One hundred and one underclassmen and foreign players have declared for the NBA draft. Roughly seven to 10 spots of the 60 overall draft picks will likely go to seniors like Damion James, Greivis Vasquez, Quincy Pondexter, Jerome Jordan and Dwayne Collins, and only 30 guaranteed contracts are available in the first round. Some of these fellas are missing a number or two when they did their math.
Let's say 10 seniors and five foreign players are taken. That leaves 45 remaining places for 78 underclassmen. (The original list had 80, but Dayton's Chris Wright and Oakland's Keith Benson have since taken their names out of the draft.) That's a lot of guys fighting for not many guaranteed contracts. With the D-League getting stocked with prospects who have yet to ascend to the NBA, stowing a guy in Tulsa, Okla., or Des Moines, Iowa, is more problematic than in years past.
As we approach the May 8 deadline to withdraw from the draft, there is a sense that all of these underclassmen are and should leave college basketball for the greener pastures -- and even greener Benjamins -- of the NBA. A word to the wise: You do not want to be Joe Alexander, Patrick O'Bryant and Marcus Williams. All were right to make the jump to the league by getting their first-round guaranteed money, but all have failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities in the NBA. Alexander, who blew up in the Big East and NCAA tournaments while at West Virginia, is the highest-drafted player (No. 8) ever not to have his team option picked up in his initial rookie contract.
Marcus Williams also did not have his option picked up, and despite the fact that he played his way back into the league the last two years, he is basically a fringe NBA point guard. I've written about the belief of Williams' college coach, Jim Calhoun, that players, in deciding whether they should go pro, should think not about their draft status but rather about what their second contract would be. Too often, however, players buy into the "late first-, early second-round" predictions and end up going late, not going at all, or going early based on an NCAA tournament infatuation that does not play out as the player or scout had foreseen. Make no mistake about it: With some proper guidance, all of the players listed below will make a living playing basketball, but how much, how long, and whether it will it be in the United States are all questions these guys should ask themselves.
There are also guys who leave early as they are "guaranteed" to be drafted and thus leave college behind for the promise of "The League." Chinemelu Elonu is a perfect example. "Chin" or "Junior" actually had graduated from Texas A&M but had another year of eligibility and could have come back and played on a potential Big 12 championship team. Think about it. Instead, he was guaranteed to be taken -- and he was at No. 59 -- but he ended up playing in Spain for around $80,000 a year, according to a source. This season, the Aggies were a bucket away from the Sweet 16. What would his stock have been with another year under Mark Turgeon?
There will always be guys who washed out, who believed the agent or runner or someone other than who they should have listened and went for it. I have no issue with trying to make a living, but remember, this is a professional sport, and if you are not good enough, you are gone. Period. Especially if you have no experience.
John Wall, Fr., Kentucky: Freak athlete who won games, improved his game and lacks only a consistent jump shot in order to be a star at the next level. Oh, and Tyreke Evans only made the Elite Eight before winning NBA Rookie of the Year honors without a consistent jumper.