In the last edition of Draft 365 we (controversially) identified the top NCAA programs at producing “star” NBA players. Now it is time to concentrate on the present — which NCAA campuses are the top breeding grounds for 2011 NBA prospects?
Of the top-five schools, four are familiar names with the odd one out normally known as a football powerhouse. Might be time to change that label. And, no, surprisingly Kentucky doesn’t make the list, as they currently have no players projected to be drafted in 2011 (and a few for 2012). But if Enes Kanter can somehow get himself eligible to play this season, that would change real quick.
Top prospects: Tyler Honeycutt (mid first round), Malcolm Lee (late first round)
After having 10 players drafted in the previous five NBA Drafts, UCLA was shut out in 2010 with no players being snatched up by the League. It looks like things will be back to normal this season in L.A., as the Bruins have two players currently projected to be first rounders come next June. Sophomore small forward Tyler Honeycutt leads the way. While his stats last year don’t jump off the page (about 7 points and 7 boards a game), scouts love his potential due to his size (6-8), length, shooting touch and athletic ability. Big things are expected of him this season. Teammate Malcolm Lee, a junior combo guard, is also considered a first round prospect. He is a solid defender but needs to work on his outside shot.
Top prospects: Trey Thompkins (mid first round), Travis Leslie (late first round)
Here is that “football powerhouse” that we alluded to earlier. While the pigskin might rule the Georgia campus, don’t forget that the Georgia Bulldogs hoops program gave the basketball world Dominique Wilkins. While current Georgia prospects Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie aren’t quite on ‘Nique’s level (but who is, really?), they both look to be nice prospects. You can read what we wrote about them a couple of months ago right here.
3) North Carolina
Top prospects: Harrison Barnes (first overall), John Henson (mid first round), Tyler Zeller (late second round 2012)
The Tar Heels are hoping to be able to forget ’09-10 when they lost 17 games, and look ahead to a far more successful ’11-12 campaign. They definitely will be talented, but young. Their best pro prospect is also the 2011 Draft’s best prospect — freshman wing Harrison Barnes, who we wrote about here. They also have another high first round prospect in John Henson who, despite his underwhelming freshman season, is still considered full of pro potential.
Top prospects: Josh Selby (top 10-pick), Marcus Morris (lottery pick), Tyshawn Taylor (early second round), Thomas Robinson (mid second round), Markieff Morris (mid second round)
Kansas will also be looking to have a bounce-back season after last year’s talented, veteran-laden team got upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by Northern Iowa. As the long list of NBA prospects noted above shows, a shortage of talent shouldn’t be a problem. NBA prospect wise, they are led by athletic, freshman combo guard Josh Selby and the best of the Morris twins, Marcus.
Top prospects: Kyrie Irving (top-three pick), Mason Plumlee (lottery pick), Nolan Smith (late first round), Kyle Singler (late first round), Seth Curry (early second round, 2012), Miles Plumlee (late second round)
This ought to bring out the haters once again — Duke ends up at the top spot of this ranking, also. But facts are facts — the Blue Devils currently have two lottery prospects, two first round prospects and two second round prospects on their roster. Potential top-three pick Kyrie Irving, a freshman combo guard, leads the way and is probably the only Duke prospect with NBA “star” potential. Not only is Duke the favorite to repeat as NCAA Champs next spring, they also should be the most popular team amongst NBA scouts and GMs.