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Insider

After UConn stars, Big East a tad barren

10/13/2011
If Jeremy Lamb sustains his late-season success, he could rise rapidly. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Big East may be a beast of a college basketball conference, but as far as NBA draft prospects go, it hasn't fared well the past few years.

Last season the Big East produced one lottery pick -- Kemba Walker -- and just two other first-rounders -- Providence's Marshon Brooks and Marquette's Jimmy Butler.

This year should be better. But after we get through UConn's players, the pickings start to get a little slim.

I spoke with a number of NBA scouts to get a take on five players they'll be scouting closely this season. Here's the breakdown:

1. Andre Drummond, F/C, Fr., UConn

Top 100 Rank: 3

We've written about Drummond ad nauseam over the past few months. Suffice it to say that on pure talent and physical abilities, he's as good as any prospect in the draft. Drummond has question marks about how seriously he takes the game. Luckily for him, head coach Jim Calhoun has a proven track record of getting the best out of his big men. If Drummond has a huge year, he could easily be the No. 1 pick.

2. Jeremy Lamb, G/F, So., UConn
Top 100 Rank: 16

Lamb came out of nowhere to wow scouts toward the end of his freshman season. His length, defense and athleticism all have scouts drooling. But without Walker drawing all the attention, can he improve on his late-season high note?

The signs all suggest that he can. Lamb was the leading scorer for Team USA's under-19 squad this summer, and he actually has better low-post talent around him, which should take off some of the pressure. If he emerges as the leader of what looks to be a seriously stacked team, he'll go higher than we have him ranked right now.

3. Nurideen Lindsey, G, Fr., St. John's
Top 100 Rank: 36

Lindsey might be the toughest player in college basketball to rank. A number of NBA scouts that I trust swear that he's a poor man's version of Allen Iverson or Monta Ellis -- a super quick scoring machine who can get to the basket at will. He dominated at Redlands Community College last season, averaging 22 ppg, 5 rpg and 5 apg. But can he do it in the Big East?

If Steve Lavin can harness the talent, Lindsey could really shoot up the rankings this season. If not, we might be looking at the second coming of Josh Selby.

4. Mouphtaou Yarou, F/C, Jr., Villanova
Top 100 Rank: 38

Yarou was far from dominant as a freshman or a sophomore, but he possesses the size and strength to be an NBA big man down the road. He's a project on the offensive end of the floor and didn't do much to develop there as a sophomore. But he plays hard, crashes the offensive boards and has an NBA-ready body.

No one is projecting Yarou to be an NBA starter, let alone a superstar. But scouts believe that with Villanova's three guards no longer hogging the basketball, he can start to show his true potential and -- perhaps -- make the case that he's an NBA role player.

5. Wayne Blackshear, SG, Fr., Louisville
Top 100 Rank: 53

Few freshmen in the country have a more NBA-ready profile than Blackshear. He's a power athlete who knows how to get to and finish at the basket. If Rick Pitino gives him minutes and if he can ever get his jump shot falling consistently, he's got the right tools to succeed in the NBA.

Others to watch: Khem Birch, F/C, Fr., Pittsburgh; Vander Blue, G, So., Marquette; Darius Johnson-Odom, G/F, Sr., Marquette; Rakeem Christmas, PF, Fr., Syracuse; Kris Joseph, F, Sr., Syracuse; DeAndre Daniels, F, Fr., UConn; Kevin Jones, F, Sr., West Virginia; Alex Oriakhi, F/C, Jr., UConn; Michael Carter-Williams, G, Fr., Syracuse; Fab Melo, C, So., Syracuse; Peyton Siva, PG, Jr., Louisville; Yancy Gates, PF, Sr., Cincinnati