Monday, July 16
Updated: July 17, 12:22 PM ET
Future classes must study for NBA
By Andy Katz
NBA scouts didn't stay long at the Nike or adidas camps last week. There wasn't as much reason this season. There weren't as many players who would or could make the jump and declare for the NBA draft next spring.
But does that mean the Class of 2002 is poor, perhaps, even down from the class of 2001? Does this spell doom for college basketball?
In fact, it might be the beginning of a new trend over the next few seasons. The Class of 2002 could signal the start of players actually staying on college campuses longer.
"I don't think we lose very much (when a few go to the NBA)," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "If you have three- to four-year players in the program, then down the road, you're going to have a chance to be a better team."
And that's what this class is filled with, some impact players, a ton of contributors and plenty of role players, especially on the perimeter.
"There's plenty of good players, maybe not great ones, but there's still plenty of impact players in this class," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "You're not going to see four high school players in the top 10 every year in the draft."
Last month, four high school players -- Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and DeSagana Diop -- were selected among the top eight players in the draft. Three went in the top four and a fifth high school senior -- Ousmane Cisse -- went in the second round. A record six declared early, with only Tony Key going undrafted.
The common thread among the five, however, is each are big men. And the recent trend of seeing elite big men skip to the NBA will likely continue with the Class of 2002. The 6-foot-10 Amare Stoudemire (Orlando Cypress Creek High/Fla.) and 6-10 Sani Ibrahim (Oak Hill Academy/Va.) are the two most likely big men, along with 6-6 wing Lenny Cooke to skip college altogether.
The class of 2001 had a few more smaller players who were on the NBA radar screen, yet chose to go to college. Players like points DaJuan Wagner (Memphis) and Jonathan Hargett (West Virginia) and wings Kelvin Torbert (Michigan State) and James White (Florida). A few more players out of last year's class might not be as long for the college game if they live up to their hype. Players like David Lee (Florida), Jawad Williams (North Carolina), center Jamal Sampson (Cal) and wing Dijon Thompson (UCLA).
But the consensus last week out of Indianapolis and Teaneck, N.J., was there were enough players in this class to feed the masses, plenty of players who will stem the constant defection to the NBA. There were players who had the potential to bolt but were clearly not as developed in their game at this stage.
"It's a good year, just maybe not as good a year for straight to the pros guys," Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said. "Depth wise, it's fine. Most of the players in this class will be in college for a while. This is even better for colleges because there will be more top guys trickling down with fewer going to the NBA."
We're still only talking about five from the class of 2001 who won't be in college. The sixth, Key, wasn't expected to be eligible anyway. The previous class (2000) lost only two players to the draft, but neither Darius Miles nor DeShawn Stevenson was eligible. While the class of 2000 ultimately lost Zach Randolph, Eddie Griffin, Gerald Wallace, Omar Cook and Alton Ford after one season in college -- when all five were drafted last month -- the fact remains they still went for one season and had a significant impact on their respective teams.
The class of 2002, with players like 6-1 point Raymond Felton (Latta High/S.C.) and wing 6-4 Rashad McCants (New Hampton Prep/N.H.) -- both committed to North Carolina -- 6-foot Saginaw (Mich.) High point Anthony Roberson (Florida), guards 6-5 J.J. Redick of Roanoke (Va.) Cave Spring High and Chicago Julian High 6-2 Sean Dockery (Duke) and wings 6-3 Colony (Texas) High Bracey Wright (leaning toward Indiana), 6-7 Los Angeles Fairfax High Evan Burns (undecided, but staying in the West) and 6-7 Oak Hill Academy (Va.) Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse) prove there are enough impact players for the 2002-03 season. But instead of being "can't miss" NBA talents today, they might have to take a more traditional route in order to develop, which in the end will benefit college basketball.
"There aren't as many big guys in this class that will go to the NBA like the last one," said Tulsa (Okla.) Victory Christian High wing Kelenna Azubuike, who has flirted with thinking about the NBA. "It just takes some players longer to develop and this class will be good and have players ready to go to the league. I'm confident this class is an NBA class of the future."
But the evaluations of college coaches are being tested from Nos. 50 to 100 in the class of 2002 and '03. That's where the programs will find stability, players who might develop into NBA talents, but aren't a lock to bolt straight from high school or after only one or two seasons in college.
