The junior class features a lot of talent with two projected top 3 picks in Hasheem
Thabeet and Jordan Hill and another seven currently projected in the first round.
A strong case could be made that the juniors are the strongest class in college
basketball. The Durant/Oden class has already placed 16 first rounders and has a
good chance to reach 30 by the 2010 draft. This is, without question, an unusually
strong class of prospects.
Top 5 Juniors
UConn’s mammoth in the middle Hasheem
Thabeet remains at the top of the junior list, although not by a wide margin
over hard charging Jordan Hill. Thabeet’s potential to change the game on the
defensive end of the court at the next level makes him extremely intriguing.
He has shown steady improvement throughout his college career and although he’s
never going to be an offensive star, his progress is encouraging. He is now
showing the ability to post up and make moves, utilizing his solid touch. Although
Pitt got the win, he had a much better game in their recent rematch with DeJuan
Blair and Pitt. His 13.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg and 4.5 bpg show the phenomenal progress
he has made in his college career.
Jordan Hill has made as big a leap in development
between his sophomore to junior seasons as anyone. Hill is a guy who picked
up the game late and has been on a sharp learning curve. He torched the Pac-Ten
night in and night out battling through various injuries all season. His ability
to step out and knock down jumpers combined with his dominant interior play
makes him a very possible top 3 pick on draft night.
Duke’s Gerald Henderson has been one
of the biggest risers in recent weeks. He has carried Duke back into prominence,
and in the process has virtually assured himself a top 10 selection on draft
night with his tremendous second half of the regular season. Henderson’s relentless
drives to the rim, combined with his clutch shooting in late game situations
has him in position to challenge James Harden as the top shooting guard prospect
for this year’s draft.
Though still a potential-based pick, Earl Clark
is finally beginning to round out his game with better outside shooting and
consistency. He’s still not as NBA ready as others despite being a junior, and
some feel he’s too unassertive. But his combination of size, athleticism and
skills are extremely intriguing to scouts, who feel he will have a shot to be
a top 10 pick on draft night.
Chase Budinger still catches flack for
being soft and not strong enough on the defensive end, but this season he’s
proven himself as one of the top juniors and overall
players in the country. His ability to knock down outside shots, as well as
his all around feel for the game give him a strong outlook for the next level.
He’s hovering around the end of the lottery and a strong Pac-Ten tourney followed
by a quality performance or two in the Big Dance should cement a lottery spot.
The NBA always loves shooters, and Budinger brings size and athleticism to boot.