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Sitting in limbo

Six teams' futures rest with early-entry candidates

Posted: Wednesday May 3, 2006 5:52PM; Updated: Thursday May 4, 2006 2:00PM
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Rutgers point guard Quincy Douby could be the difference between a Big East run for the Scarlet Knights and another season as a league also-ran.
Rutgers point guard Quincy Douby could be the difference between a Big East run for the Scarlet Knights and another season as a league also-ran.
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Prospects are proceeding with caution, at an 84 percent clip. Fifty-three of the 63 NCAA-produced early entrants in the NBA draft have yet to hire an agent following the April 29 deadline to declare. Which means that the slate of available pro prospects -- released today by the league -- is hardly set in stone, and the real parties in limbo between now and June 18, the deadline to withdraw from the draft, are the college teams who have stars sitting on the NBA fence.

The departures of already-represented underclassmen such as Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, LSU's Tyrus Thomas and Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge were foregone conclusions in our early look at the 2006-07 landscape. But three schools in that initial top 10 -- UCLA, Memphis and Texas -- are now in jeopardy of taking less-expected hits to their Final Four hopes. Here are the six teams, including the Bruins, Tigers and Longhorns, with the most at stake in the next month and a half.

6. George Washington

Declared without agents: Junior guards Carl Elliott and Danilo (nÚ J.R. Pinnock)

A letdown from the Colonials' 26-2 regular season in 2005-06 is expected. The above duo of experienced guards will determine the size of that slide -- slight or significant. If Elliott and Pinnock suit up for their senior seasons, GW likely challenges Xavier for the Atlantic 10 title and a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. If not, it becomes the Maureece Rice show at the Smith Center ... which could be entertaining, but that production, at best, ends in the NIT.

The return scenario is looking likely: Both players, at present, seem to be (smartly) taking advantage of their "free junior pass" to testáthe draft waters, build a bit of free pub for the future, and withdraw. GW coach Karl Hobbs, who also remains in Foggy Bottom (partly due to the fact that his stock was hurt by his recruitment of prep-school players with questionable academic histories), expects Elliott and Pinnock to be back. NBA scouts -- see the developing pattern here -- don't consider either guard as a major 2006 draft prospect. Their value is as a late second-rounder (Pinnock) and an undrafted free agent (Elliott).

While Pinnock, a 6-foot-5 athlete who led GW in scoring last season with 14.5 points per game, could eventually play in the league, Elliott's best shot at a pro career may be in shoulder pads: During last season, Hobbs said he would phone NFL GMs -- specifically the Ravens' Ozzie Newsome -- on Elliott's behalf if the stocky guard wished to follow the road of Antonio Gates, Jai Lewis and Ed Nelson and become a gridiron convert.

5. Rutgers

Declared without an agent: Junior guard Quincy Douby

When the Big East was purportedly the nation's toughest conference in 2005-06 (although it had no reps in the Final Four), the Scarlet Knights managed to quietly finish 7-9, just behind the tourney-bubblicious pack of Seton Hall, Syracuse and Cincinnati. If Douby, the league's leading scorer at 25.4 points per game, returns -- keeping Rutgers' entire starting lineup intact -- the Knights would (gasp) be among the better teams in the Big East. And an NCAA tournament trip is precisely what new head coach Fred Hill needs to kick-start his Jersey revival. Hill is a respected East Coast talent hawk -- as an assistant under Jay Wright at Villanova, he recruited the nucleus for the Wildcats' rise to national prominence -- but there's little allure for Jersey or NYC prep stars to sign on with a school that hasn't been to an NCAA tournament since 1991.

One more season with Douby helps get Rutgers over the hump; without him, the Knights are hardly a force. Unfortunately, as more NBA teams catch on to Douby's spectacular scoring ability in the coming weeks, there will be fewer and fewer concerns about his skinny frame ... and he'll get enough assurances of first-round-dom that he'll stay in the draft.

4. Memphis

Declared without agents: Sophomore guard Darius Washington, freshman forward Shawne Williams

D-Wash, although presently sans agent, is gone for good. At least that's how it seems. He announced his intentions on his Web site on April 24 -- "I truly appreciate the support my friends, family, coaches and the fans have given me over the years and hope they will stand by me as I enter the next stage of fulfilling my lifelong dream" -- and hasn't given any indication that the decision is flexible. Unfortunately (for Darius), his personal Web site has an unmoderated message board, which has given numerous fans a venue to post less-than-supportive remarks about Washington's pro plans. Even more unfortunate is that NBA scouts seem to agree -- one scout we talked to said Washington is a second-round pick at best.

Washington, however, is not the big reason Memphis makes this list. His turnover rate (on 24.5 percent of possessions, according to kenpom.com) was higher than his assist rate (22.2 percent) in '05-06, and the Tigers have one semi-experienced point guard, Andre Allen, waiting in the wings and talented local prospect Willie Kemp on his way in. It could, quite possibly, be addition by subtraction, a la Florida improving once Anthony Roberson bid Gainesville adieu.

The big deal is Williams, a 6-9 forward who's the kind of star Memphis needs to make another deep tournament run (and perhaps earn a second straight NCAA No. 1 seed out of the C-USA). Williams' grandfather told the Commercial Appeal that Shawne's magical "limit" for staying in the draft was the top 20. Williams already has first-round stock, and one NBA scout told SI.com he expects Williams to be safely in the top 20 by June.áThat isn't great news for Memphis. It may need to cultivate a new star.