SEC Draft Stock Not Likely to Improve

After the recent NBA draft saw the entire SEC produce fewer first rounders than the 2007 Florida basketball team did by itself, you might have expected the conference to be ready for a rebound year in 2009.

That may not be the case.

Recent articles by two of the country's sharpest basketball writers indicate pro scouts don't think that much of the league's talent next season either.

Both Gary Parrish of CBS Sportsline and Jeff Goodman of and recently came out with their lists of the top draft prospects for 2009. Each projected just four SEC players as potential first round picks right now. Parrish is kinder to the conference than Goodman, ranking Kentucky's sophomore Patrick Patterson seventh and junior Tyler Smith of Tennessee on the edge of the lottery at No. 13. Goodman also has Patterson as the SEC's top pro prospect, but has him fifteenth overall and Smith outside the top twenty.

Florida, which just lost Marreese Speights to the NBA two years early, has another sophomore touted as a first rounder. Nick Calathes is considered the third best prospect from the conference. Vanderbilt sophomore big man A.J. Ogilvy rounds out the SEC's projected first round prospects, and Goodman has him barely in at 28th overall. Only one SEC senior is projected to be drafted at all, with Goodman putting Alabama's point guard Ron Steele at 59. Even Steele is a major question mark coming off a redshirt season to recover from an injured knee.

As a contrast to the SEC's dearth of talent, the Pac-10 has five players projected in the lottery alone by Parrish and Goodman. Why is the SEC so deficient when it comes to pro basketball prospects right now? After all, it can't be explained by early departures - the Pac-10 had more underclassmen drafted in the top five this year than the SEC had players drafted in the first round.

The main answer for the current lack of elite talent is likely the SEC's coaching turnover the last two seasons. Programs like Kentucky and Arkansas which typically produce high draft picks are still feeling the effects of recent transitions. Whatever John Brady's flaws at LSU, he always seemed to have a pro prospect or two on the roster. Instead, with his dismissal this year the Tigers lost Anthony Randolph early to the NBA and saw their top signee ask out of his letter of intent in favor of UCLA.

With coaches like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl committing to their schools for the long term, it appears Alabama is the only one of the SEC's historically better basketball programs which might see a change on their bench anytime soon. That stability will eventually put the conference's talent level back near the top of the heap. Having said that, if conference NCAA tournament fortunes correspond to the number of draftable prospects the way they did this season, it looks like 2009 will be another lean year for SEC fans.

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