After much clamoring and expletives, the Big Board has returned from its two week hiatus. Let's start fresh with a (relatively) new set of players since much has happened in those few weeks in the realm of college basketball. I've always wanted to have a realm. Anyway, here's some dudes who are good at stuff.
But first. I don't think Hassan Whiteside is coming out. I think it is too late to put him on the voting in the mid-first because I believe if he did come out, he'd be top 8 no question. So if he surprises me and takes an early exit from Marshall, we'll have a post-board completion voting on where he fits in for you guys. Same goes for the bro's who are ranked too high on the list (Aldrich, Warren, Davis) or too low (Turner, Cousins). That being said, let's get Chris Breezy on this mother and run it.
1. James Anderson - The junior shooting guard from Oklahoma State is one of the more unheralded prospects that came out of the historic 2007 recruiting class, but he brings a legitimate pro game to the table night after night for the Cowboys. At 6'6 and about 200 he has good size for today's NBA shooting guard, and he can stroke it as good as anybody in college right now. In his three years in Stillwater he's put up solid career percentages of 46-39-78 while being the focal point of Travis Ford's guard-oriented offense. He's had to play mostly the 3-guard there because Ford starts guys like Keiton Page, Ray Penn, and Byron Eaton when he was there. At the next level he profiles as an efficient two-guard with great range, decent slashing ability, and average positional rebounding. Anderson is a strong candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year and First Team All-American, but because of the moderate success he's had there, he still flies way under the national radar. A big game against number 1 ranked Kansas the other night gave him some pub, but to really get recognized he'll need to carry OK State to a couple wins the Tournament come March. He's an average ball-handler and not a tremendous passer, although his 2.5 assists almost double his previous high. James moves well without the ball and gets to the line a good amount for a guard (8.0 per), but needs to bulk up and work on his dribbling to become a more complete player. Defensively, he often switches off with Obi Muonelo on the opposing team's best player, but again, would certainly need to add some weight before facing off against some of the bigger 2-guards in the NBA. I'm excited about his progress and profile him as a starting shooting guard for a bunch of years with the right team.
2. Jan Vesely - I posted this before, and his stock his actually rising, so despite the lack of love last round, I'll give him another shot on this list. 6'11 forward from Czech Republic. At this point he's a less skilled Donatas Motiejunas (7th on the board) and the 2nd best international prospect in the draft. He has that same outside stroke typical of most Euros, but doesn't appear to be superior at creating his own shot or handling the ball. Jan is also under contract from his team, Partizan Belgrade, until 2013, so unless someone buys out his contract, he'd be staying in the Czech to develop before he comes over to the States. If we somehow get a 2nd first rounder in the middle, I'd love to take him and stash him away until then so he doesn't go on the books and could help us out when we're starting to come out of our rebuilding process (providing there is actually a rebuilding process). He's got tremendous size for a small forward, and could definitely play the 4 as well (a la Yi -- that sounds funny), but definitely lacks the strength to bang down low with bigger bodies in the NBA. Along with his jump shot (which can be inconsistent) his motor and hustle are what impress scouts the most. He's relatively athletic and knows the game surprisingly well for a 19 year old. He can pass better than you'd think (who cares what you think?) but often tries to force a pass that isn't there. His lateral quickness and willingness to defend should help him on the other side of the ball but so much could happen before he comes over that Vesely is very much a future draft pick for a team willing to wait for him.
