Davis' Dozen: 12 Intriguing Prospects
Posted: Thu June 18, 1998
Sports Illustrated college basketball reporter Seth Davis has peered into his crystal ball and divined the fates of 12 intriguing players in the upcoming NBA Draft (Wednesday, June 24, 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT). Here's a look at some studs, some duds and a few sleepers to watch:
Antawn Jamison, SF/PF, 6'8", 222, North Carolina
I keep hearing these reports that Jamison is sinking because he's a tweenerdoesn't have the skills to play small forward, too small for power forward.
Anyone who doubts him obviously didn't watch much college basketball this past season. Jamison was by far the most dominant player in the country. True, he's a little small to be an NBA power forward, but maybe if he were bigger he wouldn't be as quickand, man, is he quick. Jamison beats opponents to the ball, and he's a very savvy scorer around the basket.
I'm also told that in some workouts for NBA teams, he showed a nice outside touch. Big men at North Carolina tend to get a bit pigeon-holed. Throw in Jamison's ability to run the floor, and he's as "can't-miss" as they get in this draft. Assuming that Arizona point guard Mike Bibby and Pacific center Michael Olowokandi are the draft's first two selections, the Nuggets will regret it if they don't nab Jamison with the third pick.
Bonzi Wells, SG, 6'5", 210, Ball State
Wells' biggest obstacle is his reputation for petulance, but I believe he's past the hot-headedness that characterized his play during his first three years in college.
Wells is a prime example of the benefits of staying in school for four years. His game and his mind have matured to the point where he can immediately contribute to any NBA team. He has good size to play the 2 spot, and while his outside shot can be streaky, he is a natural scorer. (He broke Ron Harper's all-time Mid-American Conference scoring record.)
Wells has the skillsalbeit not always the desireto play excellent defense. And you have to wonder how he'll handle living away from Muncie, Ind., for the first time in his life. But there are plenty of players in this draft with baggage. Very few have Wells' talent.
Matt Harpring, SF, 6'7", 226, Georgia Tech
Four years ago, Harpring had to literally beg Tech coach Bobby Cremins to give him a scholarship. Within a couple of seasons, Harpring was one of the best all-around players in the ACC.
He consistently put up great numbers despite facing constant double- and triple-teams, and yet now as he sets sail on a pro career, he again faces doubters who wonder if he's too slow to make it in the NBA.
With his agility, Harpring can take bigger defenders out to the perimeter, and with his size, take smaller ones to the post. He has a finely honed nose for the basketball and toughness that can't be taught. And, yes, he's a great athlete; he was offered a scholarship out of high school by Wisconsin and Northwestern, among others, as a quarterback. What's more, Harpring is mature and dependable. It'll be a crime if he slips out of the first round.
Ruben Patterson, SF, 6'6", 225, Cincinnati
This is a classic case of a player who will probably thrive more in an NBA environment than he did in collegethough he might not get paid as much in the pros.
Patterson is a true man-child. He's exceptionally strong and athletic and he plays hard. If he truly applies himself, he could be one of the NBA's better defensive players in his rookie season.
His offense is a bit behind his defense, but he can slash to the basket off the dribble and he can get all over the offensive glass. He'll probably be a late first-rounder, but if he's in the right situationsuch as with a West Coast team that likes to runPatterson could blossom within a couple of years.
Nazr Mohammed, C/PF, 6'10", 240, Kentucky
Nazr, I've got two words for you: Yinka Dare.
Sure, Mohammed has an NBA body, but to be a successful big man it takes more than size and muscle. Mohammed was the best center in the SEC, but he was incidental in Kentucky's NCAA title run. He is still very much a work in progress, and won't get much better in the NBA.
If he doesn't play well at the start, his confidence could get shaken, which is particularly dangerous considering his history of weight problems. He could go in the top 10, but I predict he'll be a bust.
Michael Dickerson, SG, 6'5", 190, Arizona
You won't find many guys with better character than Dickerson, and he demonstrated excellent strength and athleticism during his workouts with NBA teams.
But Dickerson's outside shot is just plain unreliable, and when his shots aren't falling, the rest of his game goes to pieces. There's a reason he was a non-factor during the Wildcats' last two NCAA tournaments. He's listed at 6'5", but I'm told he actually measured out at 6'3", which leaves him a few inches short of effective in the pro game.
Corey Benjamin, SG, 6'5", 200, Oregon State
I don't mean to sound too cruel here, but this is a guy you almost root to see fail.
Benjamin perfectly personifies the problems of "too much, too soon"a guy with loads of talent coming out of high school who has great, but unrealized, potential.
His game did not progress in college, and the only reason he's turning pro now is because he didn't care about his studies. If he falls flat in the NBA, he'll serve as a lesson for future young players who think they're ready to take this step when they're not.
Korleone Young, SF, 6'6", 220, Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy
All Young ever wanted to hear was that he was good enough to skip college and enter the NBA draft. So, naturally, that's what he was told.
He is strong for a 19-year-old and effective around the rim, but at 6'6" he's a classic tweener, and he doesn't have the skills yet to overcome that.
What's more, like Benjamin, here's another kid who's been treated like a deity since the crib, and he's got the attitude that comes with it. If you're going to enter the draft out of high school, you should at least be a mid-first-rounder, but Young will be lucky to get drafted at all.
Jason Williams, PG, 6'1", 190, Florida
Williams may not technically qualify as a sleeper considering he'll probably be taken in the middle of the first round. But if he can keep his head on straightand that is certainly a major ifthen he could be a star.
He's been compared to Pete Maravich because of his scoring ability, but his game may be more similar to that of Mark Price. Williams is an excellent passer, he's very quick with the ball in his hands and his outside shooting will keep defenses honest.
He was suspended for the season Feb. 17 by Florida coach Billy Donovan after having discipline problems. Williams' best chance for success would be in joining a team full of veterans who might be able to knock some sense into his thick head.
Bryce Drew, SG/PG, 6'3", 185, Valparaiso
Most people didn't discover Drew until he hit that miracle shot in the 1998 NCAA Tournament, but the fact is, Drew shot the lights out throughout his college career. And it seems that guys who can toss it in from out deep can find a place in the NBA.
Drew might be a liability on defense, but he's the kind of player who can change a game when he enters the lineup.
Felipe Lopez, SG, 6'6", 190, St. John's
That's right, the Big East's favorite punching bag has finally been freed from the shackles of college expectations, and I'm guessing he'll be a better NBA player than most people think.
Having been knocked around a lot the last few years, Lopez plays with an intensity and a hunger (especially on defense) that he didn't have during this first three seasons at St. John's. His outside touch is still suspect, and I suppose it will always be. But he's a legitimate 6'6" who can run the floor and take it to the cup with the best of them.
Much like Cincinnati stud Patterson, Lopez needs to be in the right system, but if he is, he has a real chance to flourish.
Brian Skinner, PF, 6'10", 240, Baylor
Skinner is teetering on the edge of the first round, but he is one of the few players in this draft with both the size and the skills to be versatile and effective down low.
Skinner did himself well by staying in college an extra year, and he has a prototypical NBA body. He added a shooting touch out to 17 feet during this past season, though it may have been at the cost of his inside game.
If Skinner can reacquaint himself with the blue-collar game that made him a good prospect in the first place, he'll knock down the occasional jumper in the pros.
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