Draft Surprises

The NBA early-entry draft list – 108 players strong, replete with its usual surprises – made its way across the Internet Thursday afternoon, courtesy of the fine folks at NBA.com.

Among the 108 high school, college and international players were the usual surprises and head-scratchers – names like Chicago State center Deji Akindele, Deland (HS) Fla., forward Keith Brumbaugh and 6-5 junior forward Brian Kim, who plays at someplace called Vanguard University.

Some of the names on the list were expected. Utah sophomore center Andrew Bogut is the consensus No.1 player in the draft. Iowa junior guard Pierre Pierce, facing felony assault and false imprisonment charges, had no place else to go.

And Kentucky junior guard Kelenna Azubuike likely needed the money; his father was recently sent to prison.

They all have reasons, everyone from Andrew Bogut to Brian Kim.

But the reasoning behind one of the most prominent local names – Alabama sophomore forward Jermareo Davidson – must be questioned, and questioned hard.

When news of Davidson's NBA draft status hit Thursday afternoon, it was a shock, to put it mildly.

Davidson is a solid young big man, a 6-11, 220-pound forward who averaged 7.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks this past season while starting all 32 of Alabama's games.

That earned him third-team All-SEC honors, which go nicely alongside his Freshman All-SEC honors from 2004.

But that doesn't mean he's ready for the NBA. Not by a long shot.

Davidson, a quiet but friendly young man, is a great defensive player and rebounder, but remains offense and consistency-challenged.

For every standout game he had last season – like a 21-point, 13-rebound effort at Charlotte, a 16-point, 13-board effort against Temple or a 16-point, 14-rebound night at Tennessee – there were equally poor nights.

Like a one-point, two-rebound, three-foul effort against Ole Miss. Or a one-point, five-rebound effort against Washington. Or a four-point, four-rebound, two-foul effort at LSU. How Davidson thinks he is in any way, shape or form ready for the NBA is a total mystery. He has an NBA-sized body, but needs at least two more years of seasoning and work before he can even think about being ready for the next level.

He took a quantum leap forward from freshman to sophomore this season, thanks to intense work in the weight room and on the court. But he isn't ready for this next challenge.

Maybe Davidson knows this. To his credit, he doesn't plan to sign with an agent – which would forfeit the rest of his college eligibility – and is in good academic standing. According to UA officials, he is on track to graduate in May 2007.

And there's nothing wrong with testing your NBA stock, seeing where you stand among your peers and getting your name in the minds of pro scouts and general managers, the men who ultimately decide any aspiring NBA player's fate.

Impress the right person, and you could vault from virtual anonymity into the first round, as former Tide star Gerald Wallace did four years ago.

Wallace wasn't a lottery pick after a disappointing freshman season, but it didn't matter when Sacramento picked him up at the end of the first round, giving him a guaranteed three-year contract that ensured his future in the league.

Of course, there are no guarantees that will happen for Davidson, who isn't even projected as a second-round pick right now.

He is gambling with his future, and it's a strange gamble at that. Underclassmen have until June 21 – a week before the draft – to withdraw their names from the draft and return to college. There's a good chance that unless Davidson hears something unforeseen – like being projected as a guaranteed first-round pick – that he will do so and return to Alabama for his junior season.

Even if he does, he's limited his options for the future. Players can only declare for the NBA draft and return to college once.

Next time Davidson does so – if there is a next time – he'll be locked into the draft with no escape clause, as LSU forward Brandon Bass is this season following a foray into the draft last year.

If Davidson has a standout junior season, that'll make his decision even tougher next time around, which could leave him wondering why he declared in the first place.

Kind of like how the rest of the basketball community is wondering right now.

Only Davidson knows what's going on in his head these days, but chances are, it's very, very interesting.

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