Eight Preps Enter NBA Draft

Monday marked the deadline for high school players to enter this summer's NBA Draft. And although the official early-entry list will not be made public until later this week, it looks like eight prep players — led by <b>Dwight Howard</b>, <b>Shaun Livingston</b> and <b>Josh Smith</b> — have made themselves available for the draft.

For months now, basketball experts have been predicting that this summer's NBA Draft would feature a record number of high schoolers.

And it appears as though they'll be right.

Monday marked the deadline for high school players to enter the draft, which will be held June 24. And although the official early-entry list will not be made public until later this week, it looks like eight prep players have made themselves available for the draft.

The elite eight who are attempting to make the jump straight from high school to the NBA are: Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Shaun Livingston, Sebastian Telfair, J.R. Smith, Al Jefferson, Robert Swift and Dorell Wright.

It is possible a surprise name or two could appear when the official list is released later this week, but almost all of the other players who were at some point considering making the leap — Lamarcus Aldridge, Marvin Williams, Randolph Morris, Glen Davis and Darius Washington — have publicly stated they will attend college next year.

But even without those five, the eight prep players who have said they'll test the draft would be a record. The previous record for high schoolers to enter the draft in a single year is six — set in 2001 and tied last year, though Charlie Villanueva ultimately withdrew from last year's draft and attended UConn.

We could also see a record number of high schoolers selected in the first round this year. The previous record is four (also set in 2001 and tied in 2003), but all eight of this year's entrants are projected as possible first-round picks. Even if one or two guys slip to the second round or withdraw from the draft, there will almost certainly be at least six prep players taken in the first round this summer.

One thing to keep in mind is that five of the eight high schoolers who have said they'll enter the draft are keeping their college options slightly open by not hiring an agent or signing an endorsement deal.

The NCAA adopted a rule two years ago that allows prep players to enter the draft and test their status, but withdraw up to a week before the draft and still attend college as long as they do not sign with an agent. The University of Washington's Brandon Roy took advantage of the rule two years ago, while UConn's Villanueva did the same last summer.

This year, Livingston (Duke), J.R. Smith (North Carolina), Jefferson (Arkansas), Swift (USC) and Wright (DePaul) have all reportedly not hired agents and are leaving open the possibility of still attending college. However, all five are expected to ultimately stay in the draft, with Wright being the most likely candidate to withdraw.

Howard, Telfair and Josh Smith have all hired agents, meaning they are in the draft to stay.

Howard, a 6-foot-11 center from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy (Ga.), is the best of the bunch. He's expected to be a top two pick and is a candidate for No. 1 overall along with UConn's Emeka Okafor.

Livingston, a 6-foot-7 point guard from Peoria Central High (Ill.), and Josh Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Oak Hill Academy (Va.), are the other high schoolers projected as lottery locks. Both could be selected within the first five picks.

After that, it gets harder to project. Telfair, a 6-foot point guard out of Lincoln High (N.Y.) and a cousin of Stephon Marbury, could go as high as top 10 but could also slip down into the late teens.

J.R. Smith, a 6-foot-6 swingman from St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.), and Jefferson, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Prentiss High (Miss.), could both sneak into the late lottery with good workouts but are generally projected as mid first-rounders at this point.

Finally, Swift, a 7-foot-1 center out of Bakersfield High (Calif.), and Wright, an athletic 6-foot-7 swingman from South Kent Prep (Conn.), are both projected to be drafted in the 20s. The Boston Globe reported this weekend that Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge is high on both Swift and Wright. The Celtics have picks No. 15, 24 and 25 in the first round.

But with six weeks still left until the June 24 draft, these projections are sure to change once players start working out for NBA teams. One thing that isn't likely to change, however, is that this year's draft should be a record-setting one for high schoolers.

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