With the Louisville stars celebrating their victory over Michigan in the NCAA tournament Monday night, breakout stars from other teams are looking toward the NBA draft as an opportunity to continue to make their marks on the basketball world.
Despite their less stunning regular seasons, there are a few players who improved their draft stock during the tournament and will probably be drafted too high come June 27. One such player is Michigan forward Mitch McGary.
The freshman star demonstrated notable play and improvement during the NCAA tournament. In particular, he helped his team to a 61-56 win over Syracuse in the Final Four game on April 6 with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes. McGary also shined in the tournament against Kansas on March 29, totaling 25 points and 14 rebounds.
When asked about his plans to return to Michigan next season after the loss to Louisville, McGary replied simply, “I’m not going to answer that question right now.” (per MLive) If the 6'10" forward does choose to enter the draft, he will likely ride into a solid position on his NCAA tournament fame.
However, McGary might not be ready to be a reliable NBA player, if he’s ready for the league at all. Having just finished his freshman season, he’s young and still learning and improving. Moreover, McGary has had a problem with weight fluctuation, which is cause for concern. He weighed 275 lbs at one point this season and had to diet and train to get down to 255 lbs in time for the NCAA tournament.
Another player who saw his draft stock rise in the tournament was Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early. The small school player helped lead his team to shocking wins all the way to the Final Four, where the Wichita Shockers ultimately lost to Louisville.
The 6'8" junior played incredibly well during the tournament, totaling at least seven rebounds during each game. Despite Wichita’s loss to Louisville, Early gave it his all against the Cardinals on April 6. He totaled 24 points and 10 rebounds in 37 minutes of game play.
However, Early’s regular-season statistics are much lower, suggesting that perhaps his NCAA tournament play was an isolated occurrence. For the 2012-13 season, the forward averaged 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.6 assists and a field-goal percentage of .455 in 25.1 minutes per game.
NBA teams will likely remember Early as the standout player who led an unlikely small school to the Final Four, which may not be to their benefit. Teams considering Early need to look at his season-long performance in addition to his breakout postseason.