While this will probably be another down year for the SEC in terms of the number of teams it sends to the NCAA tournament and just how far they go, the overall talent level that the South produces never seems to end.
Eight underclassmen from the SEC put their names on the early entry list last June, but only one of them ended up being drafted-LSU's Brandon Bass
in the 2nd round. The rest are gone, including would-be SEC freshmen and eventual 2nd rounders Monta Ellis
and Louis Williams
These names would have undoubtedly made up the majority of this list going into the 2006 season, but there is still plenty of talent for NBA scouts to watch amongst the 12 teams here, especially in terms of size and athleticism, which the South seems to specialize in. #1 Ronnie Brewer, 6-7, Arkansas, Junior267
Tall, versatile combo guard is a mismatch waiting to happen. Has an outstanding feel for the game and the perfect attitude towards his team to compliment his athletic ability and length. Being able to run the offense effectively thanks to his ball-handling skills and natural passing ability, Brewer understands the game extremely well and does a great job making his teammates better thanks to the smart and unselfish way he plays. He loves to put the ball on the floor and will finish with contact thanks to his toughness and ever-improving strength. The biggest question about Brewer relates to his NBA position. He is probably a shooting guard for the next level, but he may be the type of player who needs the ball in his hands constantly to make things happen. His shooting percentages are surprisingly good, but his mechanics are downright awful because of an elbow injury he suffered as a child. This may hurt his pro potential, as some may question whether hell have the time and space off to get his shots off as effectively in the NBA. Brewer seems hell bent on proving them wrong, though, and has continued to improve his range and accuracy over the summer according to reports. He also hasnt won too many games in his college career so far, which is another question mark that needs to be answered, although his supporting cast and the coaching staff hes played under have been less than stellar to say the least. Brewer has a lot to prove this year, but everything is in place for him to succeed. #2 Rajon Rondo- 6-1, PG, Kentucky, Sophomore273
A physical specimen who might already be the best defensive guard in the NCAA. Rondos long arms, huge hands and outstanding lateral quickness make him a great threat both in the passing lanes and in man to man defense. His playmaking instincts are good, but he still looked like a fairly raw player as a freshman, especially when it comes to his outside shot. His mechanics are poor and this comes to play in his low 3 point shooting percentage, but especially at the free throw line. Early reports out of Lexington indicate that hes tightened up his shot and expanded his range dramatically over the summer, but it can be hard to tell at times when the often overenthusiastic fans and media in Lexington are jumping the gun. Whats for sure is that his quickness is off the charts and he gets to the line at ease at the NCAA level, which is more than what most PGs have going for them. Rondo is clearly all upside right now, but appears to have the attitude and work ethic to improve on his weaknesses. The fact that hes fairly undersized at only 6-1 hurts him to some extent, but his length and athleticism help him in this area. The experience he has garnered and will continue to obtain at Kentucky under possibly the #1 coach in America in Tubby Smith cannot be dismissed.#3 Al Horford- 6-9 1/2, PF/C, Florida, Sophomore538
#4 Corey Brewer- 6-8, SF, Florida, Sophomore
An NBA frame, including an outstanding wingspan and fantastic hands make this fundamental big man the most intriguing post player in the SEC right now. Horford has the physical attributes NBA scouts look for, including the quickness and a nice first and second bounce off the floor, but he also combines that with the type of intangibles that are extremely hard to come by these days. Horford is a smart and tough post player, showing outstanding instincts on the glass and the type of hustle and grittiness needed to survive as a freshman in one of the most physical conferences in the country. He has also added plenty of weight to his excellent frame over the summer, meaning that there will be no need for an undershirt this time around.
His offense is still lagging far far behind his defense, but Horford has shown enough sparks of potential, including surprisingly good ball-handling skills, as well as the attitude to lead us to believe that he will develop that as well down the road. What's even better is that he might even still be growing, already surpassing David Lee
(according to Lee himself) despite only being listed at 6-8. Horford has a chance to really make a name for himself this year in Gainesville as Floridas #1 option in the post. The only question is whether the hype is coming too soon, as his offensive game in general truly is a work in progress.
