he's shooting 29% from 3, 62% from the line and 48% from the floor. He's averaging under 10 ppg on the season, which is understandable considering his focus on point guard duties and the level of talent on the team, however his decision making in crucial moments must improve.
Aside from his standout athleticism, Pargo doesn't have any one skill that he can hang his hat on. He currently lacks a great feel for running a team, and his shooting and scoring ability is just average. He's a supremely explosive athlete who gives good energy defensively, but his difficulty running a team will likely make him a second round pick come draft night.
Merry Christmas everyone!!!
He's matured tremendously by limiting the unnecessary fouls and staying out of foul trouble, something that plagued him during his first two seasons.