Monday, November 17th, 2008 at 8:17 am  |  32 responses

Top NCAA Upperclassmen Draft Prospects

These old geezers have game too.

Stephen Curryby Jeff Fox

Basketball is a game for the kids. If you aren’t a household name among the hoops-heads by the time you hit your early teens–like LeBron and O.J.–your chances of stardom are diminished. If you haven’t made it big by your early 20s, your best case option would be hanging up the high-tops and writing a draft column for SLAMonline (not naming any names of course).

NBA draft prospects are the opposite of wine–they don’t get better with age. If a prospect lasts more than a season in college, they are often considered damaged goods – nothing more than a potential average NBA pro. So what are we to make of all the NCAA upperclassmen who are rated highly for the 2009 NBA Draft? There are over 20 upperclassman prospects listed as potential first round picks on various mock drafts on the web, including eight listed as potential lottery picks. These are much larger numbers than the past few years. Last season, three upperclassmen crashed the lottery and eight went in the first round. The year before those numbers were six and 14 respectively.

So what is causing this increase in old men playing NCAA basketball? The main two reasons are that several prospects decided against declaring for last year’s deep draft to take their chances in this year’s weaker one and the fact that several players–especially North Carolina’s big three–are making winning an NCAA title their top priority.

Here are a few of the creepy old men that will be hanging out at the kids’ party in the NBA draft green room next June.

Hasheem Thabeet — Connecticut — Junior

The big Tanzanian appears to be a lock to go in the Top 10, and he might not even make it past pick number five. At the very least he will be a solid NBA defender; however, considering he has only been playing organized basketball for about seven years, his potential–like his head–is sky-high.

Earl Clark — Louisville — Junior

Potential is also the name of the game for combo forward Earl Clark. Another junior who appears to be destined to be a Top 10 pick, Clark has a body and skill set NBA scouts drool over. He’s 6-9, crashes the boards and blocks shots and can also play Gerald Hendersonout on the wing and knock down the three-ball.

Gerald Henderson — Duke — Junior

Big things are expected this year out of the man best known for bloodying up Tyler Hansbrough. A hyper-athletic wingman, Gerald Henderson’s play this season will not only determine how far Duke advances next March but also whether or not he will be a late first round pick or a lottery pick in next June’s draft.

Chase Budinger — Arizona — Junior

Coming out of high school, if you predicted Chase Budinger would still be in college come 2008-09, people would have looked at you strange. Possessing an NBA-level outside shot and above-NBA-level hops, Budinger was one of those household name guys back in his early teens. Despite an up-and-down NCAA career, he should still be a mid-first round pick next June.

Stephen Curry — Davidson — Junior

Along with Tyler Hansbrough, Stephen Curry is the face of NCAA hoops, despite the fact that his face looks like he is barely in high school, let alone a college upperclassman. Whether or not he can make a successful transition to a full-time point guard this season will determine if he goes top-10 or late first round.

Next in line:

Ty Lawson, North Carolina; Darren Collison, UCLA; Jordan Hill, Arizona; Damion James, Texas; Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina.



A new, regular feature to the Draft 365 space, Introducing… brings you the goods on off-the-radar NBA prospects worthy of being a blip on your GPS.

Greivis Vasquez — Maryland — Junior

The fact that Maryland point guard Greivis Vasquez isn’t a more well known baller is Greivis Vasqueza bit of a mystery. It’s not like the guy is hiding in some hoops backwater – he plays in the ACC, one of the country’s best conferences. And the numbers he put up last season in the ACC were mind-boggling – 17.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 6.8 apg.

Checking in at 6-6 he has above-average NBA length for a point guard, and, as his stats show, he is also an above average rebounder and passer for his position. He’ll need to drastically improve his shot selection and accuracy (43 fgp) and learn to take care of the ball (5.7 TO) to ensure he gets drafted in the first round.

Jeff Fox also writes about college hoops and the NBA draft at www.collegehoopsnet.com.

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  • Benoit Benjamin

    So you tell me that at 28, heavy drinker and smoker, I’m too old to enter the NBA? Thanks for ruining my dreams man.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Good stuff, jeff. I get like 5 emails a day from this acc hoops website and I STILL didn’t realize Vasquez’ numbers were so good.

  • http://AllAbout-Penis-Enlargement.com Jukai


  • http://www.collegehoopsnet.com Jeff Fox

    Just shows how underrated Vasquez is Ben. We better get a feature on him in the mag (hint, hint)!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Vazquez is so nice. Think he was first in assists, fourth in scoring, fourth in rebounding. (ACC)

    Jukai, incorrect. extremely incorrect.


