2011 NBA Draft: Ranking UConn's Kemba Walker and the Top 15 Big East Prospects
During the regular season, the Big East was far and away the deepest conference in the country.
11 Big East teams won 20 games or more, and all of those same 11 teams made the NCAA tournament.
In the Big Dance however, it became obvious that almost all those teams had two left feet.
Except for the UConn Huskies, who are gearing up for their first Final Four appearance since 2009, when they lost to the Michigan State Spartans.
A possible reason for this year's Big East bust could be—other than Kemba Walker—the conference did not have many great individual players. The type of players who, in a close game, can take over and carry their team to a win.
Nonetheless, the conference does have many very good players who could have long, successful NBA careers.
Here are 15 Big East players who could hear their names called at the NBA draft this summer.
Some of these players are underclassmen yet to declare, and may return to college for another season, so we will have to wait and see how the draft pool fills up. Still, all of them will be pros one day.
At the start of the season, some doubted that he could play in the NBA.
After UConn jumped out to a 10–0 start, including wins over Michigan State and Kentucky, it became obvious that Walker would be a pro. Still, some doubted what kind of impact he would have at the next level.
But with UConn in the Final Four and Walker playing the best basketball of anybody in the country, he has proven he has what it takes to play in the NBA.
Walker is a great scorer and, already, he has a step-back that would be hard for even Kobe Bryant to guard.
What makes Walker really attractive for NBA scouts is his strength and foot speed.
Walker will be able to cover NBA guards right from the get-go, and it's defense that determines which rookies play and which ride the pine.
Walker is a top-10 pick.
Rick Jackson from Syracuse is a big, strong power forward and he will have to rely on that size and strength in the NBA.
Jackson scored most of his 13 points per game this year on deep post-ups and putbacks.
Offensively, Jackson is limited. He rarely steps outside the paint and he does not have a good jump shot. His free-throw percentage this year was a little over 50 percent.
Lucky for Jackson, he will not be asked to score—or even shoot for that matter—in the NBA.
He only has to do what he does best—rebound.
Jackson averaged 10 rebounds per game, almost four of which were offensive.
If he can pull down boards at anywhere near that clip, Jackson will get solid minutes in the league.
Another big man from the Big East is South Florida's Augustus Gilchrist.
Gilchrist is a solid 6'10" 245 pounds.
He led the Bulls in scoring with 13 points per game.
Gilchrist does not rebound the ball or block shots as well as one would want from a 6'10" center.
He does, however, shoot the ball well for a big man—about 70 percent from the free-throw line and 25 percent from three. Though his percentage isn't spectacular, Gilchrist does not hesitate to shoot from deep.
With his combination of size and scoring ability, Gilchrist has good NBA potential.
Brad Wanamaker, the senior from Pittsburgh, is one of the most versatile players in the Big East.
Wanamaker averaged over 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal this year and shot about 33 percent from three.
Wanamaker has good ball-handling ability and good vision. At 6'4,, he could be a big point guard for the right team.
Coming out of Pittsburgh, he is used to playing in a system.
His NBA success really depends on the team he ends up with. If Wanamaker finds a system to fit into, he could be a solid contributor off the bench.
Wanamaker's teammate, junior guard Ashton Gibbs, has decided to leave Pitt a year early and test the NBA.
There was no doubt about it—Gibbs was one of the top shooters in the country this year, and will surely be one of the best shooters available for selection.
The 6'2" guard is not a fantastic rebounder and does not pass the ball particularly well.
But Gibbs shoots with such spectacular skill, connecting on an unbelievable 49 percent of his three-pointers this year. He should be able to find a spot somewhere.
Senior Marshon Brooks is a special player. Well, a special scorer may be more accurate.
Brooks averaged almost 25 points a game in his senior campaign with the Providence Friars.
Brooks scored more points in a single game than anybody else not named Jimmer Fredette when he dropped 52 points in a loss to Notre Dame.
Brooks also had a 43-point game and a couple 30-plus-point games.
Unlike his fellow scoring machines, Walker and Fredette, Brooks has a good body to play the 2-guard.
At 6'5", there is no question where Brooks will play on the floor.