"You've got to do a good job evaluating the players from 50 to 100 because those are the players who end up lasting the longest," Virginia assistant Tom Herrion said. "The top 50 aren't all going or staying in college. But the 50 to 100 are your three to four-year guys."
The Nike and adidas camps provide more of a showcase for open-court players rather than traditional halfcourt, low-post play. That meant plenty of spotlight play for Cooke, 6-7 junior LeBron James (St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio), McCants, Roberson and Felton. The big men in the class aren't really big men, in terms of their traditional approach to the game. Sure, Stoudemire, 6-10 Torin Francis (Tabor Academy/Mass.), Ibrahim, 6-10 Shelden Williams (Midwest City High/Okla.), 6-10 Shavlik Randolph (Raleigh Broughton High/N.C.), 6-8 Sean May (Bloomington North High/Ind.), 6-9 Jason Fraser (Amityville High/N.Y.) and 6-10 Paul Davis (Rochester Hills/Mich.) can post up, but most would rather play facing the basket.
"This is a wings class," LSU assistant Kermit Davis said. "There aren't your traditional big men, that's for sure."
But it's also a class where the wealth should be spread more evenly. The 5/8 scholarship reduction, which limits five scholarships to schools in a given recruiting season, and no more than eight in two seasons, means there has to be enough players to go around. Everyone is affected, but the elite schools can't gobble up everyone, even if they lose more players to the NBA.
"Right now, a lot of these kids are being over evaluated because there is so little time," Rice coach Willis Wilson said of the two-week evaluation period this summer. The first week ended Saturday and the second one will begin July 25. Schools had 24 days last July. "Big schools are looking at kids they normally wouldn't look at but they need to, to be sure, even if they're not really that good. In the big picture, there aren't many great players at the high school level this year and that will effect the rest of us."
Actually, the fewer great players means more good players for college basketball and, at this stage, the game will take what it can get to keep its players in school.
A scare for Dahntay
||It's a good year, just maybe not as good a year for straight to the pros guys. Depth wise, it's fine. Most of the players in this class will be in college for a while. This is even better for colleges because there will be more top guys trickling down with fewer going to the NBA. ”
||— Bobby Lutz,
Charlotte head coach
Dahntay Jones got a serious scare last week at the ABCD adidas camp when a trainer told him he broke his right foot. But the Duke redshirt junior only rolled the ankle and is still on track to have a major impact, not only for the Blue Devils, but also the U.S. national team heading to the World Championships for Young Men in Japan later this month.
The 6-5 Jones was going through a workout as a camp counselor when he suffered the injury last week in Teaneck, N.J.
"It scared me a lot," Jones said. "I didn't think it was broken but the trainer said it was.I didn't want to be out for an eight-week period. I need as much time as possible to work on my game."
Jones said he needs the U.S. national team play to get him back in game shape. He said he missed the competitive edge after redshirting at Duke and is hungry for his own piece of a national championship.
"You've got to get the kinks out when you redshirt," Jones said. "I got a chance to observe coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) and how to carry yourself on and off the court. I got a lot out of the redshirt year. But I'm very hungry and need to get into game situations. I need to get into that flow and rhythm."
Jones said he felt a part of Duke's national title because he practiced, but still felt far away from the emotion the players had after beating Arizona in Minneapolis. That's why any setback would be cruel in his quest to get back on the court after transferring from Rutgers.
Rush ready to roll
|Kareem Rush says staying at Missouri another season is in his -- not to mention the Tigers' -- best interests.
Kareem Rush has bulked up the past few months, his thumb has healed and his mind is focused on getting Missouri to the Final Four -- not to mention himself into the lottery next spring.
The junior scoring wing is as confident as he ever has been prior to a season after spending the week as a counselor at the Nike camp working on his game. He flirted with trying to get a waiver for the U.S. national team. Coach Jim Boeheim would have taken him and wanted him, but Rush turned down two previous requests for a waiver. USA Basketball wasn't expected to grant him one in time for next week's practices in Dallas, were the roster will get cut from 15 (possibly 16 if Duke point Jason Williams shows up) down to 12.
Regardless, Rush is ready to have as much impact at Missouri as any other player on a particular team next season. He's as determined to give Williams a run for player of the year and a preseason favorite for the honors in the Big 12.
"If I didn't get hurt last year, then I would have thought about leaving," Rush said. "I want to come back strong."
