2011 NBA Draft: Ranking UConn's Kemba Walker and the Top 15 Big East Prospects

Chris CarsonContributor IMarch 31, 2011

2011 NBA Draft: Ranking UConn's Kemba Walker and the Top 15 Big East Prospects

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 26:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates after a play towards the end of the game against the Arizona Wildcats during the west regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March
    Harry How/Getty Images

    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.

Kemba Walker

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 26:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after a play against the Arizona Wildcats during the west regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 26, 2011 in Anaheim, California.
    Harry How/Getty Images

    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

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    CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 18: Rick Jackson #00 of the Syracuse Orange goes up for a dunk against the Indiana State Sycamores during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 18, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Ph
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    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.

Augustus Gilchrist

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Augustus Gilchrist #24 of the South Florida Bulls drives to the basket against the South Florida Bulls during the second round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Squa
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 17:  Brad Wanamaker #22 of the Pittsburgh Panthers drives past J.P. Primm #3 of the North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Verizon Center on March 17, 2011 in Washin
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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.

Ashton Gibbs

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 19:  Ashton Gibbs #12 of the Pittsburgh Panthers puts up a shot against the Butler Bulldogs during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Verizon Center on March 19, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/G
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    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.

Marshon Brooks

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    WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 5:  Marshon Brooks #2 of the Providence Friars takes a jump shot over Chris Wright #4 of the Georgetown Hoays during a college basketball game on February 5, 2011 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.  The Hoyas won 83-81.  (P
    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    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.

Austin Freeman

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    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 18: Austin Freeman #15 of the Georgetown Hoyas looks to pass against Ed Nixon #50 of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams in the first half during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the United Center on March 18
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    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

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    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 18:  Ben Hansbrough #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish drives against Quincy Diggs #22 of the Akron Zips in the second half during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the United Center on March 18, 2011 i
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    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

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  Dwight Hardy #12 of the St. John's Red Storm goes to the hoop against Elias Harris #20 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colora
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30: Justin Brownlee #32 of the St. John's Red Storm goes up for the dunk against the Duke Blue Devils  at Madison Square Garden on January 30, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 17:  Ricardo Ratliffe #10 of the Missouri Tigers defends Yancy Gates #34 of the Cincinnati Bearcats during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Verizon Center on March 17, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    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.

Jeremy Hazell

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    NEW YORK - MARCH 11: Jeremy Hazell #21 of the Seton Hall Pirates drives to the hoop against the Syracuse Orange during the second round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 11, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Im
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    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.

Herb Pope

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Herb Pope #15 of the Seton Hall Pirates shoots the ball against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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

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    NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 25:  Jae Crowder #32 of the Marquette Golden Eagles in action against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the east regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Prudential Center on March 25, 2011 in Newark, New
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    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.

Jeremy Lamb

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 26:  Jeremy Lamb #3 of the Connecticut Huskies dunks the ball against Solomon Hill #44 of the Arizona Wildcats during the west regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 26, 2011 in Anaheim
    Harry How/Getty Images

    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.

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