Texas coach Rick Barnes has deep affection for power forward Damion James and he thinks James will excel at the next level.
"I tell people all the time, I would love to have Damion James on my team because he's just getting started," Barnes said during the season. "He's improved so much and I don't care what you say, when there needs to be a big rebound, he's the best I've ever seen...Damion wants to be a pro for a long time. People pick players apart, but sometimes you've got to look at what guys do and say here's what he does. He does what he does."
At 6-foot-7, 225-pounds, the Nacogdoches native went through NBA workouts the summer after his junior year and decided one more season at Texas would improve his game. No one is arguing with the results. Everyone loves his determination, hustle, intensity, strength, athleticism and drive, but what is in question is exactly where he fits in the NBA game, particularly on offense. Defensively, scouts believe he can defend multiple positions, which could be his calling card upon entering the league.
"If you look at our game right now, we've got small ball, tall ball, all sorts. The teams are looking for players, not necessarily 6-10 power forwards, 6-6 two-guards and stuff like that. They look at guys they think can play," NBA director of scouting Ryan Blake said. "And again, when you get guys that are coming in, most of the first-round draft picks, [teams are] not looking for go-to-guys. These guys aren't going to go, 'OK, you're going to be our No. 1 option.' They're looking for guys that can fit in a role."
That could fit James to a T. Projected as the 20th pick to the San Antonio Spurs by ESPN.com's Chad Ford -- as well as on other mock drafts -- James would go to a solid, veteran club where he could gain tremendous experience and have time to learn about the NBA game, much the way DeJuan Blair did this year with the Spurs.