#5 Ron Steele- 6-2, PG, Alabama- Sophomore
Not much more than just a big bundle of upside right now, Corey Brewer
regardless shows all the attributes scouts look for in a developing swingman with NBA potential. Starting with his body, despite being a bit on the skinny side right now, Brewer has the height, frame, length and early strength that is a prerequisite to play on the wing in the best league in the world. Defensively, he is already one of the better off the ball defenders in the SEC, and potentially in the NCAA as he continues to gain experience. Brewer has terrific hands, an outstanding motor and a knack for anticipating that just can't be taught. His attitude helps him out tremendously, as he's relentless and will give his entire team as well as the crowd a huge burst of energy when he is playing up to his full potential. Offensively, Brewer shows sparks but nothing close to being All-American caliber. His ball-handling is spotty at best, his outside shooting mechanics need serious work, and he can be very mechanical at times with the moves he makes. Most of his offense comes off his hustle and athleticism, and a lot of effort will need to be put in to make him a consistent threat to create his own shot off the dribble. All the tools are there, though, he just needs to continue to gain polish through experience and good coaching.
A quiet, role-playing type PG that really knows how to run an offense, but will never be flashy enough to attract too much attention to himself. Steele plays steady, smart, and under control, first looking to create for his teammates and only taking shots that come to him within the context of the offense, therefore shooting a very high percentage and possessing an excellent assist to turnover ratio as a freshman. He is not blindingly explosive or really a prolific scorer, but he gets the job done and has some room to grow as a player thanks to a seemingly good attitude. The stage is set for him to have a huge coming out party as a sophomore at the national level, but Alabamas alarming lack of depth at the guard positions might put a little more pressure on him to score than this unselfish playmaker might be used to. The Crimson Tide will need him to transform his game from one of a steady role player to a go-to scorer on the perimeter. How he deals with that will be anyones guess. #6 Shan Foster, 6-6, SG/SF, Vanderbilt, Sophomore922
One of the top shooters in the country already as a freshman, Foster has good size at the 2 guard spot and decent athleticism. Foster still has to develop an in-between game for himself, but he's got the raw tools down pat from a physical standpoint and especially the outside stroke which already makes him a rare commodity. If he can develop his ball-handling skills enough to make him a consistent off the dribble threat, the Commodores could have an NCAA star on their hands. #7 Mike Mercer- 6-4, PG/SG, Georgia, Freshman
#8 Richard Hendrix- 6-9, PF, Alabama, Freshman602
A big guard, with great length, awesome athleticism and lots of potential to play the point. He can run the break and make a great pass for an alley-oop, or he can be on the receiving end and finish with an emphatic dunk. Defensively he is already pretty solid as well. Hes a raw player, but is in a terrific situation where hell be able to learn on the job every night through consistent playing time and patient coaching to figure out the nuances of the game. Hes probably at least two seasons away from making a true impact, but plenty of people think he is going to end up as a much better player than his much more heralded teammate in high school Louis Williams
. He needs to improve his stroke and ball-handling skills along with filling out his skinny frame, but he'll be able to make as many mistakes as he wants next year playing for the conference doormats.
#9 Darian Townes, 6-10, Center, Arkansas, Sophomore
Probably two years away or so from being a serious NBA prospect, Hendrix has an NBA body, very good hands, and nice athleticism to boot. He is a smart, tough player who loves to scrap but shows a good basketball IQ and feel for the game passing out of the post. He's still a bit raw of a player at this point and is behind two solid college big men in Chuck Davis
and Jermareo Davidson
, but he's got the right tools and mind set to be an impact player for Bama sooner rather than later.