Some disappointing performances may have lowered the Georgetown senior's stock a bit, but Austin Freeman still has some skills to win over NBA clubs.
For one, he has a great stroke on his jump shot. Freeman shot about 36 percent from beyond the arc this year, down from 44 percent his junior year.
Plus, at 6'4" and almost 240 pounds, he has a wide frame, which could serve him well on the block. He is a good scorer, putting in about 17 a game for the Hoyas.
Though he is not the quickest or most athletic, Freeman is an intelligent basketball player.
If he can just do something really well—like rebound from the guard position—he could find a spot in a rotation.
Ben Hansbrough was one of the toughest, most competitive and most clutch guards in the country this year.
As the senior leader of Notre Dame, he shot the Irish to a top five ranking and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Hansbrough scored over 18 points per game and hit 44 percent of his threes.
Hansbrough is a bit undersized, which could make playing in the NBA hard for him. But if he is anything like his brother Tyler, who has recently turned it on for the Pacers after a couple of rough years, Ben could fight his way into NBA playing time.
Dwight Hardy, senior guard from St. John's, was a big part of the Red Storm's return to glory.
The Bronx native averaged 18 points per game and shot 35 percent from three.
Hardy can score and shoot, but he will need to show scouts his game goes deeper than that.
At 6'2", he will have to play the more traditional guard position in the pros and distribute the ball more.
Justin Brownlee has a really good chance of representing St. John's in the pros next year.
The senior is a 6'7" forward with some really impressive athletic ability.
Though he scored the ball well in college, he is going to have to defend the perimeter in the pros, and with his size and quickness, he should be pretty good at it.
Yancy Gates, junior for the Cincinnati Bearcats, will in all likelihood return to school for his senior season.
But Gates has NBA potential worth discussing.
He is a 6'9", 265-pound power forward. He has shown steady improvement each of the last three years. This year, he averaged just under 12 points and seven rebounds.
Gates is a scorer for the Bearcats, comfortable playing with his back to the basket, and has recently added a fadeaway to his repertoire.
Gates should look to former Bearcat Jason Maxiell for an NBA identity. Gates will need to learn to rebound better if he wants to play in the pros.
In his four years at Seton Hall, Jeremy Hazell was one of the most entertaining players in the Big East.
He is a scorer through and through. He's the type of player whose way to end a shooting slump is to just shoot more.
Because of that, he can be a little streaky.
He can also really heat up.
When Hazell is heating up, he can hit shots from anywhere on the court.
He averaged almost 20 points per game this year, and missed a ton of games due to a wrist injury, so he never really got a chance to show off his game.
Hazell is a wild card, but the gamble could pay off for the team willing to take a chance.
Hazell's teammate, Herb Pope, is also a bit of a wild card.
He almost died last April, when a heart defect caused him to collapse after a workout.
Still, the junior has all the tools one would want in an NBA power forward.
Pope is 6'8", 236 pounds.
He is incredibly light on his feet. He moves around the court with ease, and handles the ball like a guard.
He has fantastic vision and passing ability and rebounds well.
A big man who rebounds, defends and puts the ball in the right spot is an ideal role player.
Jae Crowder of Marquette is that rare breed of undersized forward who plays much bigger than he is.
At 6'6", 225 pounds, Crowder defends the post really well, and is able to bother players much bigger than he is.
He averaged about seven rebounds per game this year.
Crowder also scored about 11 points per game, thanks to his solid mid-range game.
He is the former NJCAA Player of the Year, and with his combination of defensive toughness and ability to score from mid-range, Crowder could turn himself into an NBA defensive specialist.
UConn's freshman sensation Jeremy Lamb shouldn't leave school early, but you have to image he has the scouts' attention during this Final Four run.
Lamb has shown tremendous promise, for both his future at UConn—if there is one—and the NBA.
He has a smooth jump shot, shooting at a 37-percent clip from three.
He is long and athletic and seems to float in the air when he goes up for dunks.
As strange as it is to see a guard of his size shoot a floater, it is the best weapon he has in his arsenal, and he seems to make it every time.
Lamb looks like the next Ray Allen.
He should stay in college and develop more as opposed to trying to learn on the job in the pros.
Either way, Lamb has a bright NBA future ahead of him.