The deadline for early entries in the NBA draft is fast approaching and the list of underclassmen throwing their name in the hat is piling up. Now that the Harrison twins of Kentucky have announced that they are returning to the Wildcats, just about every big time prospect has made their intentions known.
Even though plenty of young stars made the choice to test the NBA waters more than a fair share of big time players opted for another year at the college level. Included in that list are Jordan Adams (UCLA), Sam Dekker (Wisconsin), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Wayne Selden (Kansas), Chris Walker (Florida), as well as the Kentucky foursome of Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress.
This time around we take a look at the underclassmen who have already declared that didn’t land on our draft tracker during the season.
Note: even though most Jazz fans are focused on what could potentially be a top five pick, Utah does have a second choice in the first round and these are some of the players that will be taken into serious consideration for that spot.
Tyler Ennis, freshman, Syracuse: Ennis started from day one at Syracuse and did an impressive job of filling the shoes of another freshman point guard who left the Orange after one year in Michael Carter-Williams. Ennis is a great leader and a solid ball-handler who is best when he is getting into the paint. He is a good distributer who can also finish around the rim and also get the free-throw line. Ennis led Syracuse to the third round of the NCAA tournament before they were upset by the Dayton Flyers.
On the season, Ennis averaged 12.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.1 steals a game. His most impressive offensive game of the year came in a November win over the California Bears when Ennis set his career-high with 28 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the floor. That day, Ennis also added four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Jerami Grant, sophomore, Syracuse: Grant is an athletic freak who made huge strides in his sophomore year at Syracuse. Even though Grant was the third or fourth option most of the season for the Orange, he more than tripled his scoring output from 3.9 points to 12.1 points a game. He also improved in every other major statistical category along the way.
On the season Grant averaged 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists to go along with his 12.1 points a night. His most impressive game of the year came in a February overtime win over the Duke Blue Devils when Grant finished with 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go along with a dozen rebounds.
Kyle Anderson, sophomore, UCLA: Anderson flourished under new Bruins’ coach Steve Alford and proved that he is one of the most versatile player in all of college basketball. Anderson is a big guard (6-9) who can really handle the ball and find the open man. Even though Anderson looks pass a lot, he still has the ability to score the ball at a high level.
On the season, Anderson averaged 14.6 points on 48 percent shooting to go along with 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals a contest. One of his most impressive outputs of the year came in a February win over Colorado when Anderson registered 22 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
Zach LaVine, freshman, UCLA: LaVine is an athletic wing who has far more upside than polish at this point in his career. He played well to start the season, but his numbers and playing time took a hit as the Bruins got to the conference and NCAA tournament’s.
On the year, LaVine averaged 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game. One of his best games of the year came in a February loss to the Oregon Ducks when LaVine totaled 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Nik Stauskas, sophomore, Michigan: after being considered just a shooter after a sold freshman campaign, Stauskas showed that he could do it all in 2013-14 and earned consensus second-team All-American honors in the process. While Stauskas didn’t lose any of his ability to shoot the ball, he did show that he can really get to the basket and finish strong. Stauskas also proved that he can handle the ball and be a willing passer.
On the season, Stauskas averaged 17.5 points on 44.2 percent shooting from behind the arc as well as 2.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game. One of his best games of the year came in a January win over Iowa when Stauskas finished with 26 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Mitch McGary, sophomore, Michigan: after an impressive tournament run with the Wolverines to the 2013 Final Four much was expected of McGary during his sophomore campaign. That didn’t materialize for McGary as he appeared in only eight games for Michigan in 2013-14 because of injury. Even though McGary saw limited action, he still has first round talent. He is big, physical post presence who can run the floor who has nice touch around the rim.
While he was on the floor, McGary averaged 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.9 steals a game. His best output of the year came in a December loss to Duke when McGary put up 15 points and 14 rebounds.
T.J. Warren, sophomore, North Carolina State: even though Jabari Parker garnered much of the attention on the Tobacco Road, it was Warren who led the ACC in field goal percentage and scoring while leading the Wolf Pack to the NCAA tournament. Along the way, Warren earned ACC Player of the Year and second team All-American honors. Warren doesn’t have much of an outside game, ut is a polished offensive payer everywhere else on the floor.
On the season, Warren averaged 24.9 points on 52.4 percent shooting to go along with 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals a night. His most impressive game of the year came in a March win over Boston College when Warren registered 42 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
K.J. McDaniels, junior, Clemson: McDaniels can flat-out get off the floor and is one of the premier athletes in the 2014 draft. McDaniels improved all facets of his game in his junior year to become one of the better players in the Atlantic Coast Conference. His biggest improvement may have come from the free-throw line where McDaniels went from a 68.4 percent shooter as a sophomore to a 84.2 percent shooter as a junior in nearly double the attempts.
For the season, McDaniels averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.8 blocks a game. His most impressive performance on the season came in the first round of the NIT when McDaniels came away with 30 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds, three assists and five blocks in a win over Georgia State.
Elfrid Payton, junior, Louisiana Lafayette: Payton doesn’t have great ability to score outside the paint, but he can do just about everything else well on the basketball floor. He is a big point guard who can really get to the rim and also has excellent court vision. Payton also hits the glass very aggressively and is great in the passing lanes on the defensive end of the floor. One place where he really struggles is at the free-throw line where Payton shot just 60.9 percent on 8.6 attempts a game.
On the season, Payton averaged 19.2 points on 50.9 percent shooting from the floor as well as six rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals a game. His most impressive outing of the year came in a January double overtime loss to Louisiana Monroe when Payton finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals.
Jahii Carson, sophomore, Arizona State: Carson’s strength is his ability to score the ball from all over the court. Even though Carson is a bit under-sized as a point guard he is fearless at attacking the basket and can finish around the rim. He also has the ability to draw plenty of contact to get to the free-throw line. During his sophomore year, Carson improved his 3-point shot, but didn’t finish quite as well as his freshman campaign from the free-throw line or from the field.
On the season, Carson averaged 18.6 points, four rebounds and 4.6 assists a contest. His most dominant outing on the season came in a November win over UNLV when Carson knocked down 16 of 25 shots to finish with 40 points. That night he also added three rebounds and seven assists.