College Basketball: Top Ten Sleepers

    
October 14th, 2008

 

Perhaps because they were reserves last season, or hidden in the shadows of bigger-name teammates, or simply not yet ready to shine.. these 10 Sleepers are ready to the steal the national headlines and emerge as legitimate NBA Draft prospects.

 

 

 

TOP TEN SLEEPERS: 08-09

 

1. Austin Daye: 6’10”, Sophomore, Small Forward, Gonzaga

Most other years a freshman like Daye would have gotten plenty of attention nationally, even playing in the WCC. Of course, with a class like last season’s, the 6’10” small forward was just another player lost in the shuffle; expect to here this name much more often in the future though. Right now, Daye does a lot of things well, but nothing exceptionally. He shoots better than 40% from beyond the arc (off the charts for a player his size in college), but does so on a limited number of shots. His ball handling skills are excellent for a player at his stage of development with his frame and he shows the ability to dribble with either hand comfortably in the open floor. If Daye can add a little weight (he weighs a rail thin 190), improve his decision making on offense, and sure up his defense, he could develop into one of the top wing players in his class.

 

2. Dar Tucker: 6’4”, Sophomore, Small Forward, Depaul

If you haven’t heard of Dar Tucker yet, keep your eyes peeled as the highlight reels start to pile up. Despite being an undersized small forward, the sophomore can elevate with any player in the Big East. He is a versatile scorer and finished 8th amongst a very deep freshman class in points per 40 minutes. The two biggest knocks against Tucker last season were his average ball handling skills and his tendency to get a little too trigger happy on the perimeter, both issues that he could have resolved in the off season. He has good looking form on his shot, so if he does a better job of picking and choosing his shots this season, there should be a significant rise in his 32.1% three point shooting mark from last year.

 

3. Gani Lawal: 6’8”, Sophomore, Power Forward, Georgia Tech

Lawal may be the top returning pro prospect in the ACC not from North Carolina or Duke. Packing 220 pounds onto his 6’8” frame and possessing a wingspan greater than 7-feet, he is a physical specimen. He saw limited action last season, but showed some real flashes of ability at points during the year (13 points, 6 rebounds in 16 minutes vs. UNC). At this point Lawal’s offensive game is very raw and underdeveloped. He possesses quick feet, good open floor speed and a tremendous motor. He relies on his strength and athleticism to get easy points around the rim, but as he starts to refine his skill set Lawal will become a much more effective post player. On the defensive side of the ball he primarily sticks in the paint, altering shots with his length and holding his position well on the block. Expect more playing time and great production out of Lawal this year with a season under his belt.

 

4. Chandler Parsons: 6’9”, Sophomore, Small Forward, Florida

With the departure of Marreese Speights to the NBA, fans outside of the Gainesville area will likely get their first introduction to Parsons this season. The sophomore has great size for a perimeter player and has proven he can be a dangerous outside shooter. His release is a bit slow, so when Parsons has time to set his feet and shoot he is fine, but his percentages drop considerably when he is forced to either rush his shot or shoot off the dribble. Parsons has shown flashes of ability to attack the basket with a good first step and decent touch around the rim; he needs to get more consistent with both of these skills. In the post, he has struggled do to his lack of strength, but off season reports have him reportedly bulking up to about 215 pounds which will help him considerably on the block.

 

5. James Anderson: 6’6”, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Oklahoma State

Anderson announced his presence at OSU right away by eclipsing 20 points in five of his first eight games. He cooled down significantly once the Big 12 schedule started which is why he is still relatively unknown amongst many college basketball fans. Anderson is a fantastic athlete with good size and length for the position. While he got a large percentage of his points last season from hustle plays on the offensive glass and running in transition, he has the makings of a big time scoring threat thanks to the potential he shows as a shooter. Anderson attempted over five three’s per game last season and still connected on 37.9% of his shots from this range. He has a real nose for the basket and great offensive instincts; improving his handles would add a tremendous amount to his game.