  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    I agree with Cub on Thabeet. I think good ol’ Hasheem will make a very steady pro. On an added thought, I have to admit Vazquez completely flew under my radar, thanks for the heads up Jeff! Also, I’m as big a Duke fan as the rest of the elitist ballers out there (sarcasm), but having him higher than Damion James? Mr. Nacogdoches should be in the top 5! *I have total hometown hero syndrome with Damion, having played pickup games with him in high school, so don’t mind the local joker stance!* Great job Jeff!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Justin, you could rationalize either, IMO. As Jeff knows, I am biased towards the Big 12, so I would obviously much rather have James.

    I really like your boy from Naco!
    Clint Dempsey is from there, too, right?

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I think the four-letters did a piece on Thabeet that aired on that E:60 so-called journalism show. (I think)

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Cub, other than the players we’ve mentioned Nacog. is slim pickings. Most of your highly ranked basketball prospects come from these Dallas-Area schools: Plano Senior High, South Oak Cliff, Lincoln High, Plano East, Duncanville & on occasion-Richardson Berkner. Basically the 4A and 5A schools in the Dallas area all have at least one D1 recruit, some as many as most of the starting five (Plano Senior and Plano East have both done this recently).

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    thank you Cub

  • http://www.collegehoopsnet.com Jeff Fox

    Damion James could blossom into a poor man’s Shawn Marion in the NBA. Same size, athleticism, versatility.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Jeff, Damion in my opinion has a better jumpshot than Marion when compared at the same stage in their career *Junior year*. Shawn was very raw offensively still, whereas in my opinion at least, Damion has an extensive skill set that is horribly misused by Rick Barnes… *Damion James is a swingman and I cringe watching Barnes putting him at the four…It was like watching Bill Walker having to play post at Kansas State…

  • Luke

    I nominate Chris Lowe

  • Cizzo

    Staying in school is only for the comsament student atheletes, if your dream is to play in the NBA then education is just as good as a game of sharades at a blind kid’s party.

  • Cizzo

    Long story short these names that are being ran off here will have future in the league and if it don’t pan out education can still hold presidence in they’re lives.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    Once Vasquez learns to keep his turnovers into single digits he’ll be a POY candidate,IMO.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    At the very least Thabeet will give you Dalembert numbers: 10-10-3. That’s a good NBA player to me. Quite frankly, he might even give you 4 in his prime. He’s that talented on the defensive end. I don’t know about the scoring though. That will determine whether he’s an allstar or a solid player.

  • 76Guy

    Pittsburghs Dejuan Blair is going to be a solid NBA four man. He is one of the best passing big men in the NCAA, has a great motor and is a great positional rebounder. The only question is his size, he’s listed a 6″9 but that seems to be a little bit of a stretch..

  • hector rosario

    yall forgot about nolan smith at duke check this years start

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper


  • http://www.where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    Gerald Henderson seems like he’s been at Duke longer than Coach K.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    hector, we profiled him at Cub Scouts earlier this fall. We know…he’s being noticed.

    This is just the start of a BIG year for the kid and maybe his team…..

    Gerald Henderson has nothing on Greg Paulus, who i think was a freshman during Battier’s senior year.

  • The Promise

    Stephon Curry-Phenom.
    Hasheem Thabeet-Bust.
    Gerald Henderson-Bust.
    Chase Budinger-Stud.
    Earl Clark-Stud.
    Tyler Hansbrough-Phenom.
    Greivis Vasquez-Stud.
    Jordan Hill-Bust.
    Ty Lawson-Stud.
    Damian James-Bust.
    Darren Collison-Stud.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    If Damion James is a bust I will eat my own shoe.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    There is insane and sad irony in that sub-headline. Sigh.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    Anyways, Hansbrough will NOT be a good NBA player. My prediction there.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Jeff Fox says:
    Damion James could blossom into a poor man’s Shawn Marion in the NBA. Same size, athleticism, versatility.
    same rickety shooting style….?? Nah, didnt think so.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    tyler hansborough will be a fine nba pro. i’d take him top 15 easy.

  • objective view

    why are Hansbrough, Collison and Lawson behind Thabeet, Budinger, Clark and Henderson. Only Curry is worthy of being ahead.

  • http://www.collegehoopsnet.com Jeff Fox

    objective view – I can answer your question with one word – “potential”.

  • wilz

    above average passer for his position?? you mean POINT GUARD?? pretty sure point guards should be good passers

  • http://Slamonline.com Lucas Roberts

    I think your all forgetting about sophmore standout Patrick Patterson at Kentucky.