For SEC fans, the 2009 NBA Draft was about as exciting as watching paint dry.
First there was the lottery... nothing. Next, the rest of the first round... nothing. It was nearly two hours into the draft before the Bucks selected Kentucky SG Jodie Meeks with the 41st pick. Two picks later, LSU guard Marcus Thornton went to New Orleans, and two picks after that, Florida PG Nick Calathes was selected by Dallas.
But it was there the excitement ended, with just three SEC players selected. Three. And by the time Meeks finally heard his name called, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Wake Forest and Louisville had all seen multiple players selected. In fact, UNC produced more picks by themselves than the entire SEC, with four. Safe to say, it was not a banner year for the conference.
But it's also safe to say 2010 won't be more of the same. With the influx of talent into the league, as well as the development of some returning players, the SEC should be much better represented this year. With the season approximately halfway over, here's a look at some of the top NBA prospects.
John Wall, Kentucky
Key stats: 17. 1 points, 6.9 assists
Draft prediction: Top pick
Barring a major surprise, Wall will be the top pick in the 2010 draft. Although just a freshman, he has the speed, athleticism and poise to become an instant impact player, and there's no reason he shouldn't become a star in the league. Wall has great size for the point, and he's virtually unstoppable in transition. Look for him to fill up NBA highlight reels for years to come.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Key stats: 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds
Draft prediction: Lottery
Cousins is overshadowed by Wall at times, but he is a tremendous talent in his own right. He has great size, solid ball skills and an NBA-ready body. The only thing holding Cousins back is his attitude. He's known to have a quick fuse, and can sometimes lose focus on the floor. However, if he's able to continue to keep his composure and help lead UK on a deep tournament run, he could find himself shaking David Stern's hand not long after Wall.
Scotty Hopson, Tennessee
Key stats: 13. 3 points, 3.7 rebounds
Draft prediction: Late lottery – mid first round
Hopson has great size for a shooting guard, as well as top-notch athleticism and a sweet stroke from the perimeter. However, his production doesn't always match his potential, and there are questions about his drive. If he proves he can lead the Vols this year in the absence of Tyler Smith, look for his stock to skyrocket.
Key stats: 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds
Draft prediction: Late lottery – mid first round
Patterson is no longer having to shoulder such a large load for the Cats this year, and as a result, his game has expanded. Patterson has been able to showcase more of a perimeter game, having made 10 three-pointers this season after making zero in his first two years. With good size, good athleticism and a high basketball IQ, Patterson is likely to become a solid NBA player for the next 10-12 years.
Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State
Key stats: 14.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.3 blocks
Draft prediction: Mid to late first round
Varnado may never be an offensive force, but his defensive ability should keep him in the league for a while. Varnado has great athleticism for his size, and he attacks the glass with an attitude that scouts love. He's willing to do the dirty work, and he could make an instant impact as a defender off the bench. If he continues to put up numbers this year, look for him to land in the first round.
Michael Washington, Arkansas
Key stats: 13.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks
Draft prediction: Early second round
Washington has intriguing size and athleticism, but he hasn't taken the step forward that scouts wanted to see. He still doesn't take over games the way he should with his skill set, and the Hogs' mediocre record the past two years won't help his case much. As it is, he's likely to draw some interest based solely on potential, but at some point, he's going to have deliver on that potential.
Tasmin Mitchell, LSU
Key stats: 16.9 points, 9.4 rebounds
Draft prediction: Late second round
Mitchell lacks the flash of the rest of the players on this list, and as a fifth-year senior, scouts question how much upside he still has left. But Mitchell is still a versatile player who is closing in on 2,000 career points and he can guard multiple positions because of his size and quickness. He also has a high basketball IQ and his effort will never be questioned. Although he likely will never be more than a role player in the league, he's got a good chance of finding a home somewhere.
Tyler Smith, Tennessee: Dismissed from the Vols for an arrest stemming from gun possession, Smith's legal case has yet to be determined. A borderline first round talent heading into the year, Smith could still find a way into the league, but obviously needs to stay out of trouble first. His stock has obviously gone down, but how far is anyone's best guess.
Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State: Sidney was a highly touted recruit who has yet to play because of eligibility issues. Billed as power forward with three-point range, Sidney has made no secret of the fact that he wants to enter the league as soon as possible. However, with questions surrounding his attitude, conditioning and overall game after taking a year off, his stock is anyone's best guess.
Players to watch for 2011 Draft
Terrico White, Ole Miss: White has the size and strength the play SG at the next level, and he's shown the ability to get to the rim at will. Another year of seasoning could see his stock climb even higher, especially if helps lead the Rebels on a run through the NCAA Tournament.
Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky: Bledsoe is an explosive athlete who thrives in transition and has the ability to score in bunches. Given the chance to run the UK attack after Wall leaves, Bledsoe could play his way into the lottery in 2011.
Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt: Taylor has great athleticism and is developing into an all-around player. He already has the attention of NBA scouts, and if he continues to improve his perimeter game, his stock could continue to rise.
Trey Thompkins, Georgia: Thompkins has two things scouts love – size and toughness. Thompkins' numbers are up across the board after a solid freshman season, and if he continues to improve, he could soon find himself in an NBA frontcourt.
Daniel Orton, Kentucky: Orton is battling Cousins and Patterson for minutes now, but the frontcourt should be all his next year. Orton is a solid defender, and although he's limited offensively, he's demonstrated a great attitude and work ethic, and he should continue to improve.
AJ Ogilvy, Vanderbilt: Ogilvy arrived at Vanderbilt two-and-a-half years ago billed as a future lottery pick. However, after a great freshman year, his numbers have continued to go down and there are some scouts who question his toughness. But, because he’s 6’11 with good ball skills, there’s still a good chance he’ll find a home somewhere in the league