The one thing that franchises won’t be able to teach the prospects they draft is experience. That’s an invaluable asset that only a few prospects in this year’s class truly have a lot of.
Many of the top prospects in this year’s class only went to college for a year or two before forgoing the rest of their collegiate career in order to declare for the draft. Take Nerlens Noel of Kentucky, who left after his freshman year. Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter both left after their sophomore campaigns. Many others did the same.
Rarely in this day and age do you see a large number of college seniors drafted. But this year, there are a couple who should go in the first round, and several will hear their names called in the second round on Thursday night. So, which seniors are the ones to keep an eye on?
Here’s a look at the most notable seniors in the 2013 draft class and three in particular who I’ll deem as the crème of the small crop.
Notable Seniors (in no particular order)
|Nate Wolters||PG||South Dakota St.|
|Isaiah Canaan||PG||Murray St.|
|Erick Green||PG/SG||Virginia Tech|
|James Ennis||SG/SF||Long Beach St.|
|Robert Covington||SF||Tennessee St.|
3. Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Jeff Withey isn’t the top Jayhawk in this year’s draft class, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll go undrafted or anything. Withey is one of the best big men available in 2013, and he’ll likely go somewhere in the middle of the first round or toward the back. The best part about the seven-footer is that he continues to improve with time.
Withey never played much as a freshman or a sophomore, but once he became a junior, he emerged into a star. In 2011-12, he averaged nine points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks in 24.8 minutes per night. He also shot 53.6 percent from the field and nearly 80 percent from the free-throw line.
This past season was easily Withey’s best at Kansas. He scored 13.7 points per night with 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks. He also shot 58.2 percent from the floor. He might not average a double-double in the NBA, but he’ll definitely be a guy that grabs around eight boards per night and blocks a handful of shots.
2. Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray St.
There have only been 22 players ever to get drafted out of Murray State, according to Basketball-Reference. Isaiah Canaan will definitely be the 23rd in the program’s history, as he’ll be taken at some point Thursday night. Canaan has been a big part of the school’s success over the last few years, and his hard work will soon pay off.
Canaan came to Murray State and made an instant impact as a freshman. In 2009-10, he played around 20 minutes per night and put a little more than 10 points on the board. Canaan’s points per game average increased in each of the following three years. This past season, the point guard averaged nearly 22 points per night.
Canaan clearly knows how to put points on the scoreboard, and it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll struggle making the transition to the NBA. He has a sharp shot from two- and three-point territory, and better defenders aren't going to change that. He does, however, need to reach at least 200 pounds before the season starts.
1. C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh
There’s no question that C.J. McCollum is the most talented senior in this year’s class, as he’ll likely go somewhere in the first 10 picks tonight. McCollum really got his name out there while at Lehigh with his great scoring ability and impact on the glass. He’s an experienced point guard bound to be a star in the NBA.
McCollum played at least 30 minutes per game in all four of his years at Lehigh. If he had scored 29 more points during his freshman year, he would have averaged at least 20 points in all four as well. Still, scoring 19.1 points per night in your freshman year is nothing to scoff at. Neither are the 23.9 points he averaged this past season.
McCollum is easily one of the top shooters in this year’s draft class. During his senior season, he shot 49.5 percent from the field, 51.6 percent from downtown and 84.9 percent from the charity stripe. He’s a shoot-first, pass-second kind of guy, as he averaged fewer than three assists a year ago. Still, he’s a valuable guard to have if he continues to shoot the lights out.