Thursday night’s NBA Draft was full of surprise and intrigue. Not only were 10 trades consummated during the evening, but several selections left even the best mock-drafters scratching their heads.
Much like the bubble teams in the NCAA Tournament itself, these curious draft choices took slots away from players with very strong resumes. With only 60 total draft picks and a burgeoning pipeline of foreign talent, more and more of the best collegiate players do not hear their names called on Draft Day.
Here are eight of the NCAA’s best who went undrafted in Newark last night.
Jackson closed his college career at Syracuse as one of the top big men in the Big East. The Philadelphia native led the conference in rebounding at 10.6 per game and earned Second Team All-Conference honors.
The 6’9”, 240-lb center reportedly had strong workout sessions for several teams and made appearances in the mid-to-late second round on many mock drafts.
This year’s draft clearly placed a premium on size, and Jackson’s dominance on the glass should have earned him a selection over Florida’s Vernon Macklin.
Lighty has been the heart and soul of a very talented Ohio State squad for the last five years. The 6’5” swing man posted respectable statistics (12.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game) but did all of the little things for coach Thad Matta during his tenure in Columbus.
Lighty was high on many draft boards due to his defensive ability, and other players were clearly drafted solely for this purpose. Few anticipated that fellow teammate Jon Diebler would be the lone Buckeye selected in Newark.
Point guard was a popular position during this year’s draft, and somehow Demetri McCamey was not on the chosen list.
McCamey led Illinois in both scoring and assists in 2011 and developed into a consistent 3-point shooter for his senior season, hitting at a 45% clip from behind the arc.
The Sacramento Kings passed on McCamey with the last pick, selecting Washington junior Isaiah Thomas. McCamey had almost identical statistics to his Pac-10 counterpart—and is a full six inches taller. Expect to see McCamey on a future NBA roster.
Skeen played the lead role in VCU’s Cinderella story from 2011. The 6’9” forward led a balanced attack that propelled the Rams to the Final Four, including a 26-point performance against Kansas in the Regional Final and a 27-point effort in the National Semifinal loss to Butler.
Skeen delivered solid output during the regular season as well, leading the Rams with 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest.
VCU’s March run allowed the country to see just how tough Skeen can be on the low block, and it is a surprise that he was not chosen over Lavoy Allen of Temple.
Hazell slipped off the radar this past year, partly due to a wrist injury that caused him to miss 13 games. When he was playing, the Harlem product was a scoring machine. Hazell averaged 19.8 points per game in his shortened senior season following a 20.4 per game average the prior year.
Hazell dipped a toe in the draft waters after his junior year but elected to return to South Orange for his final year of eligibility.
While many shorter guards did not receive much attention, at 6’5”, it is odd that little buzz has been made about such a versatile scorer. After the draft, he did receive a call to work out with the Atlanta Hawks, but why not lock up the rights to him as opposed to an unknown quantity like Hungary’s Adam Hanga?
2011 was a turbulent year for Tennessee, marked by blowout wins, terrible losses, and a recruiting scandal. With all the distractions, it was difficult to gage the potential of junior forward Scotty Hopson.
Hopson led the Vols in scoring at 17.4 points per game, showing off his ability to run the floor and knock down shots from the outside. At 6’7”, he is a popular size among the professional ranks and has the athleticism to compete at that level.
Hopson went undrafted despite having his name continually listed as one of the “best available” throughout the second round of the draft. Even though he has known shortcomings on the defensive end, the Mavericks would have been better off with Hopson than with mystery choice Targuy Ngombo of Congo.
Pullen best displayed his explosive scoring capability in his final collegiate game, dropping 38 on a defensive-oriented Wisconsin team in the second round of the tournament.
The 6’1” senior guard averaged 20.2 points per game in his last year as a Wildcat and was named to both the Big 12’s First Team All Conference and All-Defensive teams.
The Clippers chose high-flyer Travis Leslie from Georgia in the second round, perhaps to corner the market on slam dunk highlights. For a team that finished last in its division in points per game, perhaps a legitimate scorer like Pullen would have been the more practical choice.
Ben Hansbrough’s 2011 campaign positioned him to join his older brother Tyler in the NBA next season. The Big East Player of the Year averaged 18.4 points and 4.3 assists per game in leading the Irish to the second-best record in the nation’s deepest conference.
Hansbrough worked out for several NBA teams but had to cancel additional workouts due to a sprained ankle. Despite the injury, many pundits anticipated a second round selection for the Missouri native.
At 6’3”, Hansbrough is perhaps a bit undersized at the two-guard position, but would be a very capable point guard at the next level. With his outside shooting skills and defensive motor, he has demonstrated greater versatility at this position than Kansas Jayhawk guard and Grizzlies’ selection Josh Selby.
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