1. 69 SF Rudy Gay, sophomore, Connecticut
Gay enters the season with a target on his back, as he is a current favorite for just about every award or accomplishment an aspiring professional basketball player could ever hope to win. Whether it is conference and national player of the year, or number one pick in the draft, everybody wants a piece of the Rudy Gay bandwagon before it takes off. His physical tools are obvious. Gay is a lanky 69, with long arms, top shelf athleticism, and a developing perimeter skill set. He was productive enough to live up to the hype as a freshman for the most part, though much was made of his struggles in the U-21 World Championship Team tryouts. He ended up having a semi-productive tournament, but wasnt the go-to star everybody thought he would be. Thats exactly what Rudy Gay has to prove he is this season. On a team full of lethal scorers, did Gay improve his perimeter shooting, ball-handling and mobility enough to the point where he can truly lead this team? We will find out soon enough
2. 610 PF/C Josh Boone, junior, Connecticut
Boone burst onto the draft radar last fall with an impressive streak of games over the first half of the season. Unfortunately, the emergence of Charlie Villanueva and some nagging health issues led to bit of a late season slide. Boone was Emeka Okafors understudy, and it certainly showed last season. His main strengths come on the glass and as a shot blocker. Also like Okafor, he has enough athleticism, mobility, and size to be somewhat of a factor on the offensive end. Lingering back problems plagued Boone well into the summer, and are a source of concern as season begins. Nonetheless, talent isnt the issue here. Boone could very easily find himself in the green room for the 2006 draft. Despite some ridiculous comments published last month on ESPN that put him in the same sentence as perennially underachieving Chris Taft, Boone has always been known first and foremost for his terrific attitude and intelligence on and off the court, much like his good friend and former teammate Emeka Okafor. Going from being a player that could not garner even one scholarship offer from a major division one school before eventually heading off to prep school and developing into a potential lottery pick in a matter of just a couple of years, it couldnt be any other way of course.
3. 68 PF Jeff Green, sophomore, Georgetown
It might be a surprise to see Green this high, but Rudy Gay wasnt the most productive freshman in the Big East last year Green was. While he doesnt have the ideal size of an NBA power forward or the typical attributes or game you would expect of an NBA small forward (yet), Green makes up for that in the meantime with a nice combination of bulk, bounce and skill. In addition to the nice body, Green has a very impressive face up game. He is comfortable away from the basket, and really impressed as a passer. Look for Green to improve his back to the basket post game this season, and develop into the one of the conferences premier players. The likelihood of Jeff Green as a 2006 draftee might be small, but big things are in store for this explosive sophomore.
4. 69 Terrence Roberts, junior, Syracuse
Roberts has spent the last two seasons playing behind Hakim Warrick, and has been groomed to take over as Jim Boeheims featured post player. It is inevitable that Hakim Warrick comparisons will be made all season, as Roberts shares Warricks eye-catching combination of length and athleticism. What he lacks is his predecessors impressive polish and command in the paint, but does have a much better frame than Warrick at the same point in their careers. Roberts will likely continue to struggle with poor hands and inconsistently, though there arent many big men youd rather have filling the lane on the break. Roberts solidified his stock and surprised many with his excellent performance at the U-21 World Championships this summer, and has his best days in front of him.
5. 68 PF Juan Palacios, sophomore, Louisville
Palacios has received quite a bit of professional hype since entering college with quite a bit of fanfare. His freshman season wasnt a knockout, but he was a major contributor on a final four team. Palacios is always going to be stuck between positions, but there are some that believe he has what it takes to eventually make the move to the wing. For now, Palacios will continue to do what he does best, which is use his quickness and skill in the paint. Palacios season is going to take a while to get off the ground, as his ankle injury is very serious. It is looking like he is more of a 2007 prospect.
6. 66 SG James White, senior, Cincinnati
While White hasnt produced the way people expected him to since coming out of high school with all sorts of accolades, he has developed into a very solid basketball player. White hasnt become a go-to scorer, but he has made major strides as a defender, ball-handler, and passer. And oh yeah, he still jumps out of the gym. This is Whites last chance to show that he can put the ball in the basket and be consistent, and the situation in Cincinnati is perfect for him get a few more shots. Either way, there is always room in the BA for a player with James Whites athleticism and size.
7. 60 PG Kyle Lowry, sophomore, Villanova
His listed height might be a gross exaggeration, but Lowry is a blur on the court and certainly has a shot to make a lot of money in the NBA someday. What Lowry lacks in height he makes up for in explosiveness, toughness, and swagger. Expect to see him rattle numerous point guards this winter with his brutal on the ball defense. Lowry is nearly impossible to stop on the drive as well. While Villanovas loaded backcourt probably keeps Lowry from going pro this spring, he might have the opportunity after taking over as the man in 2007.
8. 66 G Sammy Mejia, junior, DePaul
Mejia is a lanky combo guard that can do a lot of different things in the backcourt. He handles the ball well, gets to the basket, and can create his own shot. Thus far in his career, Mejia hasnt developed enough consistency (especially as a shooter) or toughness to really break out. At times, however, he has looked like a surefire future first rounder, especially considering how much the NBA loves super tall point guards. With Quemont Greer and Drake Diener graduated, DePaul will go as far as Mejia takes them this year. He could be in for a true breakout season.
