Frank Hoops: What Point Guards are Left?'s college basketball expert, Frank Burlison, discusses who might be the best point guards in college next year, in light of early departures to the NBA draft. Also thoughts on the overall strength of the 2005 class, as seen by NBA entries, plus more meandering thoughts on the college hoops scene.

The NBA early-entry draft departures of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Raymond Felton cleared the path for some interesting jockeying for the pre-season All-America positioning at point guard.


The consensus three best at the position last season, Paul, Williams and Felton will all be lottery (top 14) selections on June 28, with the first two likely to have their names announced by David Stern before the evening is six deep in first-round selections.


In the best of circumstances – at least for their respective coaches and college basketball fans in general – that would leave the likes of Jarrett Jack (Georgia Tech), Dee Brown (Illinois), Chris Hernandez (Stanford), Marcus Williams (Connecticut), Daniel Gibson (Texas), Darius Washington (Memphis), Ronald Steele (Alabama), Jordan Farmar (UCLA) and Rajon Rondo (Kentucky) to crowd the upper portion of the various preseason magazines' and on-line sites' 2005-06 point guard ratings.


But Jack and Brown this week joined Hernandez (who opted to do it a couple of weeks ago) in putting their names, at least for the time being, on that ever-expanding growing early-entry declaration list.


And some NBA insiders continue to hear that it's no certainty that Gibson, the Big 12's Freshman of the Year, won't at least add his name to the list, too, before the May 14 deadline.


The rugged 6-foot-3 Jack is easily the most well thought of among that group by NBA talent evaluators and (if he doesn't withdraw his name from the draft before the June 21 deadline to do so) seems a likely first-round – albeit well after Paul, Deron Williams and Felton – choice.


Hernandez, twice an All-Pac 10 selection, and Brown (the Big Ten's MVP this past season) figure to do enough, if they work out at the Chicago Pre-Draft camp early next month, to position themselves somewhere as second-round selections.


But it's hard to envision why they would forfeit senior seasons on NCAA tournament-bound teams (yes, the Illini will still be at that level, assuming Brown sticks around; and Stanford could be the preseason choice to win the Pac 10 if Hernandez returns) for the lure of the second round, especially since the draft should be point-guard thin a year from now.


And Brown still has to demonstrate to scouts that he can run a team on a full-time basis, since Deron Williams handled the majority of "point guard" duties the past three seasons for the Illini.


REMEMBER WHEN all we heard late last summer and even into this season from some of the so-called draft experts was how "weak" the high school class of 2005 was and how very few, if any, high school players were going to impact the first round of this draft?




Yeah . . . right – nice call, guys.


There is no question that the class of 2005 isn't as "strong" as last year, when McDonald's All-Americas Dwight Howard, Shaun Livingston, Robert Swift, Sebastian Telfair, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith and J.R. Smith, and a prep schooler (Dorell Wright) were among the first 19 selections.


But this class is going to make a dent on the 2005 draft, including the first round.


So far five McDonald's All-Americas, 6-7 Gerald Green, 6-6 Martell Webster, 6-3 Monta Ellis, 6-5 C.J. Miles and 6-0 ½ Louis Williams, have entered the draft pool, as have a couple of fifth-year prep school products, 6-9 ½ Andray Blatche and 6-8 Shawne Williams.


Only Blatche has announced that he has signed with representation, with the McDonald's lads doing the standard "maintaining the option of pulling out of the draft and going to college" thing.


Of the five, though, NBA scouts think that only Miles is still keeping college, seriously, as an option.


Green and Webster will be lottery selections, or at least close to it, with some NBA decision makers projecting Ellis and Blatche as relatively reasonable possibilities to be tabbed late in the first round


I haven't talked to anyone with real input on NBA franchises lately who thinks of Louis Williams as more than a early second round selection right now. Miles also isn't drawing any real first-round heat and Shawne Williams barely registers on scouts' radar.


Look for at least three or four more high school/prep school players to drop their names into the NBA hat before the deadline.


And a couple of clued-in NBA scouts told me recently that they hear that at least one more McDonald's All-America, center Andrew Bynum (who signed with Connecticut in November and figures to be a critical contributor to a possible Huskies' national title run in '06), hasn't totally ruled out bypassing college yet, either.



*It's difficult to really comprehend the kind of impact on college hoops that center Greg Oden (Indianapolis North Lawrence) would have, wherever he were to enroll and play, if the NBA and the Players' Association were to agree upon an age restriction clause in their next collective bargaining agreement – and it were to hold up under the expected legal challenges it would no doubt face.


There wouldn't be a more dominant low-post presence – at least, for the time being, as a rebounder, shot-blocker and dunker – to debut on the college level since Shaquille O'Neal was a freshman at LSU during the 1989-90 season.


If there isn't anything blocking his entry into the NBA, he'll be the first player chosen in the 2006 draft.


*Oden is overwhelmingly the top prospect in the class of 2006 (no matter what you might read via any recruiting guru's musings), but both 6-10 Spencer Hawes (Seattle Prep) and 6-9 Kevin Durant (Oak Hill Academy in Virginia) are much more polished, offensively, right now.


*By the way, contrary to a recent column I wrote, the University of Connecticut did take an early-entry hit in losing 6-10 sophomore Charlie Villanueva. There is no way to seriously rationalize that losing a player of that caliber "won't hurt much", even if the 7-foot Andrew Bynum does enroll and joins returnees Josh Boone and Rudy Gay to make up the best frontcourt on the college level.


*The greatest sports documentary ever – beyond just basketball – will be released on DVD for the first time Tuesday.


Whether you watched "Hoop Dreams" when it was released theatrically or not, get to your closest DVD outlet ASAP Tuesday and pick up a copy. It was equal parts enthralling and gut-wrenching to watch in the theatre and will be no less so in a living room.

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