8 Unheralded College Prospects Who Will Make Big Names and NBA Paychecks

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterNovember 14, 2012

8 Unheralded College Prospects Who Will Make Big Names and NBA Paychecks

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    Apparently, they only televise the big schools nationally.

    That is why you may have never seen some of the most talented players in the country.

    The 2012 NBA draft saw Damian Lillard from Weber State get plucked after five picks and Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure go Top 20. The second round saw five mid-major prospects get selected, which just goes to show that there's hidden talent stashed around the country.

    Here are the unheralded prospects most likely to hear their name called in June, and ultimately cash an NBA paycheck by the start of next season.

Isaiah Canaan, Murray State

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    Isaiah Canaan has star qualities about him that make you believe he can overcome his physical deficiencies.

    Last year, he was the catalyst for the top mid-major program in America, consistently making plays as the focal point of opposing defenses. This guy hit big shot after big shot, at the rim or 27 feet away.

    We're not sure what he is—a point guard, a scorer...but who cares? Sometimes, you just have to throw numbers out the window and trust your eyes.

    He's shot over 40 percent from downtown in three consecutive years and has the potential to play a prominent perimeter role in an NBA rotation.

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

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    Last year, he was unheralded. This year, he's that guy from Lehigh who put up 30 on Duke and knocked them out of the NCAA tournament.

    The question no longer is whether he'll be drafted, rather how high.

    Some still wondered whether the Duke game was a fluke. So he opened his senior year by dropping a harsh 36 points on No. 19-ranked Baylor.

    McCollum is a wizard with the basketball. One time, he crossed up his defender so bad that it literally started raining on the court.

    Whether it's east and west off the pull-up or north and south attacking the rim, McCollum offers the full offensive package for a combo guard. He balances scoring with playmaking and looks destined to follow in Damian Lillard's footsteps as the top mid-major guard off the board.

Ray McCallum, Detroit

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    Ray McCallum has been on draft radars for a while now and could bring a sense of stability to an NBA backcourt.

    He's almost the perfect size for a point guard, with a defined upper body and strong, 6'3" frame. McCallum is a no-nonsense ball-handler, dribbling with poise and purpose yet minimal "dancing."

    McCallum isn't overly quick, but he's effective off the bounce. I can picture him now, dribbling over a ball-screen and pulling up inside the arc. His game just seems to fit the NBA mold.

    I'll admit, his three-point percentage and shooting consistency will play a huge role in his future outlook, but the mechanics and work ethic are promising for improvement.

Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

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    He's one of the craftiest ball-handlers in the nation. More sneaky than quick, Wolters uses the hesitation dribble to put his defender on his heels before leaving him pants down and shoelaces untied. He can pull up off two feet and hit floaters off one. Word is someone actually saw Wolters score off neither foot once.

    His effectiveness off the dribble will help offset some of his physical limitations, like strength and explosiveness. Wolters recognizes defenders out of position and immediately pounces. He reads defenses, breaks them down and makes the play as either a finisher or distributor.

    His offensive arsenal is unlimited, in that you see him do something different practically once every game.

    Wolters dropped 30 in the opener against Alabama, who isn't likely to be his only victim this season. Expect to hear the words "South Dakota State" a little more than you're used to.

Tony Mitchell, North Texas

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    Tony Mitchell was always highly touted, but disappeared to North Texas after things fell through in Missouri.

    As a freshman, he ate the Sun Belt Conference for breakfast, averaging nearly 15 points and 10 boards while shooting 44 percent from downtown.

    Mitchell takes up a ridiculous amount of space, using his 7'3'' wingspan to disrupt passing lanes and contest shots. His two-way potential will maximize his services on the floor, making him a more appealing prospect to teams weary of his competition.

    Rebounding, shot-blocking, shooting and running are all skills he's got listed on his resume. Expect prospective employers to put his name at the top of their stacks.

    It really only took one year to recognize the upside. That's all we needed.

Doug McDermott, Creighton

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    Doug McDermott lacks every desirable physical NBA attribute, but makes up for it with instincts and a high skill level.

    There isn't an angle he hasn't encountered or spot on the floor he hasn't shot from. Defenders who think they have him cornered look foolish. McDermott can weave between disruptive arms and clutter at the rim. It's almost like he's got two pivot feet.

    He's also a three-point assassin, nailing an absurd 49 percent from downtown as a sophomore.

    McDermott will battle Cody Zeller for National Player of the Year, after he averaged 23 points and eight boards last season. He's an NBA player in a mid-major conference who will look even better if he beats up on more prominent programs.

Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State

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    Physically more advanced than your average college athlete, Carmichael has a strong, 6'9'' frame, built upper body and thick, powerful legs. But it's his skill set at this size that might land him an NBA paycheck.

    Carmichael has a back-to-the-basket game from the high post and can score over either shoulder. He's an aggressive presence inside, which contributed to his 9.7 rebounds and 53 percent clip from the field as a junior.

    Regarded as a high-character individual, if you've ever heard him speak, you wouldn't question the reputation.

    He put up 27 and 10 in Illinois State's opening UC Santa Barbara beat-down and looks primed for a breakout year that should land him on NBA draft boards. With a chance for the Redbirds to be a force in the Missouri Valley Conference, Carmichael might be a name that garners recognition in early March.

Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State

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    With long arms and explosive athleticism, Jamaal Franklin is built for the NBA wing.

    He lacks a conscience, which has its ups and downs, particularly at the college level when he's relied on every night.

    But in the NBA, where he'll have veteran pros taking most of the shots, Franklin won't have to worry about creating nearly as much. Making plays off the ball, on the break and above the rim is exactly where Franklin's athleticism gives him the advantage over others.

    After increasing his scoring average from three to 17 points from his first year to the next, he's caught the attention of many around the game. Teams with dull 2's and 3's might want Franklin to inject some life into the lineup when their energy level plummets.