9. 63 PG Marcus Williams, junior, Connecticut
Williams made major strides last season, ranking among the nations leaders in assists and garnering some serious professional interest. While he certainly put up good numbers, we havent been sold on Williams decision making or his overall ability to run a team being that spectacular. Laptopgate is only the latest off-the-court issue for Jim Calhouns point guard, so there is the question of whether there are serious character issues here. Marcus Williams is likely to be back on the court in January, and will hope to prove himself worthy of first round consideration in 2006 or 2007.
10. 611 C Hilton Armstrong, senior, Connecticut
Armstrong hasnt gotten to see the court much in his first three years as a Huskie, but that is about to change. Fighting against names like Okafor, Villanueva, and Boone in practice every day has clearly paid off, because Armstrong looked very polished in limited minutes a season ago and has been getting a lot of complementary press over the off season. Armstrong entered college somewhat thin and very raw, but has bulked up and developed a nice post game to compliment his fairly advanced perimeter skills. He only has one year to prove himself and will still have to fight for his minutes, but it looks like 2006 will be the year that Hilton Armstrong finally gets to shine.
11. 63 G Taquan Dean, senior, Louisville
Dean probably isnt the first name that comes to mind when you think of Louisville NBA prospects, but he is the kind of player that will sneak up on people in workouts next spring. Dean isnt a natural point guard, but can handle the ball well enough and is a great decision maker. He is a master at getting good looks and being in the right place at the right time. His silky smooth release alone would draw interest from the scouts. If Taquan Dean can stay healthy and come through with a big senior season, it wouldnt be surprising to see his named called on draft night.
12. 610 PF/C Jason Fraser, senior, Villanova
It is tough to know where to put a player like Fraser on this list. If he plays the entire season and can somehow prove that his knee problems are behind him, Fraser is likely the clear-cut third best prospect on this list. Unfortunately, we all know that this would be a long shot at best. While he is supposedly healthy right now, scouts will want to see it on the court and then see it last through an entire season and the rigorous workout process. Any sign of another concerning injury, and Fraser probably goes undrafted. However, even when severely hobbled, Frasers NBA potential has been evident, especially in last years NCAA tournament run. He really could be the difference between a first round tourney exit and a national championship for Jay Wright. If the latter happens, as unlikely as it may seem, Frasers stock skyrockets.
13. 611 C Torin Francis, senior, Notre Dame
It is truly hard to believe that this once nearly lock lottery pick could be ranked so low on a list like this. However, there is no denying that Francis has regressed significantly since his days as a promising underclassman. Francis has the body of a Greek god, but seems to have trouble taking advantage of it. Last season, he struggled with poor hands, robotic movements, reacting to double teams, and finishing around the basket. Francis will look great one game and terrible the next, so it very well could be a mental thing. Francis has this last chance to put it all together, but he didnt overly impress the NBA scouts in Chicago this past summer.
14. 610 F Steve Novak, senior, Marquette
Another somewhat underachieving senior, Novak hasnt been able to match the offensive fireworks he provided in the NCAA tournament his freshman season. Novak isnt even going to be a banger, but he must at least attempt to be a presence around the basket. Nonetheless, Novak will have a shot because of his textbook perimeter stroke and his 610 frame. If he develops more of a complete game this season, he will probably get drafted.
15. 68 F Brandon Bowman, senior, Georgetown
The NBA wasnt interested in him as an underclassmen last spring, but that doesnt mean Bowman wont get his shot as a graduated senior. He is long, athletic, skilled, and unfortunately stuck between positions. Bowman did make major strides in becoming a perimeter player last year, and was more efficient across the board. The worry here is that Bowman could get lost in the shuffle behind a couple of Georgetowns very talented youngsters.
16. 62 G Allan Ray, senior, Villanova
Electric scorer and tough as nails. Might be a better playmaker than hes had a chance to show. 6-2 American shooting guards are a dime a dozen in Europe these days, so Ray will have to show some kind of playmaking skills either as a senior or at the NBA Pre-draft camps to really give his stock a lift.
17. 611 C Randall Hanke, sophomore, Providence
Needs to gain weight, but was very impressive down the stretch as a freshman
18. 611 C Kevin Pittsnogle, senior, West Virginia Has an incredibly natural feel for how to shoot the basketball, but isnt even close to a complete player.
19. 65 SF Denham Brown, senior, Connecticut
Hasnt developed enough, but is powerful and athletic. Could become a defensive stopper type in the league if he comes up with that mentality.
20. 611 PF David Padgett, sophomore, Louisville
Didnt look like an NBA player as a freshman at Kansas, but if he starts to live up to expectations under Pitino, that will change in a hurry.
21. 63 G Randy Foye, senior, Villanova
Not as explosive as Ray, but a much more productive all-around player
22. 72 C Roy Hibbert, sophomore, Georgetown
Contributed more than was expected as a freshman, but still a long way to go. Supposedly coming along nicely.
23. 70 C Aaron Gray, junior, Pittsburgh
Huge, fundamentally sound, sticks with what he is good at, and is ready to emerge.
24. 62 PG Carl Krauser, senior, Pittsburgh
Didnt stand out in his draft foray last spring, but is tough and crafty enough to warrant a second chance. His age and supposed lack of upside is what is holding him back here.
25. 64 SG Mike Gansey, senior, West Virginia
Very smart, very productive player. Never will be more than a role-player, but his game is underrated at the moment.