Oklahoma Football: Sooner Stars and Their NBA Draft Prospect Counterparts
Let's have some fun, shall we? Over the past few weeks, I'm sure many of you have read numerous articles on "what the Sooners need to fix before next season starts," "reasonable goals for the Sooners next season" and "who needs to step up on the roster."
If those articles are your bread and butter, then I'm sorry for posting this. However, if you're bored of the monotony, then this article is for you!
In the spirit of the 2012 NBA draft having just taken place, it's only fitting to use that event to my advantage. The concept of this article is simple—name an OU star and find his NBA prospect counterpart. While it may seem irrational to compare a college football player to a college basketball player, I promise I'll try to make the reasoning seem as thought out as possible.
In any case, it should at least be more interesting than hearing why Landry Jones needs to be better in order for the Sooners to succeed for the 10th time this month.
Here's to hoping there are a few basketball fans out there that are willing to read this. Don't worry, though, I've embedded breakdowns of each prospect for those of you that aren't as familiar with the players listed.
Dominique Whaley Is Damian Lillard
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Damian Lillard, Point Guard, Weber State University
Lillard has played all four seasons at Weber State, progressively getting better each year. As a senior, Lillard really came out of the woodwork to make a name for himself.
Lillard is a scoring point guard that averaged over 24 points per game last season, but he's a well-rounded athlete and an extremely hard worker.
I could have taken the cop-out move and chosen a prospect that has come back from an injury to succeed, but that would have been speculation—we can't determine that Whaley is going to come back at full strength like nothing ever happened.
Instead, I'm choosing Whaley's counterpart to be Lillard based on a few different aspects of their collegiate careers. First, the scoring aspect. Before getting injured, Whaley had also rushed for nine touchdowns in just six games, putting him on pace for close to 20 touchdowns last season.
He's a dynamic rusher with a knack of getting into the end zone, which complements Lillard's dynamic scoring ability.
Secondly, both Whaley and Lillard weren't highly touted recruits coming out of high school. Lillard chose Weber State, a relatively small university in Utah, where as Whaley elected to play at Langston University, a small, predominantly black college in Langston, Oklahoma.
After working hard and improving each year, Lillard has seen his draft stock soar. He is finally getting recognition for all his time spent in the gym. Whaley, on the other hand, decided not to stick it out in Langston. Instead, he chose to walk on to one of the most prestigious college football programs in the country.
The amount of hard work Whaley had to put into earning a spot on the team, let alone the starting gig, speaks volumes to his dedication and drive to get on the field, produce and be noticed. That's where he and Lillard are the most alike.
Landry Jones Is Tyler Zeller
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Tyler Zeller, Center, North Carolina
Zeller is a four-year prospect out of North Carolina. As a 6'11"-7'0" center, Zeller excels at using his athleticism to run the floor and is likely the most offensively polished big man in the draft. He has a repertoire of post moves to go along with a decent mid-range jumper.
Defensively, Zeller is big enough to get by defending players his size, but the "wow" factor isn't there. Though that area of his game remains raw, he is a hard worker and should be one of the first few big men to come off the board.
I promise this comparison isn't solely based on the fact that both Jones and Zeller are two big, goofy white dudes. While this factor may prove to be beneficial to my analysis, these two actually have quite a bit in common.
Both players had a chance to leave after their junior seasons, decided it wasn't their time and returned to school for their senior year. Zeller improved his game and draft status, while Jones' future remains uncertain (though it's hard to think he won't show improvement, as well).
Both players are top-five at their position. However, they excel at certain aspects of their game but show major flaws that will keep them from being the No. 1 player at their position.
Zeller excels on offense and running the floor; Jones thrives on crisp, accurate short-medium passes to move the chains. Zeller shows weaknesses on defense and isn't a great shot-blocker for his size, Jones shows weaknesses moving in and out of the pocket and isn't a super accurate deep-ball thrower for the amount of arm strength he possesses.
Neither may be ready to start at the next level just yet, but both players have the work ethic to achieve success wherever they go. Most importantly, though, they're both big, goofy white dudes.
Tony Jefferson Is Jeff Taylor
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Jeff Taylor, Small Forward, Vanderbilt
Taylor is another player that was talented enough to leave after his junior season but elected to stay in school and improve on his weaknesses instead. Taylor is a defensive stalwart, a 6'7" swingman with elite athleticism.
For any Thunder fans out there, think of a younger, more Swedish (less Swiss) version of Thabo Sefolosha. However, Taylor has vastly improved his jump shot, making him not only a great defender but a spot-up shooting threat, as well.