3. Devin Ebanks - He was on the voting wayyyyyyyyyyyyy way back in the early couple, but consistently got the least amount of votes, which coincided with a suspension and inconsistency at West Virginia. I'd compare his game right now with Al-Farouq Aminu's but with less polish and IQ. He's probably right with Aminu, Stanley Robinson, and Damion James as the best rebounders from the small forward position. On the offensive glass is really where Ebanks shines, having raked in 4+ offensive boards in 10 games this season. He had a game against Seton Hall (admittedly, a team that plays ZERO defense) where he put up 22, 17, and 7 dimes with no turnovers that showed what kind of player he could be. But he has no outside shot (11% from deep on the season) and isn't all that terrific of a ball-handler. For whatever reason, in Bob Huggins' painfully slow half-court set, they defer to Ebanks to play the point, which I guess means he can do it, but his passing and decision-making are far from perfect. Defensively he has the length, strength and quickness to cover 4 positions on the basketball court, but he often inexplicably falls asleep during the game and the effort just isn't always there. He'd be a better fit on a team that can run up and down the court where his playmaking abilities in the open court would be on full display, but at this point he's so inconsistent that any team drafting him would be doing so on rebounding and the hope that he can play some consistent basketball with a newfound jumpshot.
4. Ekpe Udoh - Another guy that's been on the ballot before, but continues to produce efficiently for the 21st ranked Baylor Bears. Here's what I wrote about him a month ago: He's a junior so there's still a shot he hangs around BU for another year, but to best capitalize on his current potential he should leave ASAP. He left Ann Arbor fearing John Beilein's 4 guard lineup, and headed to a Baylor team that had just graduated their inside presence in double-double machine Kevin Rogers. Udoh's had a very consistent season, especially on the boards where he sits at 10 per game, and his 3.8 offensive rebounds have him top ten nationally. He's at the top of the Big 12 with 4.2 blocks per, using his length to help off the ball and his solid frame to keep his man close enough where he can affect the shot. He's much more polished right now than is Larry Sanders, but not nearly as athletic. He has a surprisingly good offensive game that is effective facing up or backing down in the post with a nice little hook that falls. Ekpe (the only Ekpe I know) can step out and hit the occasional J, or beat his man off the dribble with a quick first step. I've seen him play a bunch of times this year and has the tendency to disappear at times in the game, like in their OT win at Texas when he was held without a field goal in regulation, but scored the first 5 points in the extra period to give the Bears the upset win. Despite recording a triple-double with blocks against Morgan State and a block shy of one vs. Texas Tech, he hasn't gotten much national love. With Lacedarius Dunn, Tweety Carter, and now Anthony Jones taking a bunch of shots, he is far from the focal point of the offense, but still produces a good amount. He's a guy that I could see going anywhere from 12 to 25 depending on his height and strength measurements.
5. Gani Lawal - I thought long and hard (HA!) about putting Avery Bradley here, but I'm so tired of writing about him that I went with the big man instead. At 6'9, 240, Lawal is a physical specimen with tremendous potential if he refines his game. Rebounding-wise he reminds me of Patrick Patterson and Paul Millsap in his determination for snagging boards, but lacks their intangibles and footwork under the basket. He's basically worthless outside of 14 feet, and causes tight rectums whenever he takes more than 2 dribbles. Lawal is so thick that he's relatively immovable on the low block, but conversely, has no post moves to speak of. He gets to the line a bunch (two games where he's shot 19 and 20 free throws), but only shoots 55% for his career despite improving each year. His soft hands and athleticism provide a great target for drivers going to the basket, which is how he gets most of his points. His production has slipped a bit this year after pulling out of the draft to hone his skills, combined with Derrick Favors' arrival, leads me to believe he hasn't improved as much as he expected. At this point he's so one dimensional that he can't defend against quicker opponents and can't score against bigger guys. He runs on his huge motor, but he needs to develop some more post moves to become more dangerous at the next level. He's another guy that could go anywhere from 15 to 30 depending on team needs.
Well that's your 5. And it's good to be back, wasting time in the library when I have a sperm bank of work to do. I don't think I've ever used that expression before. Anyway, vote so I feel better about stuff n' things. Word.
Run this vote tonight.
James Anderson - 6'6 - Oklahoma State - Junior (21 votes)
Jan Vesely - 6'11 - Czech Republic - 1990 (6 votes)
Devin Ebanks - 6'8 - West Virginia - Sophomore (8 votes)
Ekpe Udoh - 6'10 - Baylor - Junior (10 votes)
Gani Lawal - 6'8 - Georgia Tech - Junior (12 votes)
57 total votes