Kentucky's Harrison twins, Michigan's McGary among top undecided college players
The deadline to declare for the NBA draft is Sunday, meaning that by the end of the weekend, every one of college basketball's stay-or-go decisions will be finalized. The time to calculate the value of another year in school versus a head start on a professional career is running preciously low.
Kentucky's Julius Randle and Baylor's Isaiah Austin decided to leave Tuesday. On Wednesday, Kentucky's Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress and LSU's Jordan Mickey officially decided to spend 2014-15 on campus. Here's a look at some top names still in limbo, at least officially, in alphabetical order of schools:
The 6-foot-6 guard tore his ACL on Jan. 12, and ESPN reported in early April that Dinwiddie was leaning strongly toward heading to the NBA draft. That all will be cleared up at a news conference Thursday. Dinwiddie's numbers weren't incredible before his injury (14.7 points, 3.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds per game). It certainly wouldn't be surprising for a player coming off a serious injury to take no further risks at the collegiate level. There's also the risk of declaring for the draft as damaged goods and possibly getting passed over entirely as a result. Colorado has four-star point guard recruit Dominique Collier coming in and should return its second-through-fifth leading scorers for 2014-15 as well. Dinwiddie's absence won't shunt the Buffaloes to the bottom of the Pac-12, but his presence would help immensely in what should be an intensely competitive league.
Boatright has always been able to score, but he returned to Storrs for his junior season because he wanted to work on the other aspects of his game. He wound up increasing his rebounds per game from 2.9 to 3.5 but he had the exact same number of assists as he did in 2012-13. He can't do anything about his size, which is generously listed at 6-foot, 168 pounds, and he'll be penalized for those measurements regardless of whether he leaves now or a year from now.
The 6-foot-9 Daniels has no such size problems, but he averaged a pedestrian 13.1 point and six rebounds as a junior, though he opened eyes with a pair of 20-point, 10-rebound performances during the NCAA tournament. Then he posted just eight points and six rebounds in the national title game against Kentucky, emblematic of his enigmatic play. Daniels could put together a dominant senior season and shoot up the 2015 draft boards.
With or without Boatright, Connecticut has backcourt talent lined up, with transfers Rodney Purvis and Sam Cassell, Jr. becoming eligible, and five-star shooting guard Daniel Hamilton arriving on campus. Daniels, meanwhile, could boost the frontcourt and keep the national champions from suffering too big a dropoff if he returns.
Andrew and Aaron Harrison
If the twin guards leave, the Wildcats will have nothing but inexperience in their backcourt and legitimate questions about who exactly will get the ball to a frontcourt teeming with talent, given the returning Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee and top recruits Karl Towns and Trey Lyles. Both Harrisons appear to be borderline first-round projections, but is that enough for them to bolt? If the Harrisons return they will make Kentucky one of the prohibitive favorites for the national title in 2015 – a designation that won't just be based on potential, as it was last season. Shooting guard Aaron (13.7 points per game) and point guard Andrew (10.9) weren't prolific producers, but they amassed 2,570 minutes combined as freshmen. Few backcourts would be as battle-tested as one that endured stratospheric expectations and nevertheless surged to the national championship game.
He was a preseason All-America last year after a breakout NCAA tournament performance in 2013 that featured three double-doubles in the Wolverines' run to the national title game. The 6-foot-10 forward then was besieged by back troubles during the season, playing in just eight games (averaging 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds) before shutting it down in mid-December and undergoing surgery in January. By returning, McGary would have the chance to prove he's lost nothing after the injury issues, and he would allow Michigan to keep pace with Wisconsin in the Big Ten. But if he was so convinced of that path, he likely would have already announced his intentions. After bypassing a possible spot in the lottery after his freshman year, Draft Express has McGary listed as a borderline first-round pick. Is McGary willing to take a risk with his body again at Michigan, no matter where he's projected to go?
Khem Birch, UNLV The 6-foot-9 Birch isn't currently listed in Draft Express' two-round mock draft and he's a late second-round pick according to NBADraft.net. It's a risk for him to go, but a player who averaged 11.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in 2013-14 might be wondering how much bigger his piece of the pie will get with even more scoring talent around him. Two coveted, five-star, top 20 recruits arrive next season: shooting guard Rashad Vaughn, the nation's No. 7 overall recruit according to Rivals.com, and small forward Dwayne Morgan (No. 15 overall). There is also four-star power forward prospect Goodluck Okonoboh (No. 32 overall) in the recruiting haul as well. Roscoe Smith already officially declared for the draft, which leves Birch's decision as the key element to the Runnin' Rebels' fortunes next season.