12 Preps to enter NBA draft

So much for last year being an anomaly when it comes to high schoolers entering the NBA Draft. After a record 13 prep players declared for last year's draft and eight were taken in the first round, most experts figured that was just a one-time thing. After all, the Class of 2004 was exceptionally strong and the Class of 2005 was thought to be exceptionally weak on NBA-ready talent.

So much for last year being an anomaly when it comes to high schoolers entering the NBA Draft.

After a record 13 prep players declared for last year’s draft and eight were taken in the first round, most experts figured that was just a one-time thing. After all, the Class of 2004 was exceptionally strong and the Class of 2005 was thought to be exceptionally weak on NBA-ready talent.

No way would history repeat itself this year, right? Wrong.

The early-entry deadline for high schoolers to declare for the draft was Saturday, and when the NBA released the official list of early-entry candidates today, 12 prep players were on the list.

One interesting note is that Laurinburg Prep (Laurinburg, N.C.) swingman Shawne Williams decided not to enter the draft and will instead attend Memphis next year. Williams had previously stated that he planned to test the draft waters.

While many of the 12 high schoolers have not hired agents and could still pull out by the withdrawal deadline — which is one week before the June 28 draft — it’s clear that early predictions of only one or two preps declaring for this year’s draft were way off. The success of last year’s preps-to-pros players as well as talk of an impending age minimum likely contributed to the unexpectedly high number of early-entry candidates.

But despite experts bemoaning that this is a down year for high school talent, there are still as many as half a dozen preps who could be selected in the first round of this year’s draft.

With the early-entry deadline out of the way and the draft a little more than a month away, here’s a quick look at the 12 high schoolers who entered the draft (listed in order of their expected prospects):

Gerald Green
Gulf Shores Academy (Houston, Texas)

Green, a 6-foot-8, 200-pound swingman, is widely considered the best NBA prospect in this year’s high school class. Although he has not yet hired an agent and is keeping open his option to attend Oklahoma State, he’s considered a lock for the lottery and is expected to stay in the draft. He should go top 10, and depending on workouts he could work his way near the top five. His athleticism and shooting ability have led to Tracy McGrady comparisons.

Martell Webster
Seattle Prep (Seattle, Wash.)

Webster hired an agent earlier this week, so he’s in the draft to stay. Sorry, Washington fans. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound swingman might be the most NBA-ready prep player in the draft, combining a great shooting stroke with a solid body. He’s a lock for the first round, and word is that he’s now considered a strong possibility for the lottery.

Andrew Bynum
St. Joseph’s (Metuchen, N.J.)

This 7-foot, 300-pound beast surprised a lot of people when he made a last-minute decision to put his name in the draft after previously stating that he’d honor his commitment to UConn. He has not, however, hired an agent and is among the most likely players to withdraw from the draft if he doesn’t like his projected position. But before UConn fans get their hopes up, Bynum’s combination of size and potential could make him a mid first-round pick, which might be enough to keep him in the draft. This will be an interesting situation to keep track of over the next month.

Andray Blatche
South Kent Prep (South Kent, Conn.)

Blatche, who has been actively considering the NBA since last summer, is another guy who has already hired an agent and is in the draft for good. The 6-foot-10, 230-pound, multi-skilled big man was considered just a borderline first-round pick a few months ago, but a couple of strong all-star game performances helped boost his stock and he’s now considered a possible mid first-rounder. In fact, his array of skills and his upside are attractive enough that if he does well in workouts, he could possibly land in the late lottery.

Monta Ellis
Lanier (Jackson, Miss.)

Ellis was once thought to be the second-best NBA prospect in the high school class behind Green, but a subpar McDonald’s All-American Game and no-shows at the Roundball Classic and Jordan Classic hurt his stock. However, he has already hired an agent, which seems to indicate he’s pretty confident he’ll still be a first-round pick. He’s got blinding quickness, an attacking style and can light up the scoreboard. If the 6-foot-4, 189-pounder can convince teams he can play the point in the NBA, he could land somewhere in the teens. If not, he’ll most likely have to settle for the 20s.

Louis Williams
South Gwinnett (Snellville, Ga.)

Williams is perhaps the toughest guy on this list to handicap. His talent and athleticism are undeniable, but at a generously listed 6-foot-3 (most people believe he’s more like 6-foot-1) and much more of a shooting guard than a point guard, there are major concerns about how his game will translate to the NBA. He has not hired an agent and would probably be wise to withdraw and spend at least a year at Georgia, but Williams has seemingly been set on the NBA for some time now. If he stays in, he’s not a lock for the first round by any means. Right now he’s right on the bubble between late first round and early second round.

C.J. Miles
Skyline (Dallas, Texas)

When Miles entered the draft last month, it was a bit of a head-scratcher. Unlike most of the guys on this list, he is neither a lock for the first round nor an academic question mark — the two biggest reasons why most high schoolers enter the draft. Going to Texas for a couple of years and improving his stock seems like a no-brainer for the 6-foot-6, 210-pound guard. Although it’s possible he could land a guarantee somewhere in the late first round and decide to stay in the draft, he’s probably the most likely serious prospect on this list to withdraw and attend college next year.

Amir Johnson
Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Johnson, 6-foot-10, 215-pound center, was another last-minute surprise on the early-entry list. He is not projected as a first-round pick but reportedly made the decision because he does not yet have the necessary SAT score to qualify for college. However, he has not hired an agent and will more than likely withdraw from the draft and play at Louisville if he can improve his SAT score in the next month. It’s possible he could wow NBA teams in pre-draft workouts and challenge for a spot in the late first round based on his size and athleticism, but if he stays in the draft it’s much more likely he’s a second-round pick.

Brandon Rush
Mount Zion (Durham, N.C.)

Rush, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound small forward, never committed to a college and was rumored to be leaning toward the NBA as far back as last summer, so his decision to enter the draft is not a surprise. He is not, however, considered a first-round prospect despite his insane athleticism. He hasn’t hired an agent and could therefore still withdraw from the draft. But with no college decision to fall back on, don’t be surprised if he stays in the draft and goes somewhere in the second round.

Keith Brumbaugh
DeLand (DeLand, Fla.)

Brumbaugh has seen his stock plummet in the past year, going from a top 10 high school prospect to not making the McDonald’s All-American Game. The 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward, however, decided to test the draft waters despite the fact that he’s a second-round prospect at best. Although he has not yet committed to a college, he didn’t sign with an agent and could still withdraw from the draft. If he stays in, he could go undrafted. This will be another interesting situation to monitor over the next month, as there’s no telling what Brumbaugh will decide.

Martellus Bennett
Alief Taylor (Houston, Texas)

There are several questionable decisions on this list, but Bennett might take the cake. He was neither the best player on his high school team, nor is basketball even his best sport. He’s a highly touted tight end in football who was expected to head to Texas A&M to play both sports. Luckily, Bennett has not hired an agent and seems likely to come to his senses and withdraw from the draft by the deadline. But for a kid with such a bright future in football, this was an extremely odd decision.

Curtis Brown Jr.
Beach (Savannah, Ga.)

What, you’ve never heard of Curtis Brown Jr.? Well, you’re not alone. Almost every year, there’s a kid who is completely off the radar, but whose name surprisingly winds up on the early-entry list when the NBA releases the official list. This year, that name is Curtis Brown Jr. If he stays in, expect him to go undrafted.

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