 

6. Evan Turner: 6’6”, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Ohio State

In Turner, the Buckeyes have a young, developing all-purpose player who performs exceptionally well on the defensive end of the floor. With pretty good size and length for the off guard spot, Turner is a crafty player, able to get to the basket despite lacking an explosive first step. His shooting numbers aren’t anything special, but he did show improvement as the season progressed last year. Defense is where Turner made his biggest mark last season, pulling down over 4 rebounds and swiping 1.3 steals per game. He has a good knack for anticipating where opponents will be moving and with his wingspan is able to deflect a lot of passes. The biggest thing to keep an eye on this year will be if he starts making the move over to the point guard spot. Turner struggled with turnovers last year, but with the departure of Jamar Butler, he will be expected to handle some of the floor general responsibilities.

 

7. Lee Cummard: 6’7”, Senior, Shooting Guard, BYU

It can be hard to make a name for yourself on the national scale when you call the Mountain West Conference home. Trent Plaisted did it last season, now it’s time for Lee Cummard to join him. The senior is one of the deadliest perimeter shooters in the country, connecting on 47.2% of his 127 attempts from beyond the arc last year. Only four players in the country who shot at least 100 three’s last season shot a higher percentage than Cummard did. His shooting form is absolutely text book and he is equally effective shooting from a standstill or off the dribble. Cummar’s good size for the 2-guard position makes it very easy for him to pull up and fire over other defenders. He is a good athlete, showing good open floor speed and explosiveness. He needs to improve his ball handling skills though in addition to getting a little stronger in his upper body.

 

8. LaceDarius Dunn: 6’4”, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Baylor

Dunn flew under the radar last year playing behind a loaded Baylor backcourt that included the likes of Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat. After a season in which he was the third leading scorer per 40 minutes amongst all freshmen, expect Dunn to get more playing time this year. His frame may be a little undersized for the 2-guard spot from an NBA standpoint, but his solid strength allows him to be effective at the college level. The sophomore is a deadly shooter from the perimeter, connecting on 41.6% of his 5.7 three-point attempts per game. In addition to his long-range shooting prowess, Dunn is pretty effective from mid-range, able to knock down floaters with relative consistency when attacking the basket. His handles and athleticism aren’t spectacular, but on a guard-rich Bears team, he should be able to spot up beyond the arc and let the other guys do the rest.

 

9. Chris Johnson: 6’11”, Senior, Center, LSU

Johnson reminds one of last season’s lottery pick and former teammate Anthony Randolph. The senior possesses the exact same type of frame, 6’11”, is very thin and has a tremendous wingspan. A player like Johnson is a real roll of the dice for this type of list because he shows some amazing potential but at the same time has glaring weaknesses in his game. In one of his better games last season (19 points vs. Oklahoma State) he showed he can shoot from the outside (3-4 from beyond the arc) while also being able to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket. A player as tall and as athletic as Johnson, with that combination of developing skills, particularly in a conference like the SEC, is an alluring prospect. But he still needs a lot of polishing, particularly in the consistency of his jumper. He severely needs to add weight and strength to his frame as well if he wants to improve on his 6.6 rebounds per game mark from a season ago.

 

10. Larry Sanders: 6’9”, Sophomore, Power Forward, Virginia Commonwealth

Sanders, like so many other players that are picked for these types of lists, is being added purely because of his potential; added stress on the word potential. At a rail thin 6’9”, but possessing a wing span reportedly in excess of 7 ½ feet, Sanders is a shot blocking machine. He was tops in the nation last year with 7.2 blocks per 40 minutes. In all, the sophomore averaged nearly 12 points and 9 rebounds at an adjusted pace to go along with his out of this world shot blocking rate. The downside to Sanders is he is about as raw as they come. Despite his size and length he couldn’t even dunk a basketball consistently at the beginning of last season and his shot attempts are exclusively off of open looks around the rim and offensive rebounds. His footwork in the post is poor and he isn’t comfortable playing with his back to the basket yet. With all of that said though, Sanders has the potential and has shown the ability (14 points, 15 rebounds in CAA Tournament vs. Towson) to become an absolutely dominating force in the CAA.