NBA Draft 2012: 7 Big East Studs Who Will Take the League by Storm
One more season of college basketball is in the books and it looks as if the Big East will remain the "Class of the NCAA" in 2012.
Top to bottom, the Big East has fielded the best teams in college basketball in recent years. So it shouldn't be any surprise that the basketball "super-conference" has also featured some of the nation's most talented players.
While most, if not all, of the Big East's superstars are zeroed in on preparing for March madness, there is still the very real fact that the NBA draft is looming. For a select few, this means the realization of lifelong dreams and becoming a millionaire overnight.
Here are seven Big East stars who have the drive and the ability to make a huge impact at the next level.
Andre Drummond, C, UConn
It's been a down year for Connecticut hoops compared to how dominant they've been over the last decade and a half.
Everyone expected a bit of a hangover from Kemba Walker's departure, but Jim Calhoun's recent health issues were as unforeseen as they were devastating.
One bright spot for the Huskies this season has been center Andre Drummond.
Drummond has averaged solid numbers in his freshman season with 10 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.
Despite being only 18, Drummond already boasts an NBA ready physique, standing 6'11" and tipping the scales at 250 pounds.
If you could combine the strength and aggressiveness of Emeka Okafor and the length and shot-blocking ability of Hasheem Thabeet, the end result would come out looking strikingly similar to Andre Drummond.
While he's still a little raw, Drummond has the skill set and the pedigree to become a legitimate front court threat at the next level, and should get thrown in the mix pretty quickly once he lands in the NBA.
Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
Syracuse is renowned for their guard play, especially in recent years with the likes of Jerry McNamara, Johnny Flynn and Eric Devendorf having worn the orange.
Dion Waiters is doing a solid job of carrying that mantle.
The Philadelphia, PA native had an off and on freshman year during Syracuse's tournament run. Many in the sport's community speculated whether or not Waiters would turn his back on coach Jim Boeheim and transfer out of 'Cuse.
Waiters stayed, though his numbers this season don't really jump off the page, (11.9 points, 2.6 assists, 1.9 steals,) he is shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and he's doing it for the current No. 2 ranked team in the land; which has five players nearly averaging double figures per game.
Waiters is undersized for a shooting guard at 6'4", which might slow his transition at the next level. However, he is a more than capable ball-handler and teams might be able to work him in at either the one and two spot depending on the situation.
Waiters is a good shooter who plays with control, and many expect him to be able to bring the same type of game to the NBA hardwood next season.
Jeremy Lamb, G, UConn
Connecticut may not be anywhere close to leading the nation in scoring this year but don't blame Jeremy Lamb.
As I said before, Kemba Walker moving on took a heavy toll on what is a young Huskies team. The need for someone to step into the role of scorer was dire, and Lamb was the guy to answer to call.
The 6'5" sophomore is averaging 17.7 points a night for a top-heavy Connecticut team that is only averaging 68.7 points per game.
Lamb is a natural swing man. He's long at 6'5" and is a more than capable shooter, having averaged nearly 50 percent from the floor all season long.
He's also a good rebounder given his position and poses to be a threat playing from the wing-in once he arrives in the NBA.
Lamb could stay on another year and potentially make a deep tournament run in 2013 with an improved UConn squad. But he's talented enough to make the jump now and get to work on becoming one of the NBA's future elite perimeter players.
Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Another reason Syracuse is where they are in the rankings right now is center Fab Melo.
The native Brazilian and former McDonald's All-American had a slow, patience-testing freshman year that had many questioning how talented he actually was. Lest we all forget, big men tend to develop slower than any other type of player at this, on any level, and Melo is certainly evidence of that.
Melo's sophomore year, though, has been a revelation. Not only is he talented, but he is a 7-footer with undeniable athleticism and the ability to be a real game changer.
And if you don't believe that Melo is a formidable athlete, just watch this.
His numbers may not possess a lot of the "shock and awe" factor but for as young as he is, it's quite a thing to see how far Melo has come in just one season.
Melo could return for another year under Boeheim with what could be an even better Syracuse line-up in 2013. I doubt it, though.
Melo fits the mold of the increasingly more athletic, more dynamic big men that are starting to populate the NBA and he'll no doubt want to get a seat at the table while there is still room.
Darius Johnson-Odom, G, Marquette
If you're looking for the Big East to produce a quality perimeter shooter this season, look no farther than Darius Johnson-Odom.
The Raleigh, NC native has made his mark at Marquette with his ability to hit from long range and do so with frequency.
As a senior, Johnson-Odom has averaged nearly twenty points per contest while managing to make 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc. In a league full of great, big-framed defenders, it's no small feat to remain as sure handed from long range as Odom-Johnson has.
The biggest thing working against Odom-Johnson is his size, though. At 6'2", he runs the same risk as Dion Waiters in that he won't get nearly the same amount of open looks at the next level as he does now in the NCAA. He is also not noted for his ability to finish around the rim, meaning he will really have to really on his ability to create shots off the dribble.
Still, the influx of small, sharp-shooting guards in the NBA give Johnson-Odom a great deal of hope. There's no question the talent is there and if Darius Johnson-Odom can work hard to fine-tune his shot over the summer, there's no reason he can't emerge as one of the NBA's great young shooters.
Moe Harkless, SF, St. John's
The Red Storm have been down in recent years but their current upswing is apparent and one of the biggest reasons for the Red Storm's rise has been the play of Moe Harkless.
The 6'8" forward has had one of the best seasons of any freshman in the Big East and it's easy to see why.
Averaging 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds a game are numbers worthy of any Big East upperclassmen. But Harkless' combination of size and athleticism make him a daunting defensive assignment for even the most seasoned defender.
If you're looking for a milestone to define Harkless' prolific freshman season, try his performance against Providence where he was able to break Allen Iverson's record for most points scored by a freshman in Big East history.
Harkless can play the game from ten feet out or 25 and does so with fluidity.
At the next level, Harkless could flourish at the small forward position given his athleticism and his handle on the game. While sticking around the New York area for another year wouldn't hurt him, he could lend an immediate helping hand to some lucky NBA team in 2013.
Kevin Jones, F, West Virginia
You'd be hard pressed to find a Big East player more loved by his teammates, his coach and his fanbase.
Simply put, Kevin Jones is one of the ten greatest players in the history of West Virginia basketball.
As part of the Mountaineers' Final Four year a few years ago, Kevin Jones is a born and bred leader with experience in big-game situations.
Forget for a moment that he's averaged a double-double all season as a senior. The core of K.J.'s game lies in his ability to lead and inspire his teammates and take control of a game.
Whether it's cleaning up around the boards on either end of the floor or playing shut-down defense, Kevin Jones' game extends far beyond his ability to score.
Jones has been so good, so consistent this season, that ESPN insider Matthew Giles has made the argument that Jones should be the clear-cut front runner for P.O.Y. honors in the Big East.
There's no question that Kevin Jones is ready to step up to the next level. While he may not be the most explosive or dynamic athlete on the floor, Jones is as smart a basketball player as any and his ability to contribute in every facet of the game will give him the ability to become a star in the NBA.