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Three college prospects to watch in the NBA

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

June 8, 2004 | ESPN.com's NBA draft coverage

The NBA draft is right around the corner -- Thursday, June 24 in New York City (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET; ESPN also has an NBA draft preview show on June 23 at 10 p.m. ET).

As we have found out over the past few years, the draft selection process is all about Mr. Po -- potential, potential, potential.
Ben Gordon
After winning a national title at UConn, guard Ben Gordon is ready to contribute right away in the NBA.

Many teams are no longer picking for immediate help, instead looking for long-term aid and thinking about the future.

Just look at what the Detroit Pistons did last season, taking Darko Milicic at No. 2 over Denver Nuggets guard Carmelo Anthony. If the Pistons had Anthony, imagine the scoring punch they would have added to their rotation.

Then again, look at what the Pistons did in Game 1 of the NBA Finals vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. It was defense, defense, defense, baby, as the Pistons won 87-75.

Going into this draft, Connecticut center Emeka Okafor and Saint Joseph's guard Jameer Nelson certainly will be able to step in and help the NBA team that drafts them right away, unlike so many of the high-school phenoms drafted on potential who usually need years to mature.

But there are also other college prospects who intrigue me because of their style of play, their physical stature and their maturity -- especially guard Ben Gordon (Okafor's UConn teammate), Wisconsin guard Devin Harris and Nevada guard Kirk Snyder. I feel that this trio can step into the NBA and contribute off the bench immediately.

I'm not saying these three will start right away, but they could get significant minutes and contribute to an NBA team's success. They all have a winner's mentality and play unselfish basketball.

Along with Okafor, Gordon won a championship this year at UConn. Gordon can flat-out shoot the rock, and while some claim that his ball-handling skills are limited, that's an area he can work on. He will be a solid NBA player.

I like Harris' combination-guard skills. Harris just kept getting better and better on the collegiate level. He's the kind of player who will make shots and handle the ball. He's a solid defender too.

I've also been impressed with Snyder. After watching him play, I wasn't shocked that Nevada did some damage in the NCAA Tournament, moving on past Michigan State and Gonzaga into the Sweet 16. Snyder has great size (6-foot-6, 225 pounds), excellent perimeter skills and great vision. He can score and seems to understand how to play the game. Snyder has a good basketball IQ and a good understanding of shot selection.

Keep an eye on these three players -- they will be factors in the NBA.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he has been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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