Burlison: NBA Entrants/UCLA Recruit

Adam Morrison has bid adieu to Gonzaga and Leon Powe may have played his final game for Cal. But don't make the mistake of thinking that means that the Bulldogs and Golden Bears will have to struggle to get into the NCAA Tournament next March. Plus -- UCLA leads for a big recruit...

Adam Morrison and Leon Powe made official Wednesday afternoon what had long been expected.

 

The Gonzaga and Cal forwards announced that they were entering their names into the NBA Draft pools, Morrison leaving no doubt that he was forfeiting his final season of eligibility with the Bulldogs while Powe left the door slightly ajar for the possibility of his returning for at least one of the two remaining seasons he could play for the Golden Bears if he was so inclined.

 

It's difficult to envision a scenario in which the 6-foot-8 Morrison slips too far away from the first five selections on the evening of June 28.

 

But, although he isn't nearly as well thought of as Morrison is by NBA talent evaluators, the consensus of NBA talent evaluators is that Powe, who scouts believe is a bit shorter than his listed 6-8, has also played his final college game.

 

First, thoughts on their NBA potential:

 

Morrison should almost immediately be a dependable scorer for any franchise that drafts him and, eventually, could evolve into a player capable of averaging something close to 20 points per game.

 

Offensively, there isn't much he is lacking. He's already got a highest-level "middle game", with an uncanny ability to score while floating through the lane, even while being challenged by shot blockers. Other than J.J. Redick, there hasn't been a player on the college level in quite a while who moves as well off the ball as Morrison does.

 

He's slick and clever enough with the ball to beat most defenders off the dribble, he has a solid post-up game and is an underrated passer – especially into post.

 

Yes, his quickness is a lot closer to "mediocre" than "exceptional" but his baseline to baseline speed is better than many realize.

 

He'll be an "average" to "pretty good" rebounder, in large part because of his nose for the ball, exceptional hands and determination.

 

As for his ability as a defender . . . well, relax. The bashing is unwarranted. Not many college All-Americas, especially those (like Morrison) whose teams spent a great deal of time playing zone, come into the NBA as very good defenders.

 

Powe is quick, strong and determined enough to be a pretty good rebounder on the NBA level, even as an "undersized four (power forward)".

 

His perimeter shot is decent, although he isn't much of a driving threat after more than a couple of dribbles.

 

Many scouts voice the same praise, as well as concerns, over his NBA potential as they do when discussing Paul Millsap (Louisiana Tech), another comparable-sized underclassmen who has tossed his name into the draft mix.

 

So, how good will Gonzaga be without Morrison and Cal (likely) without Powe?

 

I'd say better than some might suspect right now.

 

With Derek Raivio, Pierre Marie-Altidor-Cespedes and Jeremy Pargo returning and joined by the mostly highly recruited guard (Matt Bouldin of Colorado) the Bulldogs have signed from the school ranks, the team's backcourt play should be considerably improved.

 

David Pendergraft will get first dibs on Morrison's spot in the lineup but he'll pushed for playing time once Kansas transfer Micah Downs – the only McDonald's All-America to enroll at Gonzaga – becomes eligible in mid-December.

 

And returnees Sean Mallon and Josh Heytvelt (who could blossom into a full-fledged star next season, if healthy and if consistent) should be more than capable in the post positions.

 

Even without Morrison, the Bulldogs should only "slip" into the 15 to 25 stratosphere of the preseason ratings.

 

As for Cal, the Golden Bears – despite the probable loss of the Pacific 10 Conference's leading scorer and rebounder in Powe – should return to the NCAA Tournament and could make a run at a conference title, especially if UCLA (Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo) and Arizona (Mustafa Shakur) take a backcourt hit via the loss of underclassmen to the NBA Draft and Washington can't adequately replace everything that Brandon Roy gave the Huskies.

 

You can count on 6-10 DeVon Hardin becoming one of the country's dominant low-post players next season as a junior. His averages as a sophomore (7.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game) don't begin to illustrate why NBA people think so much of his long-term potential as a power forward in their league.

 

Ayinde Ubaka (14.5 points and 3.8 assists per game) will go into his senior season as one of the most underrated guards in the country – just like Roy did in Seattle this past season. He's not nearly the overall player that Roy is but there aren't going to be many better playmakers anywhere.

 

Omar Wilkes will team with Ubaka to form one of the West's best backcourts. And look for Ben Braun's undervalued (nationally) recruiting class to pay immediate dividends.

 

BOUNCING AROUND THE COUNTRY:

*Look for Vance Walberg, hired away from Fresno City College Tuesday as the coach at Pepperdine, to bring as much commitment to full-court defense and fast-paced offense as nearly any program in the country.

 

He coached Stanford guard Chris Hernandez at Fresno's Clovis West High and his teams routinely beat clubs in California with more talent (including Santa Ana Mater Dei and Compton Dominguez) because of their pressing/trapping style of defense and rapid-fire, fast-breaking approach to offense.

 

*The likely 2007-08 NCAA Freshman of the Year was on display for the Southern California All-Stars during an Easter high school traveling team tournament in Las Vegas.

 

Center Kevin Love (who is currently a junior at Lake Oswego in Oregon) helped the SoCal team overwhelm some pretty good opposition and he will be doing some overwhelming himself during his freshman (and, likely, only) season on the college level.

 

He can have every bit the impact that Greg Oden will have for the Ohio State Buckeyes next season.

 

Where will he play in college? He lists Duke, North Carolina and UCLA as his final three choices.

 

But it was hard finding anyone in Las Vegas who doesn't think he'll eventual suit up for the Bruins.

 

"We're going to playing against that guy in two seasons," a Pac 10 head coach said Saturday night, shaking his head while watching Love demonstrate more low-post polish than many NBA centers and throwing outlet passes that would have made the two greatest ever at it, Bill Walton and Wes Unseld, proud.

 

*Kelly Williams, a coach for the Southern California All-Stars team that won the Las Vegas Tournament, is the father of Connecticut junior Marcus Williams.

 

He said that his son (expected to be the first "pure" point guard drafted) will announce his intentions of entering the NBA Draft pool next week.

 

*Just checking: Has North Carolina State hired a coach yet?



Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame last April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com.

Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.frankhoops.com.


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