One of the more pleasant surprises in the country last year, despite flying under the radar for the most part on an underachieving Razorback squad, Townes is now in a great position to show the entire country what they missed out on last year. Townes has an NBA body already at 6-10 and 250 pounds, and he uses it to the fullest the way scouts love to see big men do. Although this isnt saying a whole lot, his back to the basket game could be the most advanced of any post player in the SEC, and Townes used it to make a huge impact down the stretch for Arkansas as one of the few bright spots from an otherwise extremely disappointing SEC conference campaign for Arkansas. Over the last 12 games of the season last year, Townes averaged 13 points a game in 29 minutes. As you would expect from most college freshman, he still has plenty to work on, most importantly his rebounding, face-up game and overall decision making skills, but his bulk and the way he runs the floor will have scouts watching his progression closely over the next few years. #10 Joakim Noah, 6-11, Center, Florida, Sophomore923
Despite his size, Noah looked nothing like an NBA prospect last year playing for a Florida Gators team that could have desperately used his physical tools as injuries began to pile up. From what weve seen so far this year with our very own eyes, Noah has returned as a completely different player and has at times looked like Floridas best NBA prospect. While still being somewhat on the lanky side, Noah is clearly bigger and stronger than he was as a freshman and has embraced his role as the sparkplug hustle player that can make him a difference maker every time he steps out on the floor. He is running the floor like a madman, challenging anything and everything that is even remotely close to the rim, and showing some surprisingly advanced skills on the offensive end as well, including good court vision, decent ball-handling skills, and even a glimpse of a jumpshot outside the paint. The fact that he now appears to be a legit 7 footer with long arms and plenty of bounce to his step doesnt hurt either. Its too early to get too excited, but if Noah commits himself off the court in terms of his focus as much as he has on the court early on in the season, the NBA is clearly in his future. #11 Shagari Alleyne- 7-3, Center, Kentucky, Junior
He's 7-3, somewhat mobile (in an awkward kind of way), freakishly long and has shown slow, but steady improvement over the last two years. If that trend continues, expect him to get drafted somewhere at least so someone can take him on as a project. He might not ever be anything more than just a situational player, but players with his raw physical attributes are rare enough to make you think that hell at least be given a chance. #12 Glen Davis, 6-8, Center, LSU, Sophomore
If he was two inches taller he'd probably be a lock to make the NBA, but he's not and being so undersized really hurts when you are 300+ pounds with very little potential to play any other position but the 5. Nevertheless, this guy is surprisingly quick and nimble, and has a lot of skills that most big men can only dream of such as passing, ball-handling and even knocking down the 15 footer when Coach Brady isnt looking. If he can commit himself to getting down below 300 pounds or so (and early reports indicate hes indeed slimmed down dramatically), he might have a decent shot. Otherwise he'll make just as much, if not more playing overseas.#13 Chuck Davis, 6-7, Small Forward/Power Forward, Alabama, Senior
The glue that held the Alabama Crimson Tide together in a turbulent season last year, Davis would rank at the top of this list if criteria such as basketball IQ, versatility and all-around hustle were the things being graded. Unfortunately its not, and until he proves otherwise, Davis is the definition of a player that is hopelessly stuck between NBA positions. Davis plays almost strictly as a power forward for Alabama, where he can use his long arms and deceptive quickness as a true mismatch that is liable to score from anywhere inside the arc. Davis is equally as effective in the post as he is facing the basket, and shows excellent instincts for the game in almost everything he does. Whether thats enough to make it in the NBA as a combo forward remains to be seen, but Davis will get plenty of looks and will surely be playing for cash somewhere next year. #14 Jermareo Davidson, 6-10, Center, Alabama, Junior
Raw, lanky big man surprisingly declared for the NBA draft last year, but received limited interest and wisely decided to return for his junior year. Has good physical attributes, but must work on his overall skill level if hes to establish himself as a legit NBA prospect. Davidson has almost no resemblance of a back to the basket game and is even more limited facing the basket. Defensively he doesnt make nearly enough of an impact in the paint with his height, as he is often pushed around due to his rail thin frame. Davidson would have probably been a prime candidate to test the waters this summer had he improved the way many thought he will this upcoming season, but will likely have to wait until his senior year now unless he truly has a breakout season after burning his draft card as a sophomore.#15 CJ Watson, 6-2, PG, Tennessee, Senior
A steady, quiet role-playing type playmaker who doesnt do any one thing particularly well. Not freakishly big or athletic, Watson makes his living mostly off of setting up his teammates and knocking down the open shots that are created for him. Watson was a major impact right off the bat in Knoxville as a freshman, averaging 5.5 assists a game and playing almost 36 minutes per game. Since then he has improved his scoring moderately but hasnt improved all that much over the past three seasons. This year he will be expected to carry a larger share of the scoring load and become more of a vocal leader considering the youth and lack of experience of his Volunteers.