The Admirable Ones Going to College

There were 61 college underclassmen and 12 high school players on the NBA draft early-entry list released Thursday. But there are actually a few admirable souls who justifiably could have declared for the NBA draft but -- shock! -- opted to play college basketball...

There were more than enough names among the 61 college underclassmen and 12 high school or prep school players on the NBA draft early-entry list released Thursday to cause near-endless hours of discussion – or, in many cases, head-scratching.

 

Considering that the college accomplishments or long-term potential of so many of those players are so anything but breath-taking, the fact that another group of players didn't add their names to the list filled with so many wannabes is almost startling.

 

Here are the most noteworthy of the guys who decided that spending the 2005-06 season playing on the college level wasn't exactly the equivalent of spending a couple of hours in a dentist chair:

 

*Shelden Williams, J.J. Redick and Josh McRoberts (Duke): Williams and Redick, who should be consensus first-team pre-season All-Americas, probably were looking at early second-round status in the coming draft. But that didn't detour a lot of lesser prospects from sending their paperwork into the NBA's New York City office.

 

The 6-foot-10 McRoberts is the best prospect – college and NBA – in the high school class of 2005 and almost certainly would have been a Top 10 selection on June 28 if he had entered the draft pool. One wonders how much the fact that McRoberts didn't submit draft paperwork factored into the fact that current Duke junior Shavlik Randolph did.

 

With Williams, Redick and McRoberts, and a few other very good players, too, in Blue Devils' uniforms next season, mark Duke no worse than the co-favorite (with Connecticut) to win the 2006 national title.

 

*Rudy Gay, Josh Boone and Marcus Williams (Connecticut): Gay and Boone would have been lottery (top 14) selections in this draft. And Williams, the slick left-handed sophomore point guard who played so well over the final month and a half, would have drawn a lot of late first-round, early second-round interest.

 

As expected, sophomore forward Charlie Villanueva entered the draft (and has signed with an agent, so he's long-gone). What wasn't quite as expected was McDonald's All-America center Andrew Bynum filing paperwork. He supposedly needs a commitment from a franchise picking in the lottery to stay in the draft but many NBA decision makers wouldn't be surprised if he's still in the draft, lotto commitment or not.

 

Regardless of whether Bynum is taking classes in Storrs next season or not, Coach Jim Calhoun's club gets the co-favorite's role for 2006 final night net-cutting honors.

 

*Adam Morrison (Gonzaga): Along with Gay, Boone and McRoberts, he is one of the four 2005-06 college players who would have been lottery selections next month.

 

He'll easily be the best player in the far west next season and makes the Bulldogs – even with the loss of senior Ronny Turiaf – a pretty good long-shot choice to be playing in Indianapolis on Final Four weekend next April.

 

*Daniel Gibson (Texas): The freshman point guard might have found his way among the top 30 (first round) choices on June 28. But why roll the dice, when you have a chance to return to a very good team and could be an All-America, John R. Wooden Award front-runner and likely mid-first round to lottery selection in 2006?

 

Even if McDonald's All-America guard C.J. Miles doesn't do the prudent thing and jerk his name out of the draft pool, ASAP, Gibson and his Longhorn buddies will be the clear-cut favorites to win the Big 12 Conference and be one of the seven or eight strongest candidates to join Duke and Connecticut in the RCA Dome next April.

 

*Craig Smith and Jared Dudley (Boston College): Neither would have been tabbed in the first round but there would have a lot of interest in both by the time the second round rolled around.

 

Back for their senior and junior seasons, respectively, Smith and Dudley will be viable All-America and John R. Wooden Award candidates, and will help make the Eagles the favorite to finish just behind Duke in the program's first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

 

*Micah Downs, Julian Wright and Mario Chalmers (Kansas): Nah, none of Bill Self's three 2005 McDonald's All-Americas would have been first-round choices in June.

 

But they did more on the spring national all-star game circuit than did some of their peers and all three probably would have been tendered invitations to play in the NBA Chicago Pre-Draft Camp. Instead, they'll be living in dorm rooms in Lawrence for a while and will be much better basketball players in the long haul because of it.

 


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