Finding a counterpart for Tony Jefferson was harder than most on this list, but it had to be done. I considered Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the elite defense and intangibles, but ultimately, Taylor brings a similar game for a lower price.
What I mean is, Kidd-Gilchrist is the No. 2 draft pick, which is equivalent to a top-five draft pick in the NFL. Taylor shapes up more as a second- or third-rounder in the NFL, which is where Jefferson is likely to fall (though, with two more great seasons, a first-round pick definitely isn't out of the question). There's just a lot of really solid competition at his position.
Still, Jefferson is the best defensive player that Oklahoma has to offer and his versatility is second to none. Even while playing relatively out of position at nickel back last season, Jefferson still managed to top his highly productive freshman season. Now that he's back at free safety, you can expect his numbers to go up once again.
Taylor, like Jefferson, relies on his athleticism to make him a versatile, well-rounded defender. Taylor has the speed, length and defensive IQ to guard multiple positions.
It may not be a perfect comparison, but it's about as close as we're going to get.
Kenny Stills Is Jeremy Lamb
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Jeremy Lamb, Shooting Guard, UConn
Lamb is one of the top shooting guards in the draft class. With the ball, Lamb is able to get his own shot off the dribble. However, he may be an even bigger scoring threat without the ball. Much like former UConn shooting guard Richard Hamilton, Lamb excels at moving off of screens and knocking down open jump shots.
Lamb has the skills (and the freakishly long wingspan) to be an elite defender at the next level, but will he be motivated to work hard on both ends of the court? Lamb could be an All-Star at the next level, or he could be Nick Young.
This is one of my favorite comparisons in this article. The only thing that would make it better is if Kenny Stills constantly looked like he was about to fall asleep (seriously, what gives, Jeremy?).
Here are two athletes that are big-time playmakers, possess all the raw ability in the world and should continue to excel at the next level when the time comes. However, both players also possess the same ability to disappear from time to time and appear unmotivated. Here's where it really gets neat, though: Both players were put in a position to step up and become leaders before they were ready, therefore, they had little time to adjust and sometimes felt the pressure.
For Lamb, winning a national championship and being the second most important player on your team as a freshman maybe felt like the peak of what he could achieve. Though his production went up statistically during his sophomore year, he no longer had Kemba Walker around to lead him through big games. The Huskies were bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament and Lamb could do very little to stop it from happening.
For Stills, winning a bowl game while putting up ridiculously good statistics and being the second most important receiver on your team as a freshman maybe felt like the peak of what he could achieve. Stills continued to put up good statistics last season, but when Ryan Broyles went down with an injury, Stills started slipping. He dropped passes that he would normally catch with ease and never stepped up to be the No. 1 receiver like Sooner fans thought he would.
To be fair, Stills had one week to prepare to be the top-dog on the depth chart while Lamb had an entire offseason to prepare, but I still think they're eerily similar situations. Who knew that Kemba Walker and Ryan Broyles are actually the same person? The more you know...
Tom Wort Is Draymond Green
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Draymond Green, Forward, Michigan State
First and foremost, Draymond Green is a leader. He was the floor general for the Spartans last season, leading his team to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament while putting up big time numbers across the board. Despite being a power forward, Green was able to handle the ball and act as a "floor general" on numerous.
At this point, Green is being slightly undervalued due to his "tweener" status. He's a bit undersized to play power forward in the NBA, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in heart. He will play his hardest for you night in and night out. He will be a welcomed commodity to any NBA roster.
I did a player profile on Tom Wort earlier in the week that you can read here, so I won't go into a lot of specifics on what exactly makes Wort the type of player he is. However, what I will reiterate is the amount of heart and determination Wort is able to show on the field during every game, despite being a tad undersized for his position.
Wort is able to put up nice statistics for box-score fans, but his "never give up" type of attitude is what really makes him special. He has a nose for the ball and isn't afraid to take on anybody.
If that's not Green in a nutshell, then I don't even know why I'm writing this article. Like Green, Wort is likely to stay all four years in school working on the ins and outs of his overall game. Also, like Green, Wort is likely to be undervalued by the time draft day rolls around do to his "tweener" size.
One thing is definitely true about them both, though, and that's the fact that they are natural leaders. Wort has always been an on-the-field motivator, but with Travis Lewis now gone to the NFL, Wort will need to step up into a full-time leader, both on and off the field.
Just like Green, any team at the next level will be lucky to have Wort on their roster. Their drive and intensity make their teammates better just being around them.