April 25, 2011
The decision to enter the NBA draft early before Sunday's deadline was a no-brainer for some, such as UConn's Kemba Walker, Arizona's Derrick Williams and Duke's Kyrie Irving.
For others, the choice between staying or going didn't come so easy.
Here's a look at eight guys who, in the end, got it right ...
Brandon Knight, freshman guard, Kentucky — Entered draft, no agent
Knight appeared to be seriously considering coming back, but this is right. With another blue-chip point guard recruit — Marquis Teague — coming in, it would have made for a crowded backcourt in Lexington next season. Knight blossomed as a floor general as the year progressed, and he's destined to be a lottery pick.
John Henson, sophomore forward, North Carolina — Returning to school
Henson was phenomenal for roughly the final 20 games of the season, and there's no doubt about his ability to rebound and shot-block at the collegiate level. But, he still needs to add more weight and polish his offensive repertoire. A year from now, he should be a sure-fire lottery selection, but jumping now would have been an ill-advised cash grab.
Kawhi Leonard, sophomore forward, San Diego State — Entered draft, no agent
At 6-foot-7, Leonard might be one of the best natural athletes and rebounders in this year's draft class. He made strides as a mid-range and outside shooter as a sophomore, but still has room to grow. Why is now the right time? What allowed him to operate so freely at times this year was the presence of senior forwards Billy White and Malcolm Thomas. With them gone now, Leonard can't help his stock much more as a junior on a thinner roster. He'll go somewhere in the middle of the first round.
Jeremy Lamb, freshman guard, UConn — Returning to school
UConn waited for much of the year for someone to emerge as a consistent offensive sidekick for Kemba Walker. Lamb did at the best possible time, averaging 15.3 points off of 54.9 percent shooting during the Huskies 11-game win streak en route to a national title. At 6-foot-5 with a ridiculous wingspan, with all of that momentum, he'll likely one of college hoops' most hyped players coming into the 2011-12 season. If he handles the alpha dog role well for UConn, expect next year to be his last before leaping to the pros.
Tristan Thompson, freshman forward, Texas — Entered draft, no agent
Thompson said not long after the team's second-round NCAA tourney loss to Arizona that he'd be back, but with the way things unfolded in recent weeks, he had almost no choice but to change up. With Henson and several other young big men opting to stay in school, his draft position automatically boosted. He'll be able to rebound and block shots at the next level right away, and he'll be rich while learning the rest.
Thomas Robinson, sophomore forward, Kansas — Returning to school
Despite the news of his recent run-in with the law, coming back to Kansas for his junior year is the way to go. He averaged just 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season, but has an NBA body and a ridiculous ceiling that has scouts drooling already. With the Morris twins now going pro, he'll have a chance to be the Jayhawks' go-to guy in the paint, and his stock has plenty of room to grow. However, after an emotionally trying sophomore season, he needs to mature, as well. And fast.
Shelvin Mack, junior guard, Butler — Entered draft, no agent
After helping lead Butler to back-to-back national title game appearances, what more can Mack realistically do for the Bulldogs? He posted stellar numbers as a junior, and at least testing the waters makes sense. There's still an outside chance he'll be back in Indianapolis next season, but don't hold your breath.
Doron Lamb, freshman guard, Kentucky — Returning to school
Kudos to Lamb for not taking the bait and joining the rest of Kentucky's young core in jumping to the draft. Lamb shot 48.6 percent from deep as a freshman, and with that specific skill, the NBA will always have a spot for him. There's no sense in not taking another year to round himself out some more on both ends of the floor.