Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 12:30 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
Just because Monday nights NCAA Championship game was a stinkerin case youve been under a rock this week, Connecticut prevailed over underdog Butler in a horrific offensive displaydoesnt mean you should turn your back on whats going on in the college game. While the actual season is over, this time of the year is notable for not only the annual coaching carouselthe flurry of coaches either getting fired or hired around the countrythat occurs in college basketball, but for star underclassmen deciding whether or not theyll remain in college or hightail it to the professional level.
After missing the majority of the season with a toe injury before returning for the NCAA Tournament, Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving decided Wednesday to declare for the NBA draft. Irving is perhaps the top overall prospect in college basketball and his odds of being the top pick in the draft are increased by the fact that others regarded as No. 1 candidatessuch as Arizona forward Derrick Williams and North Carolina swingman Harrison Barnesremain on the fence about their respective futures.
While theres still plenty of time for underclassmen to decide if theyre leaving schoolthe deadline to declare for the draft is April 24, but players who have not retained agents can pull out by May 8some notable players have apparently already decided theyll stay in school. Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger, Texas freshman Tristan Thompson and North Carolina twin towers John Henson and Tyler Zeller are among the players who have publicly declared theyre up for another March Madness run next season.
Besides Irving, however, no truly elite underclassmen prospects have put two feet in the door (i.e., ruled out a return to college because they have or plan to sign with an agent, which would compromise their college eligibility) just yet, although the likes of UConn star junior guard and national champion Kemba Walker, Baylor freshman Perry Jones, Kansas twin junior forwards, Marcus and Markieff Morris, and the aforementioned Williams, a sophomore, are expected to do so eventually, while players like North Carolinas Barnes and Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight supposedly are in limbo.
Meanwhile, the handful of players who have closed the door on coming back include Illinois freshman forward Jereme Richmond, who struggled through an up-and-down debut season in Champaign that include team-related suspensions. Richmond, a native of Waukegan, Ill., in Chicagos northern suburbs, was a highly-rated high school prospect and although he was inconsistent in his lone season with the Illini, he will likely be selected in the draftalthough with the impending NBA lockout, players who arent considered first-round or even lottery-pick locks should be cautiousdue to his vast potential.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.