Tyler made good choice

It's too early to know for sure but it appears that Tyler Smith's decision to postpone his National Basketball Association aspirations was a wise one.

Tyler Smith strongly considered a jump to the pros following his sophomore season at Tennessee. In fact, he is on record saying he was all set to renounce his remaining collegiate eligibility shortly before the deadline to declare for the 2008 NBA Draft.

Fortunately for Tennessee – and for Tyler Smith, apparently – he changed his mind and opted to return to The Hill for the 2008-09 season. Projected as a late-first round/early second-round choice had he declared for the '08 draft, Smith appears to be a sure-fire first-rounder in '09. Odds are, he will be a much hotter commodity in the 2009 NBA Draft than he would've been in the recent 2008 draft.

Here's why:

After playing power forward last season at 6-7, Smith will need much better perimeter skills to play in the NBA. He'll get more opportunities to improve in that area for the 2008-09 Vols, since the progress of 6-10 sophomore Brian Williams will free Smith to spend more time away from the basket.

Smith proved he can be a big-time scorer on a night-in, night-out basis in the Pilot Rocky Top Summer League, averaging 30.6 points per game and shooting 56.6 percent from the floor en route to winning league MVP honors for the second year in a row.

Finally, the talent available for the 2009 NBA Draft does not appear to be as deep as the 2008 draft, which will help Smith's quest to move up into a lottery spot. In fact, a recent article by Gary Parrish at CBSsportsline.com featured a headline trumpeting the fact that "Draft class for '09 a step down – right now."

Even assuming that several college freshmen will declare for the '09 draft, Parrish projects Smith as the 13th pick next year.

Parrish's top 10 are as follows:

1. Blake Griffin, power forward, Oklahoma

2. DeMar DeRozan, incoming freshman, Southern Cal

3. B.J. Mullens, incoming freshman, Ohio State

4. Hasheem Thabeet, 7-3 center, Connecticut

5. Brandon Jennings, incoming freshman, Arizona

6. Tyreke Evans, incoming freshman, Memphis

7. Patrick Patterson, power forward, Kentucky

8. Earl Clark, forward, Louisville

9. James Harden, Arizona State

10. Ty Lawson, North Carolina

In addition to Patrick Patterson and Tyler Smith, Parrish sees two other SEC players as potential Round 1 draft picks for 2009 – Vanderbilt sophomore A.J. Ogilvy and Florida sophomore Nick Calathes.

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