Bloomington, Ind. – With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching, Lawrence North sophomore Stephan VanTreese can rest assure he's about to be proven correct.
That's because a pair of his former high school teammates – Greg Oden and Mike Conley – are among the early entrants in this year's draft. Both are expected to be lottery picks, with Oden the odds-on-favorite to be the No. 1 pick on June 28th.
While it comes as a surprise to no one that the 7'0" Oden will be gone quickly, Conley's emergence as a lottery pick has caught some off guard. Conley was a 28th-ranked player in the 2006 class according to Scout.com, but that's hardy a number that would lead many to have suspected a 6'1", 160-pound point guard would be NBA-ready so quickly.
But Conley's success didn't come as a shock to VanTreese, who was a freshman on Lawrence North's 2005-06 squad that went undefeated and captured the third of LN's three straight state championships.
"When I traveled around the country (in AAU basketball), everyone knew I played with Mike and Greg," VanTreese said. "They were like, ‘Tywon Lawson is better.' And I was like, ‘you're going to be really surprised.'"
Lawson – who recently finished his freshman season at North Carolina - was Scout.com's fifth-ranked player in the '06 class. He started 31 of 38 games and averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 assists while helping the Tar Heels to a 31-7 record. While jumping to the NBA was a possibility for the 5'11", 190-pounder, he announced early last month he'd be back for his sophomore season.
Conley, meanwhile, averaged 11.3 points, 6.1 assists and 2.2 steals while starting all 39 games for a Buckeye team that went 35-4 and advanced to the NCAA Championship game. Ranked as the fourth-best point guard in the '06 class by Scout (behind Lawson, Kansas' Sherron Collins and Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton), he's now considered by many to be the best point guard available in next month's draft.
"He's a unique player," VanTreese said of his high school teammate. "No one understands how good he is until you're on the floor with him and play."
The nation was able to see that this past season, and as a result he's ranked as the eighth-best player available by ESPN.com.
While VanTreese has admired Conley's play, he's benefited a great deal from Oden's. He only played with Oden for one year, but it was still an invaluable opportunity for the 6-8, 210-pound VanTreese to learn from one of the best big men to come along in years.
"It helped my game tremendously," said VanTreese. "Being physical with him, playing with him, I can see what it takes to get to the next level. It helped me set guidelines for the weight room, and it helped me in terms of being smart, keeping on top of things in the classroom, not doing anything stupid. He's a really good role model."
Now, VanTreese is making a name for himself. A four-star recruit according to Scout.com, the Class of 2009 standout is starring with the Indiana Elite AAU program and is drawing attention from all over the country. He's been offered by Indiana along with a host of other schools, and said he hopes to come out with a list of schools by the end of the summer.
While Oden and Conley are the prototype center and point guard, respectively, VanTreese is a versatile frontcourt player who can play center when called upon, but his athleticism probably makes him a better fit at power forward.
"Stephen does a great job running the floor and finishing," said Indiana Elite Coach Louis Twigg. "He's an unbelievable athlete. I think he'll be able to develop the ability to step outside and shoot it, so we're working on some pick and pop stuff, being able to use both hands."
Van Treese About to be Proven Correct
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