Rush doesn't buy into the theory that the longer he stays in college the more likely he'll slide in the draft. In fact, with Rush, it's likely the opposite. He keeps getting better, his shot more productive as well as selective, his ballhandling harder to defend and his nose for the ball around the basket enhanced when it comes to rebounding.
"You can get better in college," said Rush, having to state the obvious to defend the onslaught on the game by the record number of underclassmen who declared in the spring. "I don't buy into that. It's all about whether or not a person is ready to go and this year, if I play well enough, then I'll be ready to go. It's up to the player.
"College coaches teach you things that you don't know out of high school, like passing and shooting the ball. You're not ready to go out of high school, in terms of knowing how to weight lift as well as mentally to be an 18-year old in the real world."
Rush should know -- he has two good examples on each spectum. Former teammate Keyon Dooling bolted after his sophomore season a year ago and went in the lottery. His brother JaRon went undrafted after leaving UCLA a year ago.
"I know the highs and lows of the draft," said Rush, who missed seven games with the thumb injury last season, but returned to score 31 points in a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament and 29 in the second-round loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament. "Both of those guys will factor into my decision. My brother and Keyon have been giving me advice as well as the coaching staff. I don't want to be wondering where I'll be going. I want to know for sure."
Rush will get the most touches next season and will likely mimic his 21-point average. But the Tigers have a secondary option in Clarence Gilbert (16.5 ppg), who will have to play some point when Wesley Stokes (6.4 ppg) isn't on the court. There are also plenty of potential scorers inside in Arthur Johnson (9.0 ppg), Travon Bryant (3.0 ppg) and Rickey Paulding (7 ppg). Newcomers -- Najeeb Echols and Jeffrey Ferguson -- will get plenty of minutes on the wings. True low-post scoring and interior defense could be a problem, but the Tigers will be tough to defend in the open court.
"Clarence will be a scoring threat as well as play the point and he'll be a leader for us," said Rush of Gilbert, who had trouble accepting an understudy role to Rush last season and was suspended for a game to get his act in order.
"I'm improving on my dribbling to pull-up off the dribble and shoot off the first step," Rush added. "We're going to be good this year. We've got a great staff and a great atmosphere down there."
Penn State coach Jerry Dunn faces the same dilemma that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim will in two weeks. He'll have to make cuts on the U.S. National team roster after just two days. Boeheim will have three to four cuts to make two days after the team convenes in Dallas in two weeks for the World Championship of Young Men tournament in Japan. Dunn has to do the same two days into tryouts in Denver in August for the World University Games team heading to China. "They are some of the hardest cuts you'll ever have to make," Dunn said.
Oregon State coach Ritchie McKay said redshirt forward Phillip Ricci is finally ready to make an impact for the Beavers. Ricci sat out last season with a nagging knee injury, but he has bulked up and is tearing up his summer workouts. Ricci should step in and be the starting power forward next to Brian Jackson. The Beavers won't have a true center and Ricci will be asked to do more of the low-post scoring with Jackson more of a face-the-basket big man.
Temple's schedule got harder last week when John Chaney said David Hawkins will sit out the first semester because of academics. Hawkins, who was originally signed to go to Tulane last season, was a pleasant surprise averaging a fourth-best 10.4 points as an inside-out scorer. Hawkins absence means more of an emphasis on Kevin Lyde , Alex Wesby and Ron Rollerson -- who is spending the summer trying to get into better shape again.
St. Joseph's will have a new Hawk mascot, but the old one isn't straying too far. Phil Martelli knew Sarah Brennan took her duties seriously and he wasn't about to see her flap her wings in another profession. Once Brennan graduated, Martelli hired her to be his director of basketball operations.
"If they pass that the third assistant can go on the road next summer, it makes it even more appropriate to not have a coach in the director of basketball operations," Martelli said. "Sarah is going to handle our team travel, scheduling and stuff. I've never had a director of basketball operations and she seemed like the perfect fit."
No word yet on whether or not Brennan will have a say on her successor.
The BYU-Hawaii hosted Yahoo Invitational set its matchup for Dec. 20-22. Tulsa will play Buffalo and Navy plays Montana on Dec. 20, while Valparaiso will play New Mexico State and Columbia will face BYU-Hawaii in Honolulu in the other bracket.
Don't be shocked if oft-troubled Cincinnati center Donald Little makes his way back in the good graces of the Bearcats program. Little has the summer to clean up his act and try to get back on the roster come fall.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.