With the 2009 Draft slowly fading into the upcoming season, its time to focus on the exciting new talents we'll be buzzing about aroudn this time next year.
I've kept this to NCAA prospects because I haven't seen enough of top recruits such as John Wall (the projected #1 pick), DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors to rate them accurately. Anyway, I think they'll have trouble upstaging these stars who have proven be forces at their level.
1. Ed Davis (6-9/215; PF; Sophomore; North Carolina)
Blake Griffin was far and away the best player in college basketball last year, Stephen Curry was the most show-stopping talent, but North Carolina freshman Ed Davis, who came off the bench for almost the entire season, well - how do I say this? - impressed me the most. Often unstoppable, Davis has a remarkably smooth post game, is a tenacious rebounder (6.6 rpg in 18.8 mpg), and perhaps best of all, averaged 1.7 blocks per game while playing just about half of every game. He's not an awe-inspiring physical specimen, and considering what he might become should he add 25 pounds to his light frame should be enough to validate his standing as the top NCAA prospect entering the 2009-10 season.
2. Evan Turner (6-7/200; PG/SG;SF; Junior; Ohio State)
Ohio State's Mr. Everything, the 6-7 Evan Turner reminded me of LeBron James occasionally throughout the season, as he had the ball in his hands every possession down the stretch despite not handling it for long stretches during the game, constantly poses mismatch proplems, is extremely unselfish and was let down by his teammates at the end of the season despite playing his heart out (i'm talking to you, BJ Mullens). One of the most efficient players in the country, Turner averaged 17.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4 apg and 1.8 spg, while shooting 50% from the field, an incredible 44% from three, and 78.8% from the line. A point guard in a small forward's body, Turner's game should translate as smoothly to the L as any player in next year's class.
3. Greg Monroe (6-11/234; PF/C; Sophomore; Georgetown)
He was the #1 rated recruit by Rivals for over a year before he was finally replaced by Ohio State-bound big man BJ Mullens, and for good reason: Monroe failed to shine on the national statge, sleepwalking through the McDonald's All-American game, and failing to display any sort of will to take over games. That all changed when he arrived at Georgetown, presumably motivated by the challenge of turning the Hoyas around, as Monroe displayed every bit of his talent, stuffing the stat sheet with averages of 12.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.8 spg and 1.5 bpg, while shooting 57.2% from the field. Agile enough to play small forward and long enough to play center, Monroe's rapidly improving game and finally present tenacity should see him drafted early in the lottery.
4. Willie Warren (6-4/200; SG; Sophomore; Oklahoma)
Reminiscent of Eric Gordon, a top 10 pick in the 2008 draft, Warren is an explosive scorer capable of taking over games at will despite his size. Powerful yet lightning quick, Warren gained fame with one of the greatest posterizations in the history of high school basketball - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a_wW6Zf0Qk - then proved to be invaluable as a freshman at Oklahoma, his presence elevating the Sooners from borderline tournament team to national power. With a frame and game similar to Gordon and Dwyane Wade, this Sooner has a chance to become one of the game's next great combo guards.
5. Cole Aldrich (6-11/250; PF/C; Junior; Kansas)
In just two years in Lawrence the 6-11 Aldrich has compiled a resume worthy of the greatest ever to play for the storied program, playing an instrumental role in their national championship in 2008 while just a freshman, and posting averages of 14.9 and 11.1 while blocking 2.7 shots per game as a sophomore, including the sixth-ever triple double in an NCAA Tournament contest. A ferocious competitor, Aldrich's length and athleticism allowed him to dominate Big 12 big men routinely, including POY Blake Griffin, against whom Aldrich went for 15 points and 20 rebounds while blocking 4 shots. As of now, he's arguably the most complete big man prospect.
6. Patrick Patterson (6-8/235; PF; Junior; Kentucky)
Deemed a likely one-and-done prospect the day he signed with Kentucky, Patterson has shocked fans not once, but twice, returning to school after his freshman and sophomore seasons despite being a surefire first-round pick. Patterson's devastating post game allowed him to post sensational numbers his sophomore year, averaging 17.9 ppg and 9.3 rpg while shooting over 60% from the field. Though scouts feel he should add 10 or 15 pounds, there's nothing light about his game, as he was a beast on the defensive end as well, averaging 2.1 blocks per contest. Primed to lead Kentucky back to the top - the Wildcats signed the top 2 recruits for the 2009-10 season - Patterson's ability to run the floor like a gazelle, combined with his NBA-ready offensive repetoire, will see him ranked among the top big men come draft day.
7. Devin Ebanks (6-8/205; SF; Sophomore; West Virgina)
After making the difficult decision to withdraw his committment to Indiana following Kelvin Sampson's dismissal and instead choosing West Virginia, Ebanks took some time to settle in (scored in double-figures in 6 of his first 19 games), but wound up enjoying an extremely productive freshman campaign with the Mountaineers (scored in double-figures in 14 of his last 17 games). Reminiscent of Rudy Gay, the only real knock on Ebanks is that he's a good 20 pounds underweight, and with that added strength could become a venerable force in the league. Ebanks has a terrific offensive game, a killer instinct, and hustles and defends like a veteran, averaging 7 rpg despite his rail thin frame. In time, Ebanks could become the small forward every GM drools over.
8. Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9/215; SF; Sophomore; Wake Forest)
If Aminu learns to play inside and use his NBA-ready body to its full potential instead of settling for jump shots, we're looking at a top 5 pick. As a freshman, Aminu propelled Wake Forest to new heights alongside first-round picks Jeff Teague and James Johnson, posting 12.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg and 1 spg while remaining consistent throughout the year. Scouts love his athleticism and strength, and a great sophomore campaign could make him the most sought after swingman in the draft.
9. Craig Brackins (6-10/230; PF; Junior; Iowa State)
I admit I didn't see much of him, but scouts enamored of the Iowa State big's size, athleticism, and ability to produce against top competition. An agile 6-10, Brackins caused matchup hell for most everyone he faced last year. You thought DeJuan Blair beasting Hasheem Thabeet, only to be drafted 35 picks later, was bad? How about Brackins dropping 42 and 14 on Cole Aldrich? I'm really psyched to see what he can do next year.
10. Kyle Singler (6-9/201; SF; Junior; Duke)
A protoypical NBA swingman with an rapidly developing offensive game, Singler emerged as the leader of the first contending Duke team in years, averaging 16.5 and 7.7 while playing any one of three positions. Versatile and a proven competitor (his high school squad defeated Kevin Love's seemingly unbeatable Lake Oswego 58-54 in the 2007 Oregon state championship game), Singler has been deemed a can't-miss prospect since he was a underclassmen at high school and will likely continue to be called such until he suits